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The Heart Of The Pyrenees 8 Days Self-Guided Walking Tour (Level 3)
This sometimes challenging (but always rewarding) walk offers so many highlights and so much variety! It is a journey from the gentle pleasures of the renowned Azun valley up into the very heart of the Pyrenean mountains. Walk along ancient paths until reaching the most magnificent highlight of any Pyrenean journey, the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the Cirque du Gavarnie. There are astounding cliffs rising to 10,000 feet, and numerous waterfalls - the Grand Cascade shoots out of the cliff face before falling over 1,400 feet to the ground below.. Then there are the herds of cattle, the marmots, the birds of prey, the villages, the hotels, the restaurants, the traditional and contemporary dishes - and a night 8,000 feet up where the light-pollution-free stars feel as close as the mountains do in daylight. Unforgettable? Most certainly!
This holiday includes sometimes challenging, but always rewarding walking, and is suitable for people who are reasonably fit, and used to walking for much of a day. It can get hot in July and August, as well as much more crowded. We would recommend June and from mid August to the end of September as the best months.
Slow Tours offers a range of Walking Tours Europe
Arrival at Arrens-Marsous
Standard option: You make your own way to Arrens-Marsous, where it is easy to park your car. You can leave your car here for the week. With extra airport pick-up: We meet you at Lourdes airport or railway station (or a hotel of your choice in Lourdes) and take you up to Arrens-Marsous.
Arrens-Marsous is in one of the most attractive Pyrenean valleys, the Val d'Azun. There will be a great sense of anticipation as all around you are the hills you'll begin walking through the next day. You stay in one of our favourite places in the whole of the Pyrenees, although it is "only" a chambres d'hotes rather than a hotel. Maison Sempé is a beautiful 17th Century village house built of stone and wood in the local style with so much character and ambience that descriptions don't do justice to. The bedrooms (with en suite facilities, of course) are truly memorable with wooden balconies that give you wonderful views of the village's stone houses and the hills beyond. What makes it even more special are your hosts, Sylvie and Jean-Paul, who speak English, are most welcoming, and are full of fascinating information about the area. You'll also eat well!
Arrens-Marsous - Estaing
You begin your journey with gentle valley walking to the 12th century golden chapel, or chapel of stars, at Pouey Laun before taking an ancient lane up through woods. You are now on the famous GR10, which runs for 900 kilometres from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, yet, except from July to mid August, you can walk all day and barely see anybody other than shepherds. At the Col des Bordères, you can see the restored summer barns and shepherds' accommodation in use as they have been for centuries, and at the summit called Predousset you can enjoy magnificently panoramic views over the Azun valley. You now stroll through extensive alpine type pastures, rich with flowers in early summer, and begin your descent to the tiny valley of Estaing. Finally for today, you follow the stream to arrive at Estaing lake with its reflections of the peaks all around. We transfer you from the lake to Marsous for another night at the Maison Sempé. After your efforts you will enjoy Sylvie's homemade cooking even more this evening!
Walking time : up to 5h. Distance : 12 to 18km. Elevation : + 800m / - 500m. Transfer time : 15 minutes.
Estaing - Ilheou lake - Cauterets
We take you on a short transfer back to the Lac d'Estaing from where you continue up the GR10 through pine forest and on to the high pastures at Arrioussec where you will see herds of the traditional horned cream cows of the Pyrenees, which are so tranquil that you can often walk among them without any of them moving an inch! From the Col d'Ilhéou, you walk to Ilhéou lake - a great place for a well earned rest - then can enjoy a gentle downhill walk to the lovely Cambasque valley where we meet you to save those just-a-little-too-far extra miles to Cauterets. A really rewarding day's walking. You stay at the very appreciated Chambres d'hôtes Les Ruisseau between Cauteret and Pierrefitte
Walking time : Upto 6h. Distance : 12km. Elevation : + 1050m / - 850m. Transfer time : 30 minutes.
Cauterets - Gaube valley - (Petit Vignemale) - Baysselance refuge
As you will by now have realised, mornings generally begin with an uphill climb, while afternoons are for descending - essentially because towns and villages are in valleys - and today is no different, except you have a lot of ascent and minimal descent - but then you have a privileged stay tonight still high up in the Pyrenees. You begin by walking up to Gaube lake in which you will see mirrored the imposing grandeur of the north face of Vignemale and the crevasses of the Petit Vignemale glacier - one of the most beautiful and dramatic of panoramic views in the Pyrenees. You now walk alongside a glacial torrent, and among alpine meadows interspersed with numerous waterfalls before arriving at the Oule ttes mountain refuge from which mountaineers climb Grand Vignemale (3298m). You, however, climb up gradually to the Col d'Ossoue, which gets you very close to Petit Vignemale. You can climb to the summit if you want to, or just go straight down to the wonderful Baysellance refuge where you will spend a truly memorable night. Built of stone with a copper vaulted roof in 1899, and refurbished in 2003, this unique refuge is the highest staffed refuge in the Pyrenees at 8,000 feet, and offers simple, shared accommodation with private, but shared bathrooms (no hot showers), unfussy but plentiful meals, a warm welcome from Peio and Morgane, a convivial atmosphere, and, above all, a magnificent location, both in daylight and at night when the light pollution-free stars seem almost as close as the mountains. It really does feel like a privilege staying here.
