The Landes department is part of the New Aquitaine Region. It is bordered by the Gironde to the north, the Atlantic Pyrenees to the south, the Lot et Garonne and the Gers to the east, and of course the majestic Atlantic Ocean to the west.
The Landes in France and New Aquitaine
The Landes form a large triangle about 220 km long and around a hundred wide, largely made up of an ocean… of forest ! The Landes forest is one of the largest in Europe. It is mainly composed of maritime pines, which cover more than 65% of the department, especially in the north, center and west. The Landes de Gascogne Regional Nature Park covers most of the forest area. Managed by a mixed union since 1970, its objective is to reconcile the exploitation of the forest, the human activities of tourism and the preservation of biodiversity. The Landes forest is fragile, it has been tested many times by storms and fires, the vocation of the park is also to make the population aware of respect for this partly artificial but unique natural environment, a green lung to protect !
The Landes is also the beach ! Over 106 km of generous and sunny coastline, on the shores of the magnificent Atlantic Ocean, to the delight of all. The beaches of the Landes are among the largest in Europe. Each year during the summer season, millions of people come to take advantage of the assets of this diverse territory made up of water, wind, sand, iodine... 37 wide and extensive coastal beaches to lay down your towel and relax, strolling, water sports such as surfing, kite surfing, stand up paddle, kayaking... the silver coast is for sports lovers ! The Landes are also lakeside beaches at the edge of gigantic bodies of water adorned with leisure centers, natural reservoirs of biodiversity, conducive to the practice of a multitude of aquatic and nautical activities. Canoeing in the wild currents (the Courant de Contis, the Courant d'Huchet) bordered by mangroves and oaks, windsurfing, sailing, electric boat rides, fishing and relaxation on the program !
Cycling enthusiasts appreciate the Landes is the third most popular activity after the beach and hiking. With more than 300km of cycle paths and more than 1,700km of cycle tourism route, the network is dense and offers good conditions for winding between sea and forest, enjoying the diverse landscapes on two wheels. Depending on the conditions of the slopes, get on an ATV or a VTC to get around, play sports or simply go from one beach to another, to the market, to the lake...
Explore the wild currents near the lakes (here the Huchet Current, photo @Lesley Williamson) or go for a bike ride !
The south and east of the region, beyond the Adour (a river of over 300km) and around Mont de Marsan, the Prefecture, are very different. Green and hilly, interspersed with farmland (growing corn, kiwi) and beef and duck breeding, this is the Landes of gastronomy and good living ! It is a paradise for green tourism and wine tourism : you will discover the vines of Bas Armagnacs and their bastides, Chalosse, the vineyards of Tursan, the land of Orthe. Celebration and traditions, here you are in the authentic Landes !
Characteristic and hilly landscapes of Chalosse
The Landes is finally Cures is the first spa destination in France with Dax. Since antiquity, we know the miraculous properties of the waters of the subsoil of the region, loaded with trace elements and beneficial minerals. More than 70,000 curists visit the Landes each year to benefit from it, for medical or pleasure purposes. The Dax region alone has no less than 17 establishments where you can enjoy complete thermal cures. There are also thermal waters in Eugénie-les-Bains, Préchacq-les-Bains and Saubusse which is a small green resort conducive to rest in the middle of nature.
Dax, the first French city for hydrotherapy in medical treatment and relaxation
The Landes climate is of course very influenced by the Atlantic Ocean which borders the entire department to the west, so it is oceanic and mild, quite rainy and windy in autumn and winter, hot and often humid and stormy in summer.
Even if the average thermal amplitude between summer and winter is around fifteen degrees, extreme weather phenomena such as -23 ° at Mont de Marsan during the winter of 1985, and more than 40° in summer can be noted. 2003, violent storms and thermal amplitudes over a day in summer, and of course violent storms in autumn and winter, like the sadly memorable one of January 2009, her name was Klaus, winds at 170 km / h and millions of fallen trees, and an estimate of 60% of the Landes forest area devastated !
The best season to go on vacation in the Landes depends on what you want to do there ! Summer visitors enjoy the beaches and the attractions of the seaside resorts, but the late seasons and spring are also suitable for beautiful walks in the pine forests. Take advantage of the Landes as winter approaches to discover the traditions linked to gastronomy (foie gras in the fatty markets, duck and canner specialties) and to the distillation of Armagnac !
Capbreton on a stormy day, the sky can darken or clear quickly by the ocean
Under the Ancien Régime, the Landes territory was part of the province of Gascony, the department as we know it today was created on March 4, 1790, it is very heterogeneous due to its size, between Chalosse and the Tursan rather turned towards the neighboring Béarn, the north of the Landes forest closer to the Gironde, and the south, with Basque influences.
Before 1850, the department lived up to its name since it was largely covered with poorly drained moors maintained by burning to feed huge herds of sheep guarded by shepherds mounted on stilts which made it easier and faster to move around, the distances being in this region very large.
The date which radically changed the physiognomy of the moors and gave them their current appearance is the law of June 19, 1857, known as the “Law of sanitation and cultivation of the Landes of Gascony”. Napoleon III wanted to clean up the moors, which led to the systematization of a policy of planting pines, exploited for their resin and their wood. The shepherds gave way to the Resiniers. The economy and the landscape of the Landes were then radically modified for 70% of the territory, and the enrichment of the moors could begin.
