After reading the post ‘Top reasons you should visit splendid Pyrenees Mountains’, you will want to visit France! I have been planning the Pyrenees for a very long time. Back then, I was still living in Paris. The opportunity to visit the Pyrenees came when I moved to the south of France. For sure, it was much closer, and the journey did not take much time.
Hence, there were some amazing places in the Pyrenees on my bucket list. In my experience, I always travel around France by SNCF train. It is the fastest form of transportation in the country. French TGV trains are famous for their high speeds. You can buy tickets for them on the SNCF connect website.
Surely, an exciting option for travel in France is the Ouigo. Usually, tickets for them are available at affordable prices. These trains run from Paris to many famous cities in the country. Moreover, for Ouigo routes and timetables, visit the carrier’s website here. What is the difference between Ouigo and inOui? There is no difference. The first train offers normal TGV service. OUIGO is a discounted service.
Where are the Pyrenees mountains?
Where are the Pyrenees mountains? The Pyrenees (Pirineos) are a mountain range of Europe. They separate France from Spain and go from the Cap de Creus and Cerbere on the Mediterranean Sea to the southeast corner of the Bay of Biscay, from south-southeast to north-northwest. How long are the Pyrenees mountains? Its length is about 450 km, and its greatest width, leaving aside some remote foothills, about 111 km. The Pyrenees are generally composed of two parallel ridges with transverse foothills. The southern ridge is the highest, and it presents an uninterrupted wall in its more significant part.
The chain is higher in the east than in the west, and it reaches its most significant altitude and development in the center. The Maladetta, on the borders of Aragon and Catalonia, has the peak of Aneto (Néthou or Anéthou), which is the highest point of this range (3408 m). Mont Perdu is further west (3355 m). The peak of Vignemale (3298 m) is the highest summit reached by the Pyrenees in France.
Best places to visit in Hautes Pyrenees
What are the best places to visit in Hautes Pyrenees? I took a couchette train from Paris to Tarbes for my trip to the Pyrenees. In addition, in Paris, the train departs from the Austerlitz railroad station. I arrived in Tarbes in the morning and began to make my plans for hiking in the Hautes Pyrenees. Before the trip, I had already planned a list of places to visit. I decided to spend one day in Trabes relaxing and organizing my next days. It was also an excellent day to check out the various information about the Pyrenees. I put on the map new places that particularly interested me.
The next day, I went to the bus station in Tarbes earlier in the morning. My bus to Gavarnie leaves a few minutes before 7 am. That’s the destination of my trip. I took the bus to Gavarnie, which only runs during the summer season. In addition, you can find current schedules on the carrier’s website, liO Occitanie. The ticket for 60km costs 2 Euro. On the way, I studied with a tourist guide to the Pyrenees. I find there are a lot of interesting facts about the Pyrenees mountains.
Cirque de Gavarnie
Are you planning a trip to the Pyrenees to get a breath of fresh air? Then don’t miss to visit the Cirque de Gavarnie! The Cirque de Gavarnie is one of the most unique and beautiful places in the French Pyrenees. Located in the Pyrenees National Park, it was even listed in 1997 as a Unesco World Heritage Site as part of the Pyrenees-Mont Perdu. Imagine: you are standing on the French-Spanish border, surrounded by the high massif of the Mont Perdu, which exceeds 3000 m in altitude. In front of you stands the majestic Cirque de Gavarnie and its impressive Grande Cascade.
Other extraordinary natural places are waiting for you in the surroundings, breathtaking landscapes that will mark you for life. You will be able to discover them during superb hikes in the middle of nature. In short, visiting the Cirque de Gavarnie will leave you speechless!
Near the circus stands the village of Gavarnie, the highest in the department. Less than 150 inhabitants still live in this hamlet. It has existed since the 10th century. At that time, it could be a stage in the pilgrimage to Saint Jacques de Compostelle.
Gavarnie, in the past
At the end of the 18th century and during the 19th century, the Cirque de Gavarnie was the object of numerous botanical, geological, and topographical research. Writers like Victor Hugo, painters, and photographers also discover its beauty to the general public. For a long time, Gavarnie has aroused astonishment and curiosity. Its fame was built by the various explorations it generated, which gave it the tourist exposure that it knows today.
The temperatures and climate are ideal for visiting the Cirque de Gavarnie in the summer. Unfortunately, during this period, the site became exceptionally crowded with visitors. Every day, hundreds of people come to walk from the village of Gavarnie to the cirque. Thanks to this easy path for all hikers. With its international reputation and presence in every advertisement in the Pyrenees, it is not surprising that it is so popular.
If you come in summer, plan to leave early in the morning to avoid the crowds! You will have the chance to enjoy this natural site without the overwhelming mass of visitors. During the day, you will be able to take some paths to the heights or other less frequented places around.
I recommend that you visit the Cirque de Gavarnie in spring or autumn. The contrast between these periods and the summer season is striking: very few hikers and a site almost exclusively for oneself! Nevertheless, be careful with the weather conditions and the temperatures during these two periods.
