Rendez-vous in Aude, Cathar Country

  • Carcassonne

    © CDT AUDE

    Carcassonne

    © CDT AUDE

  • The Canal du Midi

    © CDT AUDE

    The Canal du Midi

    © CDT AUDE

  • The village of Bages

    © CDT AUDE

    The village of Bages

    © CDT AUDE

  • The Lagrasse abbey, in the Corbières

    © CDT AUDE

    The Lagrasse abbey, in the Corbières

    © CDT AUDE

Rendez-vous in Aude, Cathar Country Allée Raymond Courrière 11855 Carcassonne fr

The Aude, Cathar Country, a patchwork of landscapes

The Aude, in Cathar country, possesses a patchwork of contrasting landscapes and lands, surrounding its centre, the city of Carcassonne. Aude is composed of five lands ("Pays" in french), with their own unique qualities, waiting for you to discover!

Discover a preserved natural environment

The most part of the department enjoys a Mediterranean climate. Landscapes are nevertheless very diverse. From the Mediterranean sea to the Pyrenees, the lagoons to the Massif Central, and the Lauragais to the Corbières, Aude presents throughout its territory an exceptional range of landscapes and natural sites. Sandy beaches, marine lakes, the white water valley of Aude, forests, mountains, plateaus, and gorges; there are many natural scenic areas to practice outdoor activities throughout the year, and discover an authentic country full of character.

Sailing, white water sports, hiking, biking or horse riding ... There is something for everyone!

Each natural area of Aude is marked by a particular landscape:

  • To the east, the lagoon and coastal ponds form a barrier between lands and beaches of the Mediterranean Sea, bathed in sunlight. Inland, scrublands dominate the rugged landscapes of the Corbières, while vines spread over the gentle hills of the Minervois.
  • To the north and west, the Black Mountain is forested with oak and beech trees, lakes and waterfalls.
  • The Lauragais deploys its undulating landscape, where grain agriculture shapes the hills. There are many lakes such as Lac de la Ganguise.
  • The plain of the "Pays Carcassonnais", allows the Aude river and the Canal du Midi to flow.
  • The Upper Valley of Aude is the gateway to the Pyrenees, with its hillside vineyards and gorges reflecting the diversity of its landscapes. The Pays de Sault in the Pyrenees is dominated by beech and fir forests. Its forests are known for their particularly rich flora and fauna.

A rich history

Land of history and tourism, warmth and authenticity, Aude is a department which knows how to deal with paradoxes. Whether it be the Cathar castles or the Canal du Midi, on Aude lands, you'll enjoy scenery with unique character.

The Roman and Medieval Ages are both key periods in the history of Aude, the Cathar Country. Key sites of the Cathar Country, including castles and abbeys, bear witness to this rich history, forming a unique heritage for visitors to enjoy.

Amongst a rich heritage, discover the medieval castles, the "Citadelles du Vertige" (literally, head spin citadels), evidence of the Cathar epic, Romanesque abbeys and cloisters, the Medieval city of Carcassonne, the Roman city of Narbonne, prehistoric caves, and many other unique locations all around the department.

UNESCO World Heritage

The Aude possesses 2 UNESCO World heritage Sites: the Medieval city of Carcassonne and the Canal du Midi.

Carcassonne remains the most formidable series of fortifications surviving to modern times in Europe. A veritable anthology of stone: throughout its 3 kilometers of ramparts, you will find 52 towers, two gates, barbicans, a castle and basilica, and in the labyrinth of its crenellated ramparts, you can discover the entirety of Middle Ages architecture. The castle built in the 12th century, which was changed numerous times throughout the centuries, is a veritable "fortress within a fortress".

The basilica of Saint Nazaire blends Romanesque and Gothic styles, and has the most beautiful stained glass windows in the south of France. The Lower Town (Ville Basse), also called Bastide Saint Louis, has vibrant shopping streets, squares, markets, mansions and religious buildings, which are all worth a visit. The city is crossed by the Canal du Midi, and the port.

Over 240 km long, and powered by a highly sophisticated system, the Canal du Midi is one of the oldest inventions of hydraulic control, as well as being a work of art. With nearly 350 locks, bridges, aqueduct, outlets (some which haven't been modified since their origin), and a tree-lined towpath, there are multiple outdoor activities to take part in, such as hiking or mountain biking.

