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Famous tourist sites in Ariège

Saint-Lizier : Gallo-roman town rich in art and history


Situated at the foot of the mountains of the Couserans region, Saint Lizier is probably most historical town of Ariège, with a rich patrimony. The town was named in honour of the sixth century Bishop Lycerius, who was later canonised as Saint Lizier.

The ancient gallo-roman city of the Consoranni people became the seat of an important bishopric beginning the the 6th century. The two cathedrals were built during the Roman period. The true one, Notre Dame de la Sède, is within Bishops Palace. The one in the lower part of the old town is actually a parish church but is referred to as a cahthedral because it is older, has a cloister and houses treasures such as the silver reliquary bust of Saint Lizier.

Saint-Lizier is a stop on the Pyreneen foothills variant of the Way of Saint James of Compostella. Its monuments have been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1998.


Mirepoix by Paul PalauA small town of 3100 permanent inhabitants, Mirepoix is situated halfway between Carcassonne and Foix. The earliest mention of the place dates to the 10th century.

On the large central square you can admire the half-timbered houses supported on wood pillars, creating a magnificent covered arcade. The ends of the joists of the richest houses are sculpted, and the most beautiful sculptures are on the Maison des Consuls, showing women's faces, bearded heads, a tortoise and other fantastical images.

The Niaux cave drawings

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The famous Niaux cave is one of the rare decorated caves still open to the public, sheltering drawings dating back 14,000 years. 

You start by going through some truly impressive galleries before entering the Salon Noir, a monumental rotunda whose walls are covered with outstanding and highly detailed depictions of animals: bison, horses, ibex and deer.

The visits are strictly regulated in order to maintain an even temperature of 12 degrees C. July through September there are 11 visits per day of up to 20 people with 45 minutes between each group, including a tour in English at 1pm. Three visits per day the rest of the year. The tour lasts 90 minutes; start times vary depending on the season and other factors. 

The Foix Castle

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From atop its impressive rock, the castle dominates the town, which is the capital of the department of Ariège. In centuries past it controlled acces to the high Ariège river valley and watched over the countryside, protected by unbreachable walls. Today an elaborate museum inside traces the history of this emblematic edifice.


montsegurThe occitan region endured sieges, massacres and the Inquisition during the bloody Albigensian crusade in the 12th and 13th centuries and Ariège was spared little of it. The spiritual movement called catharism developed in reaction to the corruption and disarray of the Church at that time. In stark contrast to the worldly, dissolute clergy of the era, the Cathars followed a rigorous interpretation of the gospels, with the most pious of the believers, called "Perfects", taking vows of poverty and celibacy and refusing to eat meat. It was their belief in dualism, however, that outraged the Church: according to the cathars, Satan had created the material world, with its pestilence, violence and hate, not God. Paradise could be gained after death only by rejecting worldly attachments during one's life.

Many thanks to these photographers

About us

From 2000 to the end of 2017 ariege.com was a site devoted to tourism in the department of Ariège. The site is minimally maintained now but you can get a flavour of this beautiful area of the Pyrenees.