Key points about this information item A guide to Haute-Garonne, Midi-PyreneesInformation Description:
Geography and climate
Haute-Garonne was created from parts of the former provinces of Languedoc and Gascony in 1790 during the French revolution and was one of the original 83 departments.
The terrain is quite varied in the department as it spans a considerable distance from north to south, starting at the Pyrenees and finishing just south of Montauban in the Tarn-et-Garonne department, a distance of around 200 km in total.
The northern area is hilly and borders Gascony, while at its southern end, it borders Spain and lies in the Pyrenees Mountains, with the highest peak being Pic de Perdiguere at 3,222 meters. The river Garonne, from which the department gets its name, enters the department from Spain at Fos, travels through Toulouse and leaves the department just north of Ondes entering the Tarn-et-Garonne.
Toulouse has by far the highest population of any town in the department and in fact the Midi-Pyrenees region. The city is the capital of both the department and Midi-Pyrenees region and has a very large student population, making it the most vibrant city in the region. In the 2006 survey, 444,392 people lived in or around the city, over one third of the population of the whole department. Not surprisingly, the rest of the department is quite sparsely populated.
Waterways are important in the department with the River Garonne, Canal du Midi and Canal de la Garonne all passing through.
In the northern areas the climate is mild winters with very hot and dry summers, while the southern areas around the Pyrenees have cold snowy winters and warm, wet summers.
Toulouse is one of the biggest draws to the area and justifiably so. It is an attractive city, with many of the buildings constructed in the red brick so common of the area, hence its nickname the pink city. Also in the capital are the Cite de l'Espace, dedicated to space exploration and the Airbus factory, offering guided tours. Have a look at our Toulouse guide pages.
With its long north to south span, the Haute-Garonne covers such varying landscape that it attracts many different types of tourism. In the south there are ski resorts which in also offer climbing, mountain biking and walking in abundance, plus the added bonus of numerous spa resorts. In the north there are rolling hills and valleys to explore either by car, on foot or bicycle plus plenty of villages and sites of interest to visit.
There are four ski resorts in the department, from the medium sized Peyragudes, through Luchon-Superbagneres and Le Mourtis to the tiny Bourg-d'Oueil with only 5 alpine slopes. A number of Spa resorts are located in this area with Bagneres de Luchon and Barbazan being some of the most well known. Bagneres de Luchon is a very pretty town that is well worth a visit.
Constructed in the 17th century, the Canal du Midi was a great feat of engineering, joining with the Canal de la Garonne and linking the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean. Both canals have long stretches through the department and the Canal du Midi passes right through Toulouse. A series of lakes were built near Revel to supply the canal system and Lake St Ferreol is now a great watersports centre.
There are a number of towns worth visiting. Carbonne and Cazeres are bastide towns, while the Cathedral and village of Saint Bertrand de Comminges has been classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France. The Gallo-Roman remains at Montmaurin are now open to the public and worth a visit.
Along with the population, the economy also has a north / south divide. The north is dominated by the high tech industries of Toulouse, with the European Space Agency and Airbus Industries both being based in the city.
To the south, the department has retained its rural landscape, partly due to the huge movement of population towards Toulouse. Here farming is the main economic activity.
Tourism is playing an ever increasing role over the whole department but for different reasons. Toulouse with the draw of a vibrant and multicultural city and the rural areas for the peace of the Pyrenees Mountains,
Toulouse also has its own specialities, like cassoulet, a delicious meat and white-bean stew and saucisse de Toulouse. Duck and goose feature heavily, thanks to the huge production of Fois Gras and confit, pieces of poultry or duck cooked and then conserved in its own fat or magret, duck breast, will be found every where. One thing to look out for is known as Gascone salad and is usually topped with cooked duck gizzards! Not to every ones taste, but may be served as part of a set meal.
Toulouse has its own International airport served by British Airways, Air France and Easyjet plus others. There are a wide choice of flights to the UK making access to the area particularly easy. Once here, getting around Toulouse is quite easy but if you want to venture beyond the city it is advisable to hire a car.
With the exception of Toulouse, driving in the department is an enjoyable experience with well maintained and quiet roads. Toulouse however can be extremely busy and rush hour is to be avoided.
Arriving by train in Toulouse is also easy with a TGV station in the city connecting to Paris in only a few hours. Connections to the Mediterranean coast are also quick and easy.
For more information have a look at our travel information pages.
Looking for somewhere to stay in the Haute-Garonne? Our accommodation pages can help.
Property for sale in the Haute-Garonne.
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