Activities

There is so much to do and see in the Pyrenees that a week will never be enough time to see everything so we have decided to divide our information up into manageable chunks focusing on outdoor activities, a family section with fun activities for the children, plants and wildlife including animal parks, winter activities, visiting interesting towns and villages and other special places we love.

Thrills and Activities

Acrobatic Forest Trails
If you like the thrills of Acrobatic Forest Trails there are several in the area suitable for children aged 4 and over; up to and including adults.

One of the most popular is Chloro’fil Parc. There are 12 circuits over 7 and a half acres of forest, with amazing views over the most beautiful summits in the Pyrenees. Circuits are graded by height and level of difficulty and are accessible to all. Special mini circuits are available for children from 4 years upwards. Scary adult circuits are available. Well supervised and safety is taken seriously.

Aquarium Tropical de Pierrefitte-Nestalas
Suitable for all the family, this aquarium contains over 240 species in 52 aquariums and is open all year round.

Great indoor activity when you need to hide from the sun or you hit a rainy day.

The Pyrenees Animal Park
– or Colline aux Marmottes – at Argèles Gazost is home to a dozen or more different species of animals typical of this region.

Around 10 hectares packed with bears, wolves, otters, deer, birds of prey, chamoix, Ibex, genets and a petting zoo.

Log cabins are available to rent for overnight visits to watch wolves. Open April to October. Tickets available on-line.

Built into the side of a mountain, this park is a place where you can not only observe the animals but for certain species, you are allowed direct access to stroke and feed the animals – a pleasure for old and young alike. My boys loved the ‘hand on approach’ here and it was recently voted the 3rd most beautiful park in France!

Mountain Madness
A short drive away is the ski station of Hautacam. During the summer months, the mountain luge (bobsleigh circuit on rails) is a fun ride for children and adults alike.

There are also go-karting and quad bikes available for hire. After a mad morning’s activity have a lazy lunch and walk it off with an hour-long walk to the peaceful lake of Isaby. A perfect day!

Parc Préhistoire de La Bastide
Around 15,000 years ago, a group of nomadic hunters stayed regularly in Labastide in the Baronnies valley in the heart of the Pyrenees. The men left in a secret cave beautiful stories and treasures. More than 200 bison prints, horses, lions, birds, men … and a magnificent polychrome painting of a horse almost life-size.

Today, at PREHISTOIRE Area LABASTIDE you will discover the life, culture and the mysterious art of our ancestors and travel to the heart of the last great prehistoric culture through a magical and original animation in a cave. It’s all hands on stuff; you learn how to survive, make a primitive fire, a spear and hunt. The children get the chance to create and paint animals from natural pigments as well.

New for 2015 is a fun course for children with nets, rope bridges, zip wire and climbing stuff. Fantastic day out. Restaurant and cafes. English version of the website: www.espace-prehistoire-labastide.fr once on the website click on the union jack flag or just ask us.

It is about a 1-hour drive from us and you would need to allow a full day here.

Aquaparc Lau Folies
The Aquatic Center FOLIES Lau is one of the flagship activities of the Sailhet Sports Complex.

It is open all year and offers activities Winter and Summer for all ages and abilities. It is an easy 30-minute drive from Les Haut Pâturages/Higher Pastures. Their website has an English version — www.laufolies.com.

In a beautiful setting, Aqua Parc offers 2 pools both completely renovated in 2015 also added: 1 brand new wading pool, 1 beach fun with the “Scorpion Lavedan”, 4 waterslides including KAMIKAZE exceptional, which is a crazy 8 meters high water slide, beach volleyball, a fitness area, restaurant/cafe and picnic area. There are many shaded areas essential in the summer months.

ATTENTION — BERMUDA SHORTS AND UNDERWEAR NOT ALLOWED. Swimming trunks only and the french are very strict about this rule.

Castles and Chateau

Chateau de Mauvezin
Originally built in 1607, this castle in the Baronnies Valley is just 25 minutes from the Les Hauts Pâturages/Higher Pastures. Visit the restored museum, tour the Castle then picnic and relax in the castle grounds for the afternoon.
l’Abbaye de l’Escaladieu
This lovely Cistercian abbey was built in the 12th century and is a beautiful place to visit and wander around.

