Nestled between the cities of Montpellier and Toulouse is parc naturel regional du Haut Languedoc, translated to ‘The Haut Languedoc Natural Regional Park’. Visitors soon discover that this place could easily compete with any of France’s National Parks.
Founded in 1973, the Haut Languedoc Natural Park aims to protect and preserve the natural resources abundant in this area. Sitting in the low mountain regions at the fringed of the southern foothills of the Massif Central, the park encompasses a space of around 260,500 hectares. The natural world is abundant, but more so, an exciting destination to discover.
In the following guide, we’ll show you the best activities in the Haut Natural Regional Park.
Explore the Passa Païs by Bike
With a distance of over 44 miles from Bédarieux to Mazamet, the green route will take you through some of the best spots of the Haut Languedoc Park. Meander through unforgettable natural scenes, from the rippling hillsides, meadows and vineyards to pass through flourishing forests and past the streams and canals. To add to the wonder, you will cycle through a handful of pretty villages and hamlets. And to make sure you don’t miss a thing, points of interest are signposted along the route.
Take to the Water in Lac de la Raviège…
Perhaps not a natural wonder but a wonder none-the-less is Lake Raviège. This is a man-made, mountainous lake pools at the border of the park. The scene is reminiscent of something you would expect of a Scandinavian retreat rather than the South of France, with the crystal waters of the lake hugged by a deep and luscious forest. Jump right in with a host of water sports or take to the sands of the La Salvetat-sur-Agout beach to soak in the sunshine.
… Or in the River l’Orb…
Talking of water sports, this activity deserves a mention of its own: kayaking the River l’Orb. Running for over 87 miles, the River l’Orb provides a scenic route to explore the park. Because this is relatively unknown, unlike other places in France such as the Dordogne, the river will be less crowded and be a more exceptional experience for that.
… Or the Waterfalls at Colombières-sur-Orb
Ever fancied swimming in a warm river? Well here is your chance. At the natural waterfalls at Colombières-sur-Orb the water is inviting. If you venture just a little bit north, you will find a spot for waterfall jumping and swimming, perfect for a fun afternoon cooling off.
Find Fisher’s Paradise at Jaur River
The heading says it all. The Jaur River is an ideal spot for fishing lovers to cast a line. The river is teaming with perch, pike, trout and plenty more scaly-friends to find.
Marvel at the Mediterranean Gardens at Roquebrun
The views at the Mediterranean Gardens of Roqueburn are glorious, with unspoilt scenes of vineyards, mountains and hillsides decorated with sparkling rivers. The garden itself has been open since 1987, so for years lucky visitors have looked out at this landscape and discovered the wonder of the park for themselves. Inside of the garden, nature-lovers are well-and-truly catered for, with a host of flora to identify. A patchwork of succulents, cacti and Mediterranean plants grow in Roquebrun’s pleasant climate. And you won’t be disappointed when you visit, especially in summer when the gardens are open every day so you can go back time-and-time again.
Visit the Vineyards
The Mediterranean climate here makes this region of France the perfect location for wine-making, and you can’t make wine without vineyards. It’s easy to find a vineyard to explore here at the Haut Languedoc Natural Park with a host to choose from. Local winegrowers will take you on a tour of their premises or why not jump back aboard your bicycle for a bike tour of several vineyards along a route? When in the Haut Languedoc it would be a shame not to try their prized local nectar.
Pop into a local café to sip on a cold glass of rosé. Café owners will be able to tell you precisely in the region where the bottle has come from, so be sure to ask.
Soak in the Thermal Spas of Lamalou les Bains
You couldn’t visit this regional park without going to the Lamalou les Bains. Not only is this spa town a beautiful place to visit but its historic backstory adds to its iconic charm. Lamalou les Bains has been a spa town since the 13th-century where people have come to relax in pools of thermal waters or enjoy spa massages.
Discover an Array of Flora and Fauna
This guide would not be complete without a mention for the wealth of flora and fauna at this regional park. Here, the natural world is protected due to its outstanding beauty and significance. Amongst the protected plants and wildlife are the many species of orchid, otters, deer and birds of prey.
Species of trees, such as the oak, beech and ash, create a playground for the birds and animals. On the ground, the soil is fertile and gives way to ferns, heather, moss and blackberry bushes. A walk here has the faint aroma of mint and wild thyme. And in the summertime, the meadows are a sea of wildflowers that provide resting spots for the variety of butterflies. Amongst the colourful collection is the pale clouded yellow, Icarus blue and spotted fritillaries.
The butterflies, however, are not the only creature of the sky; 250 species of birds have been identified in the area. Small birds include the bullfinch, marsh tits, the garden warbler, robins, woodpeckers and the great tit who have been known to eat out of the palm of your hand. Bigger birds include the birds of prey such as the common buzzard, short-toed eagle, the black kite and the hawk. At night, you can hear the calling of the forest owls which are heard above everything else. The diverse landscape also makes for a comfortable home for weasels and green lizards. It’s safe to say a pair of binoculars is essential to pack in the suitcase.
As you can see, a trip to the Haut Languedoc Natural Regional Park offers unparalleled experiences. To discover the magic of this beautiful part of France, be sure to stay close by in one our luxury holiday villas, South of France.
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