Ariège lies centrally in the French Pyrénées, between the prosperous city of Toulouse and borders with the mountains of Andorra and Spain to the south.
Famed for its prehistoric cave art and Cathar castles, there is also huge appeal for outdoor activities and wildlife watching. The highest peak 'Montcalm', at just over 3000m, offers magnificent views over the range.
At the centre of the Ariège lies the historic town of Foix, on the very edge of the Pyrenean foothills. Apart from a multitude of outdoor activities and cultural events, you can find plenty of fun activities specifically for children and families.
Ariège is easily accessible from the UK through flights to Toulouse via Easy Jet (London Gatwick and Bristol), Jet2 (Manchester), Flybe (Birmingham, Southampton, Edinburgh and Glasgow). The historic city of Carcassonne is 1hr 15 minutes away and can be reached from Dublin, East Midlands, London Stanstead and Glasgow with Ryanair. There is an overnight train from Paris too.
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Anne is a former British climbing champion and an International Mountain Leader.
Her company Spa Adventure Treks offer climbing holidays with expert coaching in Ariège, Pyrenees and Spain, as well as the Greek paradise island of Kalymnos.
She says: "I love organising treks and expeditions, especially for fundraising challenges - many people have a story as to why they have taken up the...
Variety is the spice of life – and Ariège is spicy! Here are the highlights...
Location, location, location – for climbing
10 climbing areas within 10-20 minutes’ drive of Chez Arran and Spa Adventure Treks make it a superb destination for groups, whether you love a long mountain route or would prefer to tackle a sun-kissed single pitch with our without one of our climbing coaches. Take the opportunity to climb in a vibrant scene or seek a secluded out-of-the-way mountain haven or wooded glade.
Climbing & trekking holidays tailored to you
The Ax les Thermes, Vicdessos and Saurat valleys are all superb venues for both climbing and trekking holidays. There are also several trail races taking place over the summer including the famous Montcalm marathon. The hut to hut network is ideal for staying higher up, and the famous GR10 stage and Cathar Trail travels through the region.
Perfect multi-activity and family venue
Mountain walks such as the famous Chemin de la Liberté (Freedom Trail), kayaking, canyoning, rafting, fishing, parapenting, horse riding, skiing, snowshoeing and caving are all within 20 minutes’ drive. Show caves include Niaux and Lombrives. Historic Cathar castles and spouglas, chateaux, thermal baths and wildlife farms such as the Llamas of Ariège and the Wolves' House in Orlu keep most children happy.
Thermal baths for rest days
The ski resort of Ax les Thermes features the exquisite thermal baths “Les Bains de Coloubret”. Massages are available too in this extensive two-story indoor and outdoor spa. Jets, jacuzzi, hot tubs, steam room and sauna await.
Different things to try
Ariège is an excellent venue for taking advantage of the conditions with multiple activities possible in the same day. It’s all possible here. The Tour de France often finishes a stage at Plateau de Beille, a Nordic ski resort where you can try dog sledging or snowshoeing in the winter. The three main cols and more draw road cyclists to the area and the lift in Ax les Thermes is open in the summer for downhill mountain bike trails and hiking.
Best times to go:
Most crags are climbable March to mid-December. And, except during winter storms, many of the valley crags are climbable year-round.
It is certainly possible to climb in the sun in winter and if cloudy why not head to Ax les Thermes for a ski?
In summer it makes sense to head high (Orlu or Bassiès) or into the shady valleys which will be in shade in the morning or afternoon. Niaux gets shade in the morning, and Alliat gets shade in the afternoon.
Génat. Calamès and Sinsat are south facing and in the sun all day so can get too hot in summer. The best months for climbing full days or long routes are probably May to July and September to October.
The Ariège Rockfax guidebook will show you the way, and two of our climbing coaches co-authored it, so you will have the best local advice available. It stands out for its multi-pitch climbs on Sinsat and Orlu, and the area has over 2400 sport routes to climb.
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