In the Catalan Pyrenees of Southwestern France, you will find some of the most charming little villages filled with history. If you’re looking for a hidden gem in the South of France, try spending 1 day in Mont Louis. This 17th century fortified city was named after Louis XIV, the king of France at the time. Like Villefranche-de-Conflent, Mont Louis is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to military engineer Vauban’s fortifications. In addition to the historical sites, there are also some lovely walks around the fort where you can enjoy the nature of the Pyrenees.
Getting to Mont Louis
The most scenic way to travel to Mont Louis, is by the Little Yellow Train , a historic railway that runs through many of the villages in the French Pyrénées-Orientales. Of course you can also take the 1€ regional bus for a budget friendly option, or a car if you have one! After spending my birthday in Font Romeu, another nearby mountain town, my boyfriend and I decided to stop in Mont Louis before heading back home to Perpignan. From the Petit Train Jaune’s station, Mont Louis is about a 15-20 minute walk.
The Town of Mont Louis
The city center of Mont Louis is very tiny, but very cute. On the main street there are a few cafés where you can grab a bite to eat as well as a couple of shops where you can buy Catalan souvenirs. I especially appreciated the public water fountain in the town center. The Pyrénées Catalanes are very sunny, and in the summertime, it’s crucial to stay hydrated, especially if you are outside exploring.
For lunch we ate on the terrace of Le Central Bar Restaurant, which offered local cuisine at a reasonable price. In town, you can also visit the Solar Furance. In 1949, this four solaire was the first of its kind to be built. Mont Louis gets more than 3,000 hours of sun per year, making it the perfect spot to study solar energy. It’s also fitting that the town is named after the Sun King! We decided to skip a guided visit this time and just admire the four solaire from afar. If you visit in the winter, you can also go skiing at many of the near by resorts or even try snowshoeing!
Built in 1679, the citadel was created for military defense. Since the mid 1960’s, it serves the French military as the home of the Centre National d’Entraînement Commando.
It’s not possible to visit inside the citadel, except if you book a guided tour. However, you are free to walk along the many paths outside of the fort. Just be careful not to stray off the path and wander into military territory!
The hiking path around the fort is called the sentier des oiseaux (the birdtrail), which was created by local primary school students. This easy hike takes around half an hour.
Along the way you can observe the native birds, flowers, and insects. We even saw one bird lying on the ground with its wings stretched out to sunbathe! If you want a bit of a longer walk, you can take the tour des remparts, which takes about an hour.
On our walk around the fort, we noticed another sign for a hiking path towards La Lagonne, a nearby village. After lunch, my boyfriend convinced me to explore this other path and see where it lead.
On this path we crossed over a cute little bridge over the river Têt, saw some more mountain views, and even stopped by a local farm stand where we picked up some plums and apricots.
We didn’t make it all the way to La Llagonne due to a lack of time, but we did make it to the top of a hill that looked over the farms and the village. I can’t wait to go back to the mountains in the winter to see the snow!
Thanks so much for reading about my little Pyrenean adventure of 1 day in Mont Louis! If you want to stay updated about my life in France, don’t hesitate to follow my blog on WordPress or via email!
À la prochaine,
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