La région Nouvelle Aquitaine comprend douze départements : Charente(16), Charente-maritime (17), Corrèze (19), Creuse (23), Dordogne (24), Gironde (33), Landes (40), Lot et Garonne (47), Pyrénées-Atlantiques (64), Deux-Sèvres(79), Vienne (86) et Haute-Vienne (87).
Nouvelle-Aquitaine Occitan: Nòva Aquitània Novèla Aquitània. Basque: Akitania Berria. Poitevin-Saintongeais: Novéle-Aguiéne. is the largest region in France by area (including overseas regions such as French Guiana), with a territory slightly larger than that of Austria. , spanning the west and southwest of the mainland. Its prefecture and largest city is Bordeaux,
The Atlantic coastline of Nouvelle-Aquitaine extends for a total length of 720 kilometres. It includes the archipelago of islands, the Île de Ré, Île d’Oléron, Île d’Aix and Île Madame.
This varied region has a long history as a famously popular seaside destination, with the resorts of Arcachon, Biarritz and Royan.
The oyster farms of Marennes-Oléron and Arcachon Bay and the mussel beds of Aiguillon Bay are equally famous.
Almost all the coastline is flanked by dunes, including the most famous: the Dune du Pilat, Europe’s highest sand dune. This string of dunes is associated with a series of wetlands made up of lakes and natural aquatic reserves, such as the Hourtin Marshes, the Gironde estuary and the Poitevin Marshes.
To the south of the region, the coast remains largely wild and unspoiled. Here, only a few coastal resorts are scattered among the dunes: Soulac-sur-Mer, Carcans, Hourtin, Lacanau, Biscarrosse, Mimizan and Capbreton, and those bordering Arcachon Bay: Arcachon, Andernos-les-Bains, Lège-Cap-Ferret and Pyla-sur-Mer. This vast lagoon has been home to the Arcachon Marine Nature Reserve since 2014.
The region is heavily forested.The Landes Forest immediately behind the dunes is the largest man-made forest in Western Europe covering a million hectares, while the Coubre Forest covers 8,000 hectares of the region.
The Iraty Forest in the Basque Country, the Double Forest in the Dordogne, which has around 500 lakes and ponds within it and further north, around Poitiers, the Moulière Forest extends over an area of approximately 6,800 hectares. To the east, near Guéret, the Forest of Chabrières covers around 2,000 hectares.
The extreme south of the region is home to the Pyrenees mountain range. While its western section consists of lush green hills, such as La Rhune, the region around Pau has a much more rocky landscape, with high peaks often above 2,000 metres: the Pic Palas (2,974 m), the Pic du Midi d’Ossau (2,884 m), the Pic d’Arriel (2,824 m), the Pic de Ger (2,613 m), the Pic d’Anie (2,504 m) are well known examples.
This rugged region is dissected by many fast-flowing mountain rivers, known as gaves(meaning torrential river); the Gave de Pau(également appelé grand gave), the Gave de Bious, the Gave d’Ossau and others
The Ossau Valley, one of the three great valleys of the Béarn, runs from Pau to the French border with Spain. Its glacial lakes and exceptional wildlife are protected as part of the Pyrenees National Park.
Attached to the Massif Central, the Limousin has a distinctive landscape of high wooded plateaus and forests of oak and chestnut above the lush green valleys of the steep-sided Vienne, the Isle, the Vézère and the picturesque Corrèze.
The mountains of the Limousin are a series of small ranges; the Fayat, Monédières and Châlus Hills and Mont Bessou. Further north, the Monts de la Marche, which divide into the Guéret, Ambazac and Blond ranges are effectively wooded hills interspersed by flatlands.
The northern part of the region is structured around agricultural and wine growing areas fed with water by more shallow valleys bordered by oak woodlands. A little further south, the open landscapes of the Niortais are largely given over to cereal crops, but also feature richly diverse wetlands, such as the Poitevin Marshes known as La Venise Vert-the Green Venice, much of which falls inside the Poitevin Marshes Regional Nature Reserve.
The historic county of Angoumois forms a transitional space between the coastal plain and the Limousin plateau. Through its landscape of low hills flows the River Charente, which passes through the cities of Angoulême, Cognac and Jarnac. This superb wine-growing region is world-famous for its Cognac and Pineau des Charentes.
At the extremity of the Angoumois, the varied landscapes of the Dordogne include woodlands of the Périgord Vert,the large fields of cereal crops of the Périgord Blanc, oak woodlands, walnut trees and truffle woods of the Périgord Noir around Sarlat-la-Canéda and the vineyards of the Périgord Pourpre towards Bergerac that produce the world-famous wines of Bergerac, Monbazillac and Pécharmant.
The Gironde Estuary
The largest unspoiled estuary in Europe and a Natural Marine Nature Reserve, it is bordered by extensive marshland known as ‘the Little Camargue’ and the hillsides where most of the great wines of Bordeaux are produced: Pauillac, Margaux, Saint-Estèphe and Saint-Julien .
At its extremity is the Entre-deux-Mers between the rivers Dordogne and Garonne vineyard famous for its dry and sweet white wines: Cadillac, Loupiac, Sainte-Croix-Du-Mont.
On the other bank, the Libournais vineyard lies to the north home of the famous wines of Pomerol, Saint-Émilion and Fronsac, with Graves known for both the red and dry white wines of Pessac-Léognan and Sauternes,with the unique sweet white wines of Sauternes and Barsac to the south.
The Landes de Gascognes
To the south of Bordeaux, between the Atlantic coast and the left bank of the Garonne, the flat expanse of the Landes de Gascogne extends as far as the foothills of the Pyrenees, and contains the Landes Forest and large areas of land given over to cereals production. The region is also home to the internationally famous spa resort of Dax.
The Lot and Garonne Valleys
Agen is famous for its prunes, Marmande for its tomatoes, tobacco, strawberries and wine, Côtes-du-Marmandais, Côtes de Duras, Buzet and Côtes du Brulhois.
Lot and Garonne is most famous for Armagnac, which is exported all over the world. It is also the home of another regional speciality: the regional fortified aperitif wine known as Floc de Gascogne.
The Basque Country and the Béarn
The extreme south of the region is home to two strong local identities: the Basque Country and the Béarn.
The green hills of the Basque Country are where historic towns and cities, such as Bayonne and Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port are found. On the coast, the area boasts a series of famous prestige resorts, including Biarritz and Saint-Jean-de-Luz.
Inland, it is very much a rural landscape with vineyards that produce the wines of Irouléguy, but there is also a strong livestock farming tradition here famous for Bayonne Ham and Ossau Iraty sheep’s milk cheese.
The area also produces traditional liqueurs, such as Izarra and Patxaran.
In the heart of the Pyrenees, the hills of the Béarn are separated by a series of valleys, including the Aspe, Barétous and Ossau. Agriculture and viticulture predominate here, and the area produces the wines of Jurançon and Madiran.
Béarn is also where the region’s main winter sports resorts of Artouste, Gourette, Issarbe, La Pierre Saint-Martin and Le Somport are situated.