Buried within the high mountains in the Midi-Pyrenees region of France there is history to unveil, towns to explore and exquisite meals to try. This region, widely known for its Tour de France appearances, is a treasure for cyclists looking for tough climbs and superb scenery. Less advanced riders will enjoy biking along rivers running through charming towns and enjoy seeing the magnificent architecture dating back centuries. Like all regions in France, the Midi-Pyrenees has more to offer travelers than one could imagine, including these five.
Roots of Tour de France
The Pyrenees cols were introduced in the Tour de France itinerary in 1910 at the insistence of Tour organizer Henri Desgrange’s colleague. These cols have played an influential role in deciding the outcome of the tour in previous years. The most note-worthy of these is the Col de Tourmalet, which has set the record for tour appearances with 75 summit crossings. The road to the peak can be reached from Sainte-Marie-de-Campan on the east or from Luz-Saint-Sauveur on the west. Both difficult routes have been cycled by biking fanatics who relish in seeing the statue of Octave Lapize, the first competitor over the summit in 1910, at the top of the Tourmalet.
Toulouse referred to as Ville Rose (pink city) for its buildings made of pink brick that seems to change color as the day passes, has a great deal to explore and discover.
- Museums, with one-of-a-kind collections, are in no short supply in this city. A few worth visiting include Contemporary Art Museum featuring works by many of the most famous artists, Musée St-Raymond with art and archaeology dating up to the Middle Ages, and Musée du Vieux Toulouse devoted to the history of Toulouse.
- While visiting be sure to cycle down the banks of the Garonne River lined with trees giving you the perfect opportunity to escape from the city commotion. The river passes by the charming “old Toulouse” where grand houses dating back to the 18th century line the streets.
- Toulouse is filled with famous sights as well. For example, the Place du Capitole, located in the middle of the city, houses the town hall, an opera theater and tourist center. The Saint-Sernin church, widely recognized by its octagonal five-level tower, has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the Canal du Midi.
Lourdes is a town of Roman Catholic pilgrimage and alleged miraculous healings. Once reports of the Virgin Mary, referred to as Our Lady of Lourdes, appearing to a young peasant girl numerous times went public, millions of people began migrating to Lourdes in search of a spiritual encounter. For this reason, Lourdes is filled with countless churches and sanctuaries which are worth visiting if not for the holy aspect, then for the sheer beauty. The Basilica of Saint Pius X seats 25,000 people, making it one of the biggest in the world. Le Pic du Jer has a large cross that is accessed by a chairlift providing you with wonderful views of the Midi-Pyrenees region. However, spiritual experiences are not all Lourdes has to offer, many tourists enjoy the mountain biking trails as well as cycling along the lake in the town’s center.
The Midi-Pyrenees region is known for many things, one of which being their cuisine, particularly their cassoulets. The cassoulet is not only one of the most popular dishes in France but also one of the oldest dating back to the 100 Years War. Many visitors enjoy finding different variations of cassoulets because the possibilities are endless. Most ingredients include white beans, pure pork sausages, and duck confit. Lamb and goose confit are also well-liked components of this delicious stew. This timeless favorite is a must-try for all food-lovers!
Located in the Tarn department of the Midi-Pyrenees, this hilltop town emerges from the clouds in the valley below taking your breath away at first sight. The town’s narrow streets offer visitors more than they could imagine. With many local art and craft shops ranging from pictures to sculptures to glasswork, no one will leave empty-handed. This town is a sweet lover’s paradise with its Museum of the Art of Sugar and Chocolate. Cordes-Sur-Siel festivals like the Medieval Festival of the Grand Fauconnier, the Classical Music Festival, and the Jousting Tournament will entertain any traveler.
The Midi-Pyrenees region is also home to some of the Most Beautiful Villages of France, like the splendid Najac, Puycelsi, Saint-Antonin Noble Val and Gaillac. You can visit all these beautiful villages during our Most Beautiful Villages of France tour.
Millions of travelers journey to the Midi-Pyrenees region every year, for numerous reasons. Some enjoy the unique towns and their history, like Lourdes and Toulouse, while others take pleasure in the views at the top of famous summits like the Col du Tourmalet. No matter what the reason for going, everyone leaves the same way, in awe at everything they experienced.