Classified as a Grand Site de France, the ‘Green Venice’ is a large area of marshland that is a haven for diverse flora and fauna.
From the village of Coulon, hire a traditional flat-bottomed barque to explore the canals and enjoy the verdant countryside and its inhabitants.
This peaceful 15,000-hectare nature reserve has a dreamy quality and is best discovered by taking a ride on a flat-bottomed boat (barque) through the meandering streams and waterways.
The surrounding landscape is a patchwork of pastoral fields, leafy poplar trees, and lush meadows. A bicycle path runs along the river between the villages of La Garette and Le Mazeau, allowing cyclists to admire the verdant scenery and typical Marais houses.
During May the Marais Poitevin is splashed with vibrant colours, there are fields of scarlet poppies, swathes of white blooms along the verges and the sparkling waters are fringed with yellow irises. This rainbow burst of colour surprises many first-time visitors, who arrive in the area expecting multiple shades of green.
The Marais Poitevin started in the 10th century, when medieval monks constructed the dikes and carved out waterways.
Until the 11th century, the Marais Poitevin was part of the Gulf of Poitou. As a result of man-made canals, the area developed into an enchanting marshland now known as “Venise Verte” (“Green Venice”).
Today, France’s largest wetland is still home to a traditional pastoral culture that celebrates the life aquatic. www.visit-maraispoitevin.com
Coulon is the main community of the Marais Poitevin. This alluring village has a noteworthy 11th-century church and blue-shuttered waterfront houses. Other highlights of the area include Arçais, with its charming old fishing port; Magné, which has a gourmet restaurant (the Brasserie de la Repentie) that serves specialties of the Marais area; the small hamlet of Saint-Hilaire-la-Palud; and the villages on the Sèvre River in the area around Niort.
Marais Poitevin is 98 minutes (106km) from Puy-Leonard