Pic de Bugarach: a mysterious mountain clouded with legends

Pic de Bugarach

The Pic de Bugarach is the highest summit of the Corbières Massif in the Aude department, with a peak of 1.230 metres. Besides being an out-of-this-world natural site, it has played- and still does!- part in many legends. From fairies, goblins and dragons to aliens and spacecraft: this sacred mountain appeals to the imagination. As the family and I stayed in Bugarach, the village named after the mountain, we simply had to climb the summit of the Pic (Pech in Occitan).

Col du Linas

There are two ways that lead to the top. One is the 12 kilometres/5.5 hours trail that leaves from Bugarach. It is a challenging hike for experienced hikers that will take you past the Cascade des Mathieux and the famous window (‘fenêtre’). As this hike is considered fairly dangerous, especially during heavy wind and mist, I decided to take the shorter trail of 7 kilometres/3 hours (there and back) from the Col du Linas. You reach this part by crossing Bugarach (just drive through it) and stay on the D14 in the direction of the castles of Peyrepertuse and Quéribus. After about 4 kilometres, you will find a small parking lot on your right side. We started on our way to the summit, which obviously goes up pretty much all the time. In total, you will go up for about 600 metres.

Massif de Corbières

Bug and Arach

The first part brought us through a fairy-tail like forest. And while the fall foliage gently whirled around us, I told the kids about the legend of Bugarach’s origin. A long time ago, the fairy Nore and the two goblins Bug and Arach were happy to live in such a beautiful region. The only problem was that Nore’s grandson Cers sometimes sent strong winds. These would destroy the harvest and make the chicken and even pigs fly up in the air. Bug and Arach decided that they wanted to solve this problem once and for all. Bug climbed on Arach’s shoulder, forming a mountain, and off they went to Jupiter. The god of thunder came down to earth and, stone by stone, built a mountain to protect the land. Jupiter named the mountain in memory of the two goblins.

Pic de Bugarach

Geological oddity

When climbing to the top, my family and I had the most amazing views over the region. And just when we thought we were there, I noticed the path going up some more. By this time, the kids were done and needed some encouragement to go further. However, as we were so close to the actual summit nothing could make me go back! So, on we went, for the last bit of effort on this rare geological oddity. Bugarach is, in fact, an upside-down mountain, with the top layers being millions of years older than the ones below. This can be explained by the way that the Pyrenees mountain chain was formed. While the Iberian and the European plates came together, some overthrust rocks broke, creating Pic de Bugarach.

Pic de Bugarach

Aliens and vultures

Finally arriving at the summit was a magical experience. And not because of the supposedly hidden spacecraft inside. Believe it or not, but on 21 December 2012, Bugarach was regarded as the only safe place on earth to survive the predicted Mayan apocalypse. We didn’t encounter any aliens. But we all got excited when we spotted a couple of vultures, for which Bugarach is also known, gracefully circling around us. I had seen the signs at the beginning of the hike, although somehow I didn’t expect to actually see them. The wind was quite strong at the summit, and I was glad that we didn’t do the long hike. Going back the same way to the Col du Linas was easier as we went down. And during the rest of our stay, we proudly looked at the Pic de Bugarach with our mission accomplished!

TO DO - Nature
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