The Cathar Country Tour
The Cathars, the Knights Templar, Rennes-le-Chatêau, The Saunière Mystery, The Da Vinci Code, The Magdalene, The Mystery of Mont Cardou
The Cathar Country Tour
On this epic adventure we will be visiting the Cathar Country; lands steeped in mystery and legend stretching back beyond Old Testament times. The Cathar Country is in the Languedoc, nestling in the foothills of the Pyrénées in the South of France. It boasts a rich, diverse and fascinating history all set within some of the most beautiful and spectacular countryside anywhere. These lands known now as the Cathar Country were the home to the mighty Visigoths, the mysterious Merovingian kings, the Knights Templar and the mystical Cathars themselves who suffered most cruelly and bravely for their beliefs. More recently they were the home of François Bérenger Saunière, the priest of the tiny hilltop hamlet of Rennes-le-Chatêau, who’s intriguing story inspired a BBC documentary series, the world best seller ‘Holy Blood, Holy Grail’ and the international block-buster novel and Hollywood movie, ‘The Da Vinci Code’. This tiny hill top hamlet of Rennes-le-Chatêau has truly become World famous.
We will head for the Languedoc and Aude Valley and back to the time of the Knights Templar and the Cathars. In the lands of the Cathar ‘Heretics’ we will explore a variety of aspects of some of Europe’s most intriguing history. We will visit Cathar and Knights Templar castles perched high upon mountain peaks, including the amazing Chatêau Montségur, the site of the final tragic massacre where the Cathars marched singing into the flames of their enemies. For the second half of your time in the Cathar Country you will be immersed in the fascinating story of the priest Bérenger Saunière and the Rennes-le-Chatêau mystery.
Day 1. Meet in Carcassonne
On your arrival in the Cathar Country Neil will meet you at Carcassonne airport or Rail Station and take you to the Hostellerie de l’Evêché, The Old Bishops Palace hotel and our home for the next 10 days. The hotel is located in the peaceful and serene medieval spa town of Alet-les-Bains, famous for its mineral waters, thermal springs and as an historic religious centre of pilgrimage. Legend has it that alchemists and cabbalists of medieval Europe once lived in Alet-les-Bains and the house of Nostradamus is to be found in the main square. Our stay will be on a Dinner, Bed & Breakfast basis, which means we will be taking advantage of the gourmet cuisine of Christian Limouzy, owner and chef, who graduated from the École Hotellière des Pyrénées in Toulouse and who promotes the regional cuisine as well as family recipes. The wine served free with dinner is also sourced from the Cathar Country.
Alet-Les-Bains, The Hotel & Mirepoix pictures
Day 2. Crusade against the Cathars
Today we will begin our exploration into the story of the Cathars with a visit to the ancient city of Béziers, where we will hear of the siege and its horrendous consequences that began what we now know as the Albigensian Crusade. We will then drive high into the mountains of the Corbière, where the slopes are covered with vineyards, to the beautiful ancient Cathar town of Minerve.
Day 3. Le Cité Carcassonne
To continue our adventure of the Cathar Country and the story of the Cathars we will visit the spectacular walled city of Carcassonne. Le Cité is everyone’s childhood dream of a medieval citadel. You will have a free day to delve into the Cathar and Templar history, as did Hitler’s army who are said to have searched down the town well for occult secrets. On our way home we will call in at the Notre Dame de Limoux, a typical example of a church of the dark Madonna with related symbolism.
Béziers, Minerve, Carcassonne & Notre Dame de Limoux pictures
Days 4. Montsegur the last stand of the Cathars
The spectacular Castle of Montségur sitting high up on a mountain peak was the place where the Cathars faced their infamous last stand. We will have the opportunity to climb up to the castle, take in the awe-inspiring atmosphere and visit the ‘Cathar memorial’ to this tragic day. We will then pay a visit to the picturesque Medieval Cathar town of Mirepoix with its unique painted buildings, another place you won’t forget.
Day 5. Cathar Castles
As the crusade against the Cathars continued on its deadly course any remaining Cathar followers were increasingly forced into friendly fortified mountain top communities. Apart from being effective places of asylum for all visitors these peaceful communities were places of fun and jollity where wandering troubadours would entertain with poems and songs in ‘old Occitan’ and we will visit two of these spectacular mountain top Cathar Castles.
Cathar Castles pictures
Day 6. Free day in Alet-les-Bains
A well earned rest day and an opportunity to explore the town of Alet-les-Bains, including the ancient Abbey remains, the Nostradamus House with wonderful esoteric carvings, the medieval streets and buildings and of course the thermal swimming and healing springs.
