Merging the Pyrenees and the Med
Cotes du Roussillon
Wine Tasting at the numerous vineyards
to read about Maury wines
The Museum of Prehistory
Cathar Castles nearby
Delightful fortified villages
Canyoning and rafting at the Galamus Gorge
Rock climbing and free climbing at Maury, Tautavel and Vingrau
The Fenouillèdes are situated in north eastern Pyrenees Orientales and form the frontier with the neighbouring Aude. Set between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean its landscape naturally reflects their influence. The rocky landscape is covered with a bed of low lying shrubs (or “Garrigue”) typical to the Mediterranean basin. Aromatic shrubs such as lavender, rosemary and wild Thyme flourish along with Juniper and holm oaks, interspersed with vineyards clinging to the rocky slopes.
The wine production of the Fenouillèdes consists mainly of the Cotes du Roussillon Village table wines and the famous Maury wines. Stretching from Estagel in the east to Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet in the west the Maury vineyards produce a renowned sweet wine served either as an aperitif or as a dessert wine accompanying your cheese board or slice of chocolate gateau.
The Fenouillèdes are the resting place for France’s oldest man. On the outskirts of the pretty village of Tautavel is one of the world’s most important prehistoric sites, the Arago Cave. Here in 1971 a team of archaeologists excavated a skull believed to be 450,000 years old. Further excavations revealed more human fossils which are now exhibited at the Museum of Prehistory, probably the best prehistoric museum in Europe.
The Cathar religion also left its mark in the Fenouillèdes. After the fall of Montségur in 1244, surviving Cathars retreated to another mountain-top stronghold often thought to be Queribus castle. In 1255 a French army was dispatched to deal with these remaining Cathars but they slipped away, probably to Aragon or Piedmont where Cathar beliefs were still common. The picturesque villages of Fenouillet, Caudies-de-Fenouillèdes, St-Paul-de-Fenouillet, Lesquerde and Maury provide the ideal base for exploring the Cathar trail with the castles at Puilaurens, Queribus and Peyrepertuse nearby.
Make sure you visit the delightful fortified villages of Latour-de-France and Bélesta, previously frontier towns between France and Spain and do not miss out on the inspiring Galamus Gorge. The winding narrow road clings to the cliff edge providing a dramatic drive up through the gorge whilst its creator, the Agly River, has become a favourite destination for canyoning and rafting. Other active pursuits in the area include rock climbing and free climbing around Maury, Tautavel and Vingrau and a landscape perfect for any walking holiday.