Chateaux de Lastours: An historic Hike in Southern France

Wow. This was one of my favourite hikes that I’ve ever done – the weather was incredible, the views were breathtaking and the history was so interesting. I visited the wonderful village of Lastours in the South of France back in July this year whilst staying in Carcassonne to hike to its four ancient castles – and I can’t wait to show you how beautiful it is.

Approaching the castles from a distance


Hike Information

Location: There is a large car park in Lastours village, a perfect hike start point.

Hike distance and time: The hike is 3-6km depending on the route you take, and takes around 2-3 hours to complete, including stops at each of the castles on the route.

Terrain: The walk is largely steep up steps and requires at least a moderate level of fitness. That said, the way is well marked, it’s been stepped so there are no climbs or scrambles required. Be sure to wear good walking shoes, and take lots of water as it gets very hot.

Team Hike – if we can do it, anyone can!


The Route

A. Lastours Village

Start your walk in Lastours village, and be sure to take in some of the gorgeous houses there. The village has a river running through it, which is also nice to stroll along and they’ve made it look beautiful with lots of flower boxes everywhere.

Stunning backdrop

B. Chateaux visitor Centre

The access to the start point of the hike is the visitor centre, and it costs EUR7 per person to enter. There are toilets here, as well as a small shop and a display about the wildlife along the trail – including snakes – so be careful where you step!

The castles coming in to view from the bottom of the trail

You’ll see the exhibition referring to the Cathars, and the Chateaux de Lastours is one of the most famous Cathar Castle sites in Southern France. The Cathars were a branch of Christianity in the 1100s-1300s, who didn’t follow the exact teachings of Catholicism. As a result they were persecuted by the pope and Rome, with crusaders coming to remove them. They were tortured, killed, and their lands taken by the Catholics.

There are four castles at the site, and you can explore all 4 of them.

Another view on the way up to the first castle

C. The Castles

From the visitor centre, there is only one route up – so follow the steps! You’ll walk up the path, through some caves and end up with a fork left or right to the castles. We went right first to visit the first of the 4 castles on the site, then double backed to go on to visit the next 3.

We visited Quertinheux first, the furthest south along the crest on an isolated rocky outcrop. It consists of a circular tower and a polygonal curtain wall. Its main draw is the incredible view out over to the other 3 castles.

The view from Quertinheux

We then headed out to the furthest point – the largest of the four castles called Cabaret. It consists of a tower, a keep and a group of residential buildings in the centre. Climbing the tower is well worth it for the incredible views.

View out to castles 3 and 4 from Cabaret tower

The Tour Régine was our third castle and is closest to Cabaret (you can see it in the photo above). It’s the most recent fortress (c.1260) and the smallest consisting of a round tower, surrounded by a small curtain wall which has collapsed. Below ground, the tower contains the largest cistern of the four castles.

Finally, we visited Surdespine which is the least preserved of the four castles and you can skip to save your legs. It’s on the highest part of the site, and consists of a square tower, a house and a cistern. It’s known for its murder holes and arched windows.

D. Back to Lastours village

Hiking down you can go one of two routes – the way you came up, which is more direct, or circling the rocky mountain to wind down the other way. You don’t really see anything more going the longer route, and by this point in our day it was nearly 40C (104F) so we decided to go direct. We headed back to the car for a drink and an icecream!

On the descent


I absolutely loved this hike. Do you agree? Let me know what you think in the comments below, and thank you so much for reading.

33 Comments

  1. What a beautiful day! The hike seems absolutely stunning and the views on the different castles are gorgeous! I don’t know the area very well but next time I’m there I’ll try this unusual hike for sure! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. I think the elevation gain was about 300 metres, and the hike itself was about 6km. We didn’t see any snakes but the visitor centre did warn about them. We didn’t see much wildlife at all, which I suppose for heat of the day in the summer probably isn’t that much of a surprise.

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  2. Gorgeous! The southwest of France has an absolute stunner of châteaux everywhere! It’s incredible just to see one in a day, but you saw multiple! The ones on the hill remind me of Najac’s (also in SW France), and it goes to show that it’s a region worth checking out for its beauty!

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  3. Such an extraordinary experience you’ve shared, Hannah 🙂 The historic castles look amazing, situated (as castles are) at vantage points on the landscape, making for lovely views! Add to it good weather, interesting cave passageways and a charming riverside village…perfect!

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  4. Now that’s a hike with a purpose! Beautiful scenery and four castles as a reward for making the effort, though I don’t know how you did it in that heat. Your photos illustrate the castles so well, as do your words. I find it interesting to see those bald cypress (tall skinny dark green) trees growing wild. My daughter started calling them pickle trees when she was barely old enough to talk, so that’s what they are to us. However, they do not grow wild anywhere around where we live and are very expensive in the plant nurseries.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it was very hot, not quite sure how I managed it either really! Aw I love them being pickle trees – I don’t think they were wild in France either, they very much looked like they’d been imported and planted along the route!!

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  5. Wow, what a beautiful part of France to explore on foot! I can easily see why it is your favourite hike. I love the verdant hills – they must be spectacular during the sunset and sunrise hours. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Since we don’t really have castles here in SA, I’m always fascinated to see that on other blogs! And a hike to get to castles … now, that’s my kind of adventure! You had stunning views of the castles on this trail (and you were very brave to do this in that heat)!

    Liked by 1 person

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