Aude in south-west France offers a huge array of outdoor activities, from hiking and mountain biking to cycling and windsurfing, and so is the perfect place for your next holiday
From the Mediterranean Sea to the Pyrénées, the Aude boasts an exceptional range of landscapes and natural sites throughout the department.
With sandy beaches, marine lakes, the white water valley of Aude, forests, mountains and plateaus, gorges and potholes there are many natural areas to enjoy outdoor activities throughout the year, and to discover an authentic country full of character.
Each area of Aude is marked by a particular landscape.
In the east, the lagoon and coastal lagoons form a barrier between the lands and beaches of the Mediterranean Sea, bathed in sunlight. Inland, scrublands dominate the rugged landscapes of the Corbières, while vines spread over the gentle hills of the Minervois.
To the north and west, the Black Mountain is covered with a forest of oak and beech trees, along with lakes and waterfalls.
The Lauragais is an undulating landscape, where grain agriculture shapes the hills. There are many lakes such as Lac de la Ganguise. The plain of the ‘Carcassonnais’, allows the Aude River and the Canal du Midi to flow.
The Upper Valley of Aude is the gateway to the Pyrénées, its hillside vineyards and gorges reflecting the diversity of its landscapes. The Pays de Sault in the Pyrénées is dominated by beech and fir forests. Its forests are known for their particularly rich flora and fauna.
From Britain or Ireland, the Cathar country is easy to reach from Carcassonne airport, which Ryanair use as their hub for the region; it also makes a handy entry point for other cities and places to visit. Toulouse International Airport is only 1 hour from Carcassonne by car or train. Aude is on the high-speed TGV train line and you can reach Narbonne from Paris in just over 4 hours.
THE BEACH RESORTS AND KITESURF PARADISE
Leucate is very popular with windsurfers, who appreciate the area’s ideal meteorological conditions. Leucate-Village, Leucate-Plage, Port-Leucate and La Franqui form an area known as the Côte Sud. A water and glide sports paradise, the Coussoules speed spot welcomes the annual Mondial du Vent event, which enjoys unwavering popular and sporting success and draws significant media attention.
Gruissan is also well known as one of the best spots in the world for windsurfing and funboarding. Just a stone’s throw from the famous beach with houses on stilts, the small fishing village wraps itself around the ruins of its castle.
Fleury and Saint Pierre la Mer are friendly resorts which also keep tradition alive. The Cabanes de Fleury, a former fishing village and small port, has preserved all of its authenticity. This is the perfect starting point for sea excursions and fishing.
The Glisse & Kite centre, located in St Pierre la Mer in the heart of the Narbonne Mediterranean Regional Nature Park, is the only complex on the Aude coast to offer its clients so many glide sports in a single site. The Centre boasts two playing fields: a secured lake and an area specially reserved for sea lessons.
Kitesurf, paddle-board, kayak, windsurf, fun boat, optimist, etc. – all of these activities are monitored by qualified instructors and welcome a wide range of visitors including schools, individuals, groups, workshops etc.
The water-ski cableway, Wake Park, offers a new and fun activity, in addition to the other activities, and particularly when the wind is not blowing!
The beach bar is a real hub of activity at the heart of the centre and offers dishes, including a kite burger and a paddle burger, made using only fresh and local produce, cooked on the plancha… For relaxing moments in a beautiful natural setting, with views over the lake and sea!
The Mondial du Vent event, held every April in Leucate has made a name for itself as THE flagship event for glide sports in France and in Europe, each year welcoming the greatest international windsurf and kitesurf champions.
Each edition has something new: new disciplines, new events, new headliners, but always with the same spirit of exchange and fun!
All the adrenaline of the competitions competes with the glide village ambiance, and the various events raising environmental awareness: the Mondial du Vent also aims to carry an ecological message, promoting a strong relationship with nature and its elements, such as water and wind. Find out more about the event: www.mondialduvent.fr
Hiking in the Corbières and Minervois
This landscape is made up of vineyards, garrigue scrub land and pine forests, with an exceptional panorama, and we invite you to set off on a hike or mountain bike ride with 541km of short route hiking trails, 120km of ‘The Central Corbières Walk’ trails and 212km of mountain bike trails, setting off from the wine producers’ cooperative. Or why not try a cyclo-cross or hybrid bike excursion.
