Walking the Pyrenees the Easy Way

Written by on June 14, 2016 in Midi-Pyrénées, Tours in France

walking-the-pyrenees

The Pyrenees are a natural border separating France and Spain and, although the highest peaks reach over 3000m, there’s some beautiful hiking between villages, keeping mainly to the valleys.

I’ve long wanted to visit the Pyrenees, attracted by the mountains and lured by the promise of good food and wine. Even better I’ve opted for a week’s walking, staying at three comfortable hotels, with my baggage transported between them, so nothing too strenuous. Getting here  from the UK is relatively easy – a flight to Toulouse, a two hour train ride to Tarbes, then 45 minutes in a taxi up the valley to Lesponne.  I’ll be here for two nights and the next day I set out on the first walk.  It’s a fairly easy climb up to Lac d’Ourrec at almost 1700m and then it’s more or less back down the same way. By the lake there are stunning views of the mountains and on my way down I get a tantalising glimpse of the Pic du Midi, through the trees.

Next day I take a taxi to the cable car station just outside Lourdes and am whisked up to the 940m Pic du Jer with no effort. I’m rewarded with a view over the town, but storm clouds are moving in and I realise I have to get a move on if I’m not going to get wet.  It’s a reasonably leisurely downhill walk across the valleys to the attractive spa town of Argeles-Gazost, complete with an English Park and a casino. In fact, the mineral-rich waters attracted the first tourists to the Pyrenees and for years the French government funded the treatments and even allowed licensed gambling.

Argeles-Gazost has a famous Tuesday market, but it’s distinctly soggy this morning as the rain has set in and it’s not worth lingering. Clad head to toe in my weatherproofs, I climb into the mist, wondering whether I might be better off spending my day at the gaming tables, but the rain clears at the village of Saint-Savin.  This once had a thriving monastery, but these days only the 12th century Abbey church remains. It’s still enough to attract pilgrims, though, and I spot a busload, obviously on a side trip from Lourdes.  The village itself is delightfully medieval, centred around a square with half-timbered houses, and there’s an attractive café where I stop to revive my spirits.

hiking-in-the-pyrenees

Overnight the weather worsens and morning dawns dark, with low cloud hugging the mountains.  I take a trail from Soulom, hugging the hillside, once the only way along the valley and it passes the attractive small villages of Viscos and Sazos, looming out of the mist. I arrive at Luz-Saint Saveur just after lunch and have time to explore. There’s a fortified church, a ruined castle on a hill and of course a spa in the twinned village of Saint Saveur. Napoléon III stayed here for 23 days in 1859 with his empress Eugenie and she supposedly conceived her only son during her holiday. Her husband ordered the construction of the Pont Napoleon to link the two villages, and was an essential part of the road construction to Gavernie which is tomorrow’s destination.

I take the bus in the rain, passing Napoleon’s bridge and, within an hour, I’m in Gavernie. My goal is the Grande Cascade, a waterfall with a vertical drop of 422m, making it the highest in Europe. Of course I can’t see a thing but, since my bus isn’t for another four hours, I decide that at least it’s something to aim for.  I trudge upwards over scree, not even sure what I’m aiming for, but suddenly the mist begins to list and I catch sight of the bottom of the waterfall. As I get closer, visibility gets better and finally the entire cascade is revealed. The sun even comes out in the valley and I suddenly feel that the whole walk has been worthwhile. Next morning, as I prepare to take the train back from Lourdes, the clouds have lifted and I feel sun for the first time.  Even better I can see the mountain peaks and realise what I’ve been missing…

Read the full article in The Good Life France Magazine – free to read, download and subscribe to.

Headwater’s Heart of the Pyrenees Walk offers seven nights, self-guided hiking, staying at comfortable three star hotels.

The Tourist Office website: Midi-Pyrénées has information about the region

Related Articles

Visit an exquisite iris farm in the Lot | Iriseraie de Papon

If you’re a fan of flowers, then the breath-taking iris farm Iriseraie de Papon, just outside of the village of Laplume in the Lot-et-Garonne in south-western France is a must-see. Iris Paradise in France With a collection of 2,500 different varieties of irises, there are 5 fields – one for walking through and four for […]

Continue Reading

Discover authentic, unspoiled and utterly gorgeous France on this tour of Aveyron

If you want to discover a south of France destination that’s truly authentic, fairy tale pretty and has oodles of charm, then Aveyron is the place to go. Fairy-tale Aveyron Ever since Peter Mayle put Provence on the tourist map, tourists have led a long procession to enjoy its charms. But, there is another south […]

Continue Reading

The best Normandy tours and excursions

Ophorus offer tours and excursions in France with a difference. They’re not your average tour company. What makes them totally standout is their ability to offer visitors to France a wide range of tours that are authentic, unique and allow you to experience real France with local guides. They operate in all regions, one of […]

Continue Reading

Fabulous Paris and gardens of France tour

A luxury tour which takes in Paris and some of the most beautiful gardens of France tour: Versailles, Giverny and The Loire Valley at their peak. The gardens range from Renaissance to contemporary and include flower gardens, woodland gardens, landscaped parks and, of course, a French specialty, formal gardens. The gardens of France are works […]

Continue Reading

Gorgeous gardens tour of France and England

This fabulous ladies-only tour takes in the most magnificent gardens in France, from Claude Monet’s glorious masterpiece in Giverny to Great Dixter in Kent and many more besides. On this once in a life time tour, you’ll be pampered along your journey with exquisite accommodation and wonderful food and wines. You’ll get access to the […]

Continue Reading

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.

Top