Languedoc – the ‘real’ south of France
Unspoilt wine-making villages that feel as though you have stepped back in time
Languedoc-Roussillon doesn’t ‘officially’ exist any longer, it was rolled into a ‘super’ region called Occitanie at the beginning of the year. The area that was known as the Languedoc is the southernmost part of France, and was named due to the language spoken in this area for hundreds of years, ‘Les langues d’oc’.
The region is very different in feel to some of the other regions which form the south of France, it’s not as flash as the Côte d’Azur and doesn't have the ‘touristy’ feel of Provence. It’s very traditional with lots of smaller, welcoming villages, but also very varied in terms of landscape, right from mountain peaks through to pretty coastal, Mediterranean towns. And of course, with its proximity to northern Spain, there is a distinctly Catalonian influence that is present in terms of the language, culture, as well as food and drink.
So, a trip to the Languedoc will give you access to stunning scenery, sumptuous cuisine and historic culture, a perfect combination for a relaxing walking or cycling holiday which will reveal treasures and unforgettable experiences.
What and where should you visit? Here are a few places which we’d definitely recommend.
This port town is known as the Venice of the Languedoc. That’s because it’s criss-crossed with canals, much like Venice, and along the edges are numerous attractive buildings, restaurants and cafes. Unlike Venice however, Sète lies at the base of Mont St Clair, and you should take a trip up to the summit, as the views of the town are stunning. At the top, you should visit the Chapel of Notre Dame de la Salette, as well as the Quartier Haute which is home to many artists who have opened their studios to the public.
You can visit Sète as part of our Canal du Midi Prestige cycling tour which starts from the wonderful fortified town of Carcassone and stops at various villages along the route, such as Siran and Cabezac.
A short way up the coast from Sete is Maguelone Cathedral. Located on the isthmus between Étang de l'Arnel lake and the Mediterranean, the Maguelone hosts an annual ancient, medieval & renaissance music festival. There is a good chance you’ll see the famous Flamingos on the nearby lakes.
Collioure is south of Perpignan and almost on the Spanish border. It’s one of the sunniest spots in France, but not as crowded as some of the other more popular towns in the area, such as St Tropez. It’s an attractive town, and has been made popular by the fact that it has attracted many famous faces, most notably Matisse and Picasso, in fact the Fauvism art movement was devised here, so you know you’ll be in good company! There are lovely beaches and wonderful restaurants to take your time over, and it’s also a great base for some coastal walks.
Not far from Carcassone is the town of Quillan, perfectly situated to explore Cathar country. It’s situated in a circle of mountains and is approximately 300 metres above sea level. It lies on the edge of the River Aude and at one point in its history, it used to be on the border of France and Spain. Quillan is very popular with white-water rafters and kayakers. It’s also next to the Gorges de L’Aude, magnificent gorges and cliff scenery carved out over thousands of years.
You can visit Quillan on both of our Cathar Castles walking tours, Stage One ends here, and Stage Two starts here! Both tours take you through the Pyrenees foothills and of course to visit various Cathar castles en route!
So for a holiday in the South of France that’s a bit different to the usual, then the Languedoc region is the one for you. It’s best visited in the spring or early autumn when the weather isn’t at its hottest and crowds not at their most. If you think you’d like to tour the region, then please get in touch, we’d love to help craft a holiday for you.
Main article images:
Sète and the Étang de Thau - By Christian Ferrer, CC BY-SA 3.0
Maguelone Cathedral, west front - By Bonho1962 - Own work, Public Domain
General view of Quillan - By Guillaume Paumier - Own work, CC BY 2.5
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