Best time to go to Provence & French Riviera

The Gitan Pilgrimage 2020

Watch a s​mall slee​py seaside town of Saintes Maries de la Mer turns into a noisy and wild carnival with Gypsy dancing and music

The Gitan Pilgrimage in Provence & French Riviera 2020 - Best Time
Photo by

© Véronique Serre

There's one special day when hundreds of Europe's Gypsies gather in one place to participate in the Gitan Pilgrimage. The legend has it that back in the day Saint Sara, Saint Marie-Jacobé, and St Marie-Salomé arrived here from Palestine giving this small seaside town its name—Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. There's a medieval church in the town that is home to the statue of Sara-la-Kali or the Black Sara—the patron saint of Gypsies. Every year a young woman that represents Sara and men on horses carrying​ the statue come to the beach and go into the water while other participants sing, play music, and dance. The music varies from Catalan flamenco and Parisian Gypsy jazz to Balkan brass music and Hungarian string music, so the celebration is very atmospheric, lively, and vibrant. After the statue is returned to the church, the celebration continues through the night. This event is a great illustration of Gypsy faith and culture.

The Gitan Pilgrimage in Provence & French Riviera - Best Season 2020