You can see them from the valley and sometimes wonder how to get to them... Standing proudly, these hilltop villages draw us irresistibly: an opportunity for a new perspective. You'll move from a low-angle view to an immersive perspective between the streets, to a panorama overlooking the surrounding expanses.
Cordes-sur-Ciel, the first of the bastides
Built in 1222, at the time of the Albigensian or Cathar Crusades, Cordes sur Ciel dominates the peaceful Vallée du Cérou. Perched on its rocky outcrop, like a lighthouse in a sea of magical scenery, it is a stopover point on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. A land of art and culture, this is a real jewel of Gothic architecture, with Most Beautiful Village in France status. Your stroll will take you to the Jardin des Paradis (Paradise Garden), an ode to exploration and enchantment. You can also walk along the side of the medieval market hall to discover its period well! And during this dive into history, you'll discover the various craft workshops and art galleries, opening the door on traditional skills: ceramicists, jewellers, glass blowers, leather workers, woodworkers, and enamel workers.
Cordes sur Ciel has an 800 year history, but remains timeless.
It is said that the town was built on the body of a sleeping dragon... or had it been defeated? Because the 100-metre deep well in the heart of the city, under the market hall, is said to be the place where Saint Michael's spear passed to strike it down.
Puycelsi, one of France's Most Beautiful Villages
Puycelsi overlooks the Vallée de la Vère and the Grésigne Forest. The best way to enjoy this high point is to walk along the 800m of ramparts, along the Chemin de Ronde. From the rocky outcrop, you can admire the changing colours of the trees as the seasons go by. The sunsets at Puycelsi are fiery and have earned an exceptional reputation. Time stops... it also seems so in the heart of the village. You can feel a sense of calm with each step you take through the cobbled streets, with their half-timbered houses and red bricks.
Dominating the village, the church of Saint-Corneille and its bell-tower attract visitors: enter the heart of the 35-metre long nave and look up at the ceiling. It was created by the same artists as those of Albi Cathedral: with the same colours, same motifs, same charm!
Castelnau-de-Montmiral, the hill with a view
Dominating the Vallée du Tarn, Castelnau-de-Montmiral is one of the Gaillac region's iconic bastides. It's always a good time to visit the central square lined with arcades, which resound with laughter, song and discussions. Forming a protective cocoon, the village was also a very useful look-out site and the fortress was said to be impregnable. Nowadays you can enjoy the surrounding area thanks to the trails accessible on foot, by bike or even on horseback. At times, you'll enjoy the view of the hillsides, at times you'll cross over them, with the rows of vines guiding your way.
Penne, a dizzying fortress
From the top of its 90-m high cliff, Penne and its fortress, nestled like an eagle's nest, offers an incomparable viewpoint over the Gorges de l'Aveyron and the Grésigne Forest. Visit the Château de Pennepour to discover all the history of this unique place. Alone or guided by a storyteller who will tell tales of military feats and other anecdotes, you'll explore this incredible site. In the summer, medieval festivities will plunge you into the Middle Ages with authentic armoured battles – the children will love it! A departure point for canoe trips, Penne can also be reached by the river below.
High, but not too high!
“Puycelsi was built at an average altitude of 280 metres; Cordes sur Ciel is at between 159 and 320 metres and Castelnau-de-Montmiral between 150 and 486 metres approximately. However, they are high enough to enjoy 360° panoramas and to give the impression of dominating the world.”