In the north of the Aveyron, the winding valleys open up, always with streams or rivers, which sometimes, like in Bozouls, have made incredibly steep chasms. Take the Route des Causses, these arid plateaux have fascinating flora due to the dry conditions. Explore the richness of the Aveyron, by navigating the rivers of the Lot, the Aveyron and their many tributaries. By canoe or by kayak, get a new and different viewpoint of the villages.
In Aveyron, they eat well and in this land between gorges and valleys, find cheeses (from Laguiole, among others), and other delicious specialities. Animals are everywhere. There are Aubrac cows and sheep that graze peacefully in the fields. If you are looking for unusual landscapes and towns offering all amenities, the calm of picturesque villages just a few steps away from nature, you are in the right place. Using our map, explore the villages you would like to visit for your next holiday.
Rodez is the prefecture (administrative centre) of the department, it is a large town with a rich history and is also the former capital of the province of Rouergue. In the foothills of the Massif Central, it is a large town (56,000 inhabitants). The town is crossed by the Aveyron River, a great place for fishing and sporting activities. Well served by public transport, the town has a large train station, an airport and several main roads. Its historic setting is attractive, as much has been preserved ; it is interesting to discover the remains of the old town. The old centre has several pedestrian streets, where you can shop, eat and drink. The green heart of the town, the public garden, is a gathering place during summer. There is an esplanade where regular festive and cultural events take place.
The town dates back a long way. Traces from the 5th century have been discovered. Rodez has been occupied many times and was also a battlefield during the One Hundred Years War. For a long time it was divided between counts and bishops, so the development of Rodez slowed down, for several centuries, due to these rivalries. It was a trading city until the 18th century. Rodez has the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Rodez which has a flat belltower (very high at 87 metres – 285 feet). During the 16th and the 20th century, Rodez strengthened its status as of the capital of the Aveyron by modernising. Now tourism has been developed to entice visitors to see the city.
Visit Rodez, the essentials for your visit
We have compiled a few anecdotes from Rodez :
Over the last fifty years, Onet-le-Château has had a boom ! It has increased by 10,000 extra inhabitants, making it the fourth most populated town of the department. So what happened ? It was the proximity of Rodez (which was also booming), which made the local economy and trade develop (as well as the building of a factory which created many jobs). Onet-le-Château is a leisure and activity centre, but is also residential. Tourism has also been developed.
The heritage of the town includes Saint-Joseph-l'Artisan church, as well as at least 25 castles and chateaux (most of them are private or in ruins). The castle of Onet village is a historic monument in the heart of the commune dating from the 13th century.
The best tips and plans of Guide Tarn Aveyron in Onet-le-Château
A really pleasant spot for your holiday ! There are stone houses, roofs in lauze (flat, thin stone), a hillside fortified castle overlooking the village. On the Aveyron riberbanks, Belcastel is one of the most beautiful villages in France. Its medieval buildings, which have been restored, include the 15th century bridge with stone arches crossing the Aveyron River and Sainte-Madeleine Church. From April to November, visit the castle which houses a painting exhibition, sculpture and a medieval armour collection. Visit the Maison de la forge (blacksmith's house) and learn everything about this essential work, but also about the work of clog makers and fishermen, their tools and their lifestyle.
The best tips and plans of the Guide Tarn Aveyron in Belcastel
Sub-prefecture (administrative centre) of the Aveyron, Villefranche de Rouergue is the third most important town of the department and has been listed : "Ville d'Art et d'Histoire" (Town of Art and History) and "Grand Site Midi Pyrénées". It is a bastide on the banks of the Aveyron River. The name of the town is directly linked to its inception : Alphonse de Poitiers, brother of King Louis, agreed fiscal incentives to the first inhabitants in order to boost this brand new town and to guarantee its success. At the end of the 18th century Villefranche de Rouergue had a period of great economic and cultural growth ; it was then the most populated town of the Aveyron. It was only during the Revolution that Villefranche de Rouergue lost its status as capital (which passed to Rodez).
During your visit to this typical bastide, walking along the characteristic grid pattern of streets, find the Place Notre-Dame, listed as a historic monument. The town is full of beautiful houses with covered stone arcades. These architectural residences have stunning ornamentation in stone. The town has been restored to highlight all its former charm. Notre-Dame collegiate church is the central building of the bastide with its imposing belltower-porch. Also look for the former Palais de Justice (Court of Justice), which today houses the Town Hall, built in 1861.
