Tour of Cathar Country
5 Nights + Tour of Cathar Sites
The Cathar Region of France is one of the most fascinating areas to visit in Southern France, with an incredible heritage and a turbulent history of both heresy and crusades. This 5-day Cathar Country road trip, with a start and finish in Carcassonne and is arguably one of the best road trips in France.
Hotel Information (Hotel de la Cité, Carcassonne)
The Hotel de la Cité is an integral part of the history of Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At the very heart of the medieval city and built on the site of the former bishop’s palace. This 5-star hotel stands next to the Saint-Nazaire Basilica and overlooks the lower town from the ramparts, offering an enchanting view over the city, its gardens, its walls and its stones that have been there for centuries. With its distinct and original atmosphere and its strong links to the history of the region, the Hotel de la Cité is a wonderful place to stay and immerse yourself in the medieval city of Carcassonne.
Hotel Information (Châteaux de Floure, Floure)
Châteaux de Floure is located in Floure, at the heart of Cathar country, 10 minutes from the Medieval City of Carcassonne and the Canal du Midi. This luxury, 4-star hotel, offers a seamless blend of the past and the contemporary with its beautiful, character-rich bedrooms which overlook a traditional French-style park. Enjoy the jacuzzi, spa, relaxation space and grill found next to the heated swimming pool. The on-site gourmet restaurant, "Le Poete Disparu", which is acclaimed in all major culinary guidebooks, is adorned with XVII Century statuettes and offers regional fine dining.
The tour begins in Carcassonne, take this opportunity to explore this wonderful city and spend a night in the Mediaeval Cité before hitting the road tomorrow. There is no road trip travel on the first day of this Cathar Country driving holiday, but we will be happy to meet you later in the evening for diner and drinks to introduce you to the region.
Day One (Carcassonne Castle and Citadel)
Carcassonne is one of the most important sites to visit in the Cathar Country. The Cathar religion had many followers within Carcassonne’s walls. Raimond-Roger Trencavel, Viscount of Carcassonne, protected the Cathars, and soon the city became a land of heresy in the eyes of Pope Innocent III.
Today Carcassonne Castle and the Citadel, with its winding alleys, are the city’s main Cathar sites, while the Lower City, built after the siege, is of a completely different design. The Citadel and Carcassonne Castle will be your introduction to the Cathars through a guided tour with a knowledgeable guide to learn more about the Cathars and Carcassonne’s terrible past.
After a traditional Occitan lunch in the Cité in one of the many restaurants available to you, the afternoon will commence with a boat trip along the Canal du Midi to learn a little of the history of this magnificent work of engineering and of course stopping off for a glass of wine or two.
Day Two (Mirepoix and Montségur Castle)
It’s time to hit the road to explore more Cathar sites. Day 2 of this Cathar Country road trip takes you to the medieval village of Mirepoix and the Cathar castle of Montségur. Mirepoix was an important Cathar village in the region. Mirepoix is one of the most beautiful villages in the Cathar region, France and has preserved a 14th-century fortified gate and a stunning market square surrounded by beautiful half-timbered houses from its medieval past. The café-terraces, shops, and the traditional market on Monday mornings make it a lovely spot to visit and have lunch.
After Mirepoix, the road trip continues to Montségur to visit its castle. Montségur Castle is one of the most important Cathar castles in the Cathar Country because it was the last focus of Cathar resistance against the Crusaders. The stronghold was besieged for ten months before being taken by the royal army in March 1244. After the surrender, all the Cathars who refused to deny their Cathar beliefs were burned at the stake. In all, two hundred people, all voluntary Cathars, died in the fire. It was reported that some even sang during their sacrifice.
Day 2 ends in Cucugnan, a small village well situated for exploring the next Cathar villages and sites on this road trip.
Day Three (Peyrepertuse and Quéribus Castles)
This day is dedicated to visiting the amazing Cathar castles of Peyrepertuse and Quéribus two of the Citadels of Vertigo. Château de Peyrepertuse is one of the most impressive Cathar castles in the Cathar Region of France and one of the most beautiful castles in Southern France. This Citadel overlooking the Corbières Massif is sometimes called the ‘celestial Carcassonne.’ The lower part of the Cathar castle was built in the 11th century by the kings of Aragon in a strategic location. At the time of the Crusade against the Cathars, the castle was the fiefdom of Guillaume de Peyrepertuse, who, not wanting to submit, was excommunicated in 1224.
