14 must-see things to do in Ariège

Chute d'Ars en Ariège

At the foot of the Pyrenees, the Occitan territory invites you to discover its fabulous traditions and magnificent landscapes. For an unforgettable stay, here are 14 must-see things to do in Ariège!

Occitanie is a region with a strong cultural identity. With a patois that is still taught, and traditional customs and events, it is one of France’s most fascinating regions. Drive along the Spanish border and visit Ariège, a region particularly marked by this culture. It also boasts an exceptional terroir, and many culinary specialities.

Between nature, atypical history and culture, discover our selection of unmissable things to do in Ariège, an inspiring and rejuvenating department. Just follow the guide!

1. Montsegur Castle

Château cathare de Montségur. château en France

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Colibri Vision

Built in the 13th century, the Château de Montségur is an unusual site to visit in the Ariège region. It stands on an impressive hill in the place of an ancient fortified village. Thanks to its almost impregnable location, it has long been a refuge for Cathars and Faydits.

Today, visitors can still admire its incredible medieval fortifications. Once you’ve climbed the hill to this fabulous building, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Its ramparts and keep will take you back through the centuries!

2. Grotte de Niaux

Grotte de Niaux

Photo credit: Flickr – Tourisme en Occitanie

While there are many historic sites to visit in the Ariège, there are also many prehistoric sites to visit. Just a stone’s throw from Foix, the small commune of Niaux is home to one of the largest Paleolithic caves in France.

This nearly four-kilometre-long cavern is adorned with representations believed to be over 13,000 years old. On its thousand-year-old walls, you can admire drawings of bison, horses, ibex and even fish. For the visit, we advise you to leave your smartphone switched off and enjoy the show to the full. This cave will take you to meet one of your oldest ancestors.

3. The House of Wolves

Visiter Ariège : Maison des Loups

Photo credit: Facebook – La Maison Des Loups

As well as cultural discoveries, there’s plenty for youngsters to do in Ariège. For example, the Maison des Loups is an ideal park for young and old alike. Just a stone’s throw from Ax-les-Thermes, this reserve is dedicated to the protection and conservation of wolves.

Visitors can admire canid species from all over the world. From theAlaskan Tundra to the European mountains, via Canada, you’ll be invited to meet this fascinating animal!

4. The Mas d’Azil cave

Grotte de Mas d'Azil

Photo credit: Shutterstock – BoJe10

There’s no shortage of things to do in Ariège for adventure enthusiasts. At the foot of the imposing Plantaurel massif, they can visit the splendid Mas d’Azil cave. This two-kilometre-long cavern is said to have been occupied for a long time in prehistoric times.

Recent excavations have uncovered the tools, paintings and sculptures of our ancestors. As you journey through these fascinating tunnels, you’ll be invited to cross the ages and generations.

5. Château de Roquefixade

château de Roquefixade

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Fred Marie

The Château de Roquefixade has stood on the crest of the eponymous village for almost a thousand years. A refuge for the Albigensians during Simon de Montfort ‘s siege in the 13th century, it is an emblem of the region’s history. Indeed, it is one of the exceptional Cathar fortresses to be visited in the Ariège region.

Today, of course, only a fraction of its impressive medieval edifice remains. However, its fortifications have survived the ravages of time, and still attract thousands of visitors every year.

6. Fontestorbes fountain

La fontaine de Fontestorbes

Photo credit: Shutterstock – LianeM

Nature lovers will find plenty to do in the Ariège. But one of the most fascinating is undoubtedly the Fontestorbes fountain. This real curiosity is located a few kilometers south of the village of Bélesta, near Pamiers. In fact, it’s a thousand-year-old cave with a stream that flows only intermittently.

This Vaucluse fountain cascades for thirty-six minutes before stopping for thirty-two minutes. Its cycle is obviously perpetual, making it one of the most unusual places to visit in Ariège!

7. Lake Bethmale

Visiter Ariège : Le lac du Bethmale

Photo credit: Shutterstock – AWP76

If you’re wondering what to do in Ariège for your summer vacations, why not discover one of the region’s magnificent lakes? The Etang de Bethmale is located in the famous Courserans region.

However, the lake’s mild climate won’t allow you to take a dip. Instead, the lake’s peaceful waters invite you to take a stroll. On its wild shores, you can take a deep breath of fresh air in the heart of the Pyrenean valleys.

8. Château de Lagarde

Visiter Ariège : Chateau de Lagarde

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Jef Wodniack

Near Mirepoix, the Château de Lagarde is a must-see in the Ariège region. This 11th-century fortress long belonged to the monarchs of Aragon. Over the centuries, it has been the scene of numerous territorial and religious conflicts.

Today, unfortunately, only a few remains of the original edifice remain. Nevertheless, its discovery is sure to charm history and culture buffs. What’s more, you can admire the fabulous Ariège countryside from its promontory.

9. Saint-Antonin Cathedral, Pamiers

Visiter Ariège : pamier

Photo credit: Shutterstock – goumi

Pamiers is one of the most beautiful towns to visit in the Ariège region. One of the town’s most outstanding monuments is its cathedral. Built in the 12th century, its Gothic style is truly fascinating.

