At the top of my list of desired day trips from Carcassonne was the four Cathar Castles called Chateaux Lastours. To get near them, it’s just about a 30-minute drive north from Carcassonne.
Once there, you go to a former textile plant that is now a visitor center. You buy a ticket for 7 euros and begin your hike. It takes about 1 1/2 hours to hike up to the castles and back. A beautiful blue-sky day and cold, but not frigid, weather made it a delightful journey.
It’s a spectacular cluster of four castles dating back to the 11th to 13th centuries, sitting high on a crest that was strategic for defense of the area. The Cathars spent a great deal of time and effort in self preservation.
While the hike is fairly steep, it is a good path and many stone steps, often assisted by a rope “railing”, helped me feel safe enough to tackle it. (In spite of the fact they tell you at the beginning that there are scorpions and snakes in the area.)
I’m sure in the summer it’s quite crowded to come here. However, on this cold winter day, we saw only one tourist, with her private guide, a French family with two teenage boys and a lovely couple sharing a picnic on the path. There are definitely advantages to traveling off season.
This is a sight not be missed if you are in theLanguedoc region. And trust me, if I can do the hike, you can do the hike.
- Paula Rath