Carcassonne
Cucugnan
From 805 (£ 727)
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Self-guided holidays
6 nights - 5 days cycling
Level :
Itinerary : Hotel to Hotel
Holiday code : FP9PUCA
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Carcassonne, Cathar Castles & Corbieres Vineyards By Bike

Wonderful cycling country. Magnificent Carcassonne. Inspiring Cathar castles. Innovative Corbieres vineyards. Historic villages. Authentic accommodation. Tasty regional cuisine. All to be discovered on two wheels.

A summary of your journey

We are always committed to packing in as many highlights as is comfortable into our itineraries, and never more so than with this itinerary - thanks to bikes, and in particular the electric bike if you choose that option. Indeed, this is great cycling country - rolling hills not mountains with only short steep sections up to some of the castles - and some with views to the not-so-distant Mediterranean. You start and finish in the superb walled city of Carcassonne. You cycle through fascinating vineyards, and even stay with natural wine viticulteurs. And you visit most of the great Cathar sites, some you will know, others not so much, but we believe they all will leave you with haunting memories. You stay in Paradise Valley, in attractive 3 star hotels and excellent chambres d'hotes. You will drink, we're sure, local wines, and definitely eat really good regional cuisine. Panoramic views come as standard, and marvellous memories are guaranteed.

THE PLUS POINTS

  • Carcassonne, Rennes-le-Chateau, Montsegur and many more
  • Corbieres vineyards, medieval abbeys, traditional villages, historic towns
  • Authentic, high quality, characterful accommodation with most meals included
  • Comfortable distances and enjoyable cycling with the option of an electric bikes

Le programme

Day 1

We meet you at Carcassonne airport or rail station, and take you to your hotel in this magnificent medieval city that we are sure you already know about, and are eager to visit (possibly again?).
The three star Hôtel Aragon is a very comfortable, well appointed hotel with swimming pool, and, just as importantly, is 50 yards from the main gate into the city - the best of both worlds. You stay on a bed and breakfast basis leaving you free to choose a restaurant inside the great walls of the city.
Transfer time: 10 minutes.

Day 2

Carcassonne to Cascastel des Corbières. After a leisurely breakfast, you choose the bike that suits you best: a road bike, a chunkier hybrid bike, or an electric bike. Whichever, you will be given as full instructions. You leave the city alongside those magnificent city walls and the plae tree shaded canal. Obviously, you can choose to visit what most interests you, but we'd suggest the first highlight is the abbey of Lagrasse (use the steeply arched medieval bridge) founded in the 8th century with a 11th century Romanesque chapel (decorated walls) and a delightful 18th century cloister. Then it's the attractive village of Villerouge-Termenès and its almost miniature, village-centre castle, which Simon de Montfort took in 1210, then in 1321 the last Cathar "parfait" (some prefer the term Bon Homme) was burnt alive here. More happily, today's journey ends in the lovely town of Cascastel, surrounded by vineyards. There: Carcassonne, Cathars & vineyards all in one day!
In Paradise Valley (Vallee du Paradis), Séverine and Gilles have have not only made their impressive, stone built 19th home into a superb chambres d'hotes - you eat with them so get the whole inside story as well as all the comforts of home, including en suite facilities, of course - they have also developed their own domaine with a growing reputation for natural wines, both red and white. Taste and try courtesy of the viticulteurs themselves.
Distance: 40 miles. Ascent/descent: +1400m/-1350m

Day 3

Cascastel des Corbières to Bugarach. You are now not only in the heart of Corbieres wine country, you are firmly on the Cathar Castels Route with five castles on today's route. The first is the double walled 12th century Cathar castle of Aguilar which dominates the Tuchan plateau. Then its on to the picturesque village of Cucugnan (gifted to Lagrasse Abbey in 951; do have a stroll around its narrow lanes) where the last Cathar stronghold of Quéribus dominates the landscape as it is not only on the highest mountain in the area, it was almost impossibly built on sheer cliffs. Your electric bike takes you joyfully on to Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse with its 11th century castle perched precariously at nearly 2,500 feet above the village with unforgettable views across the Corbieres and to the Mediterranean. Journey's end is at the foot of the 4,000 feet Pic de Bugarach, the highest in the region, and known as the upside down mountain as older rock layers are under newer ones.
Nobody knew about its upsidedown-ness when it was founded in the 10th century, and while it was renowned for its 18th century wooden tools and hats, it is today a New Age centre as some (very few, we hope) believe aliens live inside the mountain. You, however, will stay in what was once Bugarach's very Christian presbytery, now Rommie & Sander's naturally chic chambres d'hotes in a lovely honey coloured stone building with wonderful views of the mountain - and excellent updated regional cuisine.
Distance: 36 miles. Ascent/descent: +1200m/-900m

