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Things to See in the Languedoc:   Historic Towns:   Espéraza

. Espéraza is in the Aude département, lying on a tight meander of the River Aude, just north of the foothills of the Pyrenees.  The main arterial road, the D118, passes near the town, out of sight and hearing.

The town is 6 km from Quillan to the South, and 15 km from Limoux to the north.  It is the perfect base for those interested in Cathar Country

Attractions include water sports on the River Aude which flows through the town, a large Sunday Market, and a unique dinosaur museum displaying some of the spectacular finds made nearby.  There is also a Grade I listed Church in the town square.

The town lies in the very heart of Cathar Country, the location of some of the most important events of medieval Europe, vestiges of which can be seen everywhere.   Many of the most famous Cathar sites are only a short drive or cycle ride away.  Espéraza is less than a two hours' walk away to the hilltop village of Rennes-le-Château.

Popular activities include walking, climbing, and caving. The area is a delight for those seeking active holidays.  Cycling, the French national sport, is the most popular.  And there's horse riding, hang-gliding, white-water rafting, kayaking and canoeing, canyoning, hunting, hawking and shooting, angling and fishing, wind surfing and kitesurfing, paragliding, Snowkiting and hot air ballooning.  In the winter, there's downhill skiing and cross-country skiing, as well as other winter sports in the Pyrenees, less than an hour's drive away.  

Hot springs abound in this area and there are many naturally heated swimming pools and natural lakes.  There are also interesting caves ("grottes") in the area and many quality vineyards. Things to see include cities of historical and architectural interest, market towns and other towns, villages and bastides; Fortified and grand buildings of specifically the so-called "Cathar Castles" and other Châteaux; Religious buildings: cathedrals, churches, and other ecclesiastical buildings; Aspects of nature including: wildlife, and springs, spas and grottoes

The surrounding countryside is beautiful and varied.  To the South are the foothills of the Pyrenees, then the real Pyrenees, and the Spanish border.  One of the old pilgrimage routes to Santiago (St-Jacques) de Compostella passes this way, through the mountains and on into Spain.  To the East are the Corbières, one of the few remaining wildernesses in Europe, where boar still roam wild, and beyond it the Mediterranean coast.  To the West lies the Plateau de Sault, a high plateau of forests and rolling countryside, and beyond it Andorra.  To the north are vineyards and historic cities like Carcassonne.  


You can hire mountain bikes ("VTTs") from Thomas Loisirs, 54 Avenue de Perpignan. Tel: 04 68 74 10 97. They're open all year 9am to noon and 2pm to 7pm Monday to Saturday, and 10am to noon on Sundays.

Local wildlife is also an attraction.  Because of its varied terrain, the Aude département possesses more than twice the number of plant species than the whole of the UK, including some 80 types of Orchid.  It is similarly rich in animal species, particularly birds.

Some useful links:

Esperaza Dinosaur Museum - photos below: click here for more information




"In rememberance of the STO, departed from here for Germany, February-March 1943.
To the memory of our comrades who died in the course of their deportation"





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