The old Chartreuse Saint-Sauveur with two cloisters, and the Chapel of the Pénitents Noirs de la Sainte-Croix are two of the many churches and religious buildings in the town. In Villefranche de Rouergue there is the Urbain-Cabrol Municipal Museum, relating the history of the town and its region.
Going over the Aveyron River is the Pont du consul, built in stone.
The best tips and plans of the Guide Tarn Aveyron in Villefranche de Rouergue
Najac is a village built on a steep hill with a castle at the top, surrounded by greenery, like a raft in the middle of the trees. Explore the castle and Najac fortress, built by Alphonse de Poitiers (who founded nearby Villefranche). Templars were incarcerated here under terrible conditions. The village is well kept. You can walk round its dungeon, along the narrow halls and enjoy a beautiful panorama of the Aveyron Valley while at the top (after a good climb !). The village of Najac has a pleasant walk to the Church of Saint-Jean-d'Evangeliste, the fortified entrance of the town passing the Porte de la Pique, many beautiful houses (Gouverneur, Sénéchal) and the lovely Fontaine des Consuls.
The best tips and plans of the Guide Tarn Aveyron in Najac :
Another beautiful bastide ! Located on the Causses of the same name, in the west of the department, Villeneuve has a typical landscape. By the way, what are, the Causses? They are an arid limestone plateau with poor vegetation. Water is scarce, due to the permeable rock, sometimes it is hidden at the bottom of deep valleys or in underground chasms. However, millions of years ago, water was present, the round pebbles and polished stones that are found everywhere are proof.
Villeneuve was originally a “sauveté”, a small village built around a church. During the Crusade of the Albigeois, the village was transformed into a bastide, which has a regular grid pattern of streets. See the remains of the entrance gates to the bastide, the Porte Haute and the Tour de Savignac.
In Villeneuve, it is interesting to uncover natural features : the Grotte de Foissac, has 8km (5 miles) of galleries to visit only a few kilometres from the village. From spring to autumn, the Jardin de la Motte is an English style garden labelled "Jardin Remarquable" (remarkable garden), in which you can immerse yourself in greenery. The Marais de Montaris has an interesting ecosystem for flora and fauna enthusiasts. For a view point which has the "wow" factor, go approximately ten kilometres (6 miles) from the village, towards the viewpoint at "Saut de la Mounine", before the village of Montbrun.
Peyrusse-le-Roc is a lovely, small village, which opens like a history book, giving the traveller a stopover of a peaceful few days. If you check out the topography of the village, you will bring good walking shoes with you ! The village has in its name, all the information about its steep nature. There are the towers of the "Roc del Thaluc", which make you look skywards and the remains of a rather surprising medieval site (How did they manage to built this here, you wonder ?).
From the valley, there is a beautiful view ! The exceptional natural beauty around the village, brings to mind Peyrusse's heydays ; at the time it was the most important “Bailiwick” chief-town of Rouergue (administrative centre during the Middle ages). Walk around in the village, and see what old stone lovers came to save here for the last few years with such care and passion ! Places to visit include the Dungeon, the Porte neuve, the church, the bread oven, the Barbacane, the majestic ruins of the old Notre-Dame-de-Laval church, the Synagogue, the Pont Roman (Roman bridge). This is a real hidden gem, enjoy it before it becomes too popular !
Visit the Fort d'Aubin, set on a rocky promontory in the Enne Valley. The presence of natural resources attracted the first inhabitants to Aubin. The Romans settled here for its coal, its iron and its natural springs (the thermal spring is associated with nearby Decazeville too). The fort blends into the rocky wall, the buildings use the natural relief and the pitons were used as look outs... Now abandoned, today it is a major archaeology site being restored thanks to the work of passionate locals. Wander around the fort and see Cène church. The Tour Carrée (The Square Tower) at the top of the piton, was clearly an observation hut and not for habitation. Wander around town to see the half-timbered houses, the old bread oven and other places of interest such as the site of the Calvaire (ordeal site). To prepare for your visit, consult the flyer provided by the Association de Restauration du fort and the Tourist Office.
In the northwest of the Aveyron, Decazeville is a modern town, founded in 19th century. It grew up with the exploitation of underground mineral and coal deposits.
Why was coal a precious resource in general, and especially during the 19th century ? It was used to power thermal power stations and produce electricity which was indispensable during the economic expansion at that time. The second reason was purely industrial, as mixed with iron, also present locally, it produced cast steel. In 1882 methods to extract coal improved and up to 800 workers were employed in the industry. From 1947 mechanisation reached its peak ; shovels, bulldozers and large capacity transportation were used to the detriment of the numbers employed. The exploitation of this site, called "La découverte" (the discovery) came to an end at the beginning of the new millennium. Visit the Industrial and Mining Heritage Museum in Decazeville where you can learn everything about this fantastic industrial and human venture.