Day 7. Berenger Saunière & Rennes le Chatêau
Today we will begin our journey into the amazing mystery that surrounds the now infamous Berenger Saunière as we head for the hilltop hamlet of Rennes le Chatêau, the centre of the Da Vinci Code story; the Holy Bloodline, the Magdalene and some intriguing sacred geometry. We will begin with a discussion of the background of the Saunière mystery, in the out-door cafe overlooking the Rennes le Chatêau church and then have plenty of time to look around this church dedicated to Mary Magdalene and the ‘Saunière Domain Museum’. On the way we will have a drive up to Montazels, to see Saunière’s birthplace.
Rennes le Chatêau pictures
Day 8. The Rennes le Chatêau mystery widens to Rennes-les-Bains
Continuing our journey into the Cathar country and the mystery of Saunière we will visit the town of Rennes-les-Bains, where the churchyard holds a couple of interesting secrets. Nearby are a few interesting and related places such as the ‘Devil’s Armchair’, possibly associated with Rennes le Chatêau and the so called ‘Camp Grand Capitelles’, mysterious ‘Beehive’ type structures covering whole hillsides, there are many theories about this unusual place but none which fully explain it, or are there?. We will also climb up to the small town of Coustaussa where Father Gélis, a close friend of Saunière’s, met a terrible and tragic end.
Rennes-les-Bains, Coustaussa & the Camp Grand Capitelles pictures
Day 9. The Cathar Countr’s Gorge of Galamus
Today we will be taking a ride along the breathtaking Gorge of Galamus, a highlight of the Cathar Country and visiting the amazing cave Hermitage of St Anthony along the route. This journey is a remarkable and memorable experience. We will also take in a circulade town which used to hold a Knights Templar Commandery and have a break in the village of Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet where the old Spanish border used to be and where a certain individual escaped into obscurity.
Day 10. Return to Carcassonne
To bring your exploration to a close Neil will transfer you to Carcassonne airport/station for your journey home. If your flight is not until the following day ask Neil about booking a further day in the hotel and have another day in the wonderful Cathar Country.
All this and some of the most beautiful, spectacular & breathtaking landscapes in the world and many more gems of the Cathar Country.
Price For the 10 Day tour – £1,700 from 1st Jan 2018
£400 non refundable deposit to secure a place please – Balance by 1st May – Single Supplement £110
(An option of travelling from Preston over land and via ferry, with pick ups along the route, may be available if enough people are interested in this)
Includes – All transport from pick-up at Carcassonne airport/rail station, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast (including wine) & many site entrance fees
Does not include – air fares and insurance (please make arrangement for private travel insurance cover).
Some Cathar Country Travellers Comments
This is to thank you for what was the best holiday of my quite long life. the Cathar Country was even more magical than I expected – an earthly paradise – and the power of the landscape geometer was palpable. Your knowledge and sensitive appreciation of the history of the area brought its mystery, wonder and grief vividly to life. Your easy-going buoyancy and willingness to divert from the schedule – whether to pick up magic stones or raid a car boot sale – made the trip a friendly, relaxed adventure.
you seem to attract interesting people, too. setting out alone, I was delighted to find myself in such a friendly, like-minded group. Some of my most precious memories will be those evenings sitting with wine under the old trees, watching dusk settle over the abbey ruins and discussing the mysteries of the area and life in general. The accommodation and food were superb too – amazing at the price. I look forward to going on another expedition next year.
Lindsey Campbell. BA Oxon
“The Cathar Tour to Languedoc has something for everyone whether exploring the mysteries of the Cathars and Rennes Le Chateau or sampling the beautiful environment at our hotel at Alet Le Bain (Nostradamus lived locally). It was wonderfully placed next to the River Aude and the Abbey, set in a landscaped garden of Cypress trees and the food and wine were some of the best you will have in France. Although in a small group there was plenty of opportunity to do your own thing and our tour guide Neil held it all together with a knowledgeable good humour.”
Duncan & Anne Harpur (Warrington)
I had high expectations of the Cathar Tour and was not disappointed! Our base was the pretty medieval town of Alet les Bains. The hotel was friendly and situated in lovely gardens by the abbey ruins. The evening meals were excellent and I felt well-catered for as a non-meat eater.
Neil guided us through the itinerary without ever making the trip feel time-pressurised. He was very knowledgeable and gave us a good foundation to appreciate the places visited. There was room to explore as individuals and also to share as a group. I was lucky to meet such interesting and warm fellow-travellers and would certainly expect to holiday again with Megalithic Tours.
Deb Roberts (Cambridgeshire) (2012 tour)