Ariège (department)

Ariège
The castle of Foix
The castle of Foix, Ariège.
Flag
Flag
Coat of arms
Coat of arms
Location of Ariège in France
Location of Ariège in France
Coordinates: 43°00′N 1°30′E / 43°00′N 1°30′E / 43.000; 1.500 French Land Register data, which exclude estuaries, and lakes, ponds, and glaciers larger than 1 km2
Castle and city of Foix
A waterfall in the Pyrénées, Ariège

Ariège (French pronunciation: ​[aʁjɛʒ]; Occitan: Arièja [aɾiˈɛdʒɔ]) is a department in the Occitanie region of southwestern France named after the Ariège River. Its capital is the town of Foix and the INSEE and Postal code is 09 (hence the department's informal name of 'le neuf[3]). The inhabitants of the department are known as Ariègeois or Ariègeoises.[4]

Geography

The department is part of the current region of Occitanie and is surrounded by the French departments of Haute-Garonne to the west and north, Aude to the east, and Pyrénées-Orientales in the south-east, as well as Spain (Lleida) and Andorra in the south.

Covering an area of 4,890 km2, the department is divided into three arrondissements: Foix, Pamiers, and Saint-Girons.[5]

It is composed of 13 cantons, 21 intercommunalities, and 331 communes. In 2009 the Regional Natural Park of the Ariège Pyrenees was created covering about 40% of the area of the department of Ariège.

Physical geography

There are three main areas:

The Ariège plain

The north of the department consists of plains, hills and low valleys where agriculture is prevalent. Part of Lauragais covers the northeast of the department. Two major rivers, the Ariège and the Lèze traverse the plain from south to north. A landscape of grain fields dominates the scene with growing of corn and sunflowers and with prairies.

The Pyrenean foothills

This area includes the Plantaurel mountains and the Pre-Pyrenean hills below 1000 m. Various geological structures are present in contrast: the Foix Valley with its granite mountain landscape and the Lavelanet region with marl and limestone.

Ariège high country

The geography is dominated by the Pyrenees mountains exceeding 1,000 m above sea level which form the border between France and Spain. The Pica d'Estats (3143 m), the peak of Montcalm (3077 m), and Pic de Sotllo (3072 m) are the highest points of the department. These peaks are clearly visible from Toulouse in the Haute Garonne.

The landscape is dominated by forests with coniferous species coexist with hardwoods such as chestnut trees, Black Locust trees, ash trees, and beech trees.

There are hundreds of kilometres of well-marked paths which allow exploration of the magnificent Pyrenees mountains. The high mountains are easily accessible via good roads, cable cars or by foot. There are a number of lodges providing high level mountain accommodation that are comfortable, warm and with good meals.

There are also a number of fresh water lakes which provide a variety of activities including, walking, swimming, fishing, canoeing, sailboarding and picnicking.

There are several downhill ski resorts, the three largest being Ax-Bonascre, Les Monts D'Olmes and Guzet-Neige. There are many cross country ski-ing resorts, one of the best being at Plateau de Beille, near Les Cabannes.

Ariège is one of the least populated and most unspoiled regions of France. The locals enjoy keeping traditions alive, especially old farming techniques. Consequently, as fewer insecticides, for example, have been used, the flora and fauna of the area continue to be rich in both diversity and numbers. Butterflies are common and birds are numerous; particularly noticeable are large birds of prey, including the magnificent Griffon vultures.

There are also many unspoiled villages and hamlets tucked away in the valleys close to the department's border with Spain – Seix, Cominac, and Aulus-les-Bains are examples – together with picturesque mountain villages, most notably Aleu which comes alive in the holiday season.

Climate

Ariège stands on the eastern limit of oceanic dominance over rainfall, but other influences are felt:

  • Mediterranean – particularly visible in the vegetation of the foothills and of the valley of the Ariège river towards Tarascon, and in the Sault country
  • Continental – in the Pyrenean valleys, with many storms and big differences of temperature between day and night

There is no great tendency to summer drought as the flow of air from the north-west brings rain throughout the year. Rainfall is moderate on the foothills and in some sheltered valleys, measuring 700 to 1,000 mm per year, but increases significantly in the higher valleys with levels between 1,000 mm and 1,800 mm. The slopes exposed to the north-west, such as Aulus and Orlu, are, as one would expect, the wettest, together with the frontal ridges that meet air flow from the southwest (giving rise to the Foehn effect). Snow cover is common over 1,000 metres, lasting several months above 1,500 to 2,000 metres. Some periglacial areas exist over 2,500 m but the only true glacier in Ariège is that of Mont Valier, near Castillon-en-Couserans.

