The Canigou is a peak in the eastern part of the French Pyrenees. Its summit reaches 2,784 meters above sea level. You may not see the mountain for days, but then suddenly… there it is across the vineyards, right in front of you in all its glory. A truly breathtaking panorama, with or without snow on top.
The Canigou is located just 50 km from the coast and visible all along the coast in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Particularly in February and late October you have a good chance of uninterrupted views of the peak, such as on the beach at Valras.
The Canigou can be clearly visible across the Mediterranean as far away as Marseille, at 165 miles (250 km). But atmospheric refraction is a condition that means that you may actually be looking at a reflection of the Canigou, not at the mountain itself. It is known as the Canigou effect.
The Canigou is popular with hikers and even mountain bikers. It is suitable for inexperienced hikers. The abbey of St. Martin du Canigou and the Priory of Serrabone are located on its slopes.
The mountain has symbolical significance for Catalan people. Every year on 23 June a fire is lit at the top of the mountain, known as the Flama del Canigó (Canigou flame). After an overnight vigil, torches are lit and taken in procession to light bonfires across the region to celebrate St. John’s Day.
It takes at least 3 hours to drive to the mountain itself. But if you would like to get a feel for the Pyréneés-Orientales closer to home, a visit to the picturesque medieval village of Castelnou is a good alternative.
There is also the Yellow Train (Le Train Jaune), a regular scheduled train with open carriages that takes passengers from Villefranche-de-Conflent to Latour-de-Carol-Enveitg through the stunning landscape of the Pyrenees.
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