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
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.
Great indoor activity when you need to hide from the sun or you hit a rainy day.
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!
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!
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.
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
Towns and Villages
‘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.
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!
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.
25 different species have been spotted regularly, including 7 threatened species. Awesome
We have a selection of their wines, in fact, your welcome bottle was the local wine! See www.vins-jurancon.fr
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
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.
Guided tours are available with sounds and light exhibitions, although visitor numbers are restricted. Open most of the year.
Visitor numbers are limited to preserve the drawings. Open all year.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.