10 must-see things to do in Ax-les-Thermes


Discover the best outdoor activities in Ax-les-Thermes, an ideal location for your outdoor sports activities and wellness treatments!

On the edge ofSpain andAndorra, Ax-les-Thermes embraces some of the finest Pyrenean peaks and is one of France’s top tourist destinations. The town is part ofAx 3 Domaines (part of the Parc naturel régional des Pyrénées Ariégeoises), the largest ski area in Ariege. And all to the delight of winter sports enthusiasts! There’s no doubt about it: the best outdoor activities are to be found in Ax-les-Thermes!

Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and dog-sledding are just some of the classic activities you can enjoy during your trip in the cold season… Ax-les-Thermes is also very attractive in fine weather. Every year, thousands of hikers set off to discover this tourist mecca along the GR1 or Chemin des Bonshommes, straddling the border between France and Catalonia.

Discover our selection of the 10 must-do things to do in Ax-les-Thermes to make the most of your stay in the heart of this paradise!

What to do in Ax-les-Thermes in winter?

Brave the mountains on ski touring…

Ski de randonnée Ax-les-Thermes

Photo credit : Shutterstock

  • 🗓️ Opening period: December to May
  • Duration: one day
  • 💙 We love: listening to mountain guides’ anecdotes about the local flora and fauna

Do you love skiing away from the crowds and dream of unspoilt scenery for your trip? From the resort of Ax-les-Thermes, escape to the most illustrious Pyrenean peaks on ski touring, a sport that combines the pleasure of climbing and sliding in Ariège. The mountains of Ariège open their arms to you, dressed in their white mantle and carpeted with magnificent coniferous forests.

Sometimes you’ll find yourself completely alone on the route, with only a few chamois leaving their footprints in the immaculate snow. Accompanied by your hiking guide , who will tell you all about the area. You’ll have the chance to explore little-visited corners ofAx 3 Domaines. Your instructor will be delighted to show you his favorite spots!

Sports enthusiasts, it’s a good idea to choose your tour according to your level. Your guide will help you to do this, so as to offer you the best possible option: from neophytes who have never put on ski touring boots to experienced climbers, several itineraries will be proposed to you, so that there’s something for everyone.

… and try your hand at adrenalin-pumping freeriding

Freeride dans les Pyrénées

Photo credit : Shutterstock

  • 🗓️ Opening period: December to May
  • ⌛ Duration: 1 half-day to 1 day, depending on your level
  • 💙 We love: snow untouched by human hands, Andorra in the background

Why not try your hand at skiing off the groomed slopes during your stay? Ax 3 Domaines is home to a dedicated freeride area, a must for fans of unusual experiences. Imagine yourself defying the powder, surrounded by the sinuous lines of the Pyrenean massif, with Spain revealing its borders in the distance… Treat yourself to an escape off the beaten track by exploring the unmarked side of the mountain. All accompanied by a connoisseur for whom the region holds no secrets!

The good news is that beginners and experienced skiers alike can join in the adventure and learn this unprecedented sport! Never dared take up the challenge of off-piste skiing? Your instructor will introduce you to this new thrill in complete safety, showing you a thousand and one techniques for taming this unruly terrain. More skilled skiers, meanwhile, can perfect their agility by learning new methods, under the expert guidance of a mountain guide.

Good to know: you can reach these magnificent unspoilt areas from the Ax-les-Thermes ski lifts.

Explore the Ax-les-Thermes area on snowshoes

Ax-les-Thermes randonnées raquettes

Photo credit : Shutterstock

  • ⌛ Duration: 2 to 3 hours
  • 🗓️ Opening period : December to April
  • 💙 We love: discovering the magnificent sapphire expanses deep in the mountains as you arrive at the Pessons lakes, at 2400 m altitude

The Ax-les-Thermes region is full of unspoilt spots where you can lose yourself in nature, lulled by the crunch of your footsteps on the snow. At Grandvalira (the largest ski area in the Pyrenees, with 210 km of pistes), adventurers have the time of their lives. Wearing their snowshoes, they enjoy wild expeditions in the middle of snow-covered forests.

Treat yourself to the luxury of fresh mountain air, accompanied by your guide, who knows the Ariège down to the last detail. He’ll take you to the shores of lakes and rivers, sometimes completely covered in ice, like crystalline mirrors. Like extreme trackers, you’ll learn to recognize animal tracks and the characteristics of the local flora, thanks to precise information. Keep your eyes peeled: you may spot a few forest guests nestling between the trees…

This snowshoe hike is suitable for families aged 10 and over. A pleasant discovery for the whole group!

What to do in Ax-les-Thermes in summer?

Treat yourself to a rejuvenating spa treatment

Bains thermales Ax-les-Thermes Pyrénées

Photo credit : Shutterstock

  • 🗓️ Best period: all year round
  • 🎫 Rate: varies according to care
  • 💙 We love: massages given by professional physiotherapists, for the benefit of our muscles and joints

Some people call Ax-les-Thermes « the town that smokes », due to the hot waters that rise from the depths of the earth. Winter and summer alike, the resort of Ax-les-Thermes attracts holidaymakers looking for a spa treatment in unspoilt surroundings. The town is home to some of the most sulphurous waters in the Pyrenees, and has enjoyed a legendary reputation for this since ancient times. Indeed, the baths in this famous Ariège town are famous throughout France!