On the historical side, explore Saint-Roch Chapel in Decazeville, which has been welcoming pilgrims on their way to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. One of the appeals of this town is its location on the GR65 hiking path, a road which goes towards Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. The beautiful Chemin de Croix (the Way of the Cross) of Gustave Moreau is composed of 14 paintings fixed 3 metres (approximately 10 feet) high, it is listed as a historic monument and it is the only one of its type ! In the Church of Notre-Dame de Decazeville there is a listed organ. Visit Pierre Vetter Geology Museum to understand the landscapes and underground resources of the Aveyron, fossils, rocks and plants found locally testify of the existence of a tropical forest in the former coal basin.
The best tips and plans of the Guide Tarn Aveyron in Decazeville
Pronounce "conch", like the shell! A name that may come from the shape of the confluence of the Dourdou and the Ouche Rivers... The village is full of treasures to be discovered. It is built around the beautiful and famous Sainte-Foy Abbey. Houses are made of shale, roofs of Lauze (flat, thin stones), there are paved streets, all of the stone is locally produced thanks to the geological surroundings ! Look at the cut-stone houses in ochre sandstone, slightly pinkish in colour. This is the local stone which is composed of sand and stone which provide the colours. Conques has a rich religious history from the Middle Ages which started with the arrival of the relics of Sainte Foy. This was followed by a number of events that you can learn about at the Museum of the Treasure of medieval goldsmiths... Conques is on the via Podiensis which goes towards Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. The pilgrims are important to the economy and tourism of the village. Today there are approximately 250 inhabitants in this small village which is one of the most beautiful villages of France. The monks gave the city its reputation.
Today, Conques is a "must see" village for its history, including the grandiose Sainte-Foy Abbey which has beautiful stained glass windows. Wander around the steep alleyways, walk along the Rue Charlemagne, cross the old bridge over the Dourdou river. Tour the European Art Centre and Medieval Civilisation, a beautiful contemporary building where cultural events take place. Look at the halftimbered houses, with floral displays during summer, and their façades reflect magical light at the end of the day...
Conques is labelled “Grand Site Midi Pyrénées”, but its surroundings should not be missed either ! Just below the town is the Ségala de Conques, valleys dotted with shale houses, chestnut trees and a granitic plateau. It is a perfect place for trails for walking or running in natural surroundings. Go for walks, look at beautiful views of the Lot River which provides nautical activities...
Just below, is the Rougier de Marcillac with a climate favourable for orchards and vineyards. Take a bike or car ride through this wine making region with more than 200 hectares (494 acres) of terraces established for vineyards and beautiful residences for the people of Rodez...
Towards Onet-le-château, is the Causse Comtal, a limestone plateau with fantasy landscapes, karst reliefs, dried out bushes, gorges, canyons and beautiful cascades ! Do not miss a visit to Muret-le-Château and Salles-la-Source, with the waterfall right in the middle of the village ! The sheep will be your travelling companions in this land of scattered habitation.
The best tips and plans of the Guide Tarn Aveyron in Conques
On the riverbanks of the Lot, at the confluence with the Truyère River, is a large, pretty village where you can spend a few days of your holiday in Aveyron. Surrounded by water, explore what remains of the middle ages; old alleyways, beautiful half-timbered houses, towers (Tour d'Escombels, Tour Valiech, Tour d'Iot, Tour Al Caïr), the castle, built in 13th century, which was fortified with walls and defensive towers. It was damaged over many conflicts and ruined at the beginning of 17th century. Rebuilt later, remains of the original building can still be seen. Pass over the lovely gothic bridge above the Truyère River, as well as the Pont de Notre-Dame which crosses the Lot river. At “la Peyrade”, you are at the confluence of the two rivers and there is a lovely viewpoint. Wander around the dam and the hydroelectric plant : there is a belvedere and explanatory board about the role of this dam on the Truyère river, as well as the local fauna. A few kilometres from Entraygues-sur-Truyère is the village of Ginolhac which has beautiful viewpoints.
