Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert is one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France (“The most beautiful villages of France“), and the Abbey of Gellone, along with the nearby Pont du Diable were designated UNESCO World Heritages sites in 1999.

Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert is a commune in the Hérault department in the Occitania region in southern France.

Situated in the narrow valley of the Gellone river where it meets the steep-sided gorge of the Hérault River, Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert is essentially a medieval village located on the Camino de Santiago to Santiago de Compostela.

Hiking and outdoor activities

Numerous paths, DFCI tracks and paths cross this physical complex which departs from the Hérault gorges (classified as “Grand site de France”) to reach the Séranne mountain. This karst area shelters for numerous caves and potholes. The way of Saint-Jacques crosses the mounts of Saint-Guilhem by the GR653. The entire massif is “Natura 2000” classified.

Main attractions

  • Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, the area around the village and the Infernet cirque have been listed to preserve their historic and picturesque character.
  • Lapidary museum housed in the abbey’s former refectory. The collection of sculptures from the cloister, the sarcophagi of Saint Guilhem and his sisters, Albane and Bertrane, and a film retracing the history of the abbey and the reconstruction of parts of the cloister based on work by the CNRS MAP laboratory are on display.

  • Château du Géant, part of the town’s fortifications and defences, with its legend.
  • The Dovecote of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, also known as Le Cabinet du Géant or La Tour de Don Juan, stands on a mountainside beneath the ruins of the Château du Géant overlooking the village.

Listed historic monuments

  • The former Abbey of Gellone, a jewel of Romanesque art, was listed as a historic monument in 1840, along with the Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord, the 1789 organ, the cloister and the 18th-century high altar.
  • Remains of the 17th-century Saint-Laurent church, now a community house.

  • Tour dite des Prisons (Prison Tower), 17th-century square tower, approx. 14 m high.
  • 17th-century Romanesque house near the church.
  • Former Gellone Abbey mill (17th century), with its large, preserved double millstone.

Nearby

  • Ermitage Notre-Dame-du-Lieu-Plaisant, selected for the 2020 Heritage Lottery, an hour’s walk north of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert.
  • Chapelle des Pénitents in Aniane. The building is listed in the Mérimée database and in the Inventaire général Région Occitanie and is a registered historic monument.

  • Abbatiale Saint-Sauveur, Aniane.
  • The Pont du Diable (Devil’s Bridge) between Aniane and Saint-Jean-de-Fos, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  • Clamouse cave in Saint-Jean-de-Fos.
  • Saint-Sylvestre-des-Brousses church in Puéchabon.
  • Former Albe-Sabadel pottery workshop in Saint-Jean-de-Fos, listed historic monument.

How to get to?

From Paris: 7 hr 33 min (728 km) via A71 and A75

From Toulouse: 2 hr 31 min (243 km) via A61

From Andorra: 4 hr 21 min (369 km) via A61

From Barcelona: 3 hr 43 min (343 km) via AP-7 and A9

From Madrid: 9 hr 49 min (949 km) via A-2

From Monaco: 4 hr 12 min (390 km) via A8

From Moscow: 36 hr (3,315 km) via E30/M1

From Belgrade: 17 hr 58 min (1,694 km) via E70

From Istanbul: 28 hr (2,643 km) via E70

From Bern: 6 hr 31 min (648 km) via A1

Main information

Area: 38 km2

Population: 244

Coordinates: 43° 44′ 05″ N, 3° 33′ 02″ E

Language: French

Currency: Euro

Visa: Schengen

Time: Central European UTC +1

See here Pyrenees travel guide

See here France travel guide

See here Spain travel guide

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