Holidays in the Cathar Country, head for Ariège with the family!

Holidays in the Catha ...
Are you looking for fun activities for a family holiday in Ariège? The Cathar Country combines a rich history, breathtaking mountain landscapes and an authentic atmosphere. Inhabited since prehistoric times, Ariège, and in particular the Pays Cathare, has a long and tumultuous past to tell you about. It is a country of character and rebellion, and some of its inhabitants, illustrious or unknown, have distinguished themselves through the ages. This territory of mountains, valleys and deep forests, also offers an exceptional natural setting for the practice of many sports and unusual activities. Here are some ideas for discovering the Cathar Country with the family!

Opening photo: The beautiful bastide of Mirepoix in the Cathar Country Photo © JackF | Adobe-Stock

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Discover the history of the Cathar Country

Ariège is a region that will allow you to introduce your children to the history of France, through key events that have taken place there.

It has been a welcoming land for people for thousands of years and many caves bear witness to this: The Grotte de Bédeilhac, the Grotte de la Vache, the Grotte de Niaux… Prehistoric settlements and museums have been reconstructed there. house many objects, to make us understand the life of this very distant time. Visit in particular the Pyrenean Park of Prehistoric Art of Banat, an ideal place to experience Prehistory with the family, or the Grotte du Mas-d'Azil. This eponymous Azilian site brings together a living space, hosting the interpretation center, a huge decorated cave and a museum.

At Mas-d'Azil, you will also make a leap in history, towards the Bronze Age. Astonishing dolmens are still proudly erected and show us the importance of the region during this time. It is also a former Protestant bastide, which experienced an epic siege! It was assaulted by nearly 14,000 soldiers from Richelieu for several weeks...

mas d'azil cave

The Grotto of Mas d'Azil Photo © tamagoshis | Adobestock

If you are interested in the Middle Ages, go to Mirepoix, you will be charmed! This country house of the 14th century has an impressive medieval heritage: half-timbered houses, central square with its wooden gallery, House of Chivalry, cathedral...

And to end this journey through time, Montségur is the strongest castle most representative of the fight against Catharism. But this is only one of the events in its history. Since prehistoric times, the site has been occupied, passing through the hands of Romans, Protestants, Catholics and Nazis... It is a must-see place!


The central square and the ancient arcades of Mirepoix Photo © Gumbao | Adobestock

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Explore Ariège and the Cathar Country, on foot, by bike or on horseback

Haute-Ariège is aptly named! It is a country of mountains, valleys and rivers, where you can make beautiful hikes. If the climb does not scare you, go to the assault of Montségur. Many trails crisscross the Massif Saint-Barthélemy Regional Nature Reserve, around its peak. The paths can be steep and are therefore more of a hike. You will find plenty of information on the website of the Ariège - Pyrénées Cathares tourist office. If you are a cyclist, the tourist office offers many routes, from the greenway to the mountain bike route.

montségur castle

Will you have the courage to climb up to the Château de Montségur, on its rocky escarpment? Photo © Séverine-Galus | Adobe-Stock

If you like natural sites and forest environments, you are going to have a great time in Haute-Ariège. The region is preserved and has retained a wild side, with impressive forests. The Cathar Country is full of waterfalls, gorges and fountains... where you will take refreshing walks in all seasons and you will see geological curiosities. We recommend in particular the Roquefort-les-Cascades waterfalls, the Piche waterfalls, in the Prayols forest, the surroundings of Seix, with its passes, cirques, waterfalls and ponds, but also its mines. These natural sites are listed by the tourist office.

Do you prefer a walk in a village? Nicknamed the " village of a hundred roses ", Camon is a fortified village typical of the region, with pretty alleys, an abbey, a magnificent rose garden and dry stone huts. Carla-Bayle is a former Protestant citadel, today transformed into a city of the arts. Many art galleries are distributed in this lively village, thanks to workshops, artistic meetings and a plastic arts festival.

the good idea

Discover the Couserans on horseback or pony with your family, with Crins en Soi!

camon   camon

Camon, a charming village to discover. Photos © Deborah CC-BY-2.0 & Pedro CC-BY-2.0 | Flickr

Play sports and have fun with the family in an amusement park

In Léran, Lake Montbel covers 570 hectares. The Appy-Parc offers you all kinds of water recreation: inflatable structures, slides, playgrounds... To enjoy the lake, Yakay-Kayac offers canoes, kayaks, paddles, stand-ups... You can also rent all kinds of 'boats: pedal boats, jet-skis, rowing or electric boats, mini-catamarans, sailboats… There is even a sailing school to teach you how to navigate.

If you are looking for a more urban aquatic area, it is in the heart of the city of Pamiers that you will find what you are looking for. The Neptuna Nautical Park has several indoor and outdoor pools, including a ludilagon, a sports pool, an " outdoor blue lagoon ", a whirlpool bath and a "splash park" for the little ones. In summer, inflatable structures are set up there. You will also find games, entertainment and water gymnastics lessons.  

The Appy-parc also has a tree climbing park around Lake Montbel. In Bélesta, in the forest of Fontestorbes, you will climb the trees at the Crapahut Parc Aventure. You will gain height and play sports, while enjoying the freshness of the forest cover and the magnificent view! Courses are suitable for all ages and levels, and you have access to many other activities, such as laser-game or escape-game. In Carla-Bayle is the Sequoia Vertigo Adventure Park, with zip line, treasure hunts and arboretum.

For a change, in Aigues-vives, the Kart'Are welcomes you to fill up with sensations on its karting tracks or in its paintball park.

crapahut adventure park

Come and do some sport and surpass yourself on vacation in the Cathar Country. Photo © Crapahut Parc Aventure

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Meet the animals on a farm or wildlife park

In Lapenne, the Bison Farm (fr) is an unusual animal park with American bison of course, but also aurochs, Scottish Highlands, African Watussi, deer, fallow deer... Children will love the tractor ride to see bison. Then you walk the trails of the park to surprise woodland animals and original birds. Finally, the bassecour is a very popular place for toddlers.

Another unique visit awaits you at Xploria Park. You travel through a forest to go back in time, to discover ancient animals. You will admire there reconstructions of dinosaurs, giant mammals from prehistoric times, species that have disappeared from yesterday and today. It is a fun, sensory and very educational course.

In the Couserans, at the Bastide-de-Sérou, the Ferme des reptiles takes you on a world tour of cold-blooded animals! Snakes, iguanas, lizards and turtles are revealed. This is a good opportunity to show children little-known species, to familiarize themselves with these animals and overcome their possible apprehensions.

reptile farm

Fortunately, we only see them at the Ferme des reptiles and not in the natural environment! Photo © Reptile farm

We hope to have given you some ideas for family and fun outings. Ariège and the Cathar Country conceal many other treasures and little corners of paradise to unearth on the spot.

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