Just around an hour’s drive from the domineering Pyrenees in the one of the most scenic region of France: Occitanie, sits the forested world of Haut-Languedoc. We booked a home stay in the heart of this wild place in order to enjoy fantastic encounters with nature, remote villages and epic views, the park did not disappoint.
Perhaps it was arriving to the refurbished barn where we stayed just after sunset that made the woods in the place come alive. Twilight is when so many creatures come out to forage and birds and bugs wind down and up their calls respectively, whatever the case the immediate impression Languedoc gives is a sense of fantastic isolation.
It was a bit difficult to find the enclave where we were staying, however the national park is just a series of small towns, so you know when the town you’re looking for is next and if you come to the one after it on the map you must have passed it. Our hosts were people who love nature and being self-sufficient on the landscape and these values simply brought out the best impressions of this lovely place for the remainder of our stay.
Le Soulie and Combeluffe were the small towns around which our hikes, foraging and leisure time were spent. They likely have fifty and ten permanent residents respectively, but even when it’s not common to see people, when you do there’s always a smile and an appreciation for tourists visiting the park. Contrary to the stereotype of people in remote places being territorial, many of the trails crossed through wheat fields and along forests and the residents would greet us happily.
One downside of the outdoors is that summer allergies and insects are in full swing. This is a place that barely has road signs, so pest and pollen control aren’t even a thing. It’s not unbearable, just good to know ahead of time if one needs to bring medication or spray.
Because the villages are so sparsely populated there are many ancient homes in the area for sale and many that have been bought by foreigners and fixed up as Airbnb’s. The beauty of this is that it gives a truly authentic feel to the visit. Besides the hours spent hiking every day, it was possible to cook and sleep in a three hundred year old restored barn, read and sunbathe between vegetable and flower gardens and listen to the pleasant noises of cattle free range grazing nearby.
Our visit spanned several days and we barely scratched the surface of what Haut-Languedoc has to offer. It is a place that demands further exploration and calls to travelers who are enthusiasts of hiking, simple living and communing with untouched and remote nature.