Ariège – 8 sites to discover – English

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From the Grotte du Mas-d’Azil to the Château de Foix, via the Grotte de Bédeilhac, the Grotte de Niaux, the Prehistory Park or the Palace of the Bishops, travel to the heart of history and come and discover with your family , with friends or in a group, the emblematic sites of Ariège.

    1. La grotte du Mas d’Azil
    2. La grotte de Bédeilhac
    3. La grotte de Niaux
    4. Parc de la Préhistoire
    5. Château de Foix
    6. Palais des Évêques
    7. Grotte de Lombrives
    8. Château de Montségur

1. La grotte du Mas d’Azil – in the heart of the earth, a cave steeped in history
The Mas-d’Azil cave, a geological curiosity and a giant of Prehistory! Let yourself be carried away by the magic of the place … The immensity of its cavities, the modern lighting and the prehistoric remains that it conceals are all marvels that we invite you to discover. Your visit takes place in three stages: the interpretation center allows you to discover the life of the first men who occupied the site and the guided tour makes you relive the excavations of archaeologists through their discoveries. Finally at 1,5 km, with the same ticket, the museum completes your visit with the presentation of a rich collection of prehistoric objects from the cave.

2. La grotte de Bédeilhac – a walk underground, between geology and prehistory
Set off as a family to discover an extraordinary underground landscape with its immense rooms, spectacular concretions dating back several million years and incredible prehistoric remains. During this trip meet Cro-Magnon who, 16 years ago, decorated the cave, using various techniques, as astonishing as they are rare, such as painting, engraving or modeling on clay. He even left the imprint of his hand.

3. La grotte de Niaux – a unique experience

With the emotion of an explorer and by the light of a lamp, follow in the footsteps of the Cro-Magnons: you have an appointment with a part of your history. The cave of Niaux is unique and this is not a false promise. The visit allows you to admire, like nowhere else, the authentic paintings of our ancestors which are concentrated in the Salon Noir. Here no facsimiles but superb paintings of animals associated with enigmatic signs that transport you to distant times on a sacred adventure.

4. Le parc de la Préhistoire – walk in the footsteps of our Cro-Magnon ancestors

Travel back in time to the heart of the daily life of Cro-Magnons … Walk in the footsteps of prehistoric men for a day. Throughout the activity workshops, you will learn to hunt, to cut flint, to light a fire like 16 years ago, to excavate like an archaeologist or to paint on the walls of a cave that is larger than life! The Grand Atelier, a 2 m2 museographic space, will introduce you to the art of Prehistory through films, objects and life-size replicas such as the reproduction ofthe Salon Noir in the cave of Niaux, of the “forbidden Niaux” and the Marsoulas cave.

5. Château de Foix – love the middle ages if you were there

After work worthy of the greatest medieval construction sites, the new castle of Foix welcomes you: welcome to the 14th century! Discover a 2000m2 museum space and get to know the Counts of Foix. On its rock, the castle is also getting a facelift: immersive decorations, participatory workshops and breathtaking war and construction machines: certainly an unforgettable visit!

6. Le palais des Évȇques  – discover 2000 years of history of Ariège and Couserans

Look up and contemplate the superb Renaissance paintings of Notre-Dame-de-la-Sède Cathedral. You will then understand its nickname of “Ariège Sistine Chapel”. A visit to the Bishops’ Palace, alternately bishopric, prison or insane asylum, will also reveal the history of Couserans and the development of the site thanks to a completely new museum. Discover the monetary treasure and its 13 pieces, the models and interactive devices, the psychiatric history of the place and the new objects taken from the reserves for the occasion.

7. La grotte de Lombrives – at the heart of the largest cave in Europe

Lombrives, fascinating, where legends, protohistory and history have left their mark…Shelter for the Magdalenians, Cathar sacred place, refuge for Protestants, frequented by kings, tomb of Pyrene: certainly an unforgettable visit! Cross the Carène, walk on the fault, take the Passage du Crime, here is the grandiose Amphitheater! And that’s not all, discover the Galerie du Grand Cimetière, the Tomb of Princess Pyrene, the Lake and its mysterious undulations … A timeless parenthesis, a unique, moving, introspective experience, beyond this than we can imagine.

8. Château de Montségur– the major city of catharsism

Symbol of the Cathar resistance, the castle of Montségur, rebuilt at the beginning of the 13th century, was a refuge for many Cathars chased by the Inquisition. Besieged for ten months before being taken in March 1244 by the royal army, the fortress witnessed the tragedy of «Prat dels Cremats», the burned area, where 225 Cathars who refused to renounce their faith, perished at the stake. Perched on its pog, at an altitude of 1,207 meters, the fortress of Montségur, accessible in half an hour’s walk, reveals, in addition to its medieval remains, a magnificent panorama of the village below and the surrounding landscapes.

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