The Midi-Pyrénées region covers a large portion of South-West France, between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. It is made up of 8 départements: Ariège, Aveyron, Haute-Garonne, Hautes-Pyrénées, Gers, Lot, Tarn and Tarn-et-Garonne. Toulouse, its capital city, with 437,000 inhabitants, is France's third-largest university town and the birthplace of Airbus, the world's leading aircraft manufacturer.
The Capitole building, Saint-Sernin basilica, musée des Augustins, musée des Abattoirs modern and contemporary art museum and the Cité de l’Espace are just a few of Toulouse's great attractions.
Great Sites of Midi-Pyrénées
Midi-Pyrénées has gained international fame on account of its Great Sites such as the Millau viaduct, the Pic du Midi and its astronomy observatory, the cirque de Gavarnie, the Canal du Midi and Albi (and the Toulouse-Lautrec museum) which is a Unesco world heritage site, Lourdes and its Marian city, Cahors and Valentré bridge, as well as Conques, Rocamadour, Cordes-sur-Ciel, Moissac, Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges, Marciac and this jazz festival, Figeac, Auch… Midi-Pyrénées features 24 emblematic Great Sites which are rich with historical, cultural or natural interest.
The Midi-Pyrénées is a very spacious region with vast horizons, undulating countryside punctuated with hillsides and valleys and spectacular landscapes such as the gorges du Tarn, gorges de l’Aveyron, Lot valley and Dordogne valley. In the south, the region rests against the Pyrenees mountain range with its great peaks reaching 3,000m altitude, running along the border between France and Spain.
With an average 2,000 hours sunlight per year, Midi-Pyrénées is one of France's sunniest regions. Spring comes early, followed by summer which is often very hot and then a beautiful autumn season which continues until the first mountain snowfalls.
Heritage and nature: tours and activities
The Midi-Pyrénées safeguards an important heritage from the Middle Ages and Renaissance period, from the Templar and Hospitaller citadels in Larzac to the 16th century hôtels particuliers in Toulouse. The region is crossed by the three main Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle pilgrimage routes and is marked by the crusade against the Cathars, traces of which are to be found at emblematic sites such as the Montségur castle in Ariège. The castles, medieval villages, bastide towns, and Roman cathedrals and churches are wonderful sites illustrating the rich diversity of a well-conserved heritage.
With its 26,000km of signposted trails, the Pyrenees National Park and four regional nature reserves, Midi-Pyrénées is a destination that revolves around nature and discovery, lending itself to a wide range of activities such as hiking, cyclotourism, horse trekking and white water sports.
Tourism activity is also developing along the region’s waterways, with the rivers and canals of the Midi, including the Canal du Midi, forming one of Southern Europe’s largest river networks.
Skiing and board sports can also be enjoyed in Midi-Pyrénées, which is famous for its thermal bath resorts and well-being centres. Thermal bath resorts in the Midi-Pyrénées can be found in towns such as Luchon, Cauterets, Barèges, Bagnères-de-Bigorre, Ax-les-Thermes and Barbotan-les-Thermes.
Gastronomy and craftwork
Midi-Pyrénées is famous for a wide selection of fine produce such as Roquefort, foie gras, Quercy black truffles and saffron. Organic farming is becoming increasingly widespread in the region, which boasts around a hundred products with official quality labels such as AOC Chasselas grapes, Lautrec pink garlic and Quercy farm-reared lamb. Such products can be found at local markets which thrive in the majority of villages and towns across the region.
Midi-Pyrénées is a land of vineyards, producing high-quality wines such as AOC Cahors, Gaillac and Madiran and of course the well-renowned Armagnac produced in D’Artagnan's Gascony.
Midi-Pyrénées craftsmanship, inherited from time-honoured methods, has gained recognition both in France and internationally on account of creations such as Laguiole knives, Millau gloves and Revel furniture.
Midi-Pyrénées has an active cultural and festive agenda, with around one hundred festivals organised each year dedicated to music, cinema, photography, astronomy, circus arts, etc. Such festivals include international events such as the Jazz in Marciac festival, the Country Music festival in Mirande, Tempo Latino in Vic-Fezensac, the Sylvanès sacred music festival and the Rio Loco festival in Toulouse.
Midi-Pyrénées welcomes holiday makers in almost 1,300 hotels ranging from 2 to 4 stars, and in 600 campsites, many of which offer chalets and bungalows. There is also a wide selection of 1,000 guest houses and 13,000 gîtes for rent, the majority of which have been beautifully renovated in keeping with their rich rural heritage.
The inhabitants of Midi-Pyrénées can often be recognised by their Southern accent and have a reputation for being spontaneous, friendly and sometimes brisk-natured, by and large bon viveurs, warmly hospitable and passionately enthusiastic about their trade or local environment.