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Regions of France - Languedoc-Roussillon

Warmth, wine, and historical influences from ancient Rome to modern Spain and North Africa are all good reasons to visit this fascinating region.

Languedoc-Roussillon is next to the border between France and Spain and includes the departments of Aude, Gard, Hérault, Lozère and Pyrénées-Orientales.

Languedoc was an old province of France. Its name was derived from the phrase "langue d'oc", where the word "oc", a derivative of the Latin word "hoc" means "yes". From the 13th century the name applied to the entire area where the Languedoc, or Occitan language was spoken. The Occitan language continues to be spoken and although Occitan speakers use French as their official language, Occitan dialects are used for everyday purposes and show no signs of extinction.

The old province of Roussillon is also an historical and cultural region. It comprised what is now the southern French département of Pyrénées-Orientales. Roussillon encompassed an area made up of the eastern extremity of the French Pyrénées and the Mediterranean coastal lowlands adjoining them to the east. Throughout Roussillon, Catalan is widely spoken and although French is the official language, it is spoken with a heavy Catalan accent.

The region is popular with tourists who are spoilt for choice – the sun drenched beaches or the towering mountains for winter sports and climbing activities. And then there are the historical cities and villages as well as glorious countryside with magnificent views.

The buzzing capital is Montpellier, a modern-thinking, culturally vibrant university town with tree-lined promenades and beautifully expansive squares. Nîmes, to the east, has extensive Roman artefacts but there's some serious architectural modernisation afoot as the town tries to keep pace with Montpellier. Sète is a key port whose water-jousting spectacle is a must-see, while Narbonne offers provincial charm. Béziers is the capital of Languedoc wine country and centre of many Occitan celebrations.

Not only can Languedoc-Roussillon lay claim to some of France's finest Roman heritage, such as the Via Domitia road and Nîmes Les Arènes amphitheatres, but it also boats five unmissable UNESCO World Heritage sites: Carcassonne, with its 52 towers and medieval backstreets; the Pont du Gard, a breathtaking symbol of Roman ingenuity and France's most visited monument; the Canal du Midi linking the Mediterranean and the Atlantic in a display of engineering cunning that shows the countryside off beautifully; two Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage routes to explore; and two of Vauban's fortresses (Villefranche de Conflent and Mont Louis). Another site not to miss is the gorgeous abbey at St Guilhem-le-Désert.

The Languedoc-Roussillon is also the largest wine-growing area in the world, whose increasingly reputable wines are grouped together under the Sud de France banner. The region is dominated by 2,996 km2 of vineyards, three times the combined area of the vineyards in Bordeaux.