Now part of the Occitanie region, a historical reference to the part of France where until the nineteenth century most people spoke varieties of Occitanian French, not the standard French of northern France.
Midi-Pyrénées was the largest administrative region in metropolitan France, in terms of surface area, and equal largest in terms of the number of departments covered. It incorporates eight departments; Ariège, Aveyron, Haute-Garonne, Gers, Lot, Hautes-Pyrénées, Tarn and Tarn-et-Garonne. The region covers a massive surface area, making it larger than either Belgium or Switzerland; and stretching some 400 kilometres from north-east to south-west, it is not surprisingly a region that somehow lacks any strong regional identity. Within this region, towns and traditions tend to identify themselves more with the historic provinces to which they once belonged, than to the modern-day super region.
It would be very challenging to explore the whole Midi-Pyrenees region in one visit! Visitors usually either explore the mountains on the south, the beautiful countryside and villages of the north, or the attractions of the Gers formally Gascony to the center of the region.
We have given a brief guide below to the highlights in each of the 8 departments that make up Midi-Pyrénées.
The Aveyron department to the north of the Midi-Pyrenees is part of the southern Massif Central, a beautiful region of steep wooded valleys and fast-flowing streams and rivers. Aveyron has more villages classified among the 'most beautiful villages of France' than any other French department. Particular highlights include the pretty villages of Conques and Belcastel.
While at Millau you can also admire the renowned Millau bridge, designed by architect Norman Foster and is both a work of art and a technological challenge.
The Lot department the most northerly department of the Midi-Pyrenees. In the north of the department you can visit one of the most important pilgrim towns in France - the village of Rocamadour. As well as being one of the most popular destinations in Lot, it is one of the most visited villages in France and one of the most beautiful!
From ancient times onwards, Cahors and the valley of the Lot were wine-growing land. Benefitting thanks to the English who were mad about “black wine” of great notoriety, the wine of Cahors adorned all the tables of the great of Europe from the 14th to the 18th century.
The modern department of Gers occupies a similar geographical position to the historical Gascony region, and is often still referred to as Gascony. It is a peaceful region of quiet villages and attractive rolling countryside where visitors can enjoy birdsong and fields of sunflowers and long evenings relaxing in tranquillity away from the more visited tourist regions of France.
A highlight of the Department should be a visit to Auch that proudly boasts its status as the capital of
Gascony. Registered as a Unesco World Heritage site Auch serves as a major stop on the ways that lead to
Santiago de Compostela.
The Tarn department of the Midi-Pyrenees has several interesting medieval towns as well as some very attractive scenery. Some of the highlights of the Department include the villages of Monesties, Puycelsi and Castelnau-de-Montmiral, all three classified among the 'most beautiful villages in France'.
The town of Albi welcomes the visitor into a gentle almost Italian way of life. It owes its peculiar
light to the colour of the terracotta bricks and tiles fashioned through the centuries by tile and brick
makers from local clay from the banks of the Tarn.
In the south of the Tarn department you are within the Regional Natural Park of the Haut-Languedoc, a quiet region with fascinating landscapes and scenic highlights to explore as you approach the mountains of the southern massif central.
The Tarn-et-Garonne department of the Midi-Pyrenees is to the north of Toulouse and centred around the attractive bastide town of Montauban, which has much of the same red-brick architecture as the other important towns in the region.
The Haute-Garonne extends south from the flat centre of the Midi-Pyrenees to the mountains on the border with Spain. It is in the Haute-Garonne that you can visit Toulouse, the capital of the region Pale pink in the morning, purple red at night… Toulouse, capital of the region Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées, is built with Roman bricks of baked earth, that local material that imparts to the fronts of buildings shimmering colours and has given the city its name of “Ville Rose”.
Towards the border with Spain it is the scenery that is the main attraction, in particular popular with enthusiasts of outdoor sports. You can also visit the long-established spa town at Bagneres-de-Luchon always lively and very pleasant to explore.
The Ariege department is situated in the Pyrenees on the border with Spain. The department has a very wide diversity of landscapes, with a large area falling within the Regional Natural Park of the Pyrenees-Ariegoises, and some very pleasant towns to explore.
To the east of Ariege the most popular destinations with visitors include the cathar castles at Montsegur and Roquefixade, the medieval town of Mirepoix and the picturesque village at Camon. Other places to visit in this region of Ariege include the spa town of Ax-les-Thermes and the scenic Orlu valley to the south.
The most visited destination in the north of the Hautes-Pyrenees department and one of the most visited in the whole of France is the pilgrimage town of Lourdes, famous site of miraculous apparitions and healing powers.
A place of fraternity and spirituality Lourdes receives each year millions of visitors from all over the world. Known for its sanctuary and the miraculous grotto of Massabielle. Lourdes has been a principal place of pilgrimage since 1873.
Following the 'Route de cols' near the border with Spain is a good way to discover the scenery of the region and also to see some of the most famous mountain climbs from the Tour de France such as the Col de Peyresourde, the Col d'Aspin and the Col du Tourmalet.