Located at the heart of the Fenouillèdes massif, on the border of the departments of Aude and the Pyrénées-Orientales, in France, the Gorges de Galamus are a real challenge for drivers. It’s an amazing drive along a balcony road that is so narrow in places that two cars could not possibly pass. If you can cope with nausea inducing narrow roads with sheer drops, then this is the place for you! It’s one of the French balcony roads.
The roads to cross the gorges, extremely narrow and dangerous, are D10 and D7, and both are a challenge for car drivers. Crossing the gorges by car is possible all year but in summers the road becomes very busy and the traffic problems are obvious. In July and August there’s a special regulation. These roads through the gorges are very lovely but can also be very challenging if you are driving, with many sections too narrow for cars to pass and a strong chance you will need to reverse around a blind corner on a narrow road!
The gorges are located in the towns of Cubières-sur-Cinoble and Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet in the Pyrénées-Orientales and have a length of 2km. Because its narrowness, it is impossible to turn back. The views are stunning for passengers but you can't stop for the driver to see the views too. The weather is unpredictable. Expect high winds often.
The route starts in Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet a commune in the Pyrénées-Orientales department in southern France. After 9.3km going through the infamous Gorges de Galamus, the road arrives to Cubières-sur-Cinoble, a commune in the Aude department in southern France. This road is one of the most famous balcony roads in France. A balcony road is a hair-raising lane cut into the sides of sheer cliffs. It’s a kind of road not for those who fear heights. There is little room for error on these roads. It’s normal for your palms to sweat looking at those photos, imagine what it must have been like before the barriers. It runs as a single track road along the mountainside for some distance with nowhere to pass another vehicle. Here one says a prayer that nobody is coming towards you until the road widens some kilometres further. The twisty road is carved into sheer cliff walls that drop 1,000 feet into the river gorge below, with the short 3-foot stone wall offering no safety barrier if you hit it on a bike and flip over it. You can go slowly, but expect to be blocked and have some difficult manoeuvres if you cross someone from the other side. It’s not for the sissies and shouldn’t be attempted by novice drivers. It’s an amazing drive through the narrow gorge with very steep and large drops to the river below! The Galamus gorges extend over 2 m, a spectacular natural site with vertiginous limestone cliff faces. Words can’t describe the road and pictures don’t do it justice. It is recommended that beginner riders avoid this road. The gorges were impassable until the 1890s when the road was built by men attached to ropes.
Coming from Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet immediately before the amazing part of the route D7 starts, there is a small restaurant with a big parking place. The parking place for cars and motorbikes is a great viewpoint of the gorges. The pavement through the gorges has no guard rails but there is always a stone wall that protects you from falling into the gorges. Of Course you can jump over the wall if you are tired of live but there is definitely no chance to fall down by accident. The road is definitely so small that big SUV-Cars would have problems to pass through. But if you are driving a “normal” car this is no problem. If a car comes contrary to you there are possibilities to pass by because every 100 meter there is a place to do it. You have to keep in mind that this street was built in a time when horse-driven carriages were normal. It’s impossible to turn a horse driven carriage around on such a small street – so the constructors had to provide possibilities. At the end of the 2 km (seen from Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet) there is again a parking place which is mostly used by drivers of cars and motorbikes to turn around to have this incredible thrill again. At this end the river is just a few meters below the street and on sunny days you can take a bath there.
Beware of many pedestrians with cameras as well as crowds of young people on the way to rafting adventures. 200 meters after the start of this amazing part of the D7 there is a hermitage that can be visited (no one is living there anymore). Beware of strong winds. The form of the gorge is like a nozzle. Do not drive into the gorge with a bicycle on stormy days. There are on both sides of the gorges warning sign because of this danger. Not a common sign. Especially at the start of the gorges (seen from Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet) the drop of the gorges is breath taking. Motorbikes and cars have no problems to pass by nearly on nearly every place on this road.
Driving this road can be combined with 3 additional tourist attractions: Starting at Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet you pass the Gorges du Galamus on the D7. Don’t be confused by the street numbers: In France the streets are numbered by the different provinces. Due to the fact that you cross a province border the same street suddenly has the number D10. In Cubieres-sur-Cinoble turn right and follow the D14 until Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse where you can visit the ruins of an old Catharrer castle. Chateau de Peyrepertuse is really worth a visit – on sunny days you can see the sea. The street up to the parking place where the road ends is steep (partly more than 15%) and winding. Driving back you should go on driving the D14 until Cucugnan and enter the D123/D19 where you can visit Chateau de Queribus. You have to do a small walk from the parking place to the castle for both Queribus and Peyrepertuse. Caution: Bring water with you. On hot summer days the short walk can be really exhausting. Finally, going on driving the D19 until Maury you are driving the “Grau du Maury”. This road is wide, well paved, has only very few traffic and descends slowly until Maury. The very special thing of the “Grau de Maury” is the incredible view about surrounding mountains – You missed something if you have not seen this. All of this within a distance of less than 40 Km.
Road suggested by: Michael Spannlang