Haut-Languedoc

 

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The lesser-known region of Haut-Languedoc is a far cry from the busy coastal resorts. This region is all about nature and wildlife with its rolling mountains, beautiful scenery, lake beaches, mountain rivers and the most picturesque villages. Whether you are looking for a genuine relaxing holiday in nature or just a day out from the coastal buzz, this region is only about an hour away from the main Languedoc beaches. Relax at the numerous refreshing mountain rivers or lakes, enjoy stunning views from the hilltop restaurants or absorb the history of medieval villages. For a more active day go for a trek through this beautiful area, sail or windsurf on a mountain lake or try out kayaking or white-water rafting on one of many rivers.

 

Things to See and Do in the Haut Languedoc

Beaches and Swimming Lakes

If you don't fancy a drive to the coast but are looking for somewhere to swim, relax, or just cool off during the hot summer months, there are a couple of popular places in the Haut Languedoc.

  • Lake Salagou is a man-made lake with several beaches and campsites. There are facilities for families as well as refreshments and restaurants and equipment hire for waterports enthusiasts.
  • At Roquebrun you'll find an idyllic beach on the edge of the river, with canoe and paddle board hire available. A short walk from the beach is the village, where you'll find restaurants, an ice-cream parlour, some and picturesque buildings.

 

Towns & Villages

The most well-known town of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, famous for it's cheese and a popular day out for wine and food lovers, is just one of many interesting locations to visit in this area. Other places work visiting include:

  • Bédarieux is a town in the Haut-Languedoc Regional Nature Park, overlooked by the Espinouse mountain and Orb river. As well as being a great base for walking and cycling it is something of an entertainment hotspot, with over 40 food, music, and arts festivals during the high season.
  • Gabian is a picturesque Languedoc village built by the Romans around a defensive "circulade" - or snail shell shape. Here you'll find the Château-Abbaye de Cassan, which hosts concerts and events throughout the year.
  • Hérépian is small village close to Bédarieux which is an excellent base for walking or cycling and also home to a foundry, where the Granier have been making bells since the 16th Century.
  • Lamalou Les Bains is a popular spa town with markets, shops and other amenities. Located in the High Languedoc National Park it makes an excellent base for walking and trekking - or for a relaxing day at the spa.
  • Laurens is home to a 12th Century château (now the Mairie) and, as part of the Faugères AOC, a renowned wine-producing area. 
  • Lodève, once one of the most important areas of the textile industry, is a quiet town with a textiles museum, a fascinating old apothecary, and a busy year-round calendar of concerts and short festivals.
  • Nizas is another town built around a "circulade", with a reputation for fine wine care of the Domaine de Nizas, run by the American vigneron John Goelet.
  • Olargues is rated as one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France. Perched on a rock and almost encircled by the River Jaur, Olargues cannot have changed overly much in the last 500 years. The village is remarkably well-preserved and to wander through its narrow lanes discovering its ancient houses with the sound of the river in the background is a joy.
  • Pézènes-les-Mines is a charming village that has hardly changed in hundreds of years. Away from the hustle and bustle, it is a paradise for anyone wanting to spend their holidays amongst the wildlife, flora and fauna of the Midi away from the more touristy areas near the coast.
  • Roquebrun is a great destination for a family day out. You'll find restaurants and a ice-cream parlour in the village and can enjoy a rest on the river beach, on the banks for the River Orb, which is perfect for cooling off and safe for paddling. Gardeners and plant lovers would enjoy a walk to the Mediterranean Gardens at the top of the village, which showcases the native plants of the region.
  • St Guilhem-le-Désert has an interesting heritage and is a location on the famous Pilgrim Trail of St Jacques de Compostelle. For a relaxing day away from the crowds, take a stroll through the village then swim in the river that runs through the Gorge de l’Hérault.

 

Events and Festivals

Although inland and away from the main coastal resorts and villages, the Haut Languedoc is known for it's many and varied festivals, many of which are held throughout the year. Some of our favourites are:

  • Chestnut festivals, which are held throughout the region in October or November to celebrate the lowly sweet chestnut; once a dietary staple of the local populations. Two of the better known events are in St-Pons-de-Thomières and Olargues.
  • Les Transes Cévenoles, held in the town of Sumène, is a contemporary and world music and street art festival that takes place on the last weekend of July. There are free shows throughout the day - music, plays and street circus - and, from 8:45pm, la Place du Plan hosts open air concerts.
  • The Medieval Volo Biau Festival takes you back in time to celebrate "The Flying Bull" - the totemic animal of the town. Held on the 13rd and 14th of July in the village of Saint-Ambroix near Alès, the small town transforms itself into a Medieval village and all its residents dress up for the festival. As well as the medieval market and the tavern, a number of companies with their acrobats, comedians, troubadours and falconers bring the streets and squares to life with historic re-enactments and shows. The festival ends with the flight of the ‘Caïet bull’ and a large firework display.
  • Transhumance Festivals are a regional tradition where the shepherds walk their herds along ancestral paths to and from the mountain pasture at the start and end of summer. During the festivals you can expect processions of ‘dressed up’ herds, demonstrations of skills, shearing, sheep dog demonstrations and traditional shepherds’ meals.

 

Outdoors & Activities for Families

  • GrottosThe limestone mountains of the northern part of the Languedoc are riddled with springs and sources which over millions of years, have worn away great caves and galleries. Grotte de Clamouse and Grotte de Labeil are two of the many grottoes in the region open to the public, complete with stunning stalagmites and stalactites.
  • Kayaking is also a popular activity, with many hire locations along the banks of the River Orb. The kayak hire at Tarassac is a good starting point for your first time, taking you 7km downstream to Roquebrun, where you can rest before making the return journey.
  • Mas Rolland, Montesquieu is a goat farm, very popular with families as you can get involved in farm life; helping with milking and rounding up the herd, then taking some freshly-made cheese back from the shop.
  • The Mediterranean Garden Roquebrun, which is open from March to November, is perched at the top of the village and showcases the native plants of the region. Combine a stroll through the village with a paddle on the river beach and an ice-cream for a relaxing day out.
  • Walk, hiking, cycling, and horse riding are all popular activities here and most towns and villages have signed paths and trails. The best place to find out about them are in the local town halls (Mairies), in the tourist information offices, and many are also listed on the internet. For more demanding walks there are many loops that join up with of the long-distance St Jacques de Compostelle walking trail that passes through the Haut Languedoc.

 

Sights and Attractions

  • The Causses and Cévennes UNESCO site is a vast area with plenty of activities for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. From Alès, you might go to Anduze and catch the little steam train to St Jean du Gard. This is a lovely scenic route that chugs through tunnels and over viaducts and will give you a flavour of the beautiful Cévennes Mountains.
  • The Cirque de Navacelles is a curious geological formation caused by the meandering and erosion of the Vis River and forms the largest canyon in Europe. Walk to the top and back or admire the dramatic scenery from the bustling town. 
  • The Millau Viaduct crosses the Tarn valley and is famous as the World's tallest bridge. At 343 metres it is higher than the Eiffel Tower. Drive over the bridge (there is a toll) on the motorway or discover it on foot or even by taking a kayak along the river below.

 

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