Walking time : Up to 5 to 6h. Distance : 12,5km. Elevation : + 1300m / - 100m. Transfer time : 20 minutes.
Baysselance refuge - Gavarnie
Get up early enough, and you will see the sun rise over Ossoue glacier - well worth it! You can take pleasure in the fact that where yesterday was all about ascending, today is all about descending. You walk down the lovely Ossoue valley with its streams, waterfalls - and marmottes. In meadow areas at certain altitudes, they are ubiquitous, and eminently photogenic. However, your eyes will increasingly be captivated by the sight of the Cirque de Gavarnie, which you may be surprised to find actually challenges some of yesterday's panoramic views as the best you've ever seen! You stay for 2 nights at the positively traditional and very comfortable two star Hôtel du Marboré in the centre of Gavarnie village, but with exceptional views of the Cirque de Gavarnie and the 1,300 feet Grand Cascade waterfall, not least from its terrace. Bernard will prepare dishes for you which bring together the best of traditional Pyrenean cuisine (stews, meats, mushrooms, cheeses and more), while Roseline will ensure you have a warm welcome, and everything you need.
Walking time : Upto 6h. Distance : 15,5km. Elevation : + 100m / - 1400m.
Cirque de Gavarnie
This is what most people regard as the most exceptional and memorable site in the whole of the Pyrenees. You walk fairly gently up a wide pat to the Bellevue plateau, with privileged panoramas of the high mountain scenery all around you. From the top, you descend into the centre of the enormous natural "amphitheatre" that is the Cirque du Gavarnie with its myriad waterfalls - many impressively long and powerful - sheer bare rock cliffs, and contrasting peaceful valley bottom. The appropriately named Grande Cascade at about 1,300 feet is over 300 feet higher than the Eiffel Tower and one of the highest in Europe. The bucolic final section is along the valley bottom, or, more challengingly, by the Espugues route, which cuts across a rocky cliff face. Either way, you arrive back in the village of Gavarnie. Truly memorable, we are confident you will agree.
Walking time : 4 or 5h. Distance : 11km. Elevation : + 500m / - 500m.
Gavarnie - Troumouse Cirque
We transfer you to the Troumouse valley so you can begin your walk visiting the historic Héas chapel - a 16th century pilgrimage chapel built to house a wooden Black Madonna found by local shepherds, and which miraculously (say some) survived an avalanche - before gradually walking up to the Aires cabin situated in the middle of the incredible "arena" that is the Cirque de Troumousse, rising to almost 10,000 feet. You then descend to the Auberge de Maillet before continuing to the much photographed turquoise waters of the Gloriettes lake, which often reflects the magnificence that is Mont Perdu. There can be no doubts about why this whole area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can now either get picked up here or descend on foot to Gèdre village (adding an extra 2h30m) by crossing the Coumély plateau with its historic stone barns, and then taking the Lucien Briet footpath descending steeply (but safely) down to the village. And that, we're afraid to say, is it for this walking holiday. For your last night, you stay at the recently refurbished, very comfortable and renowned three star with its impressive and enjoyable restaurant serving local traditional dishes transformed into contemporary masterpieces by chef-owner. The Brèche de Roland - Roland's Breach - is a 40 metre wide, 100 metre high gap in the cliffs dividing the two sides of the High Pyrenees, and legend claims it was cut by Count Roland using his sword Durendal after losing the 8th century Battle of Roncesvalles. The hotel is the only place that you can see the breach from the bottom of the valley.
Walking time : 5h. Distance : 14,5km. Elevation : + 800m / - 600m. Transfer time : 30 minutes.
End of stay
Standard option: After breakfast, we will take you back to Arrens-Marsous to collect your car. With extra airport pick-up: After breakfast, we will take you back to Lourdes airport or railway station
Tours marked with are special prices.
|Start||End||Max. No. Guests||Accommodation||Price p.p.|
|Sep 19 2023||Sep 26 2023||12||Single rooms||1,819€|
|Sep 20 2023||Sep 27 2023||12||Single rooms||1,819€|
|Sep 21 2023||Sep 28 2023||12||Single rooms||1,819€|
|Sep 22 2023||Sep 29 2023||12||Single rooms||1,819€|
|Sep 23 2023||Sep 30 2023||12||Single rooms||1,819€|
|Sep 24 2023||Oct 01 2023||12||Single rooms||1,819€|
|Sep 25 2023||Oct 02 2023||12||Single rooms||1,819€|
|Sep 26 2023||Oct 03 2023||12||Single rooms||1,819€|
|Sep 27 2023||Oct 04 2023||12||Single rooms||1,819€|
|Sep 28 2023||Oct 05 2023||12||Single rooms||1,819€|
|Sep 29 2023||Oct 06 2023||12||Single rooms||1,819€|
|Sep 30 2023||Oct 07 2023||12||Single rooms||1,819€|
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