The Languedoc descends from the vast salty marshes of the Camargue down to the French-Spanish border where the eastern end of the Pyrenees finally reaches the Mediterranean at Cap Cerbère, and inland far into the highlands of the Cévennes National Park. The scene of some of France’s bloodiest history, it is Cathar country, where the 12th century religious movement was put to the sword by Simon de Montfort. Their strongholds at Quéribus and Peyrepertuse occupy rugged, dramatic settings. Béziers, on a rocky hilltop overlooking the Hérault département, was also the scene of a Cathar massacre; nowadays is a centre for another bloodsport: the Spanish bullfight.
Carcassonne in the Aude is a picture-perfect walled citadel perched on a hilltop overlooking the lively medieval lower town; it is the largest fortified citadel in France. Pézenas has an air of refinement and luxury, with its fine 17th century stately homes and villas. Montpellier is the fastest-growing town in Languedoc, with broad boulevards and fine shopping and restaurants in its 18th century Centre Historique, along with its 14th century Cathedral St-Pierre and botanical gardens.
Perpignan, the last major town before the Spanish border, naturally enjoys mixed atmosphere of Catalan, French, and North African styles. Sète is the eastern terminus Canal du Midi, opened in 1681 and joining the Mediterranean with the Atlantic, via Béziers, Carcassonne, Castelnaudary, and passing through picturesque small villages on its way to Toulouse and beyond.