The health benefits of thermal baths are numerous: treatment of lung ailments, dermatological conditions, muscular pains, rheumatism… Not forgetting the thousand and one anti-stress virtues offered by this type of cure. Enjoy baths at between 33 and 38°C in the various indoor and outdoor pools, nestled deep in the Ariège mountains. Complementary treatments include thermal water massages, jet showers, vaporarium, sophrology, reflexology…

Good to know: after your spa treatment, take the opportunity to explore the town! Interpretation panels tell you all about the history of the area, including its historic monuments. If you feel like it, continue your adventure at the Casino and try your luck!

Challenge the summits by hiking in the heart of Ariège

Etang de Rabassole, randonnées dans les pyrénées

Photo credit : Shutterstock

  • 🗓️ Best period: December to August
  • ⌛ Duration : depends on your itinerary
  • 💙 We love: meeting shepherds and their flocks during summer transhumance

The Ariege Pyrenees are a prime destination for naturophiles in search of a green vacation. In summer, the rolling hills of Ax 3 Domaines take on a vivid green hue, mingled with craggy rocky outcrops rising to 3,000 meters above sea level. This is the beauty of the Ariege Pyrenees Natural Park. When the cold season arrives, the fir trees are dressed in an immaculate blanket. It’s not uncommon to see the lakes freeze over, glowing with a thousand lights.

Climbers, keep your eyes peeled: as you ascend, you’ll catch sight of the Pic de Montcalm, Rebenty, Rulhe, Tute de l’Ours… So many peaks that are the glory of the French and Castilian Pyrenees, and so much to discover!

💎 Editor’s tip: the not-to-be-missed Etang de Rabassoles 💎

Among the most beautiful hikes to be made around the resort of Ax-les-Thermes, the one to the Etang de Rabassoles is well worth the detour. This fifteen-kilometer itinerary takes you to the pond of the same name, to the delight of the contemplative: the pond unveils its azure jewel case right in the middle of a rocky lung lined with vegetation. Take a picture or two to immortalize this picture-postcard setting!

The little extra on this not-to-be-missed hike? Part of the trail is through undergrowth (you’ll cross the Agréboul and Latrabe woods), while the other takes you into the heart of the valley, surrounded by voluptuous granite. Note also that one section of the itinerary is on a sheer rocky sl ope: take care if you come with young children.

Ride your mountain bike over the Pyrenean passes

VTT Ariège dans les Pyrénées

Photo credit : Shutterstock

  • 🗓️ Best period: April – September
  • ⏳ Duration: variable according to level
  • 💙 We love: seeing the whole Ax-les-Thermes area from the heights

The area around theresort of Ax-les-Thermes is full of mountain bike trails. Enjoy the fresh mountain air on some of the finest trails in the Pyrenees, right on Spain’s doorstep. Whether you’re a seasoned mountain biker or a first-timer, you’ll find routes to suit your level.

Some circuits are very accessible and fairly short, while others are steep and challenging, surrounded by the peaks of the Ariège. One of our favorite mountain bike trails is the one through the Col de Joux, Cap de Carbone and the Ax valley. This itinerary forms a loop of around 27 km (allow around 8 hours for the ride). It’s perfectly suitable for novice cyclists, provided they’re in good physical condition… Yes, because the positive difference in altitude is over 1,000 metres!

It’s well worth the effort: you’ll hike along a sumptuous forest trail, revealing a lovely monochrome of greens and charming emerald mountain lakes. The arrival at the Col de Joux is one of the most impressive: the view extends 360° over the peaks of the Orgeix valley and the Ariège valley. Oscillating between plateaus and jagged rocky massifs, sometimes draped in snow, sometimes bare, depending on the season.

Treat yourself to a life-size canyoning playground

Canyoning Ax-les-Thermes Pyrénées

Photo credit : Shutterstock

  • 🗓️Période opening hours: May to October
  • ⌛ Duration : half a day on average
  • 💙 We love : ziplining down the mountain and getting drunk on the thrills.

Canyoning is one of the most popular sports in the Ariège Pyrenees. The region’s steep-sided valleys, rocky outcrops and numerous watercourses provide the ideal backdrop for canyoning adventures. Vertiginous jumps, slides, giant pools and so many other natural elements line the playful courses. A delight for young and old alike.

Would you like to take the whole family for an adrenalin-filled session near Ax-les-Thermes? Head for the canyon de Marc, near the town of Foix. This half-day itinerary will take you through the heart of the Audat Vicessos valley, between lush forests and crystal-clear waters that have carved out the wall. On the menu: slides, 8-metre jumps, zip lines, abseiling and many other surprises!

Good to know: you don’t need to have a high level of physical fitness to complete your course. Just note that the minimum age is 12.

