About Cathar Country

Cathar Country

Caunes-Minervois (as well as being home to L'Olivette) is a medieval village of steep, twisting, narrow streets and sand-colored stone buildings surrounding the great 8th Century Abbey that lies at its heart. It nestles among the vineyards at the foot of the Montagne Noire, the southernmost area of the Massif Centrale. A walk through the village reveals many Renaissance facades. Vestiges of even older buildings can be seen, including parts of the medieval fortifications. Two ancient public laundries, fed by the local streams, are still in use. Although the village is small, with no more than 1400 inhabitants, it boasts two restaurants, two bistros, a pharmacy, two doctors' offices, and a lawyer. There are also two grocery stores, two bakeries, a butcher, a gas station, two hairdressers, a post office and a general store that sells everything from knick-knacks of the local marble to parts for TV sets.

Carcassonne is the largest walled city in Europe, the fascinating 'La Cité', where, at least in story, the heroic chatelaine defied the siege of Charlemagne. Despite its fairy tale appearance, Carcassonne has all the conveniences of a modern city with shops of every kind, supermarkets, cinemas and an abundance of fine restaurants. Below the imposing fortifications is Ville Basse, the "low town." Here the open market offers wonderful seasonal produce, fruits, vegetables, flowers, regional cheeses, smoked fresh meats and the delicious locally bred duck. Regional busses make the short trip from Carcassonne to Caunes-Minervois several times each day.

Aude, the Cathar country has a very rich and often bloody history. Roman and Medieval Ages, are both key periods in the History of the Cathar country.  Key sites such as the castles and abbeys bear witness to this rich history forming a unique heritage ensemble for visitors.

From the Mediterranean to the Pyrenees, from the Massif Central to the lagoon areas, the Pays Lauragais, the Corbières, Cathar Country presents an outstanding range of landscapes and natural sites  throughout the region.

Beach sands, marine lakes, white water from the valley of Aude, forests, mountains and gorges are a natural scenery to practice outdoor activities throughout the year, and discover an authentic land, full of character. Aude's seaside resorts offer sea, beaches, sports along a wonderful string of some 50 km of sandy beaches, protected by the Conservatoire du Littoral. Each of them offers its special atmosphere and range of activities. Lovers of wind surfing will delight in the Regional Natural Park of Narbonne, as will hikers and nature enthusiasts who will discover a delightfully conserved natural environment. 

With many talented chefs, a tradition of cuisine based on seafood, meat or cured meat has grown up. The diversity and richness of Aude wines is based on the authenticity of the lands on which they are rooted. Here in the Cathar Country, cuisine and wines have the best of marriages.

Do not miss the Canal du Midi et de la Robine, listed by the UNESCO as world heritage, Hire a boat, walk or cycle along the cool tree shaded banks.

Canal Du Midi

© Ted Yeoman.