The best tips and plans of the Guide Tarn Aveyron in Entraygues-sur-Truyère
In the heart of the central Aveyron Aubrac plateau, is Laguiole. Aubrac is a volcanic plateau, on the Massif Central, which is situated between three departments : Aveyron, Lozère and Cantal. It is good for activities such as hiking, cross country skiing, alpine skis or snowshoes ! There are great spaces, superb colours from dawn to dusk, transhumance and small refuges, eponymous cows (the Aubrac cow), the forests of Aubrac, full of wild animals and many exceptional flora species (you can even find the drosera, a carnivorous plant). If all these things do not convince you to spend your holiday in the Aubrac region, perhaps you would be interested in visiting Laguiole (pronounced "Laïole"), home of the famous knife and famous cheese.
Laguiole is a good destination for holidays all year round as there is a lot to do and learn. Learn about the internationally renowned Laguiole knife. It is the symbol of the Aveyron, the pride of the town and, without question, an employment and tourist magnet. First visit the Musée du Couteau (knife museum), which is linked to Laguiole Honoré Durand Cutlery. There are several cutlery factories to visit where you can see the expertise of each artisan. You can choose something to bring back as a small (sharp !) souvenir. The knives are made in a forge. Visit the Forge de Laguiole, to learn about the making of this beautiful object.
Cheese enthusiasts will be delighted to visit the Coopérative Fromagère Jeune Montagne, to have an impassioned and tasty summary of all the delicious cheeses of the region. A film, providing a bit of history and information about cheese production is followed by cheese tasting, of course ! There is a shop where you can purchase the cheese.
Laguiole isn't just a producer of cheese and knives, there is also some history attached to the town. Starting with the sculpture of the bull on the Place du Foirail, in honour of the cattle of the region and the breed of cows in Aubrac. Go to the church of the Fort, on the esplanade, to enjoy a 360 degree panorama of the valley. Visit Saint-Matthieu's church, the old presbytery and the beautiful cross of the ancient seminary, the chapel houses a mural. The main street of the old town is the Rue Bombecul. Below the village, Selves river flows. There is a lovely stone bridge, the Pont Pigasse, which crosses it.
The best tips and plans of the Guide Tarn Aveyron in Laguiole
A little south of Laguiole, at an altitude of 800 metres, is Saint-Chély. It is a stopover on the Via Podiensis which goes to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. It is centrally located and, therefore, a good place to stay to explore the treasures of Aubrac. Wander around the village, go to the Tourist Office, which occupies a former prison, the small alleyways take you to a wash house, a Roman Church surrounded by old houses with beautiful architecture, continue walking the small streets until you reach Pont des Pellerins, listed as a world heritage site, close to the water, where you can see the Moulin du Fabbras (private).
Le mignon village de Saint-Chely d'Aubrac
Here you are in one of the most beautiful villages of France. On the banks of the confluence between the Lot and Coussane rivers, Estaing is also on the Via Podiensis. It is a good stopover on the road to Saint Jacques de Compostelle. There is the grandiose Château d'Estaing (from the family of the same name), perched on the side of the hill, overlooking the village, it can be visited from May to October for free or for guided tours. Estaing is a picturesque medieval village that you approach by crossing the Lot River over a 16th century Gothic bridge. Head towards the Town Hall and the Tourist Office which are located in a listed building. The religious history consists of 15th century Saint-Fleuret church, which houses the relics of patron saints, Vinnac Church, which dates from 12th century and look for the statue of the virgin and child on the bridge near the Quai Admiral-d'Estaing.
In Estaing, you are also close to the vineyards of the Aubrac plateau where you can find one of the smallest vineyards in France. It exists thanks to the mild localised climate. Look for the Maison de la Vigne, du Vin et des Paysages d'Estaing (in Coubissou) to taste this particular wine. During summer the village is buzzing and has many events, such as the “Médiévales”, Saint-Fleuret Fair... Find our section on fairs and events.
The best tips and plans of the Guide Tarn Aveyron in Estaing
Espalion is located in the southwest of Estaing, on the Via Podiensis. Guarded by the ruins of the fortified castle of Calmont d'Olt, the town sits on the riverbanks of the Lot. The castle has a military history, and the ruins are still impressive ! The castle is being restored and excavations are revealing some of the castles past. There is a keep with one tower. It is located on the Route des Seigneurs du Rouergue and is made more interesting by the building of old war machines which will delight children ! A children's trail of 12 challenges is available, with a knighthood diploma as a reward at the end. Shows are organised, with missile throwing and various other entertainments.
