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Midi-Pyrénées Travel Guide
Rocamadour at dusk, Midi-Pyrénées (© Javiergil | Dreamstime.com)
Rocamadour at dusk, Midi-Pyrénées.

Introduction

The Midi-Pyrénées is the largest region in Metropolitan France, covering 45,348 km² (17,509 sq mi) - more than countries like Denmark, Switzerland or the Netherlands. It is also one of France's most sparsely populated area, with barely 2.8 million residents, among whom 1.2 million live in the Greater Toulouse area. This leaves only 1.6 million people spread over a territory the size of the Netherlands (which has over 16 million inhabitants).

The modern administrative region is an amalgamation of widely divergent historical provinces and pays. One quarter of the Midi-Pyrénées was taken from Gascony (the southwest), another quarter from Languedoc (around Toulouse), a fifth of it used to be Rouergue (present-day Aveyron), 15% comes from historical Quercy (modern Lot), and the rest from small Pyrenean provinces (Foix, Couserans, Nébouzan, Quatre-Vallées, and Bigorre).

In the north, the Lot has green rolling hills and lovely ochre stone villages, while the Aveyron is mountainous and forested, and dotted with rustic towns built on rocky terrain. The sun-baked plains of Lower Languedoc in the middle are sprinkled with bastides (fortified medieval towns) with an emblematic pinkish appearance. The south is occupied by the foothills of the majestic snow-capped Pyrenees, a rural and austere region that will attract hikers and nature lovers.

People in the Midi-Pyrénées have a reputation for liking to take things slow, eat well and enjoy life. Culinary specialities include foie gras, cassoulet, confit de canard, and roquefort cheese. Although it is not a wine-growing region, Cahors does produce its own robust, tannic red wine, while the Armagnac region (in the Gers) is famous worldwide for its brandy.

Famous people from the Midi-Pyrénées include (chronologically): the musketeer d'Artagnan, painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, the egyptologist Jean-François Champollion, the poet and novelist Théophile Gautier, the statesman Léon Gambetta, WWI Marshal Ferdinand Foch, socialist leader Jean Jaurès, painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and President Vincent Auriol.

Attractions

Département du Lot

Rocamadour
Rocamadour, Midi-Pyrénées (© david hughes - Fotolia.com)
must-see Set majestically against a sheer cliff above the Alzou canyon, the small village of Rocamadour (pop. 630) is the 5th most visited site in France, attracting 1.5 million tourists annually...Read more
Autoire
Autoire, Midi-Pyrénées (photo by Evelyneaguilera - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
outstanding Autoire is a lovely stone village tucked between the Dordogne River and the Causse du Quercy Regional Nature Park. It is famous for its nearby cirque (natural amphitheatre) with its...Read more
Castelnau-Bretenoux Castle
Castelnau-Bretenoux Castle, Midi-Pyrénées (photo by Luna04 - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)
outstanding Castelnau-Bretenoux is one of the largest medieval fortress in the Quercy. Built between the 12th and the 16th century, the interior dates mostly from the 17th and 18th centuries...Read more
Loubressac
Loubressac, Midi-Pyrénées (photo by Christophe.Finot - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license)
outstanding Roosted on a rocky promontory towering above the Dordogne and Bave valleys, the fortified village of Loubressac has all it takes to charm visitors. It is located just a few km away from...Read more
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, Midi-Pyrénées (© Ivars Linards Zolnerovichs - iStockphoto.com)
outstanding Beautifully set at the fringe of a 100m cliff above the River Lot, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie unequivocally deserves its listings among the most beautiful villages of France...Read more

Other attractions

very good Cahors
very good Carennac
very good Figeac
very good Gourdon
good Gramat
very good Martel
very good Padirac Cave
very good Pech-Merle Cave
very good Puy-l'Évêque
very good Souillac

Département du Gers

Auch
Auch, Midi-Pyrénées (© Ch.Allg - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Auch was the seat of the County of Armagnac and Archbishopric of Aquitaine. It is famous for its cathedral, which boasts spectacular stained-glass windows, and its Musée des Jacobins, one of the oldest museums in France...Read more
Larressingle
Larressingle, Midi-Pyrénées (photo by Jean-noël Lafargue - Free Art License)
outstanding Larressingle is a small but heavily fortified village 6 km west of Condom. Dubbed the 'Little Carcassonne', its Cité des Machines du Moyen Age is an excellent place to get acquainted with medieval siege weapons.

