Following the course of the River Aude through the rolling foothills of the Eastern Pyrenees is the Haute Vallée, an area steeped in history and natural beauty.
Follow the River Aude through Pyrenean foothills
Ideal base for
Climbing in the Pierre Lys Gorge
White water rafting
Esperaza Dinosaur Museum
Cathar castle at Puivert
Campagne sur Aude
The landscape was formed 65 to 70 million years ago and has proved an exceptional archaeological site. An abundance of dinosaur remains have been discovered in the Haute Vallée and are now displayed at Europe’s first unique dinosaur museum at Esperaza. Among the many artifacts is the complete preserved skeleton of an herbivore dating back 72 million years. Affectionately known as Eva, this 12 meter long dinosaur was excavated nearby and holds centre stage at the museum.
More recent history is evident at the many heritage sites. These include Puivert - one of the best preserved Cathar Castles, Quillan castle - a fine example of 15th century military architecture, Campagne sur Aude – where ancient houses encircle the fortified church, the restored windmill at Nébias and the 17th century church at Esperaza.
The Haute Vallée is an extremely popular climbing site and provides over 600 easily accessible climbing routes. Predominantly in the Pierre Lys Gorge the turbulent course of the Aude River has eroded giant limestone formations out of the Pyrenean foothills.
For mountain bikers there are over 30 marked trails to tackle. In May each year you can even take part in ‘La Carach’ - a cross country mountain bike competition open to all comers which attracts the regions best riders. The Haute Vallee is also blessed with exceptional white water rafting through the Pierre Lys and St Georges gorges
There are several hundred kilometres of well maintained bridal paths served well by a number of equestrian centres and walkers can choose from a full and varied itinerary including the Cathar trail, nature’s ‘Green Labyrinth’ starting at The Nebias windmill, the ‘Eva’ dinosaur trail whilst for breathtaking panoramas choose the path overlooking the Pierre Lys Gorges.
For a relaxing alternative, treat yourself to a visit to a spa village. At Rennes-les-Bains bathers have enjoyed the natural hot spring waters for thousands of years. Today, it is a modern thermal spa with the latest equipment. Historic Alet-Les-Bains has a tastefully restored medieval square, including the reputed home of Nostradamus. The spa at Alet-Les-Bains is open during the summer for a relaxing dip or to buy the Alet mineral water.