The department of Ariege nestles in the Pyrenees, next to Andorra, and is one of the most unspoilt regions of France ideally situated for a multi-sport holiday. There is skiing at Ax-les-Thermes and Les Monts d’Olmes. The ski resorts of Andorra can be reached in an hour. Fast flowing rivers offer a variety of watersports and fishing, and the high peaks are ideal for everything airborne - from ballooning to paragliding.
Round-off the day with a large helping of mounjetado - a special ariegeois stew made from meat and white beans - followed by local Tomme cheese and a glass of red wine from the Medoc. Bathing in Ariege’s naturally occurring hot springs is a fine way to relax. Soldiers from the crusades washed their wounds in the spa waters of Ax-les-Thermes. Aulus-les-Bains and Ussat-les-Bains are other spa towns each with their own beneficial minerals.
The department of Ariege is also rich in history and pre-history. Some of the first evidence of human habitation was discovered in a cave near Le Mas-d’Azil and the Musee de la Prehistoire holds exciting finds. History and art lovers must see the paintings of horses, ibex, stag and bison worked by our ancestors 13,000 year ago in one of the rare decorated caves still open to the public as part of a vast network at Grotte de Niaux. Continue the subterranean theme with a magical boat trip down the River Labouiche - the longest navigable underground river in Europe.
Foix, the capital of Ariege, sits on a rocky peak dominated by the 3 towers of the Chateau des Comtes de Foix. The surrounding area was a stronghold of Catharism, a faith followed by those who believed medieval Catholicism to be corrupt. Many ruins of the strongholds built by the Cathars to escape persecution can be seen perched on incredible heights.