10 essential things to do in Ax-les-Thermes, France

On the edge of Spain and Andorra , Ax-les-Thermes embraces some of the most beautiful Pyrenean peaks and is one of France’s top tourist spots. The town is part of Ax 3 Domaines (housed within the Regional Natural Park of the Pyrenees Ariégeoises), the largest ski area in Arièg. And this to the delight of winter sports enthusiasts! No doubt, the best outdoor activities are in Ax-les-Thermes!

If skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing or dog sledding are among the great classics to do during your trip in the cold season… Ax-les-Thermes is also very attractive on sunny days. Every year, thousands of hikers set out to discover this high place of tourism in order to take the GR1 or the chemin des Bonshommes , straddling France and Catalonia .

Discover our selection of the 10 essential things to do in Ax-les-Thermes to make your stay a success during your stay in the heart of this heavenly area!

What to do in Ax-les-Thermes in winter?

Brave the mountain on ski touring…

Ski touring Ax-les-Thermes

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  • 🗓️ Opening period : from December to May
  • ⌛ Duration : one day
  • 💙 We like : listening to the anecdotes of the high mountain guides on the local fauna and flora

Do you love to ski away from the crowds and dream of unspoiled landscapes for your trip? From the resort of Ax-les-Thermes , escape to the most famous Pyrenean peaks on ski touring , a sport combining the pleasure of climbing and sliding in Ariège . The Ariège mountains open their arms to you, dressed in their white coat and carpeted with magnificent coniferous forests.

It sometimes happens that we are completely alone on the route, with only a few chamois as neighbors leaving their footprints in the immaculate snow. Accompanied by your hiking guide who will tell you a thousand details and information about the place. You will have the opportunity to explore uncrowded corners within Ax 3 Domaines . Your instructor will be happy to show you his favorite spots  !

For athletes, it is wise to choose your hike according to your level. Your guide will help you do this, in order to offer you the best possible option: from neophytes who have never worn ski touring to experienced climbers , several routes will be offered to you, so that everyone finds the shoe for them. .

… And try your hand at freeriding in full adrenaline

Freeride in the Pyrenees

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  • 🗓️ Opening period: from December to May
  • ⌛ Duration: 1 half-day to 1 day, depending on your level
  • 💙 We like : evolving in virgin snow with no human footprint, Andorra in the background

How about trying your hand at skiing off the groomed slopes  during your stay? Ax 3 Domaines has a space dedicated to freeriding , a must for lovers of unusual experiences. Imagine yourself, defying the powder snow, surrounded by the Pyrenees massif with its sinuous lines, Spain revealing its borders in the distance… Treat yourself to an escape off the beaten track by surveying the unmarked side of the mountain. All this, accompanied by a connoisseur for whom the region has no more secrets!

Good news, beginners and experienced skiers can join the adventure and learn about this unique sport  ! Have you ever dared to take up the off-piste challenge  ? Your instructor will introduce you to these new thrills in complete safety, showing you a thousand and one techniques to tame this unruly terrain. The more skilful skiers will be able to improve their agility by acquiring new methods, under the advice of a high mountain guide.

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Good to know  : you can reach these magnificent virgin spaces from the ski lifts of the resort of Ax-les-Thermes.

Explore the surroundings of Ax-les-Thermes on snowshoes

Ax-les-Thermes snowshoeing

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  • ⌛ Duration: 2 to 3 hours
  • 🗓️ Opening period: from December to April
  • 💙 We like: discovering the magnificent sapphire expanses in the hollow of the mountain when arriving at the lakes of Pessons, at an altitude of 2400 m

The region of Ax-les-Thermes is full of preserved places where it is good to get lost in the middle of nature, lulled by the crunch of our footsteps on the snow. In Grandvalira (the largest ski area in the Pyrenees with its 210 km of slopes), adventurers have a field day. Wearing theirs nowshoes, they indulge in magnificent wild expeditions in the middle of snowy forests.

