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5 Brilliant things to do in the Haute-Pyrenees, France

High hills covered with grass and trees surround a tiny village in a valley

The French Pyrenees are a mountain range unlike any other. Situated along the French-Spanish border, these mountains have a distinct medieval history. Although they are less famous than their eastern sisters the Alps, their relative obscurity gives the Pyrenees a distinct peace.

Robynne McTaggart of Le Belvedere, a gorgeous holiday rental home in the lush valley Lavedan, Haute Pyrenees shares her favourite things to do…

Discover the village of Argelès-Gazost

Beautiful mansion house with grey shutters on windows, a green hill in the background

Vallée du Lavedan is one of the 7 valleys which makeup Vallées des Gaves in the Haute-Pyrenees. It’s the principal town in the valley which extends for 50 km north to south, from Lourdes to the Spanish border. There are several smaller towns and many villages in this valley.  Argeles-Gazost is at 400 metres altitude, well below the snowline (above 1000 metres). The town has plenty of shops and restaurants, beautiful villas, a spa park and a fabulous market…

Visit the 750-year-old farmers market

…In Argeles-Gazost every Tuesday morning there is a farmer’s market, which incredibly, has been held here since 1292. Market day is the perfect opportunity to sample locally produced products. Don’t miss a taste of the delicious cheeses, honey, foie gras, charcuterie, gateau a la broche and the local speciality dish “La Garbure”.

Mountain experiences

Fields of maize with a mountain backdrop under a sunny sky

There’s a whole load of activities to enjoy in the area from canyoning, rafting, climbing, paragliding, mountain top hiking trails and more. The mountains house an extremely rich, fragile and well-preserved flora and fauna and have been Heritage Listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The villages of Gavarnie and Gèdre are located in the heart of the Pyrenees National Park and the two municipalities are emblematic of the region.

From the Brèche de Roland, to the great glacial “cirques” and down to the pasture lands. It is one of the most spectacular landscapes that you will ever see.

Straddling the French-Spanish border and overlooking the Spanish canyons of Añisclo, Pineta and the mythical Ordesa, the territory of Gavarnie is part of the “Pyrénées-Mont Perdu, cirques and canyons” national park, recognized as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

Grand glacial cirques, crystalline lakes, snow-capped summits, mighty waterfalls, magnificent beech forests. The airy realm of the French Pyrenees is utterly breathtaking. There are many fantastic hiking journeys that bring you along the best trails of the famed GR10. This long-distance footpath that carves a dramatic route among the high peaks of the Pyrenees. Along the way are spectacular views, including the wild Cirque de Gavarnie, a vast stone amphitheatre with dramatic 4,000-foot-high walls, and the enormous Cirque de Troumousep – five miles end to end!

Relax in a thermal spa

Light blue waters of a rushing river, lined with trees, mountains in the background

Thermal resorts are dotted around the valleys, a great way to enjoy well-being mountain style. The Romans enjoyed the thermal sources on the hillsides of the Pyrenean Mountains. In fact, Emperor Julia Caesar sent his armies to heal their wounds in Barèges (which is also the largest ski resort in the French Pyrenees).

Cycling paradise

Cyclists come from all over the world to ride through the Gaves Valley. It’s one of the favourite areas for the Tour de France. Climb the Col du Tourmalet or numerous other cols, such as Aubisque and Soulor.

To really appreciate the real Pyrenees, you need to get off the beaten track. Ride the back-country trails, where the only sound comes from the tinkle of cowbells and the occasional thunder of melting snow tumbling from a distant ridge. Every year shepherds leads their herds up to the summer pastures around the remote amphitheatre of mountains known as the Cirque de Troumouse. Cycle the Cirque de Gavarie, a UNESCO heritage site, and discover heaven on two wheels.

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