Be swept away by the beautiful Pyrenean landscape and by the winds of history! This is Ariège, with its magnifi cent collection of tourist sites. From the Grotte de Niaux to the Château de Montségur, this collection invites you to experience a saga that will transport you from the prehistoric era to the time of the crusade against the Cathars.First, take in the atmosphere of Niaux and the mysteries of its “salon noir”, where paintings of extraordinary quality are to be found. Niaux is one of the only major prehistoric sites still open to the public. A must-see addition to this visit is the life and art of the Magdalenians, which can be discovered in the Parc de la Préhistoire (Prehistoric Park) in Tarascon-sur-Ariège.The Mas d’Azil cave, whose depths have always served as a refuge, gave its name to the Azilian civilisation.While Ariège has an exceptional prehistoric heritage, its medieval heritage is equally impressive.From prehistoric times to the Middle Ages, your journey will continue with a stopover at Saint-Lizier, another jewel in the Ariège collection. At the foot of the Couserans, this village is a living souvenir of the great era of the Way of Saint James pilgrimage, and a stopover on the Piémont route (GR 78).Next, head off to explore the Cathar Pyrenees, land of Art and history. Mirepoix is distinguished for its authentic medieval architecture and its atmosphere which seems to offer a concentration of the very best of Occitan culture. Mirepoix was founded at the end of the 13th century by Guy de Lévis and was constructed in the form of a bastide town with a central square bordered by half-timbered houses jutting out to form covered walkways, resting on extraordinary 15th sculpted joists.And now to Foix, the capital of Ariège.With the powerful shoulder of the Pyrenean foothills as its backdrop, Foix is proudly dominated by the ancient Château Comtal, the property of Gaston Fébus, one of the most fl amboyant counts of Foix. To take in the town’s atmosphere, stroll through the medieval streets of the old centre of Foix and window shop in the Rue Delcassé.In the 13th century, Foix defended the Cathar cause with conviction. Thirty kilometres away, the masterpiece of the Ariège collection - Montségur - met with a tragic fate.Perched 1207 metres above sea level, Montségur was the last stronghold of the Cathar church. The château was taken in 1244 and more than 200 Cathars were burned alive, turning the site into a symbol of resistance to oppression. Its ruins open out onto a panorama whose magnificence reinforces the intense emotion that Montségur instils in all its visitors.