The Ariège


The imposing castle of Foix

31/08/2011:  Saint Gaudens - Labouiche - Foix - Ornolac: 23 km

Drive to the subterranean river-cavern of Labouiche which claims to be the lonest navigable subterranean stream in western Europe. Foix where we had a pretty good lunch at a Restaurant at Place des Pyrènes and then we drove to the Camping Ornolac Ussaut-les-Bains, because we want to do canoeing tomorrow afternoon departing from there (N 42º 48.991’ E 1º 38º097’)

01/09/2011:  Grotte de Niaux, Canoe descent on the Ariège

In the morning we had a guided visit of the Grotte de Niaux (in English! 9 €) into the Salon Noir of the Grotto with the Paleolithic paintings. It was super-interesting, I was so overwhelmed by these old drawings (most of them 14.000 old!). They only show the Salon Noir as the other parts are more difficult to access. In the afternoon we made a canoe tour on the Ariège river that is right on our campground. In the evening we had a great BBQ with lamb steaks.

02/09/2011:  Parc de la Préhistoire (Tarascon) - Comus - Col de Chioula (1431 m)

Visit of the Prehistoric Museum (8 €) which explains all about the Paleolithic paintings and artefacts, especially about the drawings in Cave of Niaux. Very recommendable indeed. Lunch at the Restaurant inside (good and inexpensive -with a delicious dessert buffet). Drive up to the Col de Chioula and then to Comus to hike into the Gorges de la Frau (2 hours, 300 m elevation). Overnight on the Col de Chioula (n 42º 45.388’ E 1º 50.461’)

03/09/2011:  Col de Chioula - Ax-Les-Thermes (F) - Grau Roig (2150 m) (AND): 49 km

After spending a very quiet night at Col de Chioula we drove down to Ax-Les-Thermes where there was the weekly (Saturday) market. We had a stroll through the town and then drove up to Andorra. The traffic was heavy up to Andorra, almost every car going to Pas-de-la-Casa to do tax-free shopping! We, on our side, took the tunnel de Envalira directly to the ski area of Grau Roig (11€). We parked at the parking lot of the skilifts and after lunch we walked up to the Restaurant El Piolet then further up the mountain range towards Pas-de-la-Casa. Overnight on the skilift parking lot at Grau Roig (N 42º 31.977’ E 1º 41.791’).

04/09/2011: Grau Roig (AND) - La Seu d’Urgell (580 m): 52 km

Although the weather was not very convincing this morning, we took the first shuttle (5€ pp) at 10h up to the Restaurant Llac dels Pessons and began hiking up the Cercl dels Pessons with its 7 lakes. Unfortunately, we had to turn around without doing the loop up the northwest flank because of heavy rain (2,5 hours, 300 m elevation). Back with the shuttle at 13h30. After lunch we drove to Canillo where we got into one of these special sales shops for French tourists (we didn’t find it especially interesting though) and we continued to Andorra-la-Vella. We were amazed by the growth of this city in the last 20 years we hadn’t been there! We tried to find a parking place but there was so much traffic (Sunday!) and it was almost impossible to find a parking space so we decided to go on. The next town, Sant Juliá de Lória was much more welcoming for us. After putting cheap petrol in our camper (1,09€/litre diesel) we saw a sign for motor caravans at the shopping “River” and drove in. This was (almost) a normal big supermarket with normal products and there we did some shopping. We passed the border to Spain and drove to La Seu d’Urgell where we settled at the Parking del Ayuntamiento. In the evening we had a stroll through the pleasant old town and had some tapas at the Pizzeria La Mina. (N 42º 21.528’ E 1º27.900’)

Old town of Foix


The entrance to Grotte de Niaux

Canoe trip along the Ariège.

Gorges de la Frau

Post box,
seen in Comus

Our overnight place: Col du Chioula (1431m)

Bassin de Ladres (“lepers) with hot spring water (free access).

The old building of Thermes du Breilh (1815) in Ax-Les-Thermes.

Heavy traffic on the road from France to Andorra!

Hike to the 6 lakes on Circ dels Pessons, Grau Roig (Andorra)

Grotte de Niaux with its prehistoric drawings, carvings, foot prints.

But also graffiti from early visitors: