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Canigó, December 2004
Highest point
Elevation 2,784 m (9,134 ft)
Prominence 550 m (1,800 ft)
Coordinates 42°31′08″N 02°27′24″E / 42.51889°N 2.45667°E / 42.51889; 2.45667Coordinates: 42°31′08″N 02°27′24″E / 42.51889°N 2.45667°E / 42.51889; 2.45667
Parent range Pyrenees
First ascent According to tradition, in 1285 by Peter III of Aragon
Easiest route hike

The Canigou (French pronunciation: ​[kaniɡu]; Catalan: Canigó [kəniˈɣo], locally: [kəniˈɣu]; el. 2,784.66 m./9137 ft.) is a mountain located in the Pyrenees of southern France.

Due to its sharp flanks and its dramatic location close to the coast, until the 18th century the Canigou was believed to be the highest mountain in the Pyrenees.[1]


The Canigou is located in Pyrénées-Orientales, south of Prades and north of Prats-de-Mollo-la-Preste. Its summit is a quadripoint between the territories of Casteil, Taurinya, Valmanya and Vernet-les-Bains. Its location makes it visible from the plains of Roussillon and from Conflent in France, and as well from Empordà in Spain.[2]

Twice a year, in early february and at the end of october, with good weather, the Canigou can be seen at sunset from as far as Marseille, 250 km away, by refraction of light. This phenomenon was observed in 1808 by baron Franz Xaver von Zach from the Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica in Marseille.[3] During all year long, it can also be seen with good weather from Agde, Port-Camargue and even in the Montagne Noire.

Trekking and sightseeing[edit]

Spectacular jeep tracks on the north side of the massif lead to the Chalet de Cortalets (at 2150 m.) which is a popular outpost for walkers.

There are two ancient monasteries at the foot of the mountain, Martin-du-Canigou and Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa.

Canigou Flame[edit]

This mountain has symbolical significance for Catalan people. On its summit there is a cross that is often decorated with the Catalan flag.[4] Every year on 23 June, the night before St. John's day (nuit de Saint Jean), there is a ceremony called Flama del Canigó (Canigou Flame), where a fire is lit at the mountaintop. People keep a vigil during the night and take torches lit on that fire in a spectacular torch relay to light bonfires somewhere else.[5] Some estimates conclude that about 30,000 bonfires are lit in this way all over Catalonia on that night.[6]


The Canigou inspired the epic poem "Canigó" by Catalan poet Jacint Verdaguer i Santaló. In these verses Verdaguer compares the snowy mountain to a Magnolia flower:

Lo Canigó és una magnòlia immensa
que en un rebrot del Pirineu se bada;
per abelles té fades que la volten,
per papallons los cisnes i les àligues.
Formen son càlzer escarides serres
que plateja l’hivern i l’estiu daura,
grandiós beire on beu olors l’estrella,
los aires rellentor, los núvols aigua.
Les boscúries de pins són sos bardissos,
los Estanyols ses gotes de rosada,
i és son pistil aqueix palau aurífic,
somni d’aloja que del cel davalla. (p. 27-28)

Meaning: The Canigó is an immense magnolia

that blooms in an offshoot of the Pyrenees;
its bees are the fairies that surround it,
and its butterflies the swans and the eagles.
Its cup are jagged mountain chains,
colored in silver by the winter and in gold by the summer,
huge cup where the star drinks fragrances, the airs freshness and the clouds water.
The pine forests are its hedges and the ponds its dew drops,
and its pistil is that golden palace,
seen by the nymph in her dreams descending from heaven.
View from the summit

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Histoire du Roussillon - Le relief des Pyrénées-Orientales
  2. ^ Guide du Roussillon et de l'Andorre : touristique, historique, social, économique, Perpignan, Sud Roussillon, 1968, 286 p.
  3. ^ Cárdenas, Fabricio (2014). 66 petites histoires du Pays Catalan [66 Little Stories of Catalan Country] (in French). Perpignan: Ultima Necat. ISBN 978-2-36771-006-8. OCLC 893847466. 
  4. ^ Pyrénées Team - Croix du Canigou
  5. ^ Vermut a la rebuda de la Flama del Canigó
  6. ^ Festes - l'espai on comença la festa


External links[edit]

  • [1] One of the best mountain marathon races in Europe - to the summit of Canigou and back from Vernet-les-Bains
  • Pyrenees Rescue
  • All information about the Canigou massif: nature, culture and itineraries (in Catalan)