Top 12 the LarzacCOME FACE TO FACE WITH NATURE
An integral part of the landscape of the Causses and Cévennes, the Larzac was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. Stretching over an area of 1000 km2 in the south of the Aveyron department, the Larzac is a perfect area for outdoor activities. In the course of your visit, you will discover its cultural heritage, unique architecture - the Knights Hospitaller certainly left their mark - and exceptional biodiversity.
WHAT YOU WILL SEE DURING YOUR STAY ON
AN EXCEPTIONAL AND WELL-PRESERVED AREA
Spending your holiday on the Larzac is above all about soaking in the scenery typical of the area.
Formed in the Jurassic Period by the sinking of an ocean, a fact proven by the large number of fossils and shells discovered there that form the framework of the Causses themselves (limestone plateaus), the Larzac is home to ruiniform rock formations and wild gorges. During your visit you will be astounded by the steep fortifications and deep valleys.
The infiltration of rainwater through the limestone plateau has caused the formation of many tunnels, sinkholes, caves, lakes, and subterranean rivers.
A natural space protected by the charter of the Grands Causses Regional Natural Park, which seeks to protect and enhance large, inhabited rural areas, the Causse du Larzac is a sanctuary for a kind of agropastoralism unique to Europe.
An integral part of the landscape of the Causses and Cévennes, the Larzac was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. In the course of your walks along the Larzac plateau, at a bend in the path you may come across ‘lavognes’ (natural drinking troughs used by farmers), jasses (sheep pens), terraces, caves that are still used to this day, and working Caussenard farms, restored according to traditional methods which favour the use of stonework.
THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR AND KNIGHTS HOSPITALLERS, A PRESTIGIOUS PAST
It was in the 12th century that the soldier-monks took possession of the Larzac plateau in order to add to the lands already donated to their Order. The revenue from these lands would sustain the Knights Templar in the Holy Land of Jerusalem.
In order to ensure the safety of the inhabitants, they funded the preceptory of Sainte Eulalie de Cernon, La Cavalerie, La Couvertoirade, Saint-Jean d’Alcas and Le Viala-du-Pas-de-Jaux. When the Knights Templar were suppressed in 1312, it was the Knights Hospitallers who would manage these towns and ensure their prosperity, notably by fortifying them, for the next five centuries. Indeed, they had always been committed to enhancing the Caussenard plateaus.
FLORA AND FAUNA
Its flora is the result of a combination of Mediterranean and continental influences, the altitude (800m on average) and its exposure. Hikers are likely to encounter an unexpected variety of plant species: orchids, anemones, violets, dodder, box wood, juniper... and Carlinae!
Further details about the Carlinaee
Commonly known as carline thistles, and belonging to the aster family, Carlinae are a protected species as they are threatened with extinction, and are also the symbolic flower of the Larzac. The ‘sun among the weeds’, as it was known to shepherds, would serve as a natural barometer, warning them of approaching bad weather. You will see it attached to doors in the villages and in the fields, but it is a protected species and you are not allowed to pick it!
The Larzac sky will also put on a show for you, accompanied by its impressive and majestic guests - the many birds of prey that inhabit the Grands Causses: kites, vultures, short-toed eagles, and falcons, certain species of which are rare and endangered.
They feed on small reptiles and rodents on the Larzac steppe. Some are scavengers and play a vital role in the conservation of the environment.
IF YOU COULD ONLY VISIT ONE PLACE THAT REPRESENTS THE LARZAC
It would be the medieval village of La Couvertoirade, officially ranked among the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (the most beautiful villages in France). It combines history with the legacy left behind by the Knights Templars and Knights Hospitallers. You can also take a short walk beyond the ramparts, soak in the singular landscape of the Causse, and end up at the foot of a restored windmill enjoying a magnificent view of the distant surroundings, while the vultures observe you from above. De plus, cette visite pourra être agrémentée de la dégustation des Why not spice up your visit by tasting some Larzac specialities at one of the village’s restaurants .
THE PERFECT FAMILY ACTIVITY ?
The Larzac rail bike track and tourist train in Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon! Routes of different distances are offered on the former railway line that connects Tournemire to Le Vigan (Gard).