You too, treat yourself to the luxury of the great mountain air, accompanied by your guide , who knows Ariège down to the smallest detail. It will take you to the edge of lakes and rivers , sometimes completely covered in ice, similar to crystalline mirrors. Like extreme trackers, you will learn to recognize animal tracks as well as the characteristics of the local flora, thanks to precise information. Keep your eyes peeled: you might see some forest hosts, nestled between the trees…

Notice to families traveling, this snowshoe hike is accessible from 10 years old . A pleasant discovery for the whole troop!

What to do in Ax-les-Thermes in summer?

Treat yourself to a makeover by savoring the benefits of the thermal baths

Thermal baths Ax-les-Thermes Pyrenees

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  • 🗓️ Best time: all year round
  • 🎫 Price: varies according to the care
  • 💙 We like: the massages given by professional physiotherapists, for the greater good of our muscles and joints

Some give Ax-les-Thermes the qualifier of “city that smokes”, because of the warm waters rising from the depths of the earth. In winter as in summer, the resort of Ax-les-Thermes seduces holidaymakers looking for a spa treatment in unspoiled sites. For good reason, the city is home to the most sulphurous waters of all the Pyrenees and has enjoyed a legendary reputation since Antiquity for this reason. Indeed, the baths of this famous city of Ariège are famous throughout France!

The benefits of the thermal baths are numerous for health: treatment of lung conditions, dermatological conditions, muscle pain, rheumatism… Not to mention the thousand and one anti-stress virtues offered by this type of cure. Delight in baths between 33 and 38°C depending on the different indoor and outdoor pools , housed in the hollow of the Ariège peaks. In addition, many treatments are available: massages under thermal water, jet showers, vaporarium, sophrology, reflexology…

Good to know  : after your spa treatment , take the opportunity to explore the city! Interpretation panels will inform you about the history of the place, in particular its historical monuments. If you feel like it, continue the adventure at the Casino and try your luck!

Challenge the summits by hiking in the heart of Ariège

Rabassole pond, hikes in the Pyrenees

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  • 🗓️ Best time : December to August
  • ⌛ Duration: it all depends on your routes
  • 💙 We like: meeting the shepherds and their herds during the summer transhumance

The Ariège Pyrenees are a destination of choice for naturophiles looking for green holidays. In summer, the rolling hills of Ax 3 Domaines wear a bright green color, mixed with steep rock, rising up to 3000 meters above sea level . This is all the beauty of the Ariège Pyrenees Natural Park . When the cold season arrives, the fir trees are adorned with an immaculate tablecloth. It is not uncommon to see the lakes freeze, then shining with a thousand lights.

Notice to climbers, open your eyes wide: during your ascents, you will see in the distance the Pic de Montcalm, Rebenty, Rulhe, the Tute de l’Ours … So many peaks which are the glory of the Pyrenees of France and Castile and which call for discovery!

💎 Editorial advice: the must-see Rabassoles pond 💎
Among the most beautiful 

hikes to do around the resort of Ax-les-Thermes, that of 

the Rabassoles pond is worth the detour. This route of about fifteen kilometers will take you to the pond of the same name, to the delight of viewers: the pond reveals its azure setting in the middle of a rocky lung lined with vegetation. One or two shots are needed to immortalize this postcard setting!

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The little extra of this unmissable hike? Part of the trail is in the undergrowth (you will cross the Agréboul and Latrabe woods ), while the other will take you to the heart of the valley, surrounded by voluptuous granite. Also note that one of the sections of the route is on a slightly steep rocky part  : be careful if you come with young children.

