February 11th, 2017 / posted by paularath

The four Cathar castles at Chateaux de Lastours, photographed from the campsite where a medieval reenactment is held every August.                    Photos by Jerry Mayfield

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.

The view from about half way up the hike to reach the castles.

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.)

At one point on the way to the castles you need to hunch over to walk through this limestone cave.

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.

You can get right up to the castles, and even climb a stairwell and stand on the balcony of one.

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

 

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