What to do or not to do in the Cirque de Gavarnie
Visiting the Cirque de Gavarnie implies following some rules. Indeed, you will evolve in the heart of the Pyrenees National Park. It would be best if you, therefore, respected the regulations. Take your waste with you, do not pick anything, and do not leave anything behind. It is forbidden to interact with or harm the fauna and flora. I also recommend that you stick to the marked paths. Dogs are also prohibited in the National Park.
However, they are tolerated on a leash on the main path between the village and the cirque. Finally, be sure to respect the quietness of the place. Despite the particular animation in summer, don’t forget that the Cirque de Gavarnie is a place protected by the law.
What to see and do in the Cirque de Gavarnie?
The different hikes to visit the Cirque de Gavarnie will allow you to admire magnificent mountain landscapes. In front of you, you will find a prodigious wall of rocks 1700 meters high and 14 kilometers in circumference. Several gigantic and impressive mountains frame these sublime concentric steps of striking symmetry. You can admire the following peaks:
- Mont Perdu : 3352 mètres
- Pic du Marboré : 3248 meters
- Taillon : 3144 meters
- Breche de Roland: 2807 meters
Once you arrive at the Cirque de Gavarnie, you can also see the extraordinary Grande Cascade. It is one of the highest waterfalls in Europe, with 413 meters of free fall! So don’t miss the chance to reach it. A path allows you to get close to it and pass at the foot of the waterfall!
From the village of Gavarnie, many hikes are available to go to the cirque and admire it from the superb belvederes located around. Two famous walks will lead you to the foot of the great waterfall.
How to get to Cirque de Gavarnie?
The easiest and fastest way to get there is by car. There is only one road to reach the village of Gavarnie. It leaves from Lourdes and winds through the Pyrenees for less than 50 km. Most of the parking lots in Gavarnie are free. The site is so successful that it is strongly advised to arrive early in the morning to hope to park without difficulty. From the 1st to the 31st of October, it costs 5 € every 24 hours to park your car in the village of Gavarnie.
Information for visitors:
There are one or two hotels in the village of Gavarnie and also in the village of Gèdre a few kilometers to the north. A much wider choice is available in Luz-Saint-Sauveur, 30 minutes (by car) to the north. For camping enthusiasts, I especially recommend camping les cascades Luz Saint Sauveur.
Cirque de Gavarnie hike
Beautiful hikes allow us to have magnificent panoramas of the cirque of Gavarnie and its summits of more than 3000 meters of altitude. You can, for example, go up to the Espuguettes refuge, follow the path of the Gypaètes or go for a walk on the c. You can also go to the summit of Pimené or go to the lake of the Ossoue dam.
I strongly advise you to walk a little on the Vulture’s path because it allows you to be on a kind of balcony above the village and just in front of the whole cirque—a superb place with a majestic panorama for a straightforward hike. You can also do it in winter but be careful with the slope because the path is difficult if there is a lot of snow.
In the heart of the cirque, there is the Grande Cascade, which you can see from far away. But a path allows you to get close to it and pass at the foot of the waterfall. There are many ways to enter the cirque, and one of them will enable you to go to the hotel of the cirque, a hike that can be done in summer and winter (with snowshoes or skis). Be careful; this hiking route is hectic during the summer season, so it is better to do the hike early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
Hotels in Gavarnie, France
You can stay in one of the hotels or campsites near the village of Gavarnie. I recommend Hotel Appart or Hotel des Cimes in Gavarnie. We will take advantage of this unique environment. Note that the road allows you to go to the end of the town. You have a superb panorama of the cirque even in winter because the road is cleared of snow because of the ski resort, which is a little higher.
A nice hike from the cirque of Gavarnie will be to go up to the refuge of Espuguettes and then continue to climb to reach the summit of Piméné. A peak of a little less than 3000 meters offers a superb panorama of the mountains of the cirque (particularly when they are still snowed). Do not hesitate to consult the topo to go up to Pimené.
WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE IN THE CIRQUE OF GAVARNIE ?
A mountain climate bathes the village of Gavarnie. The disturbances coming from the northwest tend to clash with the relief releasing then relatively high precipitations. In winter, this results in generous snowfalls that skiers can enjoy on the slopes of the Gavarnie-Gèdre resort. The road leading from the village to the cirque is evident even in winter. I do not recommend going to the heart of the cirque at this time. The risk of an avalanche is very high.
The long sunny days make it possible to explore this exceptional site in ideal conditions from June onwards. However, be careful to wear several layers of clothing to adjust the amount of heat according to the altitude. With a departure at 1,500 meters, the temperature can quickly drop as you approach the heights, even in summer.
If you have reached Gavarnie, you will be aware that the landscape with its mountains and passes is the main attraction for visitors to the Pyrenees National Park. It is worth noting that here as elsewhere in the Pyrenees, there are trails for all levels of hiking ability – ask at the tourist office, and they can recommend walks that are suitable for children and the less ambitious.