Day 4

Bugarach to Bélesta. There's a lot to see and do today - but at an unhurried pace! First the facts about Rennes-le-Château: it has Neolithic, Roman, Visigoth and Cathar traces, the Tour Magdalena (Mary Magdalene), the 19th century church and restored castle worth visiting, and, yes, it did feature in that novel The Da Vinci Code. The story of its 19th century priest finding immense treasure and its church's devilish sculptures is for you to decide about. On firmer ground, you ride comfortably (due to the battery rather than a devilish sale of your soul) to one of our favourite towns, Quillan: authentic, pleasant, really French, architecturally interesting, beautifully located and good for a lunch stop. Then it's on to Puivert castle, currently being restored by its private owners, and associated with annual troubadour festivals as much as Cathars, before arriving at the unspoilt, riverside village of Bélesta. Many ships' masts once came from its nearby forest.
Hotel Restaurant Palais-Cathare is, despite its name, an unpretentious and welcoming hotel that offers many comforts, good bedrooms, good food, and has an excellent reputation among both locals and more distant visitors. We like staying here, and think you will too.
Distance: 35 miles. Ascent/descent: +1150m/-1150m

Day 5

Bélesta - Chalabre. A Cathar highlight today with a visit to the impressive (and somewhat depressive) remains of Montségur castle. Yet another amazing location that partly explains its ability to withstand a 10 month seige, and why it is the fulcrum of much of the Cathar story, good and bad. But there are more castles: Roquefixade (lesser known Cathar castle overlooking a verdant valley), Lavelanet (pleasant town, impressive castle on a rock outcrop), Montbel (no castle, but, perhaps better, a lovely lake for a refreshing swim), and finally Chalabre (castle occupied by Simon de Montfort well worth visiting).
The 3 star Hotel de France is one of those impressive 19th century mansions in the middle of this pleasant town. It's retained all the traditions of style, hospitality and service, while updating its rooms and restaurant, both of which are really good.
Distance: 28 miles. Ascent/descent: +900m/-1000m

Day 6

Chalabre - Carcassonne. On this last cycling day you wend your way back to Carcassonne - a satisfyingly round trip - with a celebratory visit to Limoux, renowned for its gently fizzing "blanquette". It's the last day, it's lunch time, and you might just let yourself have a glass (and perhaps a bottle tonight?). It's a historic, stylish town worth a stroll or ride around too. Then its a very pleasant and easy ride back into Carcassonne with enough time to really explore its delights, if you haven't done so already.
It's the three star Hôtel Aragon for your last night, and again you stay on a bed and breakfast basis so you can choose a restaurant that feels appropriate for the achievements and many pleasurable experiences of this holiday. Weigh it up: is it one of your best holidays? We think (hope) it might well be.
Distance: 36 miles. Ascent/descent: +830m/-1100m

Day 7

Carcassonne. Fin du séjour après le petit déjeuner. Transfer to the airport or station at Carcassonne.
  • Détails Pratiques
  • Equipement
  • Formalités et Santé

DATES DE PROGRAMMATION

Mid-April to the end of October.

RENDEZ-VOUS

We meet you at Carcassonne airport or rail station.

END OF YOUR TRIP

End of your trip in Carcassonne , after breakfast. Transfer to airport or station

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY

This itinerary features cycling that is rarely challenging, and never so if you choose an electric bike. All the same, it is suitable for people who are reasonably fit and enjoy a good day's walking or cycling. While we have designed a route that is usually on quiet roads and lanes, there is inevitably traffic, and it may be quite busy on some sections, especially in July and August.

DÉPART GARANTI À PARTIR DE (pers.)

2

LUGGAGE TRANSFERS

We will transfer your luggage to the next hotel, so all you need carry is a daysack with your choice of essentials. There are plenty of places to get drinks and food as you walk, so you need carry very little of either.

TYPE OF TRIP

This is an independent, self-guided holiday.

ACCOMMODATION

You stay in double-twin rooms in authentic hotels with en suite facilities that are 2 and 3 star, and in characterful high quality chambres d'hotes.

REPAS

CONTENTS OF YOUR TRAVEL FOLDER

When we have received the balance of payment for your holiday, and in the month before your departure, we send you all the documentation you need: a detailed itinerary showing dates, times, contact addresses etc; a detailed guide to your walking routes, often also including a lot of cultural, historical and nature background information; formal documents (invoices, contractual terms and conditions etc); luggage labels etc. If you book at the last minute, we can send information to the first night's accommodation.

To make the right choice

Have a look at our detailed explanations on the types of hiking, the standards of accommodation, and understand baggage transport ... How to choose your trip ?

LUGGAGE 

You should bring:
  • 1 travel bag per person (or suitcase with wheels). Make sure they are not too big in order to avoid logistical problems (taking up too much room in transfer vehicles, for example). On holidays where you move from one hotel to another during your stay, try to keep the weight down to 10-12kg (the extra weight can make it difficult to get all the suitcases to certain hotels that are difficult to get to). Be certain not to leave any fragile or valuable objects in your main luggage.
  • 1 rucksack (around 30-40 litres) with integrated water-bag (e.g. Camel-Back). These bags are more practical than carrying bottles. The rucksack should also have a waist belt and allow your back to be well ventilated for extra comfort. Keep the total weight of your rucksack plus belongings down to a maximum of 10kg.