Cross the Pyrenean passes by mountain bike

Mountain biking Ariège in the Pyrenees

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  • 🗓️ Best time: April – September
  • ⏳ Duration: variable depending on the level
  • 💙 We like: seeing the whole area of ​​Ax-les-Thermes from the heights

Around the resort of Ax-les-Thermes there are many hiking trails for mountain bikes . Fans of the great mountain air, let off steam on some of the most beautiful slopes in the Pyrenees , at the gateway to Spain. Whether you are a seasoned mountain biker or this is your first expedition, you will find routes adapted to your level .

Some circuits are very accessible and quite short, while others climb steeply and present attractive challenges, surrounded by the Ariège peaks. One of our favorites in terms of mountain biking is undoubtedly the one crossing the Col de Joux, the Cap de Carbone and the Ax valley . This route forms a loop of about 27 km (allow about 8 hours on the road). Neophyte cyclists can easily get there, provided they are in good physical condition… Yes, because the elevation gain is more than 1,000 meters!

The game is worth the candle: you will cross a sumptuous forest path revealing a pretty shades of green, as well as charming emerald mountain lakes. The arrival at the Col de Joux is, for its part, most impressive: the view extends 360° over the peaks of the Orgeix valley and the Ariège valley . Oscillating between plateaus and jagged rocky massifs, sometimes draped in snow, sometimes bare depending on the season.

Treat yourself to a life-size canyoning playground

Canyoning Ax-les-Thermes Pyrenees

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  • 🗓️Opening period: May to October
  • ⌛ Duration: half a day on average
  • 💙 We like: going down the mountain on a zip line and getting drunk with chills

Canyoning is one of the most popular sports in the Ariège Pyrenees. The steep-sided valleys, the rock in relief and the many rivers that the region enjoys are all ideal elements of scenery for venturing into the canyons. Dizzying jumps, slides, giant swimming pools and so many other natural elements line the fun trails. This will delight young and old.

Would you like to take the whole family for an adrenaline session around Ax-les-Thermes? Meet at mark’s canyon, near the town of Foix . This route will take you to the heart of the Audat Vicessos valley for half a day, between lush forests and crystal clear waters that have carved the wall. On the menu: slides, 8-meter jumps, zip lines, rappels and many other surprises!

Good to know  : no need to have a high physical level to complete your course. Just note that the minimum age required is 12 years old.

Play bikers on the Corniche Road…

Landscapes Ariege Pyrenees France

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  • ❄️ Best time: April – October
  • ⌛ Duration: from 2 hours to a day
  • 💙 We like: stopping in a village with a thousand-year-old heritage and going back in time

The Corniches road is so nicknamed because it extends like a huge balcony over the Ariège valley and the Tabe massif . Along this route are points of interest particularly appreciated by history buffs . Stronghold of Romanesque architecture , this road is home to renowned monuments such as the Church of Unac . Not to mention its imposing bell tower, typical of Andorran architecture with its twin bays and leafy capitals. Or the castle of Lordat, which was one of the last Cathar strongholds. Its stone rises nearly 1000 meters above sea level, dominating the entire valley.

To discover these impregnable points of interest, get on your motorbike and criss-cross the mountains! You will go back in time by visiting centuries-old buildings, while enjoying an unprecedented panorama of the small Ariège villages , sometimes nestled in the stone itself. At sunset, they are adorned with shadow and light and paint a most picturesque canvas…

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Our advice: don’t miss a trip to Tarascon-sur-Ariège , a former fortified village whose medieval heritage is remarkably well preserved. You will note that there are still some vestiges of its ramparts and arcades, as well as cobblestones and half-timbering dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. The more adventurous will climb up the hill, to contemplate its pretty castle dominating the city.

… And continue the adventure in the bowels of the cave of Niaux

cave of Niaux Pyrenees

Photo credit: Shutterstock

  • 🗓️ Opening period: from January to October
  • 🎫 Price: from 11 to 14 €
  • 💙 We like: the black living room is its dark paintings evoking the large mammals of prehistoric times

Did you know that the cave of Niaux was one of the last places where you could admire cave paintings in France? On a 2 km course punctuated by vast galleries, underground lakes and vaulted passages , admire the fascinating drawings dating from the Paleolithic era . A hundred animals are represented and let us imagine the richness of this fauna dating back several thousand years.

