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The perfect country

Discovering the Cathar Pyrenees

Pyrenees Cathares, two words evocative of nature and culture. If we dared, we’d tell you that all roads lead to us. At the climatic confluence of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, at the gateway to the Pyrenees and just off the plain, our rolling, verdant landscapes evoke an oasis where you can stop off before entering the mountains. With its Pays d’Art et d’Histoire label, it’s also a region with a strong identity, where traces of the Cathar adventure remain. From Toulouse (1h15) or Carcassonne (UNESCO site), it’s easy to spend a few hours or a few days here. The Cathar Pyrenees are also a gateway to the summits of the Pyrenees, Spain and Andorra. An obligatory stopover, it’s sure to make you want to come back again and again. Lovers of both history and nature will be delighted here.

A whole story

From men to castles

Human occupation of the Cathar Pyrenees dates back 90,000 years: Neanderthal man (and woman) had already grasped that the place deserved much more than a brief visit. How could we predict that it would later be remembered for a religious tragedy?

In the 13th century, the Albigensian Crusade was launched by the Papacy to combat the Cathar heresy, which had taken refuge in Montségur. On March 16, 1244, after a 10-month siege by the crusading army of the Pope and the King of France, the defenders of Montségur surrendered. At the foot of the mountain, 225 of them were burned at the stake for refusing to recant their faith.

The new French lords, the Lévis-Mirepoix family, set about building new towns, bastides. Fortresses were built with the help or by royal authority: the castles of Roquefixade and Montségur defended the border and the territory coveted by Aragon. The castles of Lagarde and Terride (Mirepoix), built in the 14th century, were more seigneurial residences than military structures. Fortifications such as the ramparts of Camon and the Protestant fortress of Castel d’Amont on the heights of Bélesta bear witness to times of war.


Between water and mountains

Depending on the season

Depending on the season, you can choose to hike or sunbathe at Montbel, or ski, hike or bike at Monts d’Olmes. The Cathar Pyrenees are also home to the Massif de Saint-Barthélemy regional nature reserve. On the northern slopes of the Tabe massif, at an altitude of 2300m, botanists and explorers in short (or long) trousers will have the pleasure of studying Pyrenean flora and fauna!

Hiking, water sports, cycling… you name it! And as we’re in the foothills of the Pyrenees, there’s something for everyone: from the easy-going to the more advanced, from those who enjoy short strolls to those who love hard work…