Cathar history: Foix and Montségur châteaux
Caving, canyoning, hiking... so much to do
Bustling Foix food market
the best period
Spring and Summer
Take a small town jam-packed with history deep in lush and leafy nature. Stir in footpaths and bike paths in the Pyrenees with a good helping of water sports. Season with looming fortresses including the famous Cathar Montségur Château. Sprinkle on adventures in the depths of the earth exploring Niaux cave art or a river. Garnish with friendly locals you'll meet at a market stall or cute B&B. Your fabulous voyage in Ariège is served. Dive in!
Your accommodation: La Ciboulette in Foix. Why do we love it? It's a cosy B&B (just 3 rooms) that's full of character and tucked away in a former forge; it's peaceful but just minutes from the shops and craft studios in Foix's medieval town centre; the shaded terrace is a joy to relax on in summer and, last but not least, you get a warm welcome from your hosts Leela Inga and Thierry Berchot.
Stroll, taste, treat yourself and fill your basket ready for a night to remember after an action-packed day out! Liver sausage, Bethmale cheese, crusty bread, flocons d’Ariège (hazelnut sweet): Ariège is a mountain land of traditions and crafts that come into their own on the plate. Traders will share the secrets behind their produce as you stroll from stall to stall and soak up the goodness of shopping local. It's a real feast for the senses so take a seat in the market hall or on the terrace at one of the traditional restaurants and join the locals who get together here after their market shopping trip.
Travel back in time at the legendary Cathar Montségur château (35 minute drive from Foix). No pain, no gain... If you want to see it for yourself, you have to climb the 150m elevation to the pog (rocky spur) which the ruins stand on. The half hour walk will give you a good workout! Your guide Fabrice Chambon will tell you the castle's tales and legends to bring the château back to life. The fate of the Cathar Parfaits is certainly exciting! Take your time and watch the sunset as the 360 degree views of the Pyrenean peaks approach the grand finale. You may need to get down before nightfall (and the site closes) but we recommend ending your beautiful day at the foot of the pog with a picnic made up of good food from your morning shop.
This is the 2nd least-populated area in Occitanie and far from any light pollution so the sky is pure and a wonder to behold. It's time to head back to Foix. If you drive slowly you may spot a deer crossing the road; there are lots of them in the surrounding forests!
Head to Ax-les-Thermes (45 minute drive or 40 minute train ride) with a choice of 2 options:
Join your hosts for dinner and feast on local and often organic produce. Depending on the season, the evening and conversation could continue on the terrace or by the fireplace.
Head to Grotte de Niaux (approx. 30 minute drive). Niaux Cave is a Grand Site Occitanie and a must if you're staying in Ariège: the famous "Salon Noir" and its prehistoric cave paintings are world-famous. But your trip will be like nothing you've experienced before! Book your tickets for "Niaux Interdit" (book in advance!), a monthly tour for small groups visiting galleries that are usually closed to the general public. You'll feel like a VIP and caving pioneer.
Venture into the Pyrénées Ariégeoises Regional Nature Park for a trek... in the water! On the menu: thrills and spills in Vicdessos Valley peppered with rappelling and jumping. Argensou canyon is perfect for your first time with family or friends. Small groups (up to 8 people) mean you learn safely and get the most from your instructor's descriptions of Ariège nature. All you'll want to do is protect the natural setting after you've explored it in all its glory.
Leave your car in the garage and hop on an e-bike ride on the Foix/Saint-Girons green path. The 42km bike path on a former railway line is completely secure (so ideal for families) with fabulous views of the Pyrenees. Plus it's flat! Stop off on the way for something different: Labouiche underground river. Explore the river and its waterfalls by boat 60m deep!
You saw it when you arrived in Foix and you can't go home without visiting it: Foix Château. An impregnable fortress and great excuse to soak up the Middle Ages. So greet the blacksmith at work or knights on their way to war and put your all into setting up the 16m catapult that can launch balls over 200m away! And don't forget to climb to the top of one of the towers for one last look at Ariège in all its glory.