While Pyrenees hiking tours and bike tours remain intensely popular with tourists seeking outdoor beauty and natural communion, this mountainous region in France also offers many other exceptional qualities and activities. The Pyrenees are a land full of legends, outstanding landscapes, and unspoilt villages, as well as fantastic opportunities for skiing, sampling local gastronomy, and much more. This is a region that is rich in history, boasting a fascinating regional diversity. With so much to see and do in the region, it’s surprising that so many visitors in search of a holiday melding luxury, adventure and natural beauty overlook it. Here’s why you shouldn’t.
From west to east, the Pyrenees show remarkably distinctive landscapes and natural features. It is humid and green in the West; dry as the Mediterranean in the East; and the craggy snow-capped mountains make this mountain range every bit as sublime as the Alps. Their altitude is nearly the same, but the Pyrenean passes are lower, giving them a dramatic and distinctive, finely indented beauty adored by nature enthusiasts and hikers.
This captivating region will also surprise you by the wealth of its gastronomy, boasting local French specialities including foie gras, cassoulet, garbure, ewe cheeses and superb honey. Taking a private food tour of the region is a must if you wish to get an authentic sense of its gastronomic treasures.
Meanwhile, the region’s cultural diversity shines through in the diverse dialects that are spoken in each valley. One thing is sure: this is a region that is so varied and culturally rich, boredom is never a possibility on a tour of luxury holiday here.
The Pyrenees National Park is a favourite destination for hikers and mountain enthusiasts. It is a favourite spot in the French Pyrenees for climbing, biking, skiing, and observing wildlife. There are over 70 different species of animals and flora in the park, and many of them are endemic to this area.
This region is a genuine paradise for bikers, climbers and hikers. Take in the breathtaking perspectives at the Cirque de Gavarnie, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Feel the grandeur of nature by climbing or skiing the Pic du Midi, one of the most majestic peaks of the Pyrenees. Take advantage of this very special setting and go on an excursion through the 15,000 km of marked GR® to discover the Occitan region.
You will not be able to miss mythical routes such as the GR®10 – the Great Pyrenees Crossing, the GR®70 – Stevenson’s Way, the Ways to Santiago de Compostela (GR®65, GR®653…) or the Tour of the Monts d’Aubrac …
You will definitely imagine you are the next “maillot jaune” of the col du Tourmalet. And do not be surprised if you end up crossing paths with bikers from all over the world, who have logged an incredible number of miles on their sophisticated carbon fiber bicycle. In the Pyrenees, bike tours are a serious matter, so check out some of our best biking tours here.
An iconic venue for the Tour de France, the Hautes-Pyrénées are highly appreciated by cyclists. No less than 14 passes or summit finishes are regularly used by the Tour de France. The Hautes-Pyrénées offer varied itineraries, from hillsides to plateaus, from valleys to mountains, popular with cycling enthusiasts and insiders alike, and all this on quality roads. Take a bike ride in the Pyrenees, and pedal towards new discoveries.
Read On: Visit France by Bike
There are many caves in the Pyrenees. The region is very rich and full of history from the Prehistoric sites: you can discover, for instance, the wonderful cave of Gargas, which will carry you back to the era of the upper Palaeolithic, when prehistoric humans roamed the region.
Come and explore the famous caves of Betharram discovered in 1845 by two shepherds. Undoubtedly the most spectacular of all the Pyrenees, they are spread over 5 floors and have given birth to an unimaginable number of stalactites and stalagmites but also to bangs, lace and draperies. To visit this monument you have several options: on foot, by little train or by boat on the underground river, a visit out of time not to be missed.
Less renowned than the Alps, the Pyrenees is definitely a gem for ski lovers! Here, you can enjoy a wide range of activities: from cross-country ski to alpine ski and snowmobiling.
Real natural border between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean over 420km, the Pyrenean mountain range offers majestic and wild landscapes at the same time. In the massif, no less than 38 resorts combine the pleasure of snow with sports and fitness. Indeed, the Pyrenees are privileged to have on their own territory renowned thermal spas, offering a relaxing moment after a sportive day on the slopes, such as: Ax-les-Thermes, Luchon, Vallée du Louron, Cauterets or Saint-Lary.
These stations are a bit more laid-back and rustic than their glamorous Alpine counterparts, but for some luxury travelers who prefer a quieter ambiance, this is ideal.
Take a step up and discover the highest peak in the Pyrenees : The peak of Aneto. Located on the Spanish slope, it culminates at 3,404 meters.
Read On: The Most Luxurious Alpine Spas
At the bend of a market, a la carte in a starred restaurant or on a terrace facing the Pyrenees, taste the gastronomic riches of Béarn and Aragon. There you will savour local and farm products from the Pyrenees such as ewe’s cheese, garbure (soup), tapas, suckling lamb, chocolates and so many others. Meet the local wine producers and discover their artisanal way of making wine.
Titillate your taste buds by savouring great wines from the vineyards of Béarn, Aragon or Jurançon. It is precisely in the Jurançon vineyard, which covers 1200 hectares, that dry or sweet white wines of character are produced. The grape varieties of small and large manseng offer absolutely exquisite aromas of pear, peach and vanilla which can accompany smoked salmon as well as fois gras.
In Aragon or Béarn Pyrénées, there is always a good reason to have a good time. Do you want to discover a little more about Catalan traditions? Have you ever heard about the traditional costume festival, the Horse Riding Competition, the patron saint’s day of San Lorenzo or the Grand Prix automobile race, the Tour de France or even the famous Transhumance in the Béarn valleys? In addition to all these traditional celebrations, many dance, music and theater festivals enchant young and old throughout the year.
As for the traditions that come directly from Catalonia, there is no lack of them either. Do you know the coblas, the typical music or the castellers, those so famous human towers that can culminate up to ten rows of people. If you are a culture lover, the Pyrenees are the ideal place.
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