You want to scale heights? Head for the Pyrenees and the foothills in Béarn.

Le cirque Lescun

Le cirque Lescun © P. GAILLARD CDT64

A mountain for all seasons

Over the seasons, the Pyrenees give opportunities for relaxation and a whole range of activities.

Coated in snow from November to April, there are Alpine and Nordic skiing resorts with ever improving facilities, for winter sports that are fun for the whole family.

Green, yellow, ochre or grey, the Pyrenees change hue with every passing season, in the lofty prairies and rocky outcrops. Fauna and flora are protected – and not only in the Pyrenean national park, which is ideal for hiking, however fast you go.

Blue lakes and torrents, much appreciated by anglers and white water sports lovers. Blue sky too for those who love hang-gliding and paragliding.Just a 3-hour drive from Bordeaux or Toulouse and 60 kilometres from Pau railway station and airport.

Pyrénées

Transhumance des Brebis en Pyrénées © JM DECOMPTE

Spring

Running over mountain peaks, seeing the void and leaping into the air! It’s a breath-taking experience.

All you want is to do it again, and all you can say is an ecstatic « ooh » or « aah ». There you go, you’ve had your introduction to hang-gliding or paragliding! Up in the air, you can see flocks of sheep being driven by their shepherd to the summer meadows, then descending again come autumn.

This is a time for lovely pastoral fêtes. Cherry-picking time in Itxassou in the Basque country; there are all sorts of festivals in fact, adding considerable charm to the region. And how about a tour of the towns in the Béarn des Gaves (that’s what they call the torrents), Portalet fort clinging to the cliff-face, Pau and Henri IV’s castle and lastly the many Ways of Saint James.

The mountains are of course a godsend for hikers with the GR 10 long-distance trail, the Mast Road, Ayous lakes, Lescun cirque and no end of alternatives. Is that a gypaète barbu* up there?!!?
* the gypaète barbu is a bearded vulture, a protected species

Le Lac Ayous

Le Lac Ayous © P.Gaillard CDT64

Summer

Hikes galore! Not necessarily at a cracking pace, there’s so much to see in these protected open spaces, ever-changing panoramas, the Pic du Midi d’Ossau.

Take a deeeeeeeeeep breath! Settle down at the lakeside, to taste the ewe’s cheese you bought from the farm where you spent the night. Check out your mobile app for the names of the majestic peaks around you!

And find your next trail on the one with several suggestions, pointing out the most exciting places of interest. The Pyrenees are totally trending! The cultural festivals just go to show it. To boost your adrenaline there’s via ferrata, mountain biking, canyoning and a white water canoeing facility in Pau to train like local champions Fabien Lefevre, Marianne Agulon and Patrice and Tony Estanguet.

Breeeeeeeeeeeathe out! How about seeing the world’s biggest underground cave open to the public? You call it the Verna? The caves in Sare, Isturitz-Oxocelhaya, and Lestelle-Bétharram are all well worth a visit.

Vallée des Aldudes (64).

Paysage de Navarre © L.REITZ CRTA

Autumn

The forests turn russet and gold in the autumn, recalling the legendary Pyrène, the Celtiberian princess with a long flowing mane of red hair to whom the Pyrenees owe their name.

The highest little train in Europe, « le petit train d’Artouste », can take you up to 2,000m in altitude, for truly lofty views. Alternatively, you can take the pass route.

By bike if you’re fit enough and the temperature still warm enough? As it gets chillier, you might prefer indoor visits to the Fine-Arts museum and château de Pau, the cigar factory in Navarrenx (listed as one of the « Most beautiful Villages in France ») or the Beret museum in the bastide of Nay. It’s also time for the Jurançon, a fascinating white wine that comes mellow or dry, harvested just before the frost comes in.

Wine-growers along the Jurançon Wine Route play host all year long to exhibitions, concerts and of course visitors like you!

Randonnée en raquettes

Randonnée en raquettes © OT de la Vallée d’Aspe

Winter

Ah, the mantle of snow cloaking the valley of Iraty!

the Artouste ski resort by the frozen lake! and the view of the snow-capped peaks from the boulevard des Pyrénées in Pau! Come winter, you’ll love garbure, a hearty soup typical of Béarn with white beans, vegetables and usually some confit duck.

You can often sample some at the Jurançon wine open days.It’s a good way to get your strength up before going cross-country skiing, or Nordic skiing (in Somport, Issarbe and Iraty), down ski slopes and over free-riding areas. There’s also a handiski version (in Gourette and La Pierre-Saint-Martin), and you can also try riding a snowmobile, racing with huskies or spending a night in an igloo with a Nordic bath. And if you long to be pampered after all that, the spas are not far.

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