Outdoors adventure in the Pyrenees
After visiting more than 80 countries around the world, France is one of my favorites, since it is a place that always leaves something left to discover. The diverse landscapes and cultures that span the country are one of the many things that draw me back time and time again.
However, it wasn’t until I visited the Pyrenees, in the Midi-Pyrénées region, that I truly appreciated the great outdoors France had to offer. As someone who has trekked to Everest Base Camp, gone dune bashing in Dubai, and traversed deep into the Panamanian jungle, I crave the outdoors when I travel. One does not often associate France as an outdoor enthusiasts paradise, but they should.
How to Enjoy the Pyrenees
Dividing the countries of Spain and France, the Pyrenean mountain range runs as a barrier between the two countries spanning 400 km. This means there are countless trails to explore on foot or by bike. Cycling and hiking are two of my favorite ways to explore a new place, whether in a city or a national park. The best part is you can enjoy the unique flora and fauna, beautiful landscapes, and unlimited outdoor activities any way you choose.
Hike, raft, climb and bike and even take in the scenery from above. Since discovering the thrill of aerial sports in Brazil I have been in search of new places to paraglide around the world. The cliffs at the Corniches du Larzac act as a great launching point for anyone looking to take their adventure to the skies, the Pyrenees offering an adventurous traveler everything they could desire.
Hiking the GR10
Hiking is my preferred way to explore a new region. When on foot you can take in the sites and sounds of the outdoors. Luckily, the Pyrenees are made for hiking and the great GR10 is a legendary trail, which roughly parallels the French-Spanish border. When hiking along this trail you can expect to encounter everything from luscious green valleys and vistas to rocky and arid terrains along the way. I highly recommend scaling Vignemale - a 3,298 peak that can be conquered in a single day. No hike in the Pyrenees is complete without reaching the top and the views are incredible.
Continue your adventure along the route of the Chemin des Bonshommes. Following the trails through the history of the Catharism was one of the many highlights for me in my time in the region - from the Château de Montségur, the Château de Roquefixade, and Ax-les-Thermes, you won’t want to miss these sites.
Exploring Pyrenees National Park
Waterfalls, 3,000 metre peaks, mountain lakes, and stunning trails make up Pyrenees National Park. Mainly located in Midi-Pyrénées, the park stretches 100km. Some of my favorite sites are the geographic wonders, which include the Cirque de Gavarnie and Pont d’Espagne. Spend a day hiking, fishing, or simply sitting back photographing the scenery. Photography is a passion of mine and Pyrenees National Park is an easy subject, so I recommend carrying a nice DSLR on your hike and taking it slow to enjoy the more than 50,000 hectares that the
Relaxing in the Recreational Spas
After a long day hiking make your way to one of the Midi-Pyrénées’ 10 spas to relax, such as Aquensis in Bagnères-de-Bigorre, Les Bains du Couloubret in Ax-les-Thermes or Luchon Forme & Bien-Etre in Luchon. Sitting back in the thermal waters of the recreational spas makes for an ultra-relaxing environment in a serene setting. The spas are fed with natural flows reaching temperatures of 33 degrees Celsius, helping those aching muscles get ready for another day in the mountains. I prefer relaxing in the jet pools but there are many facilities onsite, such as geysers, aquatic seats, waterfalls, and massages. Every spa has it’s own theme but one thing remains consistent and that is complete and utter bliss.
Cycling in the Pyrenees
When I visited Paris for the first time I watched the riders of the Tour de France fly by me. It was amazing to see these athletes in person and experience the history and tradition of the storied race. Many tourists flock to Paris to see the winners ride home but the Pyrenees will make any avid cyclist feel at home with its strong cycling culture dating back to the Tour de France in 1910.
If you enjoy cycling you will love watching the Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup, held in April, and The Tour de France passes through in July if you’re visiting in the summer months. Advanced cyclists will enjoy the Route des cols, a 368km trail through the Midi-Pyrénées region which passes many points of interests. Pyrenean spa towns, the Col du Tourmalet, the Pic du Midi, and the Grotte de Niaux cave are can’t miss stops along the way.
However, you don’t have to be a professional to enjoy cycling in the Pyrenees. Organized cycling holidays can be packaged for your group. They offer breathtaking views on a road bike or mountain bike. Cycling routes can be booked from three days or up to 14 days and are great for energetic families who love to explore the outdoors.
Planning a trip to the Pyrenees
The collection of historical villages, natural attractions, and stunning scenery make the Pyrenees an ideal place for any outdoors enthusiast. Whether you are an avid hiker planning a multi-week journey or looking for an outdoor getaway, there is something for everyone. Discover the Pyrenees, where you can enjoy the unbelievable landscapes and experience the great French outdoors.