The Parc National des Pyrénées (Cirque de Gavarnie and the Grande Cascade)
This national park will delight lovers of wide open spaces, as well as those keen to discover, observe and contemplate the extraordinary natural heritage of the Pyrenees.
Created in 1967, the Parc National des Pyrénées is one of seven national parks in France.
The heart of the park is home to some truly awe-inspiring sights, including cirques, cliffs, gorges, high-altitude lakes and open spaces which are all highly protected and are governed by strict rules and regulations. Access to the central section of the national park is prohibited to vehicles.
The periphery of this area also boasts some extraordinary natural treasures. These valleys, where the presence of man is particularly evident, are home to a wealth of natural and cultural riches, such as the Réserve Naturelle d’Ossau. Other sights of interest here include the Falaise aux Vautours (cliffs famous for their vultures), the Musée d’Arudy, the legendary Cirque de Gavarnie and the Grande Cascade waterfall.
Cirque de Gavarni
Backing onto the majestic Spanish canyons of Ordesa, Aniscle and Pineta, and enclosed by its impressive limestone backdrop, the Cirque de Gavarnie is the most famous sight in the Pyrenees. With its 6km circumference and a drop which in places reaches a dizzying 1,500m, the cirque is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Surrounded by numerous peaks (Astazou, Marboré, Taillon, Brèche de Roland, Le Vignemale etc), this vast natural amphitheatre, formed by grey, ochre and pink-hued walls of limestone in three terraces, is home to hanging glaciers and many waterfalls, including the 450m-high Grande Cascade.
Hikes in the Parc National des Pyrénées – Luz / Gavarnie along the Chemin de St-Saud. This 3hr hike provides an opportunity to discover typical villages, and admire unique vistas of cirques and peaks, such as the Piméné (2,801m), the Petit Piméné (2,667m) and the Pic Rouge de Pailla (2,780m).
Getting to the Parc National des Pyrénées
By road: by motorway and then by smaller yet well-maintained roads to the edge of the park. At some peak times, the major access roads can get very busy
By train: Pau, Oloron, Tarbes and Lannemezan railway stations, from where coach services operate to valleys inside the park.