Many villages in Ariege merit a visit. Their characters, atmospheres and architecture are quite varied because this department presents numerous facets: from the small mountain village with a rushing river full of kayakers running through it like Seix or Sentein to the peaceful town with stately 18th and 19th century bourgeois homes in the foothills like Mirepoix or Saint Lizier.

 

Mirepoix
Mirepoix

A beautiful medieval bastide town in Cathar country. The central square is surrounded by half-timbered houses with a wooden arcade. The cathedral dedicated to St Maurice has a nave that is the largest in France. Not far from Mirepoix is the troglodyte church at Valsand the Chateau of Largarde.
 

Saint-Lizier
Saint-Lizier

Situated on a small hil in the Salat river valley, a few kilometres from St Girons, the capital of thte Couserans, St Lizier is dominated by the imposing form of the 14th century Bishops' Palace, which faces the snow-covered peaks of the Pyrenees. 



An ancient gallo-roman city and a bishopric in the 6th century, it is listed as one of the most beautiful villages of France.
St Lizier is situated on one of the variants of Saint James' Way and has numerous monuments from the roman era.
Some highlights:
The Church of St Lizier and its 11th century frescoes, the romanesque cloister adjacent to the church, the 18th century pharmacy, the Bishops' Treasure, the little cobbled lanes lined with half-timbered houses.

Seix
Seix

A typical Ariège mountain village with the Salat River running through it. Its geographic situation at he meeting point of several valleys at the foot of the frontier passes made it an important border village up until the end of the 19th century.
The village is dominated by its chateau dating from the 16th century.
 

Tourtouse
Tourtouse

A sleepy little village in the Volvestre area, surrounded by bucolic rolling countryside. There you'll find the ruins of a keep, machicolations, curtain walls, arrow slits and murder-holes and the "city gate" -- vestiges of Tourtouse's hours of glory. Under the ancient regime, Tourtouse was under control of the bishops of the Couserans and the prince bishop Bruno de Ruade rebuilt a wing of the former fortified chateau and the church where the chateau's chapel once stood.

St-Martin d'Oydes
St Martin d'Oydes

This little village of about 300 inhabitants near Pamiers is one of the rare ones in the form of a circle of houses surrounding the church. In the medieval era this allowed a better defense of the inhabitants. A moat, since filled in, served as an external line of defense and the square church steeple as a last refuge for the inhabitants in case of attack.

Camon
Camon

This fortress village is classed among the most beautiful villages of France. It surrounds its abbey and offers a beautiful panoramic view of the verdant hills that were once covered in vineyards. It is situated in the Hers River valley at the edge of the department. Camon is also called the Village of a Hundred Rosebushes as so many decorate the lanes and facades of the village.

Le Carla-Bayle
Carla Bayle

A former citadel fortified by Gaston Phoebus in the 14th century, the village is situated on a hilltop 50 km from Toulouse and 30 km from Foix with a view of the Pyrenees. It's the birthplace of the Protestant philosopher Pierre Bayle and its history is marked by the wars of religion.
Today the village is known for its active artists community.

Sentein
Sentein

A small village at the end of the Biros valley in the Couserans, situated at the foot of the high mountains.
It's fortified church is remarkable; in the 13th and 14th centuries it was surrounded by ramparts, of which two towers remain.
The Biros valley once had several working mines, the vestiges of which can now be seen near the walking trails.



Ayet en Bethmale
Ayet-en-Bethmale

A little village of stone houses with picturesque slate roofs, Ayet clings to the flanks of a steep hill and dominates the Bethmale valley, which is well known for its traditions: folk dances, cheesemaking and unusual wooden clogs. It has a beautiful 14th century church with a wall bell tower.

Many thanks to these photographers

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