DAY 15: Corbières region, France

The Corbières, picturesque with its rugged hills, is one of France’s wildest and least densely populated areas. It is the largest wine appellation in Languedoc (see Day 9) and is an area of hills, valleys and mountains covered with scrub brush, vines, and forests tucked between the eastern Pyrénnées and the Mediterranean Sea. Scattered throughout the area are small villages and hamlets, stunning views, rivers and cascades, along with many lovely vineyards and winemakers. 

A region of villages, each with its own tale to tell, with most origins tracing back to the 11th and 12th centuries. All of the villages are ancient settlements that have managed to stand the test of time, evolving with modern necessities, yet maintaining historic glimpses for you to discover – an impressive castle, fortified gate, medieval houses or a church found in the middle of the ancient small streets of the villages. 

The area is ripe with historical sites and places of interest – home to medieval abbeys, chateaux, romantic castle ruins peering from hilltops and mystical sites (which have been linked to many legends), and the European Prehistoric Centre, where exceptional archaeological collections, a cave complex, and one of the largest prehistoric excavation sites of the world is located.

The Corbières region, located between the popular cities of Carcassonne and Narbonne, is definitely a wine tourism destination. A visit to the Corbières is the opportunity to visit exceptional cultural sites, explore beautiful villages, engage with locals at the markets and festivals, enjoy hikes or biking through the hills and countryside or gentle strolls among vineyards and reward yourself with gourmet endeavors thanks to the local wine growers and restaurant owners. 

Photos courtesy of France National Tourism Board, AOC Corbières, Vivons Lagrasse

In this region is one of “the most beautiful villages of France”, Lagrasse. Here you can become totally immersed in medieval times, strolling the villages’ cobbled streets, discovering gorgeous houses of medieval origin, exploring local arts and crafts shops. The town has become an artistic center, with many of the medieval houses now converted into pottery and art studios and exhibition spaces.  Numerous restaurants, local olive oil and honey products and, of course, wine tastings are found throughout the village. 

The river Orbieu flows through Lagrasse, with the town on one side and the abbey on the other. The cobbled market square with its covered central section hosts craft fairs and produce markets during the summer. Cross the medieval bridge over the river, and you can visit the abbey and its ancient monastic buildings. Both the village and the abbey come alive with classical music during its well known festival! 

The widely recognized Carcassonne is also located in this region. The Carcassonne Festival has become one of the most anticipated musical events in the region, and features a varied line-up including popular international artists. Throughout July, the medieval city offers numerous performances of contemporary music, theatre, opera and dance.

Select activities and festivities among many of the Corbières historic villages, like Lézignan. In summer brings plenty of events, typically involving food, wine and outdoor music, a regional produce fair, art exhibits and in the autumn, a week-long festival to celebrate the arrival of the new wine. Nearby Conilhac boasts its popular jazz festival on weekends in November. 

The weather in the Corbières is Mediterranean, similar to that of Provence. Summers are hot and dry with the tourist season beginning in late May. September and October are good months to avoid scorching temperatures, while still finding restaurants and attractions open.

WHEN TO GO: May, September/October for cooler weather. Summer months for the festivals and activities. Slow down and enjoy the full area for at least 5 days.  

POPULAR TRAVEL STYLES: Independent Travel, Canal cruising, Biking/Hiking  

IDEAL FOR: Culinary/Wine, History, Music, Romantic Travel, Slow Travel

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