Discover Cathar Country!

Occitania, also known as Cathar Country, is a unique corner of the world. With its forbidden history, unsolved mysteries, fabulous food, breathtakingly beautiful landscapes and rural lifestyle, this part of southern France has yet to be discovered by mass tourism. While the Provence has become crowded and expensive, this more southern region still has the ability to take you on a time warp into ancient realms, where the Knights Templar tried to create their own state, and where freedom of belief, thought and equality of men and women ultimately led to one of the bloodiest religious wars known to Europe. Occitania is the land where Gnosis and Kabbalah first entered the west, where it was cherished and protected, even to today. Hidden in symbolism, art and sculptures, even in the architecture of churches and other buildings, this forbidden knowledge that was once seen as heresy was able to survive the violence of the last millennium.

My name is Anneke Koremans and I am a passionate tour guide in Cathar Country. I love to make history come alive during my tours and I can be hired to guide your group or private tour through Occitania. As I work for Barinca Travel (SARL) as an assistant manager, I can also help you organize your group tour and be your local guide during the excursions. There are many sites worth visiting; some famous, some lesser known and others that are completely off the beaten path. To help you create an itinerary that suits your group tour, I will sum up the most important sites below. Mini bus tours can be organized e.g. when you are with a total of 6 people, you included. When there are more participants, we can organize a 25-seater bus with driver. If the group is bigger than 23, we can organize a large tour bus with toilet. We also organize lunches (quicker and an important part of the day where we all sit together), and if you wish we can also include the admission-fees in the price. I will add a list of hotels and B&B's below, so you can choose your accommodation.

INTERESTING SITES

The main sites connected to the Cathars are: Minerve, Lastours (Cabaret), Saissac, Carcassonne, Montaillou, Montségur, Lordat, Puilaurens, Queribus, Peyrepertuse, Aguilar, Termes, Villerouge-Termenes, Puivert and the caves of Lombrives. There are other caves associated with the Cathars above Ornolac called the Hermit's Cave and the Bethlehem Cave, which can only be explored to a certain extend due to new safety laws regarding the instability of certain caves on this slope.

Other important sites are: Carcassonne Cité with the Chateau Comtal, Fontfroide Abbey, the Dolmens of Villeneuve (de Roland) and Pepieux (des Fades), the abbeys of Villelongue, Lagrasse, St. Michel de Cuxa, St. Hilaire (where the local bubbles: the Blanquette de Limoux was discovered), St. Martin de Canigou, Elne and the town of Alet-les-Bains, the Gorge and Hermitage of Galamus, the chapel of St. Michel near Sournia and of course the two towns of Rennes-le-Chateau and Rennes-les-Bains and their beautiful surroundings with vivid reminders of prehistoric and Celtic times. You can also discover parts of the country on the Yellow train and the Red Train, or during a boat trip on the Canal du Midi. The Donjon d'Arques, the town of Foix, the prehistoric museum at Tautavel and the eroded sandstone formations near Ille-sur-Tet called the Organ Pipes are also worth a visit.

The picturesque market town of Mirepoix and the nearby rock chapel of Vals are an interesting day out. The main market in Mirepoix is on Monday morning.
Near Limoux you can find the majestic Nortre Dame de Marceille with its symbolic art.
The area around Tarascon-sur-Ariège, with the prehistoric caves of Lombrives, Bedeilhac and Niaux, the Prehistoric Park and the Notre Dame de Sabart, is fascinating as well.

Collioure on the Mediterranean coast is a popular stop on any tour, especially on the last day, as it always includes a free afternoon after the morning excursion to the ancient fortress that guards the port. The town is famous for its many artists who follow in the footsteps of giants like André Derain, Georges Braque, Othon Friesz, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, James Dickson Innes and Tsuguharu Fujita. The cute shops sell unique handmade articles and objects and the boulevard with its restaurants and cafes, overlooking the azure waters of the Med and the famous church tower, is a beautiful place to sample a Sangria and toast with your group members to your wonderful Occitan adventure.

ACCOMMODATION

For us to be able to execute your tours, it is important that your hotel is situated within half an hour from Quillan, Aude-Pyrenees. We recommend La Maison Templière Hotel in Belvianes, La Chaumière in Quillan, the Ducs the Joyeuse Hotel in Couiza and the Eveché Hotel in Alet-les-Bains. If you would prefer to stay at a self-catering or bed-and-breakfast accommodation, consider Les Labadous, Lavaldieu and the Domaine de Mournac in Antugnac, for they also take small groups. Check out www.barinca.fr (accommodations page) for the links.

CREATING AN ITINERARY

I will be able to help you create an itinerary for you that suits your wishes. To be able to give you an exact quote I will need the following information: The final itinerary, the transfer destinations (airport and accommodation), the number of participants and the dates. If you have any questions, e-mail me at anneke@panoccitania.com and I will reply as soon as possible.

GROUP TOUR 2018

I am organizing a very special and unique group tour in September 2018. For more information, visit: http://theultimatecatharexperience.blogspot.com. It is possible to purchase this package from Barinca Travel - or adapt the tour to your wishes and create with us a new package - for a future tour for your group.

Hope to see you soon! From Occitania, with ♥

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