Today, the Landes still live on a forestry economy and its derived industries even if the golden age of this economy is far away. Competition from emerging countries has gone through this and production is now mainly intended for the manufacture of paneling, parquet floors, and pulp (Papèteries de Gascogne in Mimizan). Agricultural production is important in the moors, in particular corn around the Adour, but also vines, asparagus... Poultry production is also very developed with the breeding of ducks, chickens and geese, to note a significant beef production in Chalosse.
But the wealth of the Landes is also and above all Tourism, whether thermal, seaside or green, with more than 7,500,000 overnight stays per year! Tourism flocking to the seaside resorts of Biscarrosse, Mimizan, Hossegor or even Capbreton, or in the spa towns of Dax, Saubusse, Préchacq les bains or Eugénie les Bains. But today a very important green and gastronomic tourism is also developing, which tastes of the riches of the Landes table and its traditions !
Pontenx-les-Forges, at the heart of the Landes industrial past
The Landes forest alone is a testimony to the past of the department, to its desire to open up and develop
Browse our chapter " Visit the Landes ", to prepare your stay, choose your vacation spot and get an overview of the historical, architectural and natural riches of each of these regions :
The map of the tourist regions of the moors (click to enlarge !)
Remains dating from prehistoric times have been found in the basement of certain villages, attesting to the occupation of the Landes by our ancestors, well before our era. Fans of cultural tourism can immerse themselves in tourist sites, regional museums and ecomuseums, which describe perfectly and relating to different periods, the local customs. A wine-growing region, the Landes also means visiting cellars and châteaux which offer wines that are perfectly suited to accompanying Landes gastronomy.
To find out more about the Landes tourist sites, see our dedicated section and make your choice (Discover part of the main menu).
Labastide d'Armagnac, a charming authentic village in the Landes interior
The Landes is a real land of gastronomy, gourmets know it and do not hesitate to survey the markets and go around the small producers to fill their basket with the delicacies of the Landes. The culinary tradition of the Landes is based on maritime flavors, with seafood such as oysters of course, but also fresh fish and shellfish. Enough to stock up on iodized dishes, especially in winter when the trace elements contained in seafood are very good for the body ! Raising poultry, such as chickens, ducks and geese allows the preparation of delicious, gastronomic, sometimes simple and invigorating dishes, to accompany, why not, the fantastic Landes asparagus from the sands, soft and tender... surprise yourself with the exceptional culinary products, which delight guests for festive meals : Landes foie gras is renowned, thanks to the conditions of poultry rearing in nature and with first choice food.
Delights from the land or the sea, take your pick ! There is something to satisfy all appetites in the Landes
The department enjoys a very good reception capacity, due to its tourist craze, but also to its geographical position, which makes it a practical business center (at the crossroads of several large cities such as Bordeaux, Bayonne and Toulouse). If the majority of accommodations are located near the coast, you will also find beautiful residences in localities where hydrotherapy is available.
There is something for all tastes and budgets ! The outdoor accommodation represents more than half of the accommodation offered (over 60%), with several ranges of comfort, ranging from a simple tent pitch for sports and leisure enthusiasts, who spend more time in the water than in their rental, up to the superb 5-star campsites with all the desirable comforts, high-quality collective facilities and activities to fill your holidays with beautiful memories. Rentals are also very popular and more and more numerous: the cottages and houses or apartments for rent in the Landes appeal to families and to those who like to have space or to be as comfortably installed as in their holiday home. Bed and Breakfast and Hotels of all ranges are also an option in the Landes, as well as, in recent years, a great offer of luxury or unusual accommodation.
A multitude of activities will be offered to you to discover the riches of the Landes, you will not get bored...
Are you athletic ? Water sports and swimming are the first joys that visitors to the Landes explore ! Easy, accessible and free, the beaches of the Landes are limitless to your imagination, for playing sports ! Come run, walk, feet in the water or on the sand... Bring or rent equipment for surfing (with no less than 37 surf spots identified on the coast), body board, kitesurf, diving, sand yachting, sailing, wake boarding, water skiing, Stand Up Paddle. On the lakes, go boating, go fishing, rent a pedal boat or canoe, or a kayak to descend the coastal currents.
The second most popular activity in the Landes is hiking. With more than 3,500 kilometers of marked trails, whether on the coastal forest tracks or those of the interior Landes, there is enough to cover the department on foot. But also... by bike ! It is a must-do, along the coasts to enjoy the sunset and sunrise, to go from one seaside resort to another.
For extreme sensations, think of the leisure centers in summer, which offer inflatable aquatic facilities or aquatic trampoline parks, which are popular with everyone. You can also do activities like shooting to the arc of the tree climbing, golf, horse riding...
Canoeing in the Landes
Stand up paddle or catamaran on Lake Mimizan ?
Tree climbing or archery, take your pick !
They left their mark in this territory, discover the famous Landes :
To perfect your knowledge, before or during your stay :
Happy holidays in the Landes !