Ancient Villages and Natural Beauty in Tarn



Ancient Villages and Natural Beauty in Tarn

Renowned for its gentle way of life, Tarn, in Occitanie, is a land of stunning natural beauty and strong character. Take in its many different landcapes and meet the people behind the beautiful villages, wine estates and delicious local produce.

With more than 20 different landscapes, including the Gaillac vineyards, medieval bastides, the Montagne Noire, the Monts de Lacaune and 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites, Tarn, in south-west France, wishes you well! Here are 10 reasons to visit this sun-kissed département.

1. Marvel at Albi, the UNESCO Episcopal city 

Albi, the red city, is heaven for heritage. Marvel at the Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile, the largest brick building in the world and the largest painted cathedral in Europe, and stroll around the UNESCO-listed cité épiscopale. The Palais de la Berbie adjoining the cathedral, with its remarkable gardens, houses the world’s largest public collection of works by the Albi-born artist in the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec. A wander through the medieval streets will lead you to the remarkable St-Salvy cloister. 

The episcopal city of Albi ©Tarn Tourisme_Luc Beziat

2. Escape to the Gaillac vineyards  

Between vineyards and bastide wine-growing villages, indulge in the gentle way of life along the Gaillac PDO wine trails. Soak up the warm sunshine as you pedal your electric bike, passing medieval and hilltop villages, and meet winegrowers who will gladly share their passion with you. In the evening, visit the vignerons for festive apéritif concerts and taste Loin de l’œil, Ondenc or Duras, the endemic Gaillac grape varieties. 

Go wine-tasting in the Gaillac vineyards ©Tarn Tourisme_Pascale Walter

3. Rise above the skies at Cordes-sur-Ciel 

The city of a hundred arches rises above the clouds. Cordes sur Ciel is the first medieval bastide town in the Tarn region that you can reach through fortified gates. You can visit craftsmen’s workshops and taste the famous Croquants de Cordes.  

The hilltop village of Cordes-sur-Ciel © Loïc Lagarde

4. Stroll through the bastides and medieval towns of Tarn’s Tuscany 

With five of France’s most beautiful villages, the Tarn is full of small, unspoilt villages nestling between the rolling landscapes of Occitan’s Tuscany and the pastel blue Pays de Cocagne. Relax on the terrace of a small café in the warmth of the old stones in Puycelsi, Castelnau de Montmiral, Monestiés and Lautrec. 

Visit ‘Tarn’s Tuscany’ © Tarn Tourisme_Entre 2 Poles

5. Play knight at the fortress of Penne 

Clinging to its rocky outcrop, the Château de Penne offers a magical panorama over the Grésigne forest. Throughout the year, you’ll come across stone carvers and medieval-inspired entertainment. With a wooden sword in hand, the little ones can become great knights! 

Medieval ambiance at the castle of Penne ©Tarn Tourisme_Raynaud Photo

6. Climb all over the giant rocks of Sidobre 

Gigantic boulders with playful shapes, pebbled riverbeds and lakes where the rocks poking from the surface resemble lazy hippos enjoying the water: the Sibobre, the largest granite massif in Europe, is a wonderful natural site for the whole family. Lose yourself among the rocks and the legends about them. 

Explore the exceptional natural site of Sidobre ©Tarn Tourisme_Loic Lagarde

7. Defying the void on the Mazamet footbridge  

At 125 m long, the Himalayan footbridge in Mazamet swings gently 70 m above the Arnette. Open to all, it links the town of Mazamet with the ancient medieval Castrum d’Hautpoul (a typical fortified Occitan village). Active travellers can try out the via ferrata climbing route or one of the dizzying zip lines, one of which is 180 m long. 

Don’t look down on the Mazamet footbridge © Tarn Tourisme_Luc Beziat

8. Passing under the Vauban vault at Les Cammazes 

From the source of the Canal du Midi, take the shady path along the rigole (a narrow canal) between the Montagne Noire and Lac de St-Ferréol on foot or by bike. As you stroll along, a torch in hand, you can step back in time as you pass under the arch created by Vauban, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The Vauban vault © TarnTourisme_Pascale Walter

9. Cool off in a canoe in the Tarn valley 

If you’re looking for a refreshing break, take a canoe trip on the River Tarn. Here the water is calm enough to observe the wild banks and its wonderful biodiversity. On arrival, discover the heritage of Ambialet, a small town full of character. You can also admire the village from the top of the priory, where you have the best view of the Ambialet meander, the smallest isthmus in Europe. At dusk in summer, you can take a paddle on the trail of the beavers! 

Stay cool in a canoe on the Tarn ©Tarn Tourisme_Buchowski

10. Share a meal with local produce from the market 

Enjoy local produce from the Tarn at one of the region’s charming B&Bs, during a picnic by the river or at one of the gourmet markets. Ail Rose de Lautrec, the only French Label Rouge garlic with a sweet, fruity flavour; bougnettes, melsat and ham from the Salaisons de Lacaune; fresh cheeses and fruit and vegetables from the market; lemon Poumet or bergamot biscuits. 

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Share a delicious meal with local products © Tarn Tourisme_Laurent Galaup

Lead photo credit : ©Shutterstock

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