Temperatures are mild in the foothills, e.g. at the city of Foix (400 metres) the average is 5 °C in January and 19 °C in July. However, they decline rapidly with elevation, e.g. at l'Hospitalet-près-l'Andorre (1,430 m) it is 0 °C in January and 14 °C in July.

Town Sunshine

(hours/yr)
Rain

(mm/yr)
Snow

(days/yr)
Storm

(days/yr)
Fog

(days/yr)
National Average 1,973 770 14 22 40
Saint Girons[7] 1,935 952 13 29 20
Paris 1,661 637 12 18 10
Nice 2,724 767 1 29 1
Strasbourg 1,693 665 29 29 56
Brest 1,605 1,211 7 12 75
Climate data for Saint Girons
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 10.3
(50.5)
11.3
(52.3)
14.2
(57.6)
16.0
(60.8)
19.5
(67.1)
22.9
(73.2)
25.5
(77.9)
25.6
(78.1)
23.0
(73.4)
19.0
(66.2)
13.7
(56.7)
10.9
(51.6)
17.7
(63.9)
Daily mean °C (°F) 5.3
(41.5)
6.2
(43.2)
8.8
(47.8)
10.6
(51.1)
14.2
(57.6)
17.7
(63.9)
20.0
(68)
20.0
(68)
17.1
(62.8)
13.5
(56.3)
8.6
(47.5)
5.9
(42.6)
12.3
(54.1)
Average low °C (°F) 0.3
(32.5)
1.1
(34)
3.3
(37.9)
5.2
(41.4)
8.9
(48)
12.5
(54.5)
14.5
(58.1)
14.3
(57.7)
11.2
(52.2)
8.0
(46.4)
3.5
(38.3)
0.9
(33.6)
7.0
(44.6)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 83
(3.27)
62
(2.44)
80
(3.15)
105
(4.13)
102
(4.02)
77
(3.03)
52
(2.05)
73
(2.87)
73
(2.87)
80
(3.15)
82
(3.23)
83
(3.27)
952
(37.48)
Average precipitation days (≥ 1 mm) 10.3 9.2 10.5 11.9 12.0 9.4 6.9 8.8 8.7 10.4 9.8 9.8 117.7
Mean monthly sunshine hours 119 130 169 169 179 189 205 207 190 152 117 109 1,935
Source: Meteorological data for Saint Girons – 411 m altitude, from 1981 to 2010 January 2015 (in French)
Other Languages
Afrikaans: Ariège
aragonés: Arièja
azərbaycanca: Aryej
Bân-lâm-gú: Ariège
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Ар’еж
català: Arieja
Чӑвашла: Арьеж
Cebuano: Ariège
Cymraeg: Ariège
dansk: Ariège
davvisámegiella: Ariège
español: Ariège
Esperanto: Ariège
euskara: Ariège
فارسی: آرییژ
Gàidhlig: Ariège
galego: Ariège
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Ariège-sén
한국어: 아리에주주
հայերեն: Արյեժ (գավառ)
Bahasa Indonesia: Ariège
interlingua: Departimento Ariege
italiano: Ariège
עברית: ארייז'
Kapampangan: Ariège
қазақша: Арьеж
Kiswahili: Ariège
latviešu: Arjēža
Lëtzebuergesch: Departement Ariège
Limburgs: Ariège
मराठी: आर्येज
Bahasa Melayu: Ariège
norsk: Ariège
norsk nynorsk: Ariège
پنجابی: ضلع اریگ
Plattdüütsch: Ariège
português: Ariège
română: Ariège
русский: Арьеж
shqip: Ariège
Simple English: Ariège (department)
slovenščina: Ariège (departma)
српски / srpski: Арјеж
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Ariège
suomi: Ariège
svenska: Ariège
Türkçe: Ariège
українська: Ар'єж
Tiếng Việt: Ariège
Volapük: Ariège
Winaray: Ariège
粵語: 阿列日
中文: 阿列日省