Illuminated by the light of a lamp, you will listen to the story of your guide bringing you many details about the history of the Cro-Magnons and their incredible engravings and mysterious signs.

Rise to the heights at the Dent d’Orlu, for a climbing session

Climbing in the Pyrenees

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  • ⌛ Duration: one day
  • 🗓️ Opening period: all year round
  • 💙 We like: the magnificent view of the Orlu valley nature reserve and its flowerbeds in spring

The tooth of Orluis a famous Pyrenean peak , nicknamed for its conical shape, reminiscent of that of a large stone-clad canine. On this huge granite wall, climbers indulge in dizzying climbing sessions , following different more or less arduous routes. The most daredevils will go to the summit, at more than 2200 meters above sea level . Once at the top, the surrounding mountains seem to spring from the ground and you can see their snowy skulls in the distance.

Accompanied by your mountain guide , you will ascend gradually and in complete safety. You should have some climbing experience for this outdoor activity in Ax-les-Thermes, before tackling this sporting challenge (without being an experienced climber).

As you will have understood, Ax-les-Thermes and its surroundings delight nature lovers as well as historians and epicureans of all kinds! And if you prolong the pleasure with other outdoor activities in Ax-les-Thermes?

Are you planning a nature holiday during the winter season? Here are some ideas for tourism and outdoor activities in Ax-les-Thermes:

❄️ Winter period:

  • Criss-cross the mountain on a snowmobile
  • Treat yourself to new sliding sensations on a fatbike mountain bike
  • Challenge the heights by experiencing the icefall
  • Venture into one of the 3 best snowshoe hikes around Ax-les-Thermes

☀️ Summer period:

  • Climb trees with the whole troop
  • Combine via-ferra and tree climbing in a 6-hectare beech forest
  • Take to the skies in a paraglider
  • Explore the Siech CavesGouffre Georgeand the George Chasm, for a frenzied caving session
  • Go back in time at the Prehistory Park…
  • Take part in one of the biggest races in the Pyrenees: the Ultrariège

To complete your trip, there is nothing like discovering the historical monuments of the region: castle, church and other buildings adorn the magnificent heritage of Ariège. Whatever your holiday plans in Ax-les-Thermes, you will most likely have an unforgettable experience. With friends, family or alone, all in the heart of nature!

Your successful stay in Ax-les-Thermes

How to get to Ax-les-Thermes?

🚗 By car: from Toulouse, take the A260 towards Montpellier, then the A66 towards Andorra, until you reach the D618 towards Ax-les-Thermes.

🚅 By train: Ax-les-Thermes station has a direct connection from Paris and Toulouse.

🛫 By plane: the nearest airport is Toulouse-Blagnac, 120 km away.

Where to stay in Ax-les-Thermes?

You will have a thousand and one possibilities in terms of rental in Ax-les-Thermes for your holidays (residence, apartment, chalet, etc.) in the south of France. And everything will depend on your desires:

If you prefer outdoor activities in Ax-les-Thermes, it may be wise to find a rental close to the main natural sites . On the other hand, if you go there rather to take advantage of the city’s assets (thermal baths, historical visit), a rental in the center of Ax-les-Thermes will be preferable.

Are you going to Ax-les-Thermes in the middle of the ski season  ? Consider accommodation as close as possible to the slopes . With this in mind, there is a wide range of accommodation: chalets, apartments in residences, houses…

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Mohamed SAKHRI

I am Mohamed SAKHRI, the creator and editor-in-chief of this blog, 'Discover the World – The Blog for Curious Travelers.' Join me as we embark on a journey around the world, uncovering beautiful places, diverse cultures, and captivating stories. Additionally, we will delve into mysterious and, at times, even bizarre destinations.

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