TO DO | NATURE
Visiting the natural sites of Languedoc is sometimes like stepping into a fantasy world. Les Orgues d’Ille-sur-Tet is one of those sites. This unique landscape, with its tall pillars of white sandy rock sculpted by nature, looks like it comes straight out of a fairytale. No wonder these rock formations are locally called “Cheminées de Fées”, or Fairy Chimneys in English.
Oldest weekly devours an impressive amount of books; he is the bookworm of the family. Fantasy is his favourite genre by far, so when I suggested going to hike through a fantasy landscape, it sparked his interest. Well, hiking might be too big a word, as the visit took about one hour. Including the 800 meters walk to and from the actual site.
You can visit the Orgues d’Ille-sur-Tet with a guide or go on your own. We went by ourselves, and the informative leaflet explained everything we needed to know. The path to the Orgues was easy, so we had a leisurely walk through the valley of the Ribéral, as this part of the Tet is called. The water of the Piló d’en Gil stream was low. However, the kids could still play with it by throwing little sticks into the water to watch the current take them downstream.
Arriving at the Orgues d’Ille-sur-Tet site, we were first drawn to the extraordinary beauty of these impressive rock pillars. The scale model of the site perfectly explained to the kids (and us) what we were about to see. The rocky columns in the shape of a natural amphitheatre reach up to 10 to 12 meters in height. Walking through this remarkable site made us feel very humble. It was amazing to see what millions of years had done with the landscape. The actual site of the Orgues d’Ille-sur-Tet isn’t that big, but we still spent quite some time there, as I just couldn’t stop taking pictures.
The site is, in fact, a constantly changing piece of art, as even today water erosion affects the sandy rock structures. Although it doesn’t rain a lot in the South of France, each time it does, the water washes away a fair amount of sand. It is a strange thought that eventually, the fragile rock formations will gradually vanish.
Luckily this process will take a very long time, and we could still admire this rare natural phenomenon in all its glory. After our visit to the Orgues d’Ille-sur-Tet, we drove to the lookout point. From here, we had a great overview of the site. I hadn’t realised that these thin spired, totem pole-shaped rocks are also known as hoodoos, which apparently are very rare and you rarely get to see them. Other well-known sites where you can view this type of rock formations are Cappadocia in Turkey and Bryce Canyon in Utah, USA. Not bad to have such a special place just around the corner!