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During the winter, the ski slopes of the Pyrenees mountains are a fantastic, more 'French' and cheaper alternative to the more popular Alps. Stay in a mountain village or nearby countryside and combine sightseeing and culture with winter sports. In summer, the peaks and passes become a paradise for walkers, cyclists and fishing enthusiasts. The more adventurous can try rock climbing or white water rafting while, if you prefer holidays of a gentler persuasion, you can just relax with a glass of wine and the local cuisine and enjoy the majestic scenery and mountain air.

The Midi Pyrénées spreads right across South western France, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and includes the departments of Ariège, Aveyron, Gers, Haute-Garonne, Hautes-Pyrénées, Lot, Tarn and Tarn-et-Garonne. All except the Hautes-Pyrénées department owe their name to the river that crosses them.

The Midi-Pyrénées is bordered to both the north and south by mountains, and the Pyrenees form a natural frontier with Spain, so a bonus to staying in the area is a chance to cross into Spain to explore. The Pyrenees National Park is one of the seven national parks in France and there are also three regional nature parks. The caves of Padirac, in the Lot, are considered to be one of Europe’s greatest geological curiosities and the Ariège also has an abundance of caves that tell stories about the life of Homo sapiens.

RocamadourRocamadour, in the Lot, is among the most visited places of interest in France, second only to Mont Saint-Michel, and anyone interested in insects and nature will love Micropolis in the Aveyron. If you prefer flying objects, the Cité de l’Espace, the space experience in Toulouse, is a must-see and, of course, Lourdes welcomes visitors from the world over.

There’s a fabulous feast of food here, from foie gras to rare truffles, from Rocamadour goat’s cheese to Quercy lamb. Cep mushrooms are found in the undergrowth in autumn and bryony along the paths in spring. Cassoulet, aligot (mashed potatoes with cheese), garbure (soup with cabbage and confit of goose), stockfish and gâteau à la broche (spit-roasted cake) are just some of the traditional recipes that you may sample.

Toulouse-Blagnac airport is the fourth airport of France and has connections to all parts of the UK and most of Europe, including cheap airlines, and you can drive via Paris on the A71 and A20 which runs straight through the middle of the Midi- Pyrénées. The journey is approx 850km from Calais to the northern end of the Midi Pyrenees and will take around 8-9 hours depending on length of stops.

See gorgeous holiday homes and more information in our complete guide to the Midi-Pyrénées