Pyrenees 2019?

Walking up Ordessa

Over the last few weeks I’ve started to receive a lot of emails about trips to the Pyrenees this summer. I have to apologise for the Pyrenees Forum not being operable at the moment (more below). However, I thought I’d put together some thoughts which map against many of these emails. I’m always happy to answer emails and help if I can!


The Pyrenees Forum

Over the last couple of years I’ve had a constant problems with spammers. I’ve managed to stop the forum being overrun with spam comments but any system that lets people register automatically ends up with my main WordPress system being over-run with new users (and that gives me other problems). I simply have to find another solution but haven’t the time to do it this year. Maybe I’ll get something up and running in the autumn but for now, apologies!


Some Basics

The Pyrenees have a magic to them and a special place in the hearts of trekkers. True, these mountains are not as dramatic as the alps but they are more accessible in may ways. A walker here is not restricted so much to the main paths. Wild camping is easy and a pleasure. And a walk along the high ridge of the mountains is easily accessible and will find you dipping down into both France and Spain.

Be Prepared

However, there are some things about the Pyrenees that are worth re-iterating. These are proper mountain in a Mediterranean climate. Except long days on a trek. You are walking at altitude in the High Pyrenees and you will know about it!  The days in high summer can be extremely hot — Mediterranean heat. Things cool, down in the evening to give you some respite but if you are walking above the tree line there is little protection. Routes around d the GR10 will take you through forest and woodland which provide effective protection but walking on and around the HRP will see you exposed for much of the time.

If none of this worries you then you’ve probably trekked in similar climates before. If it is making you think then it is advisable to plan throughly. Walking in the Pyrenees is well within the capabilities of reasonably fit and experienced walkers. But the climate and other factors are worth taking seriously.


Can I Make A Short Trip to the Pyrenees?

This is the question I get asked most often and is worth going over a little.

Travelling to the Pyrenees is a little different to a trip to, say, the Lakes or Snowdonia. It can often take two days to travel to the mountains — a flight and then travel into the hills — and to get back. This means that a three day trip  is effectively a five day to a seven day trip.

You can put together a three day itinerary that will give you a feel for what these mountains have to offer and how they work. I tend to only recommend this if you are in the area already. So, if you are already in the South West of France or are going for a specific event (say a wedding or family celebration) then it is probably possible.  If you are having to travel out specially then you will loose a lot of time. My advice would be to go and do something that gets you hillwalking more local to where you live but to plan to tackle the Pyrenees over a longer trip.

An average two week holiday will probably give you between seven and ten days high walking. The remainder of the time will be taken up with travel there and back and, perhaps, some exploration in one of the local towns.

Getting There

I’m not going to go into any depth here as low cost airlines are always changing their services and routes. Access to the High Pyrenees is easiest via Pau or Lourdes with Carcassonne and Biarritz as next best options. A trip via Pau or Lourdes might see you at your starting destination in one day or you might have to break the journey somewhere. French train timetables (available in English) work on both train and bus connections which is helpful.

Increasingly, high speed train is an option particularly for this living in the South of England.

A Base for a Short Break

A simple starting point for a taster would be the large village of Cauterets but another option (details of which can be found here) would be the enchanting high village of Lescun. Over the years I’ve recommended Lescun a lot and have always received great reports from those that have travelled there.

An Ideal First Trip

A good first trip would probably span a two week holiday, or at the least ten days. This will allow you to take the pressure off