The river cruise is an important activity in the department of Aude. The Canal du Midi and the Canal de la Robine, listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, favour an original discovery of these places that are among the finest and most authentic of France. Cruising the canals is surprisingly easy. Limited to 6 km/h to avoid damaging the natural shoreline, you will be far from the stress of traffic jams. From the threshold of Naurouze to Carcassonne, the hand-operated locks are still active, and in use today.

All along the canal, halt areas are specifically designed so that you can tie up and discover the villages, monuments, local products, wine cellars and restaurants. If you have itchy feet, the towpath leads you to the Canal du Midi for cycling, hiking, running, petanque matches...

A wide range of outdoor activities in spectacular landscapes

Sailing, white water sports, hiking on foot, horseback riding, or mountain biking... There is something for everyone!

Aude, the Cathar Country, is an ideal haven for the practice of cycle touring. With its mild climate, the infinite variety of its landscapes, its rich heritage, and friendliness of its inhabitants, you can explore at your leisure our historical, cultural and gastronomic heritage.

Sports or tourist itineraries, wine trails or Pyrenean passes, whatever your desires, you will find what you're searching for in the Aude!

For riding enthusiasts, Aude Cathar Country, offers numerous trails to explore the diversity of its landscapes. You'll discover the Pyrenees, the Corbières and ponds in the "Narbonnaise en Méditerranée", while you ride along unknown paths, or prestigious routes such as the Cathar Trail, and the Transéquestre. 

Training courses, hiking, walking, wilderness races, and equestrian stations, will provide the opportunity for fun and safe outdoor activity preparaion. The equestrian activity centres of Aude are extremely welcoming, and will do everything to satisfy your passion.

The Transéquestre, coming from Lozère, crosses Aude from North to South to join the Roussillon. From the Black Mountain to the Pyrenees, riders choosing this route will have the opportunity to discover the diversity of the department of Aude.

For lovers of sailing sports, the lakes, ponds, sea lakes or Mediterranean beaches of Aude, will offer ideal practice conditions. Cers, Marin, Tramontana, each wind has his favorite places. On the Mediterranean coast, where there are strong winds, the resorts of Leucate and Gruissan are known to be ranked among the world's best spots for windsurfing, kitesurfing, funboarding, and others related sporting activities.

All paths lead to the Cathar Country! These paths invite you to discover a land rich in history, that is welcoming and hospitable. In Aude Cathar Country, you will stroll down sunny paths, discovering impressive landscapes, towering fortresses, small villages close to the heart of the vineyards, pine forests of the Pyrenees along the coastal ponds of the Mediterranean, through the scrubland of Corbières or the vineyards of Minervois. Over 2,000 km of marked and maintained hiking trails, await you.

From the legendary Cathar Trail to loop walking paths, you'll always find hiking adapted to your taste. The hiking paths (GR 36 and GR 7) develop from North to South across the Aude, for several days of walking, and require full hiking equipment. The local walking tours, from Lauragais to Mediterranean coast, are 100-200 km loops, which will allow you to immerse yourself in the landscape and local heritage.

Aude has a rich and varied subterranean network, from Massif Central's Black Mountain, to the Pyrenees. Apart from the three caverns open to public (Giant Hole of Cabrespine, Cave of Limousis and Cave of Aguzou), many caves and subterranean rivers are regularly explored by specialists. Do not hesistate to contact specialised professionals to discover the best subterranean paths of Aude!

From Narbonne Plage to Port Leucate, swimming lovers will be delighted! Training for autonomous diving is available. Off Leucate and La Franqui cliffs, you can dive along abysses where marine life, and flora provide an exceptional experience, even to experienced divers.

A gastronomic history

Like its cultural heritage, Aude has passed on its gastronomy over the years and generations. With the diversity and quality of its agricultural products, a lifestyle closely linked to  the wine culture of the region, and thanks to its young chefs today, it revisits and invents new flavours, with audacity and virtuosity. The recipes are both modern and authentic, and their name alone is enough to evoke the coast, scrubland and vineyards of Aude, in Cathar Country.

