This Festival Entails a French Town Being Overrun By Sheep

The Transhumance festival in Provence involves many towns being overrun with sheep and cows one day a year
The Transhumance festival in Provence involves many towns being overrun with sheep and cows one day a year | © Mikani/WikiCommons
Alex Ledsom

Every year in the south of France, as the weather gets warmer and water becomes more scarce, thousands of animals are moved up into higher pastures to graze for the summer months. This day is called the Transhumance Festival. Read our guide on where to see this amazing spectacle, when hundreds of cattle pass through many French towns and bring everything to a standstill.

The practice of moving livestock from lower to higher land in the summer has been practiced worldwide for centuries. In the south of France, it has now become a big feature on the tourist calendar, because it’s such a wonderful sight.

When To See It

The festival generally happens on Whit Monday, which changes year to year, depending on the dates for Easter. Whit Monday is the holiday celebrated after Pentecost in the Christian calendar (50 days after Easter Sunday). It is often at the beginning of June. You will need to contact individual tourist offices in the south of France to confirm the actual date.

The transhumance in Bédarrides in the 1930s

Where To See It

The Transhumance happens in many towns over Provence, including Marseille. The video below shows the Transhumance festival in Marseille in 2013, the year when Marseille was European Capital of Culture:

Thousands of cattle passed through the town before heading out into the surrounding hills. In the past, this journey was done on foot over a period of weeks. Now, the animals are taken by truck.

The transhumance passing along the Corniches in Marseille in 2013

Perhaps the most famous Transhumance is that in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Over 4,000 sheep, goats and other livestock are marched through the centre of this picturesque village. It’s a great opportunity to glimpse cultures and customs that are rarely seen in day-to-day lives, where old farming practices proudly take centre stage. For one day, there are exhibitions, parades, and dog shows. You can buy lots of farm produce, eat the local cheeses and breads, and watch the animals walk by. Check out the tourist office for details.

Survival Tips

Remember this is the one day when animals rule the town. If you are going to watch the festival, arrive early (before 9am or 10am) and park in the surrounding areas (and don’t expect to leave the town until all the animals have left). Cars are prohibited from the actual town centre and will be towed away. Restaurants can be crowded, so it’s best to book, or take a picnic. Supplement your own food with delicious local treats from the market stalls. Take cash, as distributors can be hard to find in smaller Provençal towns, or the queues are a nightmare. The festival is free to watch. Check dates before you set off.


Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Edit article