From the car park, After lunch in one of the lovely cafes in the lower village we are back on the road again to the Cathar Castle of Quéribus another of the most impressive French castles of the Cathar region. It stands at the summit of a narrow, rocky peak in the heart of the Corbières Massif. Quéribus Castle was another important Cathar refuge in the region, and it was the last stronghold of Cathar resistance to fall into the hands of the Crusaders in 1255.
Day 3 ends in Fontjoncouse, a small village well situated for exploring the next Cathar villages and sites on this road trip. Depending on the itinerary we may stay for one night at Le Petit Clos, a charming guesthouse with a swimming pool, terrace, and garden or for a special treat at L'Auberge du Vieux Puits to experience the three Michelin-Star dining of Gilles Goujon one of France's most celebrated chefs.
Day Four (Fontfroide Abbey and Lagrasse)
Fontfroide Abbey is a Cistercian abbey located 30km from Fontjoncouse. The abbey was founded in the 11th century, and it played an important role in the campaigns against the Cathars as it stood resolute in its support of the Catholic faith in the region. The monks of Fontfroide failed to convince the Cathars to abandon their beliefs by mere preaching and when Pierre de Castelnau – the Pope’s legate charged with negotiating with the Cathars was assassinated in 1208 wit as the trigger that began the first Crusade against the Cathars.
Once we have completed the visit to Fontfroide Abbey, it back on the road to drive to Lagrasse, near the Corbières Massif. Lagrasse is another picturesque Cathar village in the region listed as one of the ‘Most Beautiful Villages in France.’ here we will be visiting the Benedictine Abbey of St Mary of Orbieu, located in Lagrasse, founded in the 8th century, and had a considerable intellectual influence in the area. During the Cathar Crusades, the abbey undertook the role of appeasement and thanks to the monks of Lagrasse, the cities of Béziers and Carcassonne finally found peace with the King and the Church.
Day 4 ends in the village of Floure for the sole reason of spending the night at the fabulous Château de Floure & Spa. This is a historic place that began as a Roman Villa on the Via Aquitania became a monastery before writer Gaston Bonheur turned it into his home. Today, the property works as a château-hotel & spa and has stunning grounds, two swimming pools, and an on-site restaurant
Day Five (Minerve and Châteaux de Lastours)
On day 5, there’s a big loop to visit two beautiful Cathar sites before heading back to Carcassonne, but it is well worth it! Minerve is one of the prettiest medieval villages in Southern France. Indeed, Minerve is another of the villages in the region listed as the ‘Most Beautiful Villages in France.’ The Cathar village of Minerve is best known for the siege it underwent in 1210 during the terrible Crusade against the Cathars. In Minerve, Simon de Montfort and the northern barons exploited the most advanced military technique of the time, the siege machine. Minerve is a small medieval village that you can visit in one or two hours. Still, its beauty and good wines deserve a brief stop for lunch before heading to Lastours.
Châteaux de Lastours is one of the most beautiful castles in southern France. The site of Lastours is an exceptional ensemble of four Cathar castles (Cabaret, Surdespine, Quertinheux, and Tour Régine) built at the top of a rocky spur 300 meters above the village of Lastours, isolated by the deep valleys of Orbiel and Grésillou.
From Lastours, it’s only a 17.1 km drive to Carcassonne, the end of this Cathar Country road trip.
Tailored to your Itinerary
The best way to explore the Cathar Country is by car as most of these Cathar castles and other sites are poorly served (or not served at all) by public transportation. This 5-day Cathar Country road trip, with a start and finish in Carcassonne, is one of the best road trips in France and covers the departments of Ariège and Aude in the region of Occitanie. It is an excellent opportunity to learn about this fascinating chapter in France’s history.
If however, you would like to add additional Cathar sites or stop off at some of the vineyards of Ariège and Aude we are more than happy to tailor this tour to better suit your itinerary or wishes. With over 21 sites and up to 5 wine appellations available in Cathar Country the choices available to you are endless.
- 2 Nights Accomodation Carcassonne
- 1 or 2 Nights Accomodation Châteaux de Floure
- 1 Night Accomodation Cucugnan
- 1 Night Accomodation Le Petit Clos
- Buffet Breakfast
- Also Included
- Guided Tour & Diner in Carcassonne
- Mirepoix and Montségur Castle
- Châteaux Peyrepertuse and Quéribus
- Fontfroide Abbey and Lagrasse
- Minerve and Châteaux de Lastours