Coming from land or sea, and from a variety of terroirs, the wealth of Aude's gastronomy offer all the guarantees of quality and authenticity: eel, fish, game, snails, confits, meats from the land of Sault, and last but not least, their famous cassoulet. All these delicious recipes will reveal their flavour when accompanied by our wines: Fitou, Corbières, Malepère, Minervois, Cabardès, Clape, Quatourze, Crémant or Blanquette de Limoux.

Great festivals and events

In the Aude, traditional events and functions of all sorts are available for your enjoyment. The aim, to perpetuate from generation to generation an extremely rich patrimony.

  • Romanesque abbeys of the Aude (Alet les Bains, Caunes Minervois, Lagrasse, Saint Papoul, Saint Hilaire, Saint Martin le Vieil, Saint Polycarpe)
    - Second half of July: musical activities in Romanesque Aude churches and abbeys 
  • Canal du Midi
    - Festival Convivencia (world music): End of June to August 
  • Carcassonne
    - July is festivity time in the "Cité". On the programme: theatre, opera, traditional music, variety, classical and contemporary dancing. And on the evening of the 14th, the fireworks display over the Cité battlements is awe-inspiring and unique.
    - July and August is the time for medieval pageants
    - In August: Spanish week 
  • Castelnaudary
    - The Cassoulet festival: every year in August 
  • Duilhac sous Peyrepertuse
    - Medieval Festival of Peyrepertuse: in August
  • Gruissan
    - The village invites us to undertake a "pilgrimage" to the sailors’ cemetery, and the Notre-Dame-des-Auzils’ chapel on Easter and Whit Mondays, and the Fishermen’s festival on June 29.
    - The “Défi Windsurf” (Windsurfers Challenge): June
  • Lagrasse
    - Book Fair: in August
  • Lastours
    - Sound and light: on Thursdays throughout July and August commencing at 10 pm, from the Lastours view-point, going from July to August
  • Leucate
    - Mondial du vent (windsurfing world event): in April
  • Limoux
    - Uninterrupted since the Middle Ages, the traditional Limoux Carnaval takes place from January, until the end of March. Three times daily, the "Fécos", groups of masked dancers, draped in satin, dance under the arcades of the place de la République. The show is different each time...and free of charge!
    Another not-to-be-missed rendez-vous: The "Toques et Clochers" wine auction on Palm Sunday (end of March, beginning of April)
  • Montolieu
    - Book fair, exhibitions activities: each 3rd Sunday of the month
  • Narbonne
    - “Tempo d’Eté” (Concerts) from June until September
    - “Tempos de Noël”: Christmas market, parades, going throughout December
  • Quillan
    - July: International Folklore Festival in the Aude Pyrenees
  • Montagne Noire
    - Cap Nore (running VTT): June
  • Throughout the Aude
    - "Fresh Fatted Poultry" markets in November and December
  • Around Carcassonne and in the Montagne Noire
    - Truffle fairs from November to February

Access

Main access by roads

  • Motorway "des Deux Mers" (A61): Exits at Castelnaudary (N° 21), Bram (N° 22), Carcassonne Ouest (N° 23), Carcassonne Est (N° 24) Lézignan-Corbières (N° 25), Narbonne Sud (N° 38).
  • Motorway "la Languedocienne" (A9): Exits at Narbonne Est (N° 37), Narbonne Sud (N° 38), Sigean-Port la Nouvelle (N° 39), Fitou – Leucate (N° 40).

Main access by train

Main SNCF railways stations:

  • Carcassonne
  • Narbonne
  • Lézignan-Corbières
  • TGV Méditerranée (High speed trains): to and from Paris and Lille Europe
  • Main railway lines: Bordeaux - Toulouse - Marseille - Nice

Main access by plane

  • Carcassonne en Pays Cathare International Airport
  • Toulouse Blagnac International Airport (90 km from Carcassonne)

Contact

Comité Départemental du Tourisme de l'Aude
Allée Raymond Courrière
11855 CARCASSONNE CEDEX 9
Tel. +33 (0) 4 68 11 66 00
Fax. +33 (0) 4 68 11 66 01

Things to see

Point of interest