Often described as a 'hidden gem' the Ariège is a rugged and green department located centrally in the Pyrenees range. It is one of the most unspoiled and least populated regions of France, whose inhabitants have held fast to their traditions. The countryside is wild but easily accessible thanks to a network of roads and forestry tracks pushing high into the mountains. Relatively undiscovered, it still offers an unspoilt landscape of dramatic mountains, less formidable than in some other parts of the Pyrenees yet forming a stunning backdrop to the steep valleys, and lakes. The area is certainly popular with tourists and locals alike during holidays, but even at busier times it is easy to find solitude in the mountains and forests.
A network of over 5000km of waymarked footpaths provide access to a stunning array of landscapes from gentle green valleys, endless forests and jagged snowcapped peaks. Wildlife thrives here, thanks in part, to the endurance of ancient farming practices such as the transhumance when cows and sheep and are led up to the high summer pastures. The area is home to a vast range of flora and fauna including rare wildflowers, eagles and other birds of prey, butterflies, marmots and even the occasional bear.
Outdoor adventure activities are one of the biggest attractions to the area with hiking, rock climbing, mountain and road biking and winter sports particularly popular.
For days off from the action or for those after something a bit more relaxing the Ariège has a rich historic and cultural heritage. From the famous Cathar landmarks and prehistoric cave paintings to a wealth of towns, villages, museums and visitor attractions to discover.
Water is never far away with dramatic mountain streams and crystal clear lakes in the mountains as well as some superb (and warm!) swimming lakes lower down. If you can't resist a day at the seaside, the Mediterranean coast is only 2 hours away.
For kids and families there are plenty of options particularly in the summer months and the chance to try something adventurous is not to be missed. For lots more info on what is available locally and further afield, check out the links on the right or below.'
General Ariege Tourist Information
Tarascon & Vicdessos Tourist Office (French)
Ariege Mountain Guides