More ambitious hikers will find endless possibilities with options to head to Mount Perdu or elsewhere in the mountains near the Gavarnie Cirque, and cyclists can follow the Col du Tourmalet or other great cycling routes through the Pyrenees.
Brèche de Roland hike
The unavoidable and mythical Brèche de Roland is a mineral world of beauty that is part of the famous site of the Cirque de Gavarnie, classified as World Heritage by UNESCO.
In reality, the breach is a 40m wide and 100m high hole in the rock of the cirque of Gavarnie! At the foot of the Casque de Marboré, it marks the border between France and Spain. It’s also a must-see if you want to climb Taillon’s peak or reach the summit of Mont Perdu from France. From the Brèche de Roland, you will have a great point of view of the cirque of Gavarnie and the canyon of Ordesa in Spain.
The Brèche de Roland is accessible from the refuge des Sarradets, with an ascent of 45 minutes. Small anecdote: its name comes from a legend according to which it was the nephew of Charlemagne named Roland who opened the breach. He would have struck it with his sword that he wanted to destroy. Roland then struck the rock with his sword once the battle of Roncesvalles was over, but his weapon could not be broken.
So he would have thrown it with all his strength into the valley. According to the legend, it would be today hidden in a cliff in Rocamadour. This site attracts a large number of hikers and climbers who come to admire this lunar landscape full of mysteries.
PYRENEES – MONT PERDU : CIRQUES AND CANYONS BETWEEN FRANCE AND SPAIN
The Pyrenees Mont Perdu has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997 for both natural and cultural landscapes. Radiating between France and Spain, the “Pyrenees – Mont Perdu” site is sculpted by bottomless canyons on the Spanish side and spectacular cirques on the French side. It is characterized by a unique geodiversity that bears exceptional witness to the formation of the Pyrenees. Its pastoral landscape, which has remained unchanged throughout the 20th century in this one place of the Pyrenees, also offers a precious testimony of an agricultural and mountain way of life once widespread in Europe.
A vast cross-border area, The Pyrenees Mont Perdu area, includes :
- A part of the Pyrenees National Park and locations on the park’s periphery. In the municipalities of Aragnouet, Gavarnie, and Gèdre on the French side
- The Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park (Aragon) and some adjacent areas in the territories of Bielsa, Fanlo, Puértolas, Tella-Sin, and Torla on the Spanish side.
- The whole forms an exceptional landscape with meadows, lakes, caves, mountains, and forests.
On both sides of the border, there are great sites:
- In France, in the Hautes-Pyrénées, the cirques of Gavarnie, Estaubé, and Troumouse and the wall of Barroude are cirques of glacial origin with high steep walls. In Spain, in the province of Aragon, the canyons of Ordesa, Niscle, and Pineta are among the deepest in Europe.
Pic du Marboré
The Cylindre du Marboré is located in Spain in the limestone massif of the Mont Perdu, itself situated in the province of Huesca in Aragon. The Cylinder is part, with the Mont Perdu and the Soum de Ramond, of the set of the Three Sisters (Très Sororès in Spanish), which forms the culminating backdrop of the massif of the Mont Perdu. The Cylinder is the most northwestern summit of the three sisters.
Its name comes from its cylindrical shape and Marboré, which means marble, so the meaning would be the Cylinder of marble, although the massif is not made of marble. Marboré applies to several peaks in the area, visible from France, such as the peak of Marboré or the Casque du Marboré.
There are two hypotheses. The presence of an old marble quarry at the foot of the area. The first geological theories of the 18th century assumed that the massif of the Mont-Perdu was composed of hard limestone, in this case, marble, a metamorphic rock derived from limestone.
Discover the Pont d’Espagne
Located in the heights of the spa town of Cauterets, in the heart of the Pyrenees National Park, 30 km from Lourdes, and crossed by the famous GR10 circuit,Pont d’Espagne is a unique monument.
This tourist site of significant importance for the region is classified as World Heritage by UNESCO and is among the Great Sites of Occitania. The Pont d’Espagne is located at the confluence of the Gave de Marcadau and the Gave de Gaude and forms a geographical bottleneck composed of numerous tumultuous waterfalls overhung by the famous bridge. Above the Pont d’Espagne, a gigantic pasture of greasy grass is ideal for picnics.
Contemplative walks along these turbulent streams are particularly exotic and surprisingly soothing. On the other side is a forest area where the GR10 circuit passes, perfect for hiking enthusiasts. The majestic transparent lake of Gaube surrounded by massifs is a real treat for the eyes. This area is home to exceptional fauna and flora.
If you are lucky, you may come across an island, one of the primary residents of the place, which often lets itself be approached, or the more shy marmot and the beaver, an animal used to the presence of visitors. It is difficult not to succumb to the thermal spring on the way back to the village for an unforgettable moment of well-being and relaxation.
I hope you enjoyed the post ‘Top reasons you should visit splendid Pyrenees Mountains.’
Which things to do in the Pyrenees do you want the most? Let me know in the comments!