a-lezat-sur-leze b-carla-bayle d-castex e-daumazan f-justiniac g-mondeley h-pamiers

The Gates of Ariège (foothills)


The Lèze and Arize river valleys:
If you take the scenic route from Toulouse the tranquil Lèze River valley is your first introduction to Ariège. Stop at the medieval hilltop village of Carla-Bayle for a sweeping view of the countryside and the mountains. The birthplace of the protestant philosopher Pierre Bayle, it is also home to many artists and craftspeople. This area is a good base for visitors who want to divide their time between the the charms of Toulouse (30-45 minutes away) and the pleasures of the mountains (45 - 60 minutes). Also good stopping point if you've just arrived by air and don't want to drive too far the first day.


Further south on the Arize River is Le Mas d'Azil, site of one of the most famous prehistoric caves in the world. Discoveries there led to identification of the Azilian era. Interesting Museum of Prehistory.

The town also figured prominently in the wars of religion, becoming one of the principal protestant strongholds of the Midi. Calvin himself came to preach and lived there for a period. In 1625 1000 Protestants withstood a siege by a royal army numbering 14 000.

pamiersPamiers and the lower Ariège river valley:
The area around the lower Ariege river consists of gentle hills and the plain that extends to Toulouse. It's a nice area to explore by bicycle, with many quiet backroads and small villages. Even with a population of only about 13 000 Pamiers is the largest town in Ariège (which has a population of about 140 000 and a surface area of 490 000 hectares, or nearly a million acres).

Other points of interest include the 13th century bastide town of Mazères, the eucaluptus forest of St. Quirc and the museum of the former internment camp at Le Vernet, which held up to 12 000 prisoners of many nationalities during World War II.

A varient of Saint James' Way passes through the Ariège foothills; a pilgrim can walk from Carcassonne to St Jean-pied-de-port via Mirepoix, Pamiers and St-Lizier.

Many thanks to these photographers

About us

From 2000 to the end of 2017 ariege.com was a site devoted to tourism in the department of Ariège. The site is minimally maintained now but you can get a flavour of this beautiful area of the Pyrenees.