Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, Hérault – Image courtesy of Emeraude/Creative Commons
Stretching from the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean coast inland towards the Massif Central, Languedoc offers great medieval architecture scattered amid a dramatic landscape of lush, hilly countryside and plunging river gorges bisected by mountain ridges – the perfect destination for a adventurous honeymoon couples.
The region’s history is inextricably mingled with that of the Cathars and the Albigensian Crusades, which began in 1208.
What to do and see in Languedoc-Roussillon
Explore ruined Cathar castles, medieval towns at Cordes and Carcassonne, ancient monasteries in Albi and St-Guilhem-le-Désert and extensive Roman remains at Nîmes.
Cruise the Canal du Midi from Toulouse to Age on the Mediterannean and admire the best of Toulouse-Lautrec's Belle Epoque work at Albi.
Must-see sightseeing attractions, include:
Discover imposing 12th century ruined fortresses scattered across the mountains to the west and north of Perpignan. These relics of the once-independent and rebellious peoples of Languedoc offer a fascinating insight into the brutal Albigensian Crusades, waged against the Cathars by the Roman Catholic Church.
The castles are easily explored on foot, by car or the narrow-gauge Train du Pays Cathare. Hike the GR36 from Carcassonne to St-Paul-de-Fenouillet to pass most of the castles or take the Sentier Cathare, from Port La-Nouvelle to Foix.
Explore the narrow streets of this atmospheric medieval fortress town, one of the most dramatic in Languedoc.
Stroll along the lices, the path than runs between the inner and outer fortified walls, wander through the restored Cité, visit the 12th century Cathedral St-Nazaire, tour the inner fortress of the Château Comtal, then climb one of the 52 watchtowers for spectacular views over the lush green countryside.
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Climb up steep cobbled lanes past 13th and 14th century Gothic houses through one of the region's oldest and best-preserved bastides (fortified towns). Learn about the history of this former Cathar stronghold, founded in 1222, in the town’s Musée Charles-Portal.
The Canal du Midi
Discover the best of south-west France along this pretty tree-lined canal, which was built between 1667 and 1681 and runs for 240km from the River Garonne at Toulouse via Carcassonne to the Mediterranean Sea at Agde.
Cycle or walk the canal-side paths of this UNESCO World Heritage Site or, in hire a houseboat or barge for a bucolic voyage through green meadows sprinkled with flowering wild gladioli and yellow irises in spring.
Petit Train Jaune
Discover the dramatic Tet Valley from the open-carriage of this quaint narrow-gauge train.
Explore this ancient 9th century Carolingian monastery founded by St Guilhem, comrade-in-arms of Charlemagne, then hike up the valley to the ruins of a castle on the ridge above for spectacular views over the tiled-roofed village perched scenically on the edge of the Verdus River.
Nearby lies the Grotte de Clamouse, a beautiful cave boasting stalactites, a subterranean river and three expansive grottoes.
Examine the most comprehensive collection of Toulouse-Lautrec's Belle Epoque work of prostitutes, cabaret dancers and café patrons, housed in the beautiful 13th century Palais de la Berbie fortress, in the artist’s home town of Albi. The collection boasts paintings, drawings, lithographs and posters, from his earliest work to the very last.
Explore France’s 2000-year-old, best-preserved Roman amphitheatre, known as Les Arènes. Behind its arcaded two-storey facade lies massive interior vaulting, riddled with corridors and supporting raked tiers of seats that can accommodate more than 24,000 spectators.
Today, this former site of gladiatorial combat hosts bloodletting of a different kind – bullfighting.
Discover the Maison Carré, built on a platform at the edge of the ancient Roman forum and the only complete Roman temple in the world; explore the Magne Tower to see all that remains of the original city fortifications – climb to the top for panoramic views over Nimes; then wander the narrow ancient streets of the ‘old town’, now crowded with boutiques, restaurants and cafes.
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