Discovery of the Ariège during a roadtrip in wild lands. A little bit cut off from the world even if we are only one hour away from Toulouse, this department is located in the Pyrenees around the green plains of Pamiers, the hills of Saint Girons to Mirepoix without forgetting Foix its chief town. Of course, one goes there essentially for its undulating mountains interspersed with sublime valleys, close to Andorra and Spain. Moreover, it is not for nothing that the Ariège is essentially a regional natural park with steep slopes in places in the ski area. Between nature and civilization, let’s decipher these rare areas in the French Pyrenees during a roadtrip in Ariège.
It is a place that we know more for winter sports with its ski resorts, its Pyrenean peaks, its chalets. However, in summer too, the Ariège is transformed and reminds us all of its authentic and simple beauty with its Pyrenean massif. We wanted to explore it during an itinerant roadtrip in Occitania. However, with its numerous hikes, its Cathar castles, it proved to be a pleasant outdoor playground. Between sumptuous landscapes and epic hikes, we took advantage of this trip at several meters of altitude to rediscover the natural heritage between high peaks, Pyrenean trails and thermal baths. Walks in the Pyrenees National Park. White water escapades and Pyrenean passes in a mountain spirit during a roadtrip in Ariège.
Here, nature speaks to you on this natural site. Like a matter of course. We forget the development schemes, the polluting industries. The economy is reasoned, we privilege the human and the nature above all. We take care of our land. We welcome you first around a glass and we take the time to probe your interest. Tourists are not overcrowded for the sake of everyone. The landscapes undulate to the rhythm of the hills crossed.
Besides, life is simple: “The big events for us are the weekly markets. We’re not tempted to consume too much, which isn’t a bad thing,” says Marie, a farmer’s wife. Every week, local producers meet with the local population to offer their fruits and vegetables. During this roadtrip in Ariège, we stroll along the side of Mirepoix between the arcades of the town centre and the coloured half-timbered houses which give this authentic side fully assumed.
Then we continue towards the road of Montségur, one of the biggest sites of the department of Ariège with its castle which culminates 2368 meters. This Cathar castle was a historical symbol of the Cathar resistance, reduced today to splendid ruins. But it is already time to take the car
We’ll go to the Park of Prehistory in Tarascon sur Ariège. History of this region.
which plunges you into a specific universe. You will need the help of a tourist guide to take you through the underground arteries to finally discover the first original paintings of the Magdalenians, made 16,000 years ago. You can make out some bison, horses, deer and ibex on the wall. A palpable emotion in front of these works of a rare finesse.
Numerous sports activities
Many hikes are possible to recharge your batteries. As well as numerous activities: climbing, canyoning, rafting, speleology, hiking, paragliding, trail, mountain biking… In winter, you can practice alpine skiing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding on the uneven slopes. Ski lifts are installed on this side of the Pyrenees in this paradise of skiing surrounded by fir trees. Another curiosity to see is the Mas d’Azil
in the middle of nature. Take the D119 which leads you to a cave below the village. Here are the bones of cave bears, rhinoceroses and mammoths of the time.
We continue our journey in the Couserans. Between mountains and breeding in the western Ariège to finally discover the lake of Bethmale
. If the place is known for the quality of its cheese, it is also worth a look. An artificial lake where you can go fishing or walking with your family. A soothing place that offers an idyllic setting for lazing around. There are many routes to discover this mountainous area. Excursions are numerous near this aquatic basin.
A quick trip
the spa of Luchon
will allow you to enjoy a soothing moment during your getaway. And what better way to enjoy the green spaces of the unforgettable ski areas than to leave the animals in the pastures before the transhumance in the Pyrenees Natural Park. The stops for a discovery of a small village are numerous in this part of the Pyrenees. You will be able to discover the fauna and flora in this natural reserve in all tranquillity.
: Located in Mirepoix, this hotel stands out on the square of Mirepoix in this half-timbered house. A spa hotel that offers Korean massages. In the spacious and comfortable rooms, optimal comfort is on the agenda. Flat screen TV, minibar, safe, good bedding will allow you to enjoy this stopover. The only hitch is that you will have to park in the streets around the square. From 116 euros per night. <
: A beautiful house on the road from Toulouse to Andorra has about fifteen comfortable and spacious rooms. Impossible to complain because the welcome is friendly. Here, the service is irreproachable. And what could be better than to taste the creative cuisine of Chef Jean Carzola in the restaurant “Les Saveurs du Manoir”! From €12O per night in this hotel-restaurant.
: Located in Saint Girons, the hotel has a spa with hammam and jacuzzi. You can enjoy a modelling, a wrap, a scrub or a massage. There is a cabin for couples? From 100 euros per night. For the spa, the rates are around 22 euros per person to enjoy the jacuzzi area for an hour.
To eat during a roadtrip in Ariège
: Here, the mouth-watering quality of the meat, raised by the producer himself, is praised. Between farm tartar at 15€, grilled beef or farm burger at 16€, you will eat local.
: To taste local cheeses, ravioles of duck breast confit and millas, the Ariège dessert that resembles the Aveyron oil pump.
The cave of Niaux
to live an immersive experience. Tariffs Adults: 14€, children 10€ Bring good shoes as the ground can be slippery. Guided tour of 1H40.
: Admission: 6.50€ Allow 40 minutes to get there on foot.
To get there:
Join Toulouse by train or by plane. Then rent a car, To join Foix, count a good hour by the A66 then the N20.
Information for a roadtrip in Ariège :
Contact the Ariège Pyrenees
Discover the visuals
Roadtrip in Ariège, protected wild land
I’m Michelle, and I love to travel. As a former hotel expert for one of the world’s largest hotel chains, I’ve stayed in nearly every type of room imaginable (including many that were not so desirable!). Nowadays, I am fortunate enough to be able to explore the world on my own terms. From international flights to learning different languages, there is nothing too far out of reach!