About thirty km from the coast, the Haut-Languedoc regional natural park deploys its landscapes as varied as they are contrasted. Generous and discreet, this land sheltered from mass tourism will delight both lovers of outdoor activities and lovers of heritage. An authentic region, straddling the Hérault and the Tarn, between the Mediterranean and the mountains.
An authentic land
Languedoc is not just about its wine-growing plain and the beaches along its coast. The hinterland conceals one of the well-kept secrets of the South: the Haut-Languedoc, classified as a regional natural park since 1973. An authentic land, both harsh and generous, bathed in sunlight and irrigated by spring water, which has repeatedly served as a refuge for resistance fighters, Cathars, Protestants and maquisards.
South balcony of the Massif Central, overlooking the Languedoc plain, the Haut-Languedoc regional natural park extends over 260 hectares, straddling the Tarn and Hérault, from the Montagne Noire west of Mazamet to Bédarieux, north of Béziers. Two-thirds wooded, this territory of medium mountains, which rises to 000 meters, has the particularity of being on the dividing line between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.
The result is a great diversity of landscapes, coupled with an exceptionally rich flora and fauna. Some 2 animal and plant species are found in the park. Mediterranean side, in Orb and Jaur valleys, vines, garrigue and holm oaks predominate, exactly under the sun. On the Atlantic side, towards the Tarn, you are in the kingdom of beech, coniferous trees and pastures. You just have to travel a few kilometers to radically change the scenery. And it is striking ...
Inhale the scent of Mediterranean essences and, above all, open your eyes wide. The fauna, protected here, is just as rich as the flora. Perhaps you will have the chance to see a mouflon (it is the largest reserve in Europe) or one of the many raptors in the park (golden eagle, falcon, buzzard ...), or even rare animals such as white-footed crayfish, pearl mussel or Bonelli's eagle.
In such a setting, hikers will find their happiness with a hundred trails and five GR, including the GR 7 and the GR 623 (Chemin de Saint-Jacques). The tourist offices have explanatory "hiking cards" to guide walkers. Among the natural resources, one should not miss the Colombières-sur-Orb gorges or gorges d'Héric overlooked by impressive rocky ridges (climbing possible) and watered by a torrent with crystal clear waters where you can swim in summer.
Not far from there, starting from Douch, the ascent of mount Caroux is one of the musts of the region. This plateau which rises to 1 meters, nicknamed the “mountain of light”, offers an extraordinary observatory of Mediterranean plants and landscapes. From its orientation table, an exceptional 000 ° panorama over the Languedoc and the Pyrenees on a clear day.
In addition to hiking, Haut-Languedoc proves to be a great playground for sportsmen. Cycling enthusiasts can borrow the Green Lane which crosses the territory for 60 kilometers from Mazamet to Mons-la-Trivalle (and up to Bédarieux in 2012). The park also has hundreds of kilometers of mountain bike trails. Around La Salvetat-sur-Agout, the Raviège lakes, Laouzas and Vesoles offer their shores to water sports enthusiasts. More sporty atmosphere in the waters of the Orb or the Jaur which are available for canoeing. The walls of the Caroux or Espinouse massifs will delight climbing enthusiasts.
Villages of character
Nature is not the only attraction of Haut-Languedoc. Inhabited since prehistoric times, this land is also worth the trip for its heritage. Surprisingly, there are more than 70 statues-menhirs dating from the Neolithic era in the park. They are the testimony of the Saint-Ponian civilization which appeared in the fourth millennium BC. museum of prehistory à Saint-Pons-de-Thomières, which presents many objects and casts of these menhirs, allows you to better understand this mysterious disappeared civilization. After the visit, do not hesitate to stroll through the alleys of this medieval village of 2 inhabitants which serves as the “capital” of Haut-Languedoc. Its marble cathedral houses exceptional organs from 500, among the most beautiful in France.
Downstream on the Jaur, nestled in lush greenery, here is Olargues (Photo). Classified among the most beautiful villages in France, it seems to have not moved since the Middle Ages, with its Romanesque marble bridge (the “Devil's Bridge”), its cobbled streets, its XNUMXth century bell tower and its covered passages. . A little wonder. Rival of Olargues, Roquebrun, perched in the middle of the Saint-Chinian vineyard, has many charms with its medieval tower, its mills and its Mediterranean garden where some 350 different species grow. Thanks to an exceptional microclimate, the inhabitants of Roquebrun cultivate orange trees and mimosa, which has earned the village the nickname of "Little Nice".
On the other side of the Espinouse massif, 25 kilometers away, La Salvetat-sur-Agout presents a more mountainous character. Perched 700 meters on a rocky promontory, it is an austere village with beautiful granite houses with roofs covered with lauze or slate. City of refuge founded in the early Middle Ages, La Salvetat is located on the Arles route from Compostela path. Besides its famous mineral water factory, you can visit the Saint-Etienne de Cavall chapel with her enigmatic Black Madonna.
Land of flavors
The Haut-Languedoc terroir will delight gourmets. A region of vineyards, the park includes three AOCs: Saint-chinian (in Roquebrun), Faugères, Minervois whose particularities are to produce wines of character, with undeniable power. Less known, the sweet muscat Saint-Jean-du-Minervois, with apricot aromas, and the robust local wines from the upper Orb valley deserve to be tasted.
Besides the wine, the pillars of the local gastronomy are the beef and the lamb, but also the pork with the excellent Lacaune cold meats. Made from pork, egg and bread, bougnettes will stall more than one hiker. The trout and freshwater salmon, smoked or cooked with almonds, come from fish farming in the Orb. We can accompany them from Pardailhan turnip, another local specialty with a delicate nutty taste.
Tomme and pélardon are among the cheeses of the country, made from cow, goat or sheep milk. Finally, in the fall, picking the chestnut (used for jam, flour or eaten grilled), delicious Olargues brown, But also ceps, are among the most popular activities in the region.
To prepare for your stay, consult our Languedoc-Roussillon file.
Haut-Languedoc regional natural park
Massif Central natural parks
Languedoc-Roussillon Tourist Office
Hérault tourist office
How to get there ?
Train to Béziers (TGV or Corail), then several bus lines to Roquebrun, Olargues, Saint-Pons or La Salvetat
However, it is better to hire a car to travel around the region which is reached by the D612 from Béziers. From Toulouse, you can reach Saint-Pons-de-Thomières via Castres and Mazamet by the D612.
Or sleep ? Where to eat ?
- The Caroux terraces in Mons-la-Trivalle. Phone. : 04-67-97-50-68. Christophe and Arielle, two enthusiasts of the region, opened this beautiful guest house this year, a stone's throw from the Gorges d'Héric. A welcoming and comfortable residence, part of the Gîtes de France (3 ears) and located in an exceptional setting facing Mont Caroux. Also serves as a table d'hôtes and offers picnic baskets made with local products. From 50 to 90 € per room.
Gîtes de France
- La Gariguette: RD 908, in Mons-la-Trivalle. Phone. : 04-67-97-80-30. Simple, good quality cuisine, served in a warm room with exposed beams. Taste the almond trout. Menu from € 17,60.
The Parc brand
The Haut-Languedoc Regional Nature Park awards a quality label (the “park brand”) to products and services, indicating that the service provider is committed to a sustainable development approach (environmental and economic) respecting the values of the park.
- Saint-Pons-de-Thomières Tourist Office
- La Salvetat-sur-Agoût tourist office
- Caroux-Haut-Languedoc tourist office (Olargues, Mons, Roquebrun)
- Roquebrun Mediterranean Garden
- Tree climbing and sports activities