Identity card

Number (departmental guide): 34.

Population: 43,388 inhabitants according to INSEE (2012 General Census of Population).

Density: 310 inhabitants/km².

Surface area: 141.93 km².

Prefecture - sub-prefecture: Hérault.

Number of communes: 8 (Candillargues, La Grande Motte, Lansargues, Mudaison, Mauguio Carnon, Palavas-les-Flots, Saint-Aunès and Valergues).

Region of belonging - departments composing it : Occitania.

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The beaches of the Pays de l'Or

With 18 km of sandy beaches almost non-stop, the Pays de l'Or offers a vast choice of sandy squares to put down your towels, parasols and plastic whales, and enjoy the joys of the Big Blue. Over the years, the three seaside resorts of the territory have all been classified as "Blue Flag", a sign of the quality of their bathing waters. The coastline also has a large number of private beaches, competing with each other along the entire coast, from La Grande Motte to Palavas. They offer you the comfort of their mattresses and the atmosphere that will suit you. Whether family, electro, chic, bobos or eco-friendly, they each have their own style and in the end you have a wide range of choices. About thirty agents in summer take turns along the 18 km of coastline to offer tourists clean beaches, a success when you see the quality of the Pays de l'Or's beaches.

The architecture of La Grande-Motte

La Grande Motte was born at the end of the 1960s, during the "Trente Glorieuses". At that time, the post-war reconstruction was completed and the standard of living increased, to the point that the French gradually got into the habit of going on holiday. In France, Brittany is very popular but unfortunately the tourist flow is more towards Spain and its sunny beaches. In order to retain holidaymakers, General de Gaulle launched a programme to develop mass tourism, notably through the Racine mission (named after its president). From 1963, major works were undertaken on the Languedoc-Roussillon coast: the "Grande Motte" project was launched. It is the architect Jean Balladur (cousin of the former Prime Minister) who is in charge of this project. He was given "carte blanche" and decided to go against everything that was being done elsewhere. No more palm-fringed walks, the architect is betting on the beach, sport and commerce. So much for town planning, but what will make La Grande Motte a different town that you will come to see from far away is the originality of its architecture. Jean Balladur was indeed inspired by the Mayan pyramids for the construction, but it is especially for the orientation of his buildings that he innovates. Contrary to what is done elsewhere, the facades are not facing the sea but the buildings are oriented perpendicular to the coast, which doubles the number of apartments with sea views. In 2010, the work of Jean Balladur was rewarded as the city was classified as a 20th century heritage site.

Canal and ponds

The Land of Gold is unquestionably the land of "blue gold". The coastal region is a collection of waterways, from the discreet river to the Mediterranean Sea, through a series of ponds rich in history and activities. It is the largest of them that gives its name to the agglomeration: the Etang de l'Or (Pond of Gold). With its 11 km long and 3 km wide, this stretch of water ranks 5th in the chain of coastal ponds in the region behind Berre, Thau, Salses-Leucate and Bages-Sigean. Mainly located in the commune of Mauguio, it communicates directly with the sea at the port of Carnon, then indirectly via the Rhône-Sète canal. The Etang de l'Or is bordered by the Ponant, Pérols, Arnel and Prévost ponds. All these bodies of water contribute to the richness of the region and have transformed tourist activity in recent years. As obvious points of interest, these stretches of water have become places for sporting and cultural activities and serve as stages for numerous events. The Rhône-Sète canal also contributes to this development. Its very special history, dating back to the project of Louis XIV, makes it a place of discovery and learning. Although the activity has declined over the years, many fishermen continue to probe the depths in order to bring the day's treasures back to the banks. The huts - once shelters for hunters and fishermen - are still standing but have lost their traditional use. However, they continue to mark the territory. Even now these traditional landscapes, covered in green and blue, still form the identity of the Pays de l'Or.

Saint Peter's Cathedral of Maguelone

When discovering the "island" of Maguelone, now connected to the mainland by a coastline, and its solitary cathedral, one cannot help but be struck by a feeling of strangeness. Located only 4 km from Palavas, the monument appears as an imposing stone vessel stranded between sea and ponds. The fortress church seems to hide behind old trees tortured by the sea spray. The feeling that emerges from it is undoubtedly linked to the fate of the building: seat for a millennium of an important bishopric, it served as a pontifical fiefdom and temporary refuge for several popes before falling into abandonment, looting and ruin. But the history of Maguelone goes back much further: the first traces of life discovered date back to the Bronze Age. Other remains dating back to the Roman Empire were discovered during excavations. Nevertheless, it was around the 12th century that the monument gained fame; at that time the cathedral known as "des sables" was one of the highest places of Christianity in Languedoc-Roussillon. Today it is an unmissable site to visit as a family.

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