There's really no other way to say this: nature in the Ariège Pyrenees is quite overwhelming.
The remoteness of the area and its lack of development blight, the traditionally high degree of ecological sensitivity, and a remarkable number of different ecosystems, altitudes, microclimates and habitats all collide to make this one of Europe's last true wildernesses. And do you know what makes it especially great? It still remains - amazingly - well off the beaten path.
The following pages will introduce you to birds and butterflies in the Ariège Pyrenees; here we kick off by having a look at why this is often called the 'Flower Garden of Europe'.
It's well worth taking the time to get yourself above 1500 metres or so as it's here you'll be treated to species that you won't find elsewhere. It's quite something to see azaleas and rhododendrons growing wild; to stumble upon the Pyrenean lily or the staggeringly blue Pyrenean trumpet gentian; to find rockeries full of tiny colourful plants that look as though they've been carefully cultivated.
Even if you're not a full-on walker, we can suggest places where you can - with a drive and just a little effort - spend the day ambling amongst sub-alpine species. Photographers will be in heaven!