Coming back to Espalion, on the banks of the Lot, look at the very picturesque halftimbered houses with their 'feet' in the water. There are old tanneries too. The inhabitants had their workshops inside and they would go down to the riverbanks to tan the skins on the stones directly in the Lot. Traverse the beautiful pink sandstone Vieux Pont (old bridge) (wonderful at sunset), which has four arches. In Espalion, explore the beautiful Perse chapel, all in pink and white sandstone, with a slate roof. The gate and its tympanum are well preserved. Head to Rue du Plô to find the chapel of the Confrérie des Pénitents Blancs and the religious museum there. The old Saint-Jean-Baptiste church houses the Musée du Scaphandre (diving suit) and the Joseph Vaylet Art and popular traditions Museums, both established in 1977. The “scaphandre” (diving suit) is there because it was invented by two Aveyronnais engineers ! There is also Saint-Jean-Baptiste parish church, built to replace the old one which became too small during 19th century. In the town there used to be an Ursulines Convent ; only one gate and part of the façade remain.
In Espalion, the Vieux-Palais sits proudly. It is a former courthouse on the banks of the Lot, dating from 1572. It was part of the town's defenses located close to the Pont Vieux (old bridge). Only the Tour Michou remains of the town’s original fortifications. In the old prison, there is the Rouergue traditions and customs museum where you can learn more about Rouergue leather.
The best tips and plans of the Guide Tarn Aveyron in Espalion :
If one day somebody talks to you about a village in a picturesque location, it is probably true, but it is nothing compared to Bozouls ! This is a place to say "wow". In Bozouls there is a large 'hole' ! It is a natural feature which is 400 metres (1,312 feet) in diameter and 100 metres (328 feet) deep. The village is built in a horseshoe shaped meander of the Dourdou River. The friable make up of limestone and the erosive action of water has produced the horseshoe (or question mark shape) to the meander.
In Bozouls, part of the village and Sainte Fauste church, are on a large rocky promontory. The rest of the village is 'suspended', all round, like spectators in a theatre ; it is beautiful ! Obviously, the 'hole' of Bozouls itself, is already a tourist attraction, but on top of that make sure you see Aboul church, Saint Pie X church. The village has towers on either side of the Ravin of Alrance. They were probably old observation lookouts. On the rocky promontory, towards the meander and the 'hole', is the Castle monastic quarter.
The best tips and plans of the Guide Tarn Aveyron in Bozouls :
Between Millau and Laguiole, Saint-Geniez-d'Olt is well located and has lots of holiday activities : sport, gastronomy, fresh air and beautiful landscapes.
Saint-Geniez-d'Olt is crossed by the river Lot. Explore the Couvent des Pénitents, where the Town Hall is located. Visit Saint-Geniez church, which has 6 small chapels, the Hospice de Saint-Geniez, the Hôtel du Ravieux, the Hôtel de Ricard : all these buildings are listed as historic monuments. The lovely, emblematic Statue des Marmots, on the Vieux Pont, represents two children with a groundhog. The legend says that the children were saved by a groundhog they had tamed. It took them to the mountain during an evening storm when the river Lot burst its banks sweeping away all the village inhabitations, including their father.
In Saint-Geniez, there are four times more inhabitants during summer than the rest of the year, however it remains a small, peaceful holiday town. With the Causses on one side and the plateau of the Aubrac on the other, the landscapes are varied and there are many walks.
The best tips and plans of the Guide Tarn Aveyron in St Geniez d'Olt :
Welcome to the landscapes of Laissagais, on the causse of Séverac, dotted with dolmen, dry vegetation, and small picturesque villages. In Laissac, markets and fairs are organised for livestock... every Tuesday morning in the Place du Foirail, the second largest cattle and sheep market in France takes place. (The principal market is in the south). Do some shopping and enjoy the atmosphere. While strolling in the village, look at the medieval remains : 16th century Rességuier Tour, the church (more recent) and its Virgin and Child and then go towards Maquefabes mill and castle.
Explore the small surrounding villages :
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The village of Séverac-le-Château is partly on a hill 800 metres (2,425 feet) high. In Séverac-le-Château there is a beautiful castle, an invincible fortress, perched on a hilltop since 13th century. Then it became a Renaissance style palace, more suited to 18th century living. It overlooks the village, made up of old shops and beautiful medieval houses. It is built in a circular arc in order to get the sun from east to west. There are two of the four original gateways still left in the village, and at the centre is the Place de la Fontaine. Sévérac was a village with a lot going on in terms of artisans and trades. There are beautiful houses, prestigious symbols of the period : the Maison des Consuls, the Maison de Jeanne (said to be the oldest house in the village). Carry on towards the corn market of Systrayral and nearby you will see the mill of the Calsade.
The best tips and plans of the Guide Tarn Aveyron in Sévérac-le-Château :