Belle-Ile-en-Mer (aka Belle Isle) is located off the coast of Brittany (northwestern France), approx 14 km (9 mi) from the Quiberon peninsula. The island's main settlements are named Bangor (population ~1000), Le Palais (port town, population ~3000), Locmaria (port town, population ~1000) and Sauzon (population ~1000).
Belle Isle measures 17 x 9 km (10,5 x 5,5 ml), has an average altitude of 40 m (131 ft) and covers a total area of around 84 km2 (32 ml2). Its coasts are a mix between sharp and dangerous cliff edges on (on the southwestern side), wild coast (Cote Sauvage) and placid beaches (the biggest is named Les Grands Sables) and navigable harbours (on the northeastern side). The island's climate is oceanic, having milder winters and less rain than on mainland France.
The two major ports are Sauzon (accessible via ferry from Lorient and Quiberon) and Le Palais (accessible via ferry from Port-Navalo, Quiberon and Vannes).
There used to be forests on Belle Isle, but these have disappeared a long time ago because of increasing agricultural use of land.
The population of Belle Isle was 4,920 people according to the 2009 census. However, during summer months it may increase up to 25,000 with a 35,000 peak between July 15-August 15 due to tourist activity. In the summer the population of the island increases dramatically because many people have a 2nd home there.
Festival de Belle Isle (Lyrique en Mer) is the largest opera festival held in western France. Established in 1998 by Richard Cowan (1957-2015), American opera singer, it produces a couple of staged operas every summer, directed by Mr.Cowan, Artistic Director, and conducted by Philip Walsh, Music Director.
There are also sacred concerts in all 4 of the historic churches on Belle Isle, as well as a wealth of Master Classes and smaller concerts. Lyrique en Mer provides wide support from the business community of France, as well as from Conseil Général and Conseil Régional.
Belle Isle cruise terminal
Cruise ships to Belle Isle ((Belle-Ile-en-Mer) dock (anchor) at Le Palais - port town on the eastern coast.