Other attractions

very good Condom
very good Flaran Abbey
very good Fourcès
very good La Romieu
good Lectoure
very good Montréal-du-Gers
very good Séviac Roman Villa

Département des Hautes-Pyrénées

very good Bagnères-de-Bigorre
very good Barèges
very good Cauterets
outstanding Cirque de Gavarnie
very good Lourdes
outstanding Pic du Midi de Bigorre
outstanding Pyrénées National Park
very good Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges
very good Tarbes

Département de l'Aveyron

Conques
Conques, Midi-Pyrénées (© Ivars Linards Zolnerovichs - iStockphoto.com)
outstanding Hemmed in a lush green valley at the confluence of the Dourdou and Ouche rivers, Conques is a lovely medieval village brimming with wabbly half-timbered houses...Read more

Other attractions

very good Bournazel Castle
very good La Couvertoirade
very good Millau Viaduct
very good Najac Castle
good Pagax Castle (ruins)
very good Rodez
very good Sévérac-le-Château
very good Villefranche-de-Rouergue

Département du Tarn

Albi
Albi, Midi-Pyrénées (© Benh LIEU SONG - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)
outstanding Dubbed the "red city", Albi is an attractive medieval city and the birthplace of painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Albi's main sighst are its cathedral, a masterpiece of the Southern Gothic...Read more

Other attractions

very good Ambialet
good Cagnac-les-Mines
good Carmaux
good Castelnau-de-Lévis Castle (ruins)
very good Castelnau-de-Montmiral
very good Castres
very good Cordes-sur-Ciel
very good Gaillac
very good Graulhet
very good Lavaur
good Lisle-sur-Tarn
very good Puycelsi
very good Rabastens

Département de Tarn-et-Garonne

Montauban
Montauban, Midi-Pyrénées (© Mickaël Plichard - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Montauban is a pleasant city with a historical centre built mostly in the 17th century, out of pink-red bricks like Toulouse. It was the home town of the great Neoclassical painter Ingres...Read more

Other attractions

very good Moissac

Département de la Haute-Garonne

Toulouse
Toulouse, Midi-Pyrénées (© Benh LIEU SONG - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)
must-see Toulouse, the pink city, blends rich historical heritage with modernity. It boasts the largest space centre in Europe, and is a leader aeronautics and computering industry, with companies...Read more
Laréole Castle
Laréole Castle, Midi-Pyrénées (© Jimjag - Fotolia.com)
very good Laréole is a Renaissance castle characterised by its striped brick and white stone architecture. It was built in 1579 for Pierre de Cheverry, a wealthy pastel maker from Toulouse.

Other attractions

very good Bagnères-de-Luchon
very good Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges
outstanding Valmirande Castle, in Montréjeau

Département de l'Ariège

Mirepoix
Mirepoix, Midi-Pyrénées (© Eupedia.com)
very good Historic town of the Cathar country, Mirepoix has managed to preserved an appealing market square wholly made of 16th-century timber-framed houses.

Other attractions

very good Ax-les-Thermes
very good Foix
very good Le Mas-d'Azil
very good Montségur
very good Prat-Bonrepaux Castle

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Cities, towns, villages & historic buildings

  • : Moderately interesting - nice for a quick stop
  • : Recommended - to visit if you have time
  • : Outstanding place - really deserves to be seen
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Natural attractions

  • : Moderately interesting
  • : Recommended
  • : Highly recommended
  • : World-class natural attraction
  • ※ : UNESCO World Heritage site


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