The Tarn department in south-west France might be landlocked, but this nature lover’s paradise offers a huge variety of water sports, from canoeing and sailing to windsurfing and canyoning. With over 12 lakes and plenty of winding rivers to explore, you’re never far away from the water.
The Tarn River runs through the region’s capital Albi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the best ways to discover the city is from the comfort of a Gabarre, a traditional flat-bottomed wooden boat. Catch all of the major cultural sites including the Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile, the largest brick structure in the world when it was built in the 13th Century, and the Palais de la Berbie, which is home to the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum. Adult tickets are available from €7 (approx. £6.20) for a 30 min trip. The boat departs underneath the cathedral and runs from May to October, times vary; check Albi Crosisires.
If you’re after more of an action packed activity, take to the river in a canoe-kayak. From June to September, self-service rental is available next door to the Gabarre pier on Saturdays and Sundays from €7 (approx. £6.20) per hour. Throughout August, rental is on offer every day and a special site-seeing ‘nature ride’ for two hours costs from €14 (approx. £12) including supervision by a trained professional.
In the south of the Tarn department there’s just as much fun to be had on the water at the vast Lac des Saints Peyres and Lac du Laouzas, two man-made lakes in the heart of the Haut Languedoc Regional Nature Park.
Lac du Laouzas offers many water sport activities and is situated around 40km south-east of Albi. The lake has its very own outdoor leisure centre offering sailing, fishing (Tuesday mornings), windsurfing and swimming plus there are canoes, kayaks and pedalos to rent. In August, the swimming area is supervised by a lifeguard.
If you don’t want to get wet, there is a mini golf course, two volleyball courts, a basketball hoop, tennis courts and horse-riding available. Access to the leisure area is totally free and camping is available at Les Rives du Lac du Laouzas.
Saint Peyres is located 8km north-east of Mazamet and is the more natural of the two lakes. It is said to resemble the Canadian lakes and as access to the water can be difficult, it is best appreciated by following the walking paths around the perimeter and admiring it from the banks.
The Lac des Montagnès in the Black Mountains welcomes water sports with supervised swimming available in July and August. The lake comes with its own sandy beach and a 3km sports trail along with other longer hiking loops for walkers. Picnic areas, mini golf, fishing and mountain bike trails are on offer along with restaurants and accommodation. A Libellus shuttle bus connects the city centres of Mazamet and Aussillon free of charge to Lac des Montagnès every day during the summer holidays.
If getting the adrenaline pumping is more your thing, Escalade-Canoying offers half day tours (three to four hours) for all the family. Located in the Haut Languedoc Regional Nature Park, Bruno Marchand, the owner, has over twenty years’ experience climbing and canyoning in the area. All the equipment is provided including a neoprene suit, helmet and harness. The canyoning excursion combines a mixture of swimming, hiking and scaling small waterfalls and sliding down natural slides.
For more information, please visit Le Tarn Tourisme, www.tourisme-tarn.com/tarn/en