As you walk along, you’ll admire its impressive bell tower, adorned with loopholes and battlements. Inside, you’ll be intoxicated by the special atmosphere of the nave and choir. You can also admire its magnificent Renaissance frescoes.

10. XPloria the Time Explorer Forest

Visiter Ariège : Xploria

Photo credit: Facebook – Xploria La fôret à explorer le temps

There are plenty of things to do in the Ariège region, but XPloria is undoubtedly one of the most popular. This three-hectare forest park invites you to discover the rich local biodiversity.

In fact, this nature reserve boasts a host of facilities and workshops to help visitors better understand nature. From prehistory to the present day, young and old alike can explore the millennia. They can observe authentic fossils, botanical areas and reconstructions of extinct animals.

11. Les Forges de Pyrène

Visiter Ariège : Forgeron

Photo credit: Shutterstock – kirill guzhvinsky

Just a few kilometers from Foix, Les Forges de Pyrène is an unforgettable village to visit in the Ariège region. It’s a village of yesteryear that invites you to experience a real moment of history. For example, you can discover fabulous crafts and medieval buildings. Blacksmiths will show you the skills and methods of a bygone era, yet one that was particularly revolutionary.

12. Labouiche underground river

Rivière souterraine Labouiche

Photo credit: Wikipedia – ylwyth Eldar

While man has left his mark on the caves of the Ariège, water has also shaped their history. The Rivière Souterraine de Labouiche invites you to follow its work over more than three thousand meters. Aboard small boats, you can explore its fascinating tunnels. Between geological curiosities and fabulous rooms, we bet this will be one of your favorite activities to do in Ariège.

13. Ariege Pyrenees Regional Nature Park

Visiter Ariège : Parc naturel régional pyrénées

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Nomadkate

Since its creation in 2009, the Ariege Pyrenees Nature Park has covered over a hundred communes in the département. This regional reserve is sure to appeal to nature lovers. Hikers and bikers alike can explore its magnificent landscapes and encounter its exceptional wildlife.

In particular, they’ll be able to take in the views from the Col du Blazy or the Pic d’Ayens. Of course, they can also take advantage of this peaceful moment to recharge their batteries and disconnect from everyday life!

14. Mirepoix

Visiter Ariège

Photo Credit: Facebook – Mirepoix

Considered one of the most beautiful towns in the region, Mirepoix is a must-see in the Ariège. It’s an ancient village that has managed to preserve its magnificent historic architecture. Its cobbled streets, half-timbered houses and warm atmosphere are sure to win you over.

What’s more, you can take advantage of its exceptional setting to sample delicious local specialities. Sitting on the terrace of an authentic restaurant is a great way to discover the culture of the Ariège region.

Also to be seen in Ariège

Visiter Ariège : saint-girons

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Anibal Trejo

If you’re wondering what to do in Ariège during your stay, you can take inspiration from this small selection. But of course, there’s much more to the region than these few activities. Between the splendid communes of Ax-les-Thermes, Orlu and Saint-Girons, you’ll find plenty of places to visit in Ariège.

You can also try your hand at new leisure activities such as caving in Montcalm, or rafting in Foix. Little explorers can also have fun at some interesting sites. These include the Parc de la Préhistoire and the Ferme aux Reptiles. From the Pyrenees to Pamiers, the department promises unforgettable vacations!

How to get to Ariège

By plane

If you’d like to visit the Ariège region, you could opt to take to the skies. Unfortunately, none of the department’s towns have airports, but you could land in Toulouse. The pink city is actually very close to the Ariège region. To do this, we recommend you use a flight comparator, like the one provided by our partner Ulysse.

Then all you have to do is hire a car to get to Pamiers or Foix. Or take public transport.

By car

The best way to get to Ariège is by car. You’ll find it easier to get around the department. Travelers from the north of France should take the A66 or A64 to Pamiers.

Residents of eastern France, meanwhile, can reach the region via the A61 or national roads. When you arrive, all you have to do is choose one of the many things to do in Ariège.

By train

Unfortunately, the Ariège region is not served by air, but it does have plenty of train stations! If you want to visit the Ariège region, you may prefer to take the train. As you make your way to the sumptuous towns of Foix, Pamiers or Saint-Girons, you’ll be able to admire the landscape.

In front of you, the département presents its splendid massifs and verdant plains.

Where to stay in Ariège?

Ariège is a very popular destination during the summer season. There’s plenty of ideal accommodation for travelers. However, we recommend that you use a hotel comparator for your stay. You’ll be able to select the perfect rental at the best price for your vacation. In summer, a hotel room in the region costs between €40 and €120 per night in Foix or Pamiers.

Of course, rates can vary according to location and services offered. Some gites and guest houses may offer more expensive accommodation, but they do offer a number of additional services.

Of course, nature lovers will also be able to find the ideal rental to visit the Ariège. Indeed, you could opt for accommodation in the countryside to enjoy the region’s splendid landscapes. In this case, we advise you to opt for rentals such as Airbnb or Abracadaroom. This will give you a wider choice for your stay.

For example, you could choose an apartment in Ax-les-Thermes, for hiking in the Pyrenees. Likewise, you could be tempted by an amazing wooden hut in Ignaux. Whichever type of accommodation you choose, we’re betting your vacation will be a most unusual one!

Map of hotels and accommodation – Occitanie