CLOTHING 


  • 1 set of cycling clothes: cycling shorts, breathable T-shirt (long-sleeved or short-sleeved depending on the time of year)
  • 1 other pair of shorts or trousers for cycling (padding essential)
  • cycling shoes
  • comfortable clothes and shoes for the evenings
  • underwear
  • spare long-sleeved breathable T-shirts (1 for every 2_3 days) and 1 or 2 short-sleeved T-shirts
  • 1 warmer layer (a fleece or water-resistant "softshell"jacket). Or a "primaloft" jacket (warm and easily compacted down to fit into rucksacks).
  • 1 breathable, windproof and waterproof out layer (e.g. Gore-Tex) with a hood

EQUIPMENT TO BRING 

  • 1 large plastic bag to be used as a rucksack liner for protecting your belongings from the rain and/or 1 waterproof rucksack cover
  • 1 waterproof bag containing: travel insurance contract, ID or passport, health card, and all other documents mentioned in the "formalities" section.
  • 1 pair of good quality sunglasses (protection factor 3) plus high-factor sun cream and sunscreen for your lips (should always be carried in your rucksack) • 1 folding pen-knife (Swiss Army knife or similar)
  • For lunches: cutlery and 1 plastic/tupperwear container (0.5 litres minimum). You may end up not using it but it is important to have it just in case
  • washbag and 1 quick-drying towel (try to bring only essential items that don't take up too much space, biological soap...)
  • 1 swimming costume / pair of swimming trunks
  • ear plugs (to protect you from snoring neighbours or other annoying noises)
  • 1 sleeping-bag liner if spending a night (or nights) in dormitory accommodation (hostels or refuge huts)
  • handkerchiefs
  • toilet paper
  • 1 cigarette lighter (be careful not to provoke a fire - always use responsibly and not unless you have to)
  • 1 torch or head-torch plus a survival blanket: always put this in your rucksack as set-backs due to accidents are always possible, even on easy rides
  • spare glasses (if you wear glasses)
  • camera, binoculars, paint brushes and canvas... (optional)
Depending on the characteristics of the holiday you are going on (if bike hire is included or not, or if you have indicated that you wish to bring your own bike anyway), it may be a good idea to bring some (or all) of the following cycling kit (please also check in the"bicycle hire"section to see what kit is already provided on the holiday you have chosen):
  • cycling gloves (normal or fingerless depending on the time of year)
  • 1 bike helmet (legal requirement in most countries)
  • 1 or 2 cycling bottles or a hydration system such as a Camel-Back (1.5 litres), whichever you prefer
  • 2 inner-tubes
  • a few spare spokes (especially on mountain-bike tours)
  • 1 spare derailleur
  • 1 set of spare brake pads
  • 1 spare cable for derailleurs or brakes
  • 1 spare chain
  • any other kit that you deem to be necessary...
You should try to be self-sufficient for all minor cycling breakdowns typical of these kinds of cycling tours (tyre-lever, puncture repair kit, multi-tool, quick-fix chain link...). If you have disk-brakes or high-tech bikes, be sure to bring the necessary kit for repairs.

FORMALITIES

You need to keep your passport with you at all times, and ideally insurance information. You need to make your own arrangements to claim local healthcare. There are requirements in France and Spain for all vehicles to carry safety equipment.
Click on the price that corresponds to your choice.
FromToStandard priceStandard price with VTC includedWith extra airport pick-upWith extra airport pick-up
Sat 01/06/2019Sat 31/08/2019890 €  (₤ 803) 995 €  (₤ 898) 930 €  (₤ 839) 1 035 €  (₤ 934)
Sun 01/09/2019Thu  31/10/2019805 €  (₤ 726) 945 €  (₤ 852) 845 €  (₤ 762) 985 €  (₤ 889)
 
List of additional options (to select later)
TitleTime periodPrice
Single room supp. / pers. from 15/04/2019 to 31/10/2019330 € (₤ 298)
Sup location VAE from 15/04/2019 to 31/10/201975 € (₤ 68)
Sup only 1 person from 15/04/2019 to 31/10/2019185 € (₤ 167)

THE PRICE INCLUDES

4 nights dinner, bed and breakfast; 2 nights bed and breakfast as described; bike rental; luggage transfers each day as required (one bag per person, maximum 20 kgs); detailed route directions; 1:25,000 maps as required; GPS tracking if required; 24/7 customer phone service.

THE PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE

The journey to the start point and from the finishing point (Carcassonne airport or rail station); dinners on days 1, and 6; menu choices at extra cost; all drinks; lunches; entry fees; personal and travel insurance.
Provided by TransferMate

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"My husband Hugo is crazy for castles. The mere mention of the siege of Montsegur brings tears to his eyes. We both love walking. I’ve wanted to go back to the Pyrenees since walking in the foothills with my aunt, many years ago."
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