Play biker on the corniche road…

Paysages Ariège Pyrénées France

Photo credit : Shutterstock

  • ❄️ Best period: April – October
  • ⌛ Duration: 2 hours to one day
  • 💙 We love: stopping off in a village with a thousand-year-old heritage and going back in time.

The route des Corniches is so nicknamed because it stretches out like a huge balcony over the Ariège valley and the Tabe massif. All along this route are points of interest that are particularly popular with history buffs. A stronghold ofRomanesque architecture, this route is home to renowned monuments such as thechurch at Unac. Not to mention its imposing bell tower, typical of Andorran architecture with its geminated bays and foliage capitals. Or the Château de Lordat, one of the last Cathar strongholds. Its stonework rises to an altitude of almost 1000 metres, dominating the entire valley.

To discover these breathtaking points of interest, get on your motorcycle and ride through the mountains! You’ll travel back in time to visit centuries-old buildings, while taking in unparalleled panoramic views of the small Ariège villages, some of them nestled in the very rock. As the sun sets, they take on light and shadow, creating a most picturesque backdrop…

Our tip: be sure to visit Tarascon-sur-Ariège, an ancient fortified village with a remarkably well-preserved medieval heritage. Remnants of the ramparts and arcades, as well as cobblestones and half-timbering dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, remain. The more adventurous will climb up to the top of the hill, to contemplate its pretty castle overlooking the town.

… And continue your adventure in the bowels of the Niaux cave

grotte de Niaux Pyrénées

Photo credit : Shutterstock

  • 🗓️ Opening period : January to October
  • 🎫 Price: €11 to €14
  • 💙 We love: the black lounge with its dark paintings evoking the large mammals of prehistoric times.

Did you know that the Niaux cave was one of the last places in France where you could admire cave paintings? Along a 2 km path lined with vast galleries, underground lakes and vaulted passageways, admire the fascinating drawings dating back to the Paleolithic era. Around a hundred animals are represented, giving us an idea of the richness of this fauna, thousands of years old.

Illuminated by the light of a lamp, you’ll listen to your guide tell you all about the history of the Cro-Magnon people and their incredible engravings and mysterious signs.

Take to the heights at Dent d’Orlu for a climbing session

Escalade dans les pyrénées

Photo credit : Shutterstock

  • ⌛ Duration: one day
  • 🗓️ Opening period: year-round
  • 💙 We love: the magnificent view of the Orlu valley nature reserve and its flower beds in springtime.

The Dent d’Orlu is a famous Pyrenean peak, so named for its conical shape, reminiscent of a large, stone-clad canine tooth. On this immense granite wall, climbers enjoy vertiginous climbing sessions, following various routes of varying degrees of difficulty. The most daredevil climbers will go all the way to the summit, at an altitude of over 2,200 metres. Once you’ve reached the top, the surrounding mountains seem to rise out of the earth, and you can see their snowy skulls in the distance.

Accompanied by your mountain guide, you’ll make your ascent gradually and safely. For this outdoor activity in Ax-les-Thermes, you’ll need to have some climbing experience before taking on this sporting challenge (although you won’t need to be a seasoned climber).

As you can see, Ax-les-Thermes and its surroundings are just as much a delight for nature lovers as for historians and epicureans of all kinds! And why not extend the pleasure with other outdoor activities in Ax-les-Thermes?

Are you planning a nature vacation during the winter season? Here are some ideas for tourism and outdoor activities in Ax-les-Thermes:

❄️ Winter period :


☀️Période summer :

To complete your trip, there’s nothing like exploring the region’s historic monuments: chateaux, churches and other buildings grace the magnificent Ariège heritage. Whatever your vacation plans in Ax-les-Thermes, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience. With friends, family or on your own, all in the heart of nature!

Your successful stay in Ax-les-Thermes

How do I get to Ax-les-Thermes?

🚗 By car: from Toulouse, take the A260 towards Montpellier, then the A66 towards Andorra, until you reach the D618 towards Ax-les-Thermes.

🚅 By train: Ax-les-Thermes station has direct connections from Paris and Toulouse.

🛫 By plane: the nearest airport is Toulouse-Blagnac, 120 km away.

Where to stay in Ax-les-Thermes?

You’ll have a thousand and one possibilities when it comes to vacation rentals in Ax-les-Thermes (residence, apartment, chalet…) in the south of France. And it all depends on what you want:

If you’re interested in outdoor activities in Ax-les-Thermes, it may be a good idea to find a rental close to the main natural sites. On the other hand, if you’re more interested in the town’s attractions (thermal baths, historical visits), a rental in the center of Ax-les-Thermes is preferable.

Are you heading to Ax-les-Thermes at the height of the ski season? Think about accommodation as close as possible to the slopes. There’s a wide range of accommodation to choose from: chalets, apartments, houses…

To help you in your search, consider using online tourism sites like this hotel comparator as well as Airbnb, offering a wide range of different rentals.

Our selection of the best accommodation in Ax-les-Thermes :

🏡 The 9 most beautiful chalets to rent in Ax-les-Thermes

🏡 The best Airbnb rentals in Ax-les-Thermes