TO DO | NATURE
The Agly River formed the impressive canyon of the Gorges de Galamus, right between the Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales departments. To reach this incredible natural site, you have to drive a few thrilling kilometres along a very narrow and winding road along the edge of a steep cliff. But once you have survived that, you will see that the breathtaking gorge with its hermitage built-in-rocks has been worth every drop of anxiety.
Oldest and I were on a little adventure trip to Cathar Country. So, I figured we could also go to the Gorges de Galamus after visiting the nearby Château de Peyrepertuse and Château de Quéribus. That is why we came from the little village of Cubières-sur-Cinoble, not quite knowing what to expect. We drove over the very narrow D7 road that directed us to several parking lots. The road itself is quite a piece of art, as it has been cut right out of the rocks. After a few kilometres, the road became really tight and narrow, with overhanging rocks on one side, a cliff on the other and a rather low protective barrier… It didn’t leave much space for approaching traffic! Luckily, we visited the site outside of the high season, as apparently it can get very crowded during the summer.
As soon as I spotted a sign for the hermitage (‘ermitage’), cave (‘grotte’) and chapel (‘chapèlle’) in the middle of the gorge, I parked the car. However, I should have continued to P2, which is a bigger- also free- parking lot. One tip: during the busy summer months it might be better to hop on the electric shuttle service for 1 euro, or walk the 1.8 kilometres between P4 and P2. Nonetheless, we followed the sign and descended a few steep stairs to the Saint Anthony Hermitage, which had been the natural hide-out for hermits until the 1930s. To our surprise, even today there was signs of life in this remote place. Now they sell drinks, snacks and -mostly religious- souvenirs here.
Built into the naturally formed caves of the canyon around 1395, the little hermitage hides another gem: the Chapel. To reach it, Oldest and I continued on our way through the little dwelling, following the signs and statues of Mary and other Saints. Nestled in a rocky cavity, the beauty of the Chapel’s simplicity touched me. The rays of sunlight that came down from a small opening left a magical glow in the cave, making the whole atmosphere even more serene. We decided to follow the path to P2, which was easily doable in about 20 minutes.
From P2, we had a stunning view over the gorge, with the tiny hermitage nestled between the rocks. Seeing this panorama in real-life exceeded my expectations! Although it is forbidden to go off the beaten track or to swim in the Agly River, it is possible to descend the gorge on a canyoning tour. After hearing this good news, Oldest knew what was coming, giving me a commiserating look as my eyes sparkled with excitement. Not sure if he wants to join me though…