Towns and Villages

Bagnères-de-Bigorre
Exit Les Hauts Pâturages/Higher Pasturers and turn right, point the car down the mountain and you will arrive in Bagnères in around 10 minutes. This is a lovely town with an authentic French feel offering a good mix of supermarkets, cafes, shops, restaurants and bars, as well as a fabulous spa. There are also several doctors, dentist and banks plus a hospital with an emergency room. The Saturday market is a great event with lots of local produce on sale. There is also a couple of museums and the tourist office can advise of local events happening during your stay.
Lourdes
20 minutes drive from Les Hauts Paturages, this important Catholic pilgrimage site receives 5 million visitors and pilgrims each year. The Sanctuary of Lourdes, has beautiful monuments, churches, and the Grotto of Massabielle where the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, welcomes over 6 million visitors from all over the world every year. From March to October, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is a place of mass pilgrimage from Europe and other parts of the world. Especially impressive are candlelight and sacrament processions. Lourdes also has a Fortified Castle that rises up from a rocky escarpment at its centre, overlooking the town. It houses the Pyrenees Museum of Popular Art and Traditions. Lourdes is a buzzing town with plenty to do and see. It has a daily market where local products abound, plus numerous restaurants, street cafes and bars with an international flavour.
Tarbes
The administrative capital of the area. It’s a small city with some lovely parks and a couple of museums. Easy living, breathtaking views of the Pyrenees, Indispensable stop between Lourdes and the famous sites of the Pyrenean massif. Tarbes reveals its charms, whilst strolling down palm-lined streets full of shops and restaurants. Spend some time at the National Stud, a testimony of the close relationship between the city and the horse. Be amazed by the Massey gardens, beautifully landscaped totalling 14 hectares, which houses the Massey museum and its collection dedicated to exceptional Hussars.
Pau
Known as the gateway to the Pyrenees, this beautiful city enjoys a spectacular mountain backdrop. It offers many parks, shops, places to eat museums, and sights, including the Chteau de Pau, the fabulous Boulevard des Pyrnes and the (free) funicular railway connecting the lower and upper parts of the town.
Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges
A member of the Plus Beaux Villages de France, this village comprises an 11th-century cathedral, roman ruins, archaeological museum and town walls and can be reached in about an hour by car.

Outdoor Activities

Kayaking/Canoeing
Haute Pyrenees is a prime area for water sports and the many mountain torrents like the Gave de Pau are ideal for canoeing and kayaking amidst spectacular scenery. These rushing mountain streams can be challenging but there are plenty of bases such as the one at St-Pe-de-Bigorre near Lourdes which have training courses run by the French Canoe Kayak Federation.

‘Wild Gaves’ 2 avenue des Pyrenees in Argeles-Gazost offers canoeing, kayaking, rafting and canyoning and there are opportunities to canoe on the calmer waters of the lakes, like Lac Vert close to Lourdes.

Wildlife and Birdwatching
The Pyrenees are one of the few natural sanctuaries left in Europe for fauna and flora and Hautes Pyrenees is a fantastic place to see some of nature’s most rare and beautiful birds, fauna and flowers.

In spring and summer, the valleys and hillsides are a riot of colour with wild daffodils and violets, saxifrage, iris, wild roses and many types of orchid. This floral banquet attracts unique butterflies like the Gavarnie Blue and Gavarnie Ringlet.

Of the 400 species of flowers 160, like the Pyrenean ramonda and tiny purple crocus, are specific to these mountains. Some require such specialised conditions they only grow on certain slopes.

The isard, symbol of the Pyrenees National Park, actually belongs to the antelope family. Use binoculars to see them scaling the mountain slopes at an amazing pace.

Sadly there’s little chance of seeing a Pyrenean brown bear as they were hunted to near extinction in the 1990s.(Controversially though a few brown bears were re-introduced into the Pyrenees National Park in 1996).

Large numbers of small mammals, such as the shrew-like Pyrenean desman and playful marmots which winter underground and whistle to alert their group to danger, provide plentiful food for the many birds of prey. Red and black kites and short-toed, Bonelli’s and golden eagles patrol valleys and mountainsides. Scan the Hautes Pyrenean skies for a real treat – magnificent griffon, bearded and Egyptian vultures. Spot snow partridge and capercaillie amongst the snow.

Thankfully, the conservation work carried out in protected areas like the National Park and Neouvielle Nature Park means indigenous wildlife is increasing for everyone to enjoy. Don’t forget your camera!

Riding
Horse riding is a popular way of exploring the Pyrenean foothills and makes a great adventure holiday.

Places like Bagneres-de-Bigorre, Argeles-Gazost, Cauteret, Gavarnie-Gedre, Louron Valley, Val d’Azun and more, all offer riding. Many stables cater for beginners and also give lessons.

Lakes such as Estaing and Payolle have riding facilities around their shores and equestrian centres near Lourdes include:

  • Ecuries de Pheline in Ossun, tel: (00 33) 6 07 61 44 70
  • Centre Equestre des Granges, Julos, tel: (00 33) 6 85 20 42 94
  • Etrier de Bigorre at Benac, tel: (00 33) 5 62 45 40 60

La Ferme Equestre du Bourdalat at Ouzons in the Vallees des Gaves offers lessons and a variety of rides from 1hr to a day’s duration. Tel: (00 33) 5 62 97 16 58.

The Massif de Pibeste Nature Reserve
The wonderful place with a Mediterranean micro-climate, displays an abundance of mountain flora and fauna. Vultures and other birds of prey nest in the nearby quarry and use the thermals to rise above the Lourdes valley.

25 different species have been spotted regularly, including 7 threatened species. Awesome

Donjon des Aigles
Visit the restored Chateau de Beaucens to see bird of prey and parrot displays. Open spring to September.
Tourmalet Botanical Gardens
Famous botanical gardens specialising in the varied and beautiful flora of the Pyrenees in a 1500m mountain setting. Open mid-May to mid-September.
Juranon vineyards
The local Juranon wine was first granted its “appellation controle” in the 14th century. The area is situated to the south-west of Pau and there are numerous wine estates and cellars open for tasting.

