areas of the Languedoc Roussillon region:
region as a whole, or the region excluding the department of
French part of historic Catalonia, essentially corresponding to the
department of Pyrénées Orientales (66), in the
south of the region.
: mountainous area running from north of
Montpellier to the northeast
of Languedoc, mostly in the Gard (30) and Lozère (48)
Mont Lozère - 1702 metres.
area of the Aude (11) department, famous for its vineyards.
: northern part
of Haut Languedoc, mostly in the Lozère (48)
- Aubrac :
sparsely populated high plateau area on the borders of
Languedoc, Auvergne and Midi-Pyrenees.
is best known in France for two main reasons;
firstly as a
holiday destination, secondly as France's biggest producer of wine. In
terms of image, it is a region associated with sunshine and the
seaside, but also with its Mediterranean vegetation of vines, olive
trees and thin cypress trees, as in the photo on the right.
The area known as Languedoc
today covers just a small part of the much
larger area of France that was known in the Middle Ages as the pays de
"Langues d'oc" was a name given to
whole family of French dialects spoken in the southern half of France.
In mediaeval times, France was divided linguistically into two
main areas, the northern half where people spoke languages that have
evolved to produce modern French; and the southern half of the country
where they spoke languages somewhere between northern French and
Spanish, known as Occitanian French, or langues d'oc.
People from the north had
difficulty understanding people from the south, and vice versa. The
dividing line between the two areas ran from the Charentes in the west
to Geneva in the east.
Today the word "Occitanie"
is often used to refer to the south of France in general (particularly
by regionalist and nationalist movements in the south of France). the
once used as the
name of a Province stretching from the Rhone to Toulouse, has now been
further limited in its territorial meaning, and now just refers to to
the modern administrative region.
The large majority of the population of Languedoc-Roussillon is
the urban areas on the coastal plain, notably around Montpellier, Nimes
and Perpignan. These are old cities that have grown up over the ages as
major points on the land route round the northern Mediterranean coast,
the route between France and Spain and Italy and Spain.
Montpellier, the regional capital, is the 8th largest city in France,
and has been a major European city for over 1000 years. Its university
is arguably the oldest in France - its famous schools of law and
medicine dating from the twelfth century. But Montpellier is also a
modern city that has tried to develop itself, with a certain degree of
success, as a major IT and computing centre. ► More
information: Languedoc towns
coastal plain of Languedoc is France's largest wine-producing area.
However the Languedoc wine-producing area has been considerably reduced
in size in recent decades following a fall in the consumption of French
vin ordinaire and table wines, which used to be the main speciality. To
back, Languedoc wine producers have reinvented their industry, turning
to the production of "Vins de Pays" and more quality
wines. On account of the sun and warm climate, and also the varieties
used, Languedoc wines tend to be rich and full-bodied, and have an
above average alcohol content. This has allowed the area also to
specialise in strong aperitif wines, the best known of which are
Banyuls, Frontignan and Rivesaltes.
Inland in the Aude department, the area around
famous for its white sparkling wines. Indeed, Blanquette de Limoux is
the oldest sparkling wine in France, and it was from here that the
monks of Champagne originally learned the technique that allowed them
to convert a poor quality northern white wine into the world's most
famous bubbly. ► More information: Wines of France
The coast of Languedoc was, until the twentieth
century, relatively sparsely populated, as it was bordered by large
expanses of wetlands which bred mosquitos, making the environment
relatively inhospitable. Apart from the extreme south of the region,
where the Pyrenees come down to the coast, the only coastal town of any
importance was Sète, a fishing and trading port beside the
hill along the central Languedoc coast (photo right). But now the
have been drained, and in the 1960s there was massive
new coastal holiday resorts such as la Grande Motte, Le Grau du Roi,
Cap d'Agde or
Today, thanks to its long sandy
beaches, hotels and campsites, the Languedoc coast,
known as the Amethyst coast, is a
popular holiday destination.
Inland from the coastal plain,
of the Languedoc is characterised by dry
hills. The exception is the department of the Aude, that stretches
inland in the direction of Toulouse, and is famous for its vineyards
and its agriculture. To the south, the Pyrenees and their foothills
rise steeply towards snowy peaks; and along the northern edge of the
coastal plain from Narbonne to Nimes, lie the southern uplands of the
Massif Central - a very sparsely populated and arid area. The inland
department of Lozère, which covers most of "Haut Languedoc",
lies at an
average altitude of 886 metres, making it one of the highest
departments in France. The dry uplands of Haut Languedoc are cut
through by impressive deep river valleys, such as the famous Tarn Gorge.
the exception of the department of Lozère, Languedoc enjoys
a mild to
warm Mediterranean climate, making the area attractive to holidaymakers
for a good part of the year. Perpignan enjoys a warmer average
year-round climate than any other city in France, notably due to its
very mild winters. The whole of the coastal area enjoys a dry climate
for most of the year, punctuated by occasional monsoon-like heavy
rainfalls, known as Cevenol storms (Cevennes storms), which can dump
large quantities of water in a very short space of time on the southern
slopes of the Cévennes, causing major flooding of rivers
such as the
Gard or the Herault. This happens most often in late summer and early
autumn when warm wet air comes in of the Mediterranean.
seaside resorts in Languedoc
- Le Grau
du Roi, Palavas, La Grande Motte : Large modern seaside
resorts catering for summer holidaymakers and weekenders from nearby
: established towns with old quarters. Sète is a
coast, with large beaches, Agde is slightly inland, but close to the
en Roussillon, Valras Plage, More
seaside resorts, developed since the 1960s. Plenty of long sandy
beaches easily accessible.
sur Mer, Collioure, Banyuls sur Mer.
Established seaside resorts in the south of Roussillon, between
Perpignan and the Spanish border. The rocky coastline and presence of
the railway line between Perpignan and Barcelona ensured an early
development of these old fishing villages as tourist resorts. Collioure
has long been popular with artists and painters.
parks and wildlife areas in Languedoc Roussillon
Cevennes national park.
Covering much of the southern Cevennes, this is one of France's six
national parks. An area traditionally devoted to sheep breeding and
forestry, it is the only French national park whose core area is
inhabited and worked.
South and east of Narbonne, a park including areas of traditional
Languedoc wetland, and dry rocky areas of "garrigue", characterised by
poor vegetation and an abundance of semi-desert plants.
Languedoc regional park.
Divided between the regions of Languedoc Roussillon and Midi-Pyrenees,
this is an area of generally arid hill country with agriculture, sheep
breeding and forests.
Pyrenees regional park.
Includes the whole of the inland part of the Pyrenees Orientales
department, west of Prades; medium to high mountain terrain containing
several wildlife reserves. Popular with hikers and - in winter - with
to Main towns and cities
attractions in Languedoc