Arles-sur-Tech is a small historic town in the department of Pyrénées-Orientales in Languedoc-Roussillon, France. Situated in a scenic forested valley in the eastern foothills of the Pyrenees, the town is probably best known for its abbey, the Abbaye Sainte Marie.
Arles-sur-Tech is situated in the Pyrenean valley of the Vallespir. Being in French Catalonia, it has a dual French and Catalan culture some of its inhabitants speak Catalan, but the majority speaks French as a first language. Even Catalan speakers will speak French fluently and although you can expect to meet people that do speak English, it is best not to rely on this. Don't speak French very well? Or want to brush up on your skills before you travel? Try our handy French phrasebook here.
The Catalan heritage is most prominently reflected in the myriad of local festivals, in the food served in local restaurants, in the place names of the region, in the Catalan flags which fly in the streets and on some road signs. The town's Catalan name, not much different to the French, is Arles-de-Tec. However, the architectural style of the buildings and the deliciously fresh bread baked in one of the numerous boulangeries (bakeries) that dot the town act as a firm reminder that you are in France.
The town is positioned on the main valley road, the route départementale D115. It is by this road that you will reach Arles when travelling from the A9 motorway, a major north-south thoroughfare, linking to the Languedoc, Provence and the rest of France in the north and Spanish Catalonia in the south. If arriving by rail (there is a high speed TGV station in nearby Perpignan), you can get the number 340 bus from Perpignan to Arles-sur-Tech. The journey takes about an hour and thanks to France's generously state-subsidised public transport, the fare is only 1 euro. The nearest airports are at Perpignan, 50km away and Girona in Spain, 100km away. The border crossing from Spain into France can be made seamlessly by road because there are no border controls. EU citizens can travel anywhere in the European Union without a visa but travellers from the United States, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere should check with the relevant authorities in both France and Spain for a visa if you are planning to visit both countries. The two airports mentioned above are mainly served by low-cost airlines and as such don't have a huge number of flights. A greater number of fly into the airports of Toulouse (250km to the north) and Barcelona (200km to the south in Spain).
As the town is very compact, everywhere can be reached on foot with a short walk. Much of the town centre is narrow pedestrianised streets.
- Amélie-les-Bains-Palalda, a local spa town.
- Le massif du Canigou, the closest high mountains without going further into the Pyrenees, centred on Le Canigou (Catalan: El Canigó) which is a symbol of pan-Catalanism across Spain, France and Andorra.
- Perpignan, the nearest city and capital of the department.