The cirques of Gavarnie, Estaubé and Troumouse are arguably some of the most beautiful places in France with nearly 200 hiking routes waiting to be explored. The cirques are part of the Mont Perdu Pyrenees, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Victor Hugo described the Cirque de Gavarnie as “Colosseum of nature” due to its enormous size and horseshoe shape resembling an ancient amphitheatre. Discover the Pyrenees National Park with its many natural highlights – turquoise lakes, waterfalls, rugged peaks, flower-strewn meadows and dramatic rocks.
Explore Saugué Plateau in the heart of the Pyrenean pastoral landscape and admire the wonderful views of Brèche de Roland. Walk to Cirque du Gavarnie and be brave to see how near you can get to the Grande Cascade de Gavarnie waterfall (423m) at the end of the path. Summit Pic du Piméné (2,801m) and get an awe-inspiring view of the all three Gavarnie, Estaubé and Troumouse cirques. Meet fellow travellers in the lovely little village of Luz Saint Sauveur and share your adventures over a pint of local beer.
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*This map is only for general reference; detailed route maps will be provided in your pre-departure package.
Day 1: Arrive Luz Saint Sauveur
Arrive in Luz Saint Sauveur and meet our local representative. Spend the night in a comfortable hostel in the centre of the lively thermal spa village in the sunny valley. See the remarkable fortified church and the bold Pont Napoléon built by Emperor Napoléon to extend the road from Saint Sauveur to Gavarnie.
- Accommodation: Hostel Le Regain (dormitory rooms for 3 to 8 pax; shared bathrooms with hot showers)
Day 2: Luz Saint Sauveur to Saugué | 5-10km
Hop on the bus to Pragnère (900m) or Gèdre (1,000m). We will give you a lift if the bus isn’t running. In both cases, you will finish your walk at the Saugué Gite (1,600m). Cows and the flower-filled high pastures surround your accommodation on the Saugué Plateau. The longer walk has spectacular views into the Troumouse Cirque and over the valley. The shorter option passes through the pastoral hamlet of Saussa.
- Walking for the day: 10km, ↑1,000m ↓300m or 5km, ↑600m ↓300m
- Accommodation: Gite de Saugué (dormitory rooms for 8 pax; shared bathrooms with hot showers)
Day 3: Saugué and the Portaillou Pass | 9km
Head out with a day pack only up to the Portaillou Pass (2,277m) above the Saugué Plateau for wonderful views over the frontier summits and the Brèche de Roland. Return via the same path or head off-piste and find your way down through the pastures to the gite.
- Walking for the day: 9km, ↑670m ↓670m
- Accommodation: Gite de Saugué (dormitory rooms for 8 pax; shared bathrooms with hot showers)
Day 4: Saugué to Grange de Holle via Ossoue |6-13km
Walk from Saugué down towards Gavarnie and enjoy the astounding views of the Gavarnie Cirque as you descend. Many rare plants and animals live on the peaks at the upper rim of the Cirque de Gavarnie, protected on both the French and the Spanish sides by national parks. Martagon lilies grow in the pine forests. Saxifraga and other tiny alpine flowers cling to the rock faces. Chamois, a type of mammal similar to goats or antelope, live among the crags. There is the option of heading deep into the Ossoue Valley (plenty of flowers and wildlife) for a full day’s walk, or to walk straight up to the Grange de Holle for a half-day walk.
- Walking for the day: 13km, ↑550m ↓500m or 6km, ↑80m ↓150m
- Accommodation: Refuge La Grange de Holle (dormitory rooms for 6-8 pax; shared bathrooms with hot showers)
- Optional accommodation upgrade: 2* Hotel Compostelle
Day 5: Grange de Holle to Refuge des Espuguettes | 9-12km
Today you walk right into the heart of the Gavarnie Cirque and then climb to the refuge perched high in the pastures above the cirque. In good, dry weather and with no snow, walk to the foot of the roaring waterfall Grand Cascade. It descends some 422m over a series of steps before reaching the floor of the cirque.
- Walking for the day: 9km, ↑550m (hike to the waterfall adds 3km and 200m ascent/descent)
- Accommodation: Refuge des Espuguettes (dormitory rooms for 3-8 pax; no showers)
Day 6: Espugettes to Héas via Estaubé Cirque | 14km
After breakfast, start with a stiff climb from the Refuge des Espuguettes to the high pass of the Hourquette d’Alans, 2,430m. For enthusiastic walkers, there is the option to make the ascent to the dramatic Pimené peak, 2,801m – and enjoy 360-degree views. From the Hourquette d’Alans, the path goes down into the picturesque Cirque d’Estaubé. The path makes its way down to the edge of the lake, where you can have a rest before the second climb of the day takes us up to the plateau of the Turon de Pouey Boucou. The path descends into the pastoral hamlet of Héas at 1,500m, a fascinating spot with a colourful history of
- Walking for the day: 14km, ↑350m ↓640 m
- Accommodation: Auberge de la Munia (shared bathrooms with hot showers)
Day 7: Troumouse Cirque & Balconies | 9km
A short morning’s climb takes you up into the Cirque de Troumouse. The route is skirting the edge of the cirque, where there is the best chance of seeing Griffon vultures, chamois and marmots, as well as tiny alpine flowers nestling amongst the rocks. We will pick you up in the afternoon from the accommodation for a transfer back to Luz for your last overnight.
