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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Lead photo credit : ©Shutterstock
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