Family getaway in Donezan

2 days discovering our heritage and hiking to a lake!
Donezan, the little Quebec of the Ariege

It was my colleague David who told me about Donezan. For the past 3-4 years, he’s been spending his winter vacations at the Mijanès ski resort with his little family, then they went back there for the hikes and he told me “It’s really beautiful, the ponds with the kids are relatively accessible, no more than a 2-hour walk to get there, the area is peaceful, it’s a real moment of disconnection”. And disconnection is just what we need… between our jobs, school and screens!


Usson castle

It’s decided with Jérôme, this weekend we’ll take our children and head for Donezan!
Leaving Narbonne on Saturday after lunch, we take the majestic Pierre Lys defile, a winding road between cliff and river. Then, after Axat, we rush into the Aude valley, no more noise in the car… until Adélaïde exclaims “Look! Sleeping Beauty’s castle!!!”.
The calm has given way to agitation, Théo almost shouts “let’s go! let’s go!”, I look at Jérôme, it’s off to a good start! We park in the parking lot and set off on foot up the small road to the Château d’Usson. The visit to the Cathar castle is complemented by exhibitions at the Maison du Patrimoine, Théo would have liked to have taken the model of the La Camisette airplane with him, and Adélaïde didn’t find Sleeping Beauty, but loved the Little Lady of Usson!

Our night in a hostel

Already better informed about our destination, we make our way back down to Le Sapin Rouge in Artigues, where we’ve booked an overnight stay. Lydie and Thomas give us a warm welcome, and while the children settle into their pretty family room, we settle down for an “apéro du sapin”. Then it’s time for a meal of local specialities!

Balbonne pond

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, we’re ready to set off on our assault on the Balbonne pond! Hiking shoes on our feet, picnic, hats, sun cream, guidebook and bandages (you never know!)… After Mijanès, we take the forest road to the Restanque parking lot. We park the car and start walking to the Restanque, with its stream, wooden bridge, picnic tables… and horses in summer pasture welcoming us. “It’s so beautiful, Mom, let’s eat here!” begs Théo, “It’s a bit early to eat, we’ll have lunch by the pond”. After a rather flat start, we tackle a short ladder of a few meters, the “are we there yet?” fuse but are quickly forgotten when we discover the pond!

The children are back on their feet, scampering around in search of the perfect spot for a picnic. After lunch, everyone has their own activity: siesta, cool feet in the water, making a house for the rabbits… but it’s already time to leave… Back to Narbonne after a nice interlude, “we’ll be back, won’t we?

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Book your mountain vacation for hiking in unspoilt natural surroundings, for outdoor and white-water activities, for visits to must-see tourist sites such as the Grotte de Niaux and the Parc de la Préhistoire... In winter, skiing, snowboarding, skating, snowshoeing, tobogganing and dog sledding are all on offer from Ax 3 Domaines to Beille, via Ascou and Le Chioula or Mijanés and Goulier... All year round, enjoy the benefits of thermal water for spa treatments at Ax-les-Thermes or Ussat-les-Bains, or relax at the Bains du Couloubret. The history and heritage of our mountains, pastoralism and local produce will add to your stay with unforgettable experiences... Don't miss the festivals and major events, and take advantage of the many activities for the whole family all year round... The Ariege Pyrenees, your bubble of oxygen destination!