- Walking for the day: 9km, ↑700m ↓700m
- Accommodation: Hostel Le Regain (dormitory rooms for 3 to 8 pax; shared bathrooms with warm showers)
Day 8: Departure
The tour ends after breakfast.
What to expect
On this walking holiday, you will be staying in welcoming hostels and refuges mostly in dormitory rooms with shared facilities. We have carefully hand-picked all places and regularly monitor their quality. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.
Click to view default hotels
- Days 1&7: Hostel Le Regain (dormitory rooms for 3 to 8 pax; shared bathrooms with hot showers)
- Days 2&3: Gite de Saugué (dormitory rooms for 8 pax; shared bathrooms with hot showers)
- Day 4: Refuge La Grange de Holle (dormitory rooms for 6-8 pax; shared bathrooms with hot showers)
- Day 5: Refuge des Espuguettes (dormitory rooms for 3-8 pax; no showers)
- Day 6: Auberge de la Munia (shared bathrooms with hot showers)
Click to view upgraded hotels
*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.
All breakfasts and dinners are included. Packed lunches are included as well, except on Day 2 – make sure to get your picnic supplies from the grocery store in Luz beforehand.
Difficulty and terrain
This demanding but rewarding route goes through high-mountain terrain, generally on good well-travelled paths, but with some sections of sheep track, scree and boulder. Take care over the loose rocks and shale around the waterfall. The holiday is appropriate for regular hikers who are generally fit and some surefootedness during will be required (read more about difficulty grades). The trails are generally easy to follow. On occasion, route-finding may be tricky and request some experience. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.
When to go
This trip is available from June to September. The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your trip on any date within the season. There are noticeable climatic differences between the northern and southern sides of Mont Perdu. On the French side to the north, you will find some humid weather. Contrastingly, on the southern Spanish side, the slopes are dryer. The climate is also characterized by maritime influence of the west and coastal Mediterranean climate to the east.
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Ryanair offers flights to Lourdes Airport from London Stansted and Dublin twice weekly. From the airport take the bus for an hour journey to Luz St Sauveur. Other recommended airports for this tour are Biarritz, San Sebastian and Bordeaux. There are good train connections from many other airports in France, including Paris.
By train or bus
- Biarritz Airport: First take the bus to Mairie de Bayonne (25min) from the airport and then the train to Lourdes (1h 30min). From Lourdes take the 965 bus towards Tarbes to reach Luz St Sauveur in about 50min.
- San Sebastian Airport: Train via Bayonne (2h 18min). Bus 965 to Luz (50min).
- Bordeaux Airport: 50min journey to Saint-Jean station with TBM, followed by a train ride to Lourdes (less than 3h) and bus to Luz (50min).
- For more information, timetables and tickets, visit French Railways or use the Omio travel planner above.
- By train from London: Take the Eurostar train from London St Pancras Eurostar to Paris Nord (2h 23min; twice daily). Take the subway from Gare du Nord to Montparnasse-Bienvenue (17min), walk to Paris Montparnasse (10min) and hop on the train to Lourdes (approx. 5h), followed by a bus ride to Luz (50min).
- Welcome meeting
- Pre-departure info pack and detailed road notes and maps (some useful information will be emailed in advance, hard copies of the tour documentation will be handed to you on arrival)
- 7 nights accommodation in dormitory rooms with shared bathroom facilities
- All breakfasts
- All packed lunches, except on Day 2 – make sure to get your picnic supplies from the grocery store in Luz beforehand
- All dinners
- Transfer to Luz of Day 7
- 24/7 phone assistance by our local representative
- Flights and airport transfers
- Lunch on Day 2
- Luggage transfers
- Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
- Personal expenses such as snacks, drinks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
- Any items not specifically mentioned as included in the programme
Options, extras and supplements
- An optional accommodation upgrade is available on Days 1&7 (BB, instead of HB) and Day 4. Where individual members of a group require a single room, a single room supplement is applicable (hotels only, not possible in refuges)
- This holiday is NOT available for solo travellers
- Extra nights are bookable on request