We offer this week to go on a trip in the department of Ariège . You will discover a magical universe filled with caves and vestiges testifying the first traces of the man and his evolution in the centuries. Located in the Occitanie region , the landscapes of this department are made of mountains and hilly rolling hills. Part of the department is a Regional Natural Park in recent years in which you may have the chance to see the transhumance of Merens sheep and horses .
The history of the department of Ariège.
The first human traces in the Ariège go back to prehistory as evidenced by many ornate caves . You should know that the landscape of Ariège at the time was much harder, with glaciers that went down very low . Thus, it was difficult for people to go to the mountains and realize cultures. On the other hand, the green plain was ideal for herbivores such as horses, bison and mammoths.
In antiquity, there were probably Gallo-Roman villages . Objects and funerary inscriptions have been found. However, there are not really architectural vestiges testifying of this time.
In the Middle Ages, Ariège turned to Christianity with the construction of several abbeys . In the 13th century, fought a fight against the Cathars . More than 205 Cathars considered heretics will be burned in 1244 in front of the castle of Montségur.
In the 17th century, the department will still fall into religious conflicts . This time, they oppose Catholics to Protestants. The city of Pamiers will be sacked by Henry II of Bourbon who wanted to end Protestant uprisings. It is at this time that many churches will be destroyed and burned.
The department of Ariège is officially created on March 4, 1790 . On the territory, many industries were able to develop, thanks to the hydraulic force provided by the rivers that cross the department, but also thanks to the iron deposits present.
Unmissable places of the department of Ariège.
Prehistoric Park and Niaux Cave
For fans of the prehistoric era, two sites are available to you. Start with a visit to the Niaux Cave , one of the only ornate caves still open to the public . You will travel about 800 meters, equipped with a flashlight in a large gallery before arriving in a decorated space called the Salon Noir . This is where you can admire very beautiful animal drawings : deer, bison, horses, etc. This cave has the distinction of having engravings on the ground . They are not accessible to the public, but can be admired in a reproduction in the Prehistory Park . This park is a good complement to visit because it reproduces several objects and small caves of the cave of Niaux, and even the famous black living room. You will be able to discover in more detail the life of the men prehistory thanks to a series of films on very varied topics . Outdoor spaces extend the visit of the prehistoric world with the labyrinth of sounds to hear what men heard at that time, a reproduction of a camp of the time, a trail trace, and finally a fresco telling a reindeer hunt . It is also possible to access a route in the rocks and woods on which you can find traces of the past human presence.
Take a trip back in time to an old hamlet in the Forges de Pyrène . In an area of more than 5 hectares , you will spend a moment certainly exotic, going from stalls to stalls, discovering more than 120 trades, most of which are forgotten today ! You can see the different craftsmen at work, just for you, according to traditional techniques. They will deliver you maybe some well kept secrets! You will be able to contemplate a collection of more than 6,500 tools ! A show staged Baptistou during the different moments of his life, from his birth to his last breath. This staging of these 85 years is loaded with emotions. The symbolic piece of pyrene ironworks is an object registered in historical monuments since 1993: the martinet forge . You will notice that it is one of the only ones still functioning in France!
Cave of Lombrives
The Lombrives cave is very famous in Europe . It is the largest on the continent . This record is that the cave has been registered for 26 years in the Guinness Book of Records ! Over more than 39 kilometers follow each other about 200 small caves! Being a really big site, there is not only one visit route. It is possible to discover the cave according to a thematic route according to a discipline, to make scientific excursions, to attend shows, and even for the more sporty, to make a hike of 7 hours ! The spectacle offered by the cave of Lombrives is of great beauty, the concretions and the colors of the walls forming a real visual spectacle!
Welcome to the Dinosaur Forest . This space consists of several parts: a museum in which you will discover paleontological objects, a walk in the forest where fossils, skeletons and even three-dimensional dinosaurs, and a space of 35m² used to reconstruct a camp. Paleontological digs as in 1920! Young and old will be delighted by this visit which is dynamic, fun and very rewarding.
Tourist cities of the department of Ariège.
The prefecture of the department of Ariège , Foix opens its doors for a walk in its pretty streets located in the old district of the city . You can admire beautiful carved fountains, half-timbered houses, not to mention the symbol of the city : the castle of Foix . The latter seems to overlook the city because of its location on a rocky peak. Foix is at the center of an exceptional natural environment . You can walk in preserved sites and discover beautiful landscapes. Being a medieval town, you will have all year round the opportunity to attend historical shows , street entertainment and stroll through the craft markets to find quality products!
The city of Mirepoix is built on a very precise structure. You will notice that all around the central square of the city, the streets are drawn perpendicularly . On this square are beautiful half-timbered houses. A typical example of this particularity is the House of Consuls . You can admire, above the central beam, beautiful sculptures. In the past, the city was surrounded by ramparts and had 4 large gates. Today, only the door of Aval is still visible. Summer cultural events and medieval festivals invade the streets for your greatest happiness!
Saint-Lizier is a must if you visit the department of Ariège. This city of Art and History is ranked among the most beautiful villages in France. You will walk with pleasure in this ancient Gallo-Roman city. Its heritage is rich, and you can admire many remains of Romanesque architecture, such as the church of Saint-Lizier or the Palace of Bishops. The city is located at the foot of the Pyrenees, you will be at the perfect place to start great walks or hikes.
Discover the department of Ariège in video
Here is a film made by the Grands Sites d’Occitanie , specifically about the department of Ariège.
Here we are at the end of this trip in the department of Ariège . We introduced you to the few elements of the department that we thought were essential, but know that it is full of other treasures . If you want to tell us about your travel experience in Ariège, do not hesitate to leave us a comment.