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In the Heart of the Pyrenees: Lavedan Valleys and Villages  The Natural Adventure Company 9

Walking in the Heart of the Pyrenees: Lavedan Valleys and Villages

Overview

The Pyrenees stretch all the way from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, creating an imposing rugged wall between France and Spain. This stunning range of mountains offers fantastic routes, tumbling streams, high peaks, exciting mountain passes, exquisite views, lush forests and some intriguing animal companions. Covering a large part of the old province of Lavedan the walk follows parts of an ancient high route back into France from Santiago de Compostella over the Pyrenees. We’ve chosen a route challenging enough for strong walkers and flexible enough for those who prefer shorter days with walks from four up to seven hours, depending on the chosen routes.

Start your 8-day trek in the hiker’s paradise Cauterets, following the zig-zagging GR10 path to the lovely thermal spa village of Luz Saint Sauveur, enjoy the stunning views of the Gavarnie Cirque and finish your adventure in the village of Gavarnie, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Click to view map

*This map is only for general reference; detailed route maps will be provided in your pre-departure package.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Lourdes

If you arrive early in Lourdes, take the chance to look around this interesting pilgrimage town. From the garish religious paraphernalia to the quiet calm of the sanctuaries themselves, the town is full of colours and contrasts. We will pick you up in the late afternoon for a short transfer to your hotel in St Savin (575 m). Over a drink, we’ll go through the maps and route notes and explain each day’s options. The village overlooking the Argelès-Gazost Valley is home to a magnificent abbey (12th to 15th century).

Day 2: Pouey-Aspé Plateau & Cauterets Valley | 12 km

Start today’s walk from St Savin through the tiny village of Uz to the Pouey-Aspé plateau (956 m). Visit the ‘Romanesque Sistine Chapel’, containing many beautiful 11th- and 12th-century murals which are still in a remarkable state of preservation. Descend through the forest and reach the Voie Verte des Gaves, an abandoned railway line that connects Lourdes and Cauterets (1000m). You will quickly realise you are leaving the foothills, and the transition from the gently rolling hills to the steep slopes of the Cauterets valley is dramatic. If you wish to avail of the Cauterets’ spa facilities offering thermal water swimming and treatments, we can take the local bus to Cauterets or join the luggage transfer.

Day 3: Cauterets Circular Walk | 5-15 km

Start today’s hike on the waterfall path leading up to the Pont d’Espagne. In about an hour you can have a break in front of the dramatic Cascade du Lutour. Climb the Chemin des Cascades; a path literally strewed with waterfalls before arriving at the spectacular Pont d’Espagne. Another short climb will take you at the edge of the Lac de Gaube – perfect spot for a lunch break. Arrive at Refuge des Oulettes de Gaube in front of the dramatic north face of the Vignemale – with its 3298 metres, it’s the highest of the French Pyrenean summits. Shuttle bus option to Pont d’Espagne available in mid-season.

Day 4: Over the Col du Riou to Luz Saint Sauveur | 15 km

Today is really a matter of climbing up one side of the mountain and heading down the other, following the zig-zagging GR10 path and enjoying the dramatic views. For those of you who love peaks, there is a two-hour deviation from here to climb to the top of Pic du Viscos – a classic triangular pointy ‘Toblerone’ peak with a cross at the top. You then descend through the ski station of Luz Ardiden and eastwards into Luz. If you prefer to skip the descent, we can transfer you to Luz, where you can stroll around the Luz Valley villages.

Day 5: GR10 to Barèges & Return | 9-10 h (optional)

Follow the GR10 as it climbs out of the wide valley above Luz, heading up through cosy mountain villages on its way to the highest spa village in France – Barèges. Napoleon III built a military hospital here so that his battle-weary troops could benefit from the healing waters. Take the SNCF bus back from Barèges to your hotel in Luz.

Day 6: Gèdre to Gavarnie on the Compostelle Trail | 12 km

Hop on the bus to the village of Gèdre (if the local bus is not available, we will transfer you). Follow the Compostelle trail up through the woods to the wildflower wonderland of the Saugué Plateau. There is no better way to approach the Gavarnie Cirque and experience the full impact of this spectacular Colosseum of nature as described by Victor Hugo. 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. Arrive at your hotel in Gavarnie, where you will spend the next two nights.

Day 7: The Gavarnie Cirque | 9 km

Trekking around the Gavarnie Cirque itself is the culmination of this week’s adventure. If you brave enough, see how near you can get to the Grande Cascade de Gavarnie waterfall (423m), the highest in Europe outside Norway. There are many options for gentle strolls in the area, or if you prefer, you can relax and enjoy the view from one of the many cafés.

Day 8: Departure or Extra Night

The tour ends after breakfast.

What to Expect

Accommodation

On this walking holiday, you will be staying in welcoming 3-star (Days 1-5) and 2-star (Days 6-7) hotels. 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 sample hotels

3* Hotel Les Rochers, St Savin; 3* Hotel Lion d’Or, Cauterets; 3* Hotel Les Templiers, Luz St Sauveur; 2* Hotel Marboré or 2* Hotel Compostelle, Gavarnie

*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.

Meals

Breakfasts and all dinners are included. When no restaurant location is available on route lunches and snacks should either be bought from local shops or you can pre-order a packed lunch at your hotel. Dinner will be served either at the restaurant in your accommodation or a restaurant in the village near your hotel.

Difficulty & terrain

We’ve chosen a route challenging enough for strong walkers and flexible enough for those who like shorter days with walks from four to seven hours, depending on the routes chosen (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.

When to go

This trip is available from May till October. 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.

Included

Included

  • Welcome meeting
  • Pre-departure info pack and detailed road notes and maps (some useful information will be sent in advance, hard copies of the tour documentation will be handed to you on arrival)
  • 7 nights accommodation in private en-suite rooms in comfortable 2/3-star hotels
  • All breakfasts & dinners
  • Luggage transfers from hotel to hotel on all walking days
  • Transfer Lourdes to St Savin on Day 1
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local representative

Excluded

  • Flights and airport transfers
  • All lunches
  • Travel insurance
  • Shuttle buses (Pont d’Espagne, Barèges-Luz and Luz-Gèdre)
  • Personal expenses such as snacks, drinks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
  • Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘included’ in the programme

Options, extras & supplements

  • Where individual members of a group require a single room, a single room supplement is applicable
  • This holiday is not available for solo travellers

Travel

Up-to-date FCO travel advice on France is available here.

By plane

By train or bus

  • Lourdes Airport: From the airport take the bus to Lourdes downtown
  • Biarritz Airport: First take the bus to Mairie de Bayonne (25 min) from the airport and then the train to Lourdes (1h 30min).
  • San Sebastian Airport: Train via Bayonne (2h 18min).
  • Bordeaux Airport: 50 minutes journey to Saint-Jean station with TBM, followed by a train ride to Lourdes (less than 3h)
  • By train from the UK: 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 (17 min), walk to Paris Montparnasse (10 min) and hop on the train to Lourdes (approx. 5h)

For more information, timetables and tickets, visit French railways and LIO or use the Omio travel planner above.

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