We have a selection of their wines, in fact, your welcome bottle was the local wine! See www.vins-jurancon.fr

Golf
There are several renowned golf courses in the region, of which two golf courses are within easy reach of Higher Pastures:

Lourdes golf club is within 15 minutes drive. It is ideally situated in the woodlands on the southern bank of the Lake of Lourdes. and offers magnificent views of the Pyrenees.

20 minutes away above the spa town of Bagnères de Bigorre is another well-designed golf course. Again there are spectacular views, especially the Pic de Midi. Practice facilities, golf carts and restaurant facilities are available at both courses.

Caves and Mountains

Bétharram Caves – Saint – Pe De Bigorre
Fantastic journey over 5 levels going down and down topped off with a crazy Viking long boat ride. Discover stalagmites and stalactites. Great if you have a rainy day. Kids love it. Loads of information, lots of languages. Suitable for all. Took my mum aged 84 and she loved it.

There are probably over a hundred steps, however, it’s taken at a leisurely pace and the guides are so kind and friendly that it wasn’t a problem. Cafe and Toilets. Easy parking. Open February – October – its chilly in the caves so take extra layers, especially for the children.

Gouffre d’Esparros Caves
This protected underground chasm boasts huge caves and rock formations made principally of aragonite.

Guided tours are available with sounds and light exhibitions, although visitor numbers are restricted. Open most of the year.



Grottes de Gargas Caves
These prehistoric caves are world famous for their 27,000-year-old cave art.

Visitor numbers are limited to preserve the drawings. Open all year.

Grottes de Mdous Caves
Near to Lourdes, this ancient cave system is partly explored by boat. Open April to October.
The Pic Du Jer Caves at Lourdes
At the summit of the Pic du Jer around 1,000m they do guided tours of the caves. You get to it by taking the funicular ( crazy cable car).

The views are incredible so choose a clear day. The funicular is worth a trip just for the views alone. At the top is a bar-restaurant with terrace and views to die for.

If you are feeling brave, you can descend on a mountain bike.

Pic Du Midi
If you only do one trip – do this! At the summit, it is 2,877m above sea-level. We visited the first week in July last year and there was still some snow around.

Hop on the cable car from La Mongie and ride to the top of the mountains. Weather permitting you will see the Pyrenean Chain and South West France.

There is a lovely restaurant, cafe, museum and Shop. It is famous for its astronomical observatory, the Observatoire du Pic du Midi de Bigorre, part of the Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées. They also have very special evening events around astronomy and you can even watch the sunrise!

Cirque de Gavarnie
Gavarnie (1365m) is the highest village in the Hautes Pyrénées, and is famous for its ‘Cirque de montagnes’.

From the outset, the Cirque of Gavarnie surprises by its colossal size: it is more than 2 miles in circumference at its base and nearly 9 miles in circumference at its highest point with a depth of 1800m from top to bottom.

There is a stunning beautiful 1,385 ft high waterfall (the highest in Europe) it seems suspended in mid-air.

Horses or donkeys can be rented to help you along this two-hour trip – good idea for kids and grannies.

A visit to Gavarnie can be extended by a trip to the “Brèche de Roland” (one of the most popular in the Pyrénées). Although it is not particularly difficult, a good deal of care and the adequate equipment are however essential. From there, you have a magnificent view of the parc d’Ordesa and the canyons or Haut Aragon in Spain. Awesome views!

Gavarnie also has smaller neighbouring cirques such as “Troumouse” and “Estaubé”, also well worth a visit. You need to allow a full day for such an adventure.

Le Petit Train d’Artouste
Europe’s highest train takes you through the mountains to the Lac d’Artouste, providing stunning panoramas en route. The whole trip takes about 4 hours and costs around 20 euros per person.
Pont d’Espagne
Located above the town of Cauterets in the Pyrenees National Park, the Pont d’Espagne is one of the “Grand Sites” of the Pyrenees.

It is a protected area gives access to two major valleys with a series of walks which take in waterfalls, lakes and offer fantastic views. Again this needs a whole day to take in the scenery and atmosphere.

A Family Walk from our doorstep
Higher Pastures is an ideal starting point in the mid-mountains for many excellent walks, rambles and bike rides.

One family walk takes you to the Croix Blanche and the Viewing Point, from where you can see the mountain range to the South and a magnificent view of the valleys to the North.

Slightly further on is the Pastoral area where horses, cows and sheep graze.

A good warming-up exercise before doing any of the bigger peaks is the Pic de la Clique at Germs (1048m).

After that, you can move on to the Col de Couret (1527m) or the even more adventurous Pic de Montaigu (2339m).

On the mountain roads before dropping down into Bagnères lies the plateau d’Esquiou, where you might bump into the occasional woodcutter or shepherd. This is the starting point of numerous walks, including the Pid de Labassère and the Pic de Monné.