Tarn: tourism & sightseeing
Visit Tarn, FranceCar Hire Villas
The Tarn is a quiet and peaceful department and very much a 'transition' between the Mediterranean region to the south-east and the greener, if cooler, regions of south-west France. There is much to enjoy among the towns and villages, set in the steep forested valleys and rolling fields of the region, with highlights including the historical town of Albi and the hilltop village of Cordes-sur-Ciel.
The Tarn department is to the east of Toulouse (Haute-Garonne) and to the north of Carcassonne (Aude) in southern France. The region is quiet and peaceful, and has several highlights for visitors, including part of the Natural Regional Parc of the Haut-Languedoc which falls in the south-east of the department.
The transition from north-west to south-east across the department is quite marked in both the scenery and the architecture of the Tarn which changes from the red-brick typical of the Toulouse region to the white stone of the Carcassonne region as you head towards the south-east.
In the north-west of the Tarn department a visit to Cordes is among the highlights. Now officially renamed as Cordes-sur-Ciel this is a very popular, well-preserved medieval town.
Although the most visited, Cordes is actually just one of a series of bastide towns situated in the central-northern Tarn. Others include Castelnau-de-Montmiral and Puycelsi (both classified as 'most beautiful villages'), Labastide-de-Lévis, Lisle-sur-Tarn and Rabastens, with its church listed as a UNESCO world heritage site as one of the 89 sites on the French pilgrim routes.
Each of these villages has its own particular charm and deserves to be explored, while Penne is another pretty village in the far north-west, poised above the Aveyron gorges and with the ruins of a chateau (although there is not much left now of the original castle).
The nearby village of Monestiès should also be on your schedule as you explore, being another classified 'plus beau village' and with several interesting historic monuments to see. Mouzieys and Milhards to the north of Cordes also have centres of historic interest.
Towards the centre of the Tarn be sure to visit Gaillac, a typical red-brick town of the Tarn region and perhaps best known for the renowned vineyards that surround the town. We also highly recommend you visit Albi, above all for its impressive cathedral and medieval centre.
To the east of Albi be sure to visit Ambialet, village in an attractive setting on the Tarn river and with a hilltop priory, and not far from Gaillac you can visit another pretty riverside town at Lisle-sur-Tarn.
Passing unto southern Tarn and via the bastide town of Réalmont take a detour a little way west to Graulhet, with its historical centre and old bridge, then continue towards the southern end of the region and Castres.
Lautrec in the south-west is yet another 'beautiful village' to visit (between Albi and Castres) and famous for its pink garlic and saffron and we also enjoyed a stroll around the small historic centre of Burlats, a village just outside Castres.
One of our favourite villages in south-western Tarn (and close to the borders with both the Haute-Garonne department and the Aude department) was Soreze which has a medieval centre and also a historic abbey school.
Regional Natural Park of the Haut-Languedoc
The south-eastern part of the Tarn department falls within the Regional Natural Park of the Haut-Languedoc.
The rock strewn scenery of the Sidobre region centred around Vialavert, Saint-Salvy-de-la-Balme and the Lac du Merle features a curious landscape of balancing boulders and forests which is interesting to explore on one of the marked trails.
The further south-west you travel the more mountainous the terrain becomes, as you enter the Montagnes Noires and the Monts de Lacaune regions, part of the mountainous Massif Central region of southern France.
Lacaune, a quiet town in this hilly region is best known for having the largest prehistoric carved menhir in Europe and at Brassac you can see a lovely medieval bridge.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Midi-Pyrenees guide.
Map of Tarn and places nearby
See more places, tourist attractions and local markets at visiting Tarn
See an index of all Tarn communes
French version: Tarn (Francais)