During your trip, you will witness spectacular views. Mont Tauch, that can be seen from the Cathar trail in Tuchan plain, may not be a mountain with an impressive altitude (only 878m) but it overlooks the entire eastern section of the Corbières Massif. At its summit, on a clear day, it affords exceptional views over the Haut Fitou vineyards, with the Mediterranean as a backdrop. Minervois mountain hikes also offer views over the Pyrénées and Canigou. Finally, head to the top of the Alaric. Setting off from Moux or Camplong, its ascension will lead you to the signal de l’Alaric where you will take in the breathtaking 360° views over the Minervois and Corbières Mountains, the Black Mountain and the Pyrénées.
For more information: www.tourisme-corbieres-minervois.com
Hiking around Narbonne and along the coast
The La Clape and Fontfroide massifs are classified and protected sites in the heart of the Narbonne Regional Nature Park, and boast magnificent landscapes home to a large number of species of flora and fauna; as well as to many marked trails to the delight of hiking fans.
In the heart of this surprising and breathtaking natural area, is the Antique Gulf Trail which winds around the famous Bages-Sigean lake, with a 75km path, passing alongside the Canal de la Robine and allowing walkers to discover Narbonne and the picturesque villages of Bages, Peyriac-de-Mer and Sigean.
Hiking in the Pyrénées
Nestled at the foot of the Pyrénées, this hiking land, invites you to discover the authentic villages of Aude’s high valley. Surprising landscapes await you: gorges, golden vineyards, shady pine forests, royal forests and verdant hillsides.
In total there are 630km of marked out trails, with more than 70 circuits, adding to transversal routes, such as the Cathar Trail (GR367), the Green Route, the Vauban Path, the Fir Tree Route and the GR7. The GR7 crosses through part of the high valley to ascend the Pyrénées. This route crosses through prestigious areas and affords grandiose panoramas. In 5 stages, visitors can discover Puivert Castle and explore the Aude Pyrenees, with villages including Belvis and Rodome.
It is now possible to reach the Atlantic Ocean from the Mediterranean Sea, not only by boat but also by bike along the green path, the former towpath from Royan to Sète (a distance of more than 700km). It is one of the main long-distance ‘France by Bike’ routes.
It is a pleasant and relaxing way to discover or to rediscover the prestigious sites and splendid landscape of the south west of France, as well as visiting somewhat forgotten places, which are as well preserved as they are picturesque… and to meet local people: local producers, tourism service providers and more
As you visit the vineyards, you will meet the owners of wine growing estates, and sample their finest produce.
Cycling and mountain biking in the Corbières
Located in the heart of the eastern Corbières Mountains, between the sea and the hills, ‘the Ronde, at the heart of the Corbières mountains’ boasts 212km of marked mountain biking circuits, of which 7 are large, marked-out loops for safe riding.
The French Cycling Federation mountain biking area stretches into the Corbières Mountains and includes part of the Cathar trail, a legendary and technical route. Beginners or seasoned riders will enjoy riding through the lanes, alongside vines, garrigue paths and tracks through the wild Corbières Mountains. Discover these varied circuits through unspoilt nature and make a stop in one of the villages to sample local produce.
Experience great cyclo-tourism opportunities, while riding through our vineyards
Having signed the Bike Tourism charter, accommodation providers offer services suited to the needs of cyclists: secure overnight bike storage, a hearty breakfast from 7:30am (guest houses and hotels), documentation and advice, the possibility to wash laundry, etc. You can therefore discover the various sites, the landscape, and places to visit to meet the locals, using your bike as a means of transport.
Along the way, the wine estates, wine cellars and wine outlets will share all the passion for their profession with you and will invite you to sample their local produce. As you ride along, you will come across quaint villages, discover small sleepy chapels hidden among the vines, ride along the Canal du Midi and visit all the sights of Cathar Country.
In the Corbières and Minervois mountains there are around 30 paths, all with different themes and levels of difficulty.
To find out more about Aude Cathar Country visit: www.audetourisme.com