weather vane arles bullFor many visitors the best time to visit Arles is between June and September, when the big, bull-themed fiestas, folk costume celebrations, open-air music events and international photography festival all take place.

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However it's entirely possible to relax outside here from April onwards until as late as early November. This is a guide to the city's year-round climate. Scroll down the page to view the current four-day weather forecast for Arles.

This is one of the sunniest cities in France. But Arles' overall annual climate is affected by two other factors. One is the rainfall, which is significantly higher in spring and autumn: April and October are generally the wettest months.

And, as elsewhere in Provence, the rains generally come in torrential, monsoon-like downpours. So the chart, below, indicates the number of days when it rains, not the centimetres of rainfall, because, rather than drizzling over a period of days or weeks, much of the month's rain can sometimes pour down in one or two hours.

The other factor, again typical of Provence, is the Mistral wind (pictured top left: local weather vanes often feature a Camargue bull in place of the traditional cockerel).

The Mistral is a fierce, cold, dry wind from the north or north-west which roars down the Rhône Valley towards the coast.

Like Avignon, Arles is right in its path. And the surrounding flatlands of the Crau and the Camargue enable the wind to pick up furious speeds: it can reach over 90 km / 56 miles an hour.

Locals like to tell you that the Mistral always blows for multiples of three days: three, six, nine or more. In practice we've rarely found this to be the case. It can last for anything from a single day to a week or even longer, and can arrive at any time of year.

arles temperatureIt's guaranteed to make temperatures plummet - and the wind chill factor makes it feel even colder. In winter it's bitter, though it does also usually bring bright, clear, blue skies and glorious sunshine.

In summer the Mistral comes as a welcome relief from the heat. Another bonus: it helps blast away the pesky midsummer mosquitos which are a constant nuisance in Arles and the Camargue.

When it arrives after a long period of drought in the summer months, it brings with it an acute risk of forest fires.

But the marshy region around Arles – whose prehistoric name, Arleate, means "surrounded by swamps" - makes it much less vulnerable to fires than other parts of Provence.

arles rain daysThe Mistral leaves its mark in other ways on the local landscape. It is, we were told, one reason why there are so few bars and restaurants along the riverfront in Arles. Instead, they prefer to huddle in the shelter of the backstreets.

The low, rural ranch cabins of the Camargue are built with a rounded, windowless wall facing north to break the wind and keep the inside cosy and free from draughts. And the open ironwork of many church towers in Provence is another response to the Mistral.

The name is nothing to do with the poet Frédéric Mistral, by the way: it means "masterly" in the provençal language.

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