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Best Cathar castles to visit

I'm creating an itinerary and figure I have time to visit two, maybe three Cathar castles. I'll be driving a rental car so getting there is only a problem if there are no roads. Which castles have you liked and why? I'd prefer places that are somewhat intact, at least parts, rather than a total ruin as well as something to learn the history (small museum, audio guide, etc.) of the place.

Posted by
19 posts

Hi Brad,
We visited Cathar castles on our trip in 2009 and it was one of our best experiences in France. We flew in and out of Toulouse and stayed overnight in Foix, Cucagnan, Villefranche-de-Conflent, Ceret, Elne and near Narbonne. My favorite Cathar site was Montsegur and I also enjoyed Queribus and Peyrepertuse. Reading about Cathar history before our vacation made the castles more meaningful. That part of France has so many great places to visit and hike plus wonderful food with a Catalan accent. I hope you have a wonderful time.

Posted by
12172 posts

Thanks Brenda. I had read about two of those. Some of the castles look like they are little more than ruins/rubble on top of a hill. I want to visit some that have a little more to see.

Reading the history, it's funny to see how most of the references are to a "devout group of Christians". I must have read a dozen versions before I saw any that referred to them as Gnostics. That would explain why the Pope came down so hard on them. Paul was hard core on Gnostics when he referred to them in the New Testament.

Posted by
4132 posts

Ruins is all you are likely to find. They were utterly crushed.

Another vote for Peyrepertuse, btw.

Posted by
345 posts

I have enjoyed reading about and visiting the Cathar ruins. You could do some research about each ruin that is left, then base yourself in Carcassonne, Limoux or Quillan and do short driving trips.

We went to Montsegur but did not climb to the top. There is a very small museum at the town below the ruin.

We climbed to the top of Peyrepertuse. It was NOT an easy climb. My husband asked me several times "why are we doing this"? I would have to say that I am not the most agile person so it was not easy for me to do but I did!

We have been to the small town below Queribus but have not climbed it. I really hope that I can do so on my next trip to France unless I am too old and feeble. In both cases, just seeing the ruins on the tops of the hills was really thrilling.

One of my favorite stories about the Cathars was "Labyrinth" by Kate Mosse. While it is a fiction story, I really enjoyed reading it. The stories of the Cathars also get tied up with the Knights Templars. There is a good story, "The Templar Legacy", by Steve Berry.

There is no question that the Cathars were crushed by both the Church and the King of France. There was no thought that everyone could work together. The Cathars lasted as long as they could but the hand writing was on the wall for them.

Enjoy your trip! If you, or anyone else who has done so, climbs Queribus, please send me a message about the difficulty level. Merci!

Posted by
12172 posts

Thanks, I like to climb and explore. Occasionally the climb turns out to not be worth it. I felt that way at Les Baux. The top of the hill was one thing but the top of the castle probably wasn't worth the added effort.

Posted by
12172 posts

I think I'll try to get to Toulouse early, rent a car and try to see a couple castles then continue to Carcassonne for the evening. Depending on how it goes I'll either head toward Albi and Najac or spend the day seeing more in this area then start north.

Posted by
480 posts

FWIW I thought Peyrepertuse was well worth the climb, which was not an easy stroll. Ruins, yes, but enough left to get a good idea of what it was like in its heyday. No museum or audioguide but maybe you could read about it beforehand.

Posted by
837 posts

We spent 2 very peaceful nights in Cucugnan. It's a big enough place to have several places to stay and several eating options. We toured Peyrepetuse and Queribus, and drove through the Gorges de Galamus. We also toured another castle -- I think it was Aguilar.

Not sure when you will be going. We were there in June and the afternoon wind was fierce. This is a typical weather pattern. I don't remember the steepness of the approach to the castles, but I will not forget the wind.

We had something to read when we visited. I think it was an English translation that we picked up when we paid our ticket and returned when we left.

I really enjoyed this part of our trip.

Posted by
12172 posts

I'm going very close to the first of June. Was planning June 3 but might go on June 4 depending on transportation.

Posted by
186 posts

Thanks for posting this. We will be staying in Laure-Minervois (near Carcassonne) for two nights in late September with the express purpose of visiting some of the Cathar sites! Looks like Peyrepertuse is a favorite as well as Montsegur.

Posted by
70 posts

Traveling with friends throughout France, one wanted to get to Rennes-le-Chateau, which seems to be an area of Cathar castles. My husband wants to see Carcassone. After researching a bit, I am intrigued by the Gorges de Galamos and the castle at Montsegur. We are currently booked for 4 days on the the Dordogne; 3 days in Cajarc, and then 4 days in Albi, coming from the Loire and then heading east. I had originally planned to do a day trip from Albi to Carcassone but now think that if we are adding the additional sights south of Carcassone, we should change our plans, doing two days near Albi and 2 days near Carcassone. We plan to visit Millau as we head east, so I am wondering whether we should stay in a village near Mazamet, or to the south, near Quillan, to visit Cathar sights.