Grotte de Niaux, Foix and Montségur
(all day trip with lunch)
Click on any red marker for location information. Click on any blue marker for driving directions.
Leave Caunes Minervois on the D620 in the direction of Carcassonne. Follow signs to Carcassonne until you pass the "Pont Rouge" shopping center. At the next roundabout, follow signs for Toulouse and the A9, not "centre ville" or Narbonne. Continue around the ringroad (the D6113) to the exit for Salvaza airport and Mirepoix (the D119). On the D119, follow signs toward Mirepoix, passing through Montréal, La Force and Fanjeaux along the way. Mirepoix has an amazing central place and a lively Monday market. Stop here for picnic supplies.
Leave Mirepoix on the D119 towards Pamiers. Just past the small "Les Pujols" airport, turn left onto the D12 toward Foix, and then onto the E9 heading south toward Foix. Stop in Foix to check out the castle of the Dukes of Foix and have a coffee. Then continue past Foix on the E9 toward Tarascon sur Ariège.
As you enter the outskirts of Tarascon, the E9 ends and you follow the N20 (also D8B) toward town. You will soon see signs for the Grotte de Niaux; follow these to the D8 toward Niaux. Once in Niaux, follow signs for the Grotte de Niaux across a small river. You will reach a "T" junction; turning left takes you to the cave, while turning right takes you uphill toward the ruined castle of Niaux, the best area picnic spot.
Leave Niaux via the D8 toward Tarascon, then take the E9 north. You can return home via Mirepoix, maybe visiting Foix for the afternoon, or take a longer way home via Montségur, the last stronghold of the Cathars. To visit Montségur, exit the E9 toward Lavelanet (the D117), half way between Tarascon and Foix. As you enter Lavelanet, turn right onto the D9 toward Montségur. The castle is a steep hike uphill; imagine doing this in armor, or when running for your life.
From Montségur, continue on the D9 toward Bélesta, where you will rejoin the D117 going east. Follow the D117 to Quillan, then take the D118 north toward Limoux. From Limoux, follow the D118 to Carcassonne and home.