Exploring the highlights along the River Tet in Languedoc
It contains a great deal of interesting sights and villages and a visit is highly recommended. We travelled from the east towards the west, starting on the main road west from Perpignan.
Soon after starting your journey we suggest a detour away from the Tet Valley to visit the village of Castelnou, a little way to the south. The approach to the village along a quiet road through the foothills of the Pyrenees is very scenic.
Castelnou is just one of several villages classified as 'most beautiful villages in France' that you will encounter as you explore along the valley, and is one of the most picturesque villages in the region with narrow cobbled streets passing through the village to reach a medieval castle. See Castelnou for details.
After this excursion return to the main road along the Tet Valley and continue westwards. You will shortly reach Ille-sur-Tet. The town itself deseves a brief visit but it is for a scenic highlight that you are here.
The Orgues d'Ille-sur-Tet are a rock formation about two kilometres outside the town, reached by a short walk of less than one kilometre (small admission charge payable).
Most unusual in France, the orgues are created from eroded sandstone and tall pillars of rock create a picturesque backdrop to a picturesque little 'arena' - very much a wild-west experience and well worth the short walk.
Continuing onwards you soon reach the village of Eus, another traditional Languedoc village with quiet steep streets winding their way through vaulted passageways to the large church that stands above the village.
By now your legs will be starting to fatigue so call into Prades, the main town in the valley. The tow itself is perhaps unremarkable but there is a nice shady terrace in front of the cafe in the main square.
While you are here if time is running out you need to make a decision. You can either follow the road to the north-east to visit Mosset or south-east to visit Villefranche-de-Conflent. Both are listed as 'most beautiful villages in France' so if at all possible try to find the time to visit both!
Mosset is perhaps the least interesting of the two options - but it is still worth the visit and the road to reach the village is very picturesque, passing along a valley and through scenic Molitg-les-Bains. See Mosset for details and photos.
To continue your excursion through the Tet Valley continue to Villefranche-de-Conflent - and one of the highlights of your day out. The village is squeezed into a narrow valley, with a fort standing on the cliff high above - you can climb to the fort for lovely views (small charge payable).
Villefranche-de-Conflent itself is a perfectly preserved village still completely within its original medieval fortifications.
Exceptionally well preserved you can explore the village itself and also follow the path inside the ramparts, perhaps the most 'authentic' historical experience of a visit.
There remains one more unmissable highlight of your tour along the Tet valley - and another walk up a steep hill. It's the highlight of your trip so I'm afraid we have to insist you do it!
Several times during the day you will have seen Mount Canigou ever present to the south and dominating much of this part of the Pyrenees-Orientales.
Now it's time to visit the abbey that stands in a spectacular setting below Canigou, and the imposing view down on the abbey from the hill above. You can see full details of the walk at Mount Canigou.
How long will it take?
Overall I suppose it would just about be possible to complete the whole visit in one long and tiring day out if you set out at the crack of dawn and get home late but if you have already done the walk to the orgues in Ille-sur-Tet and the climb up to the fort in Villefranche-de-Conflent you might lack the enthusiasm for the final climb to the abbey - which is the highlight of the three walks.
In any case the area is one to be appreciated slowly, not frantically rushed around, so ideally you will spend at least two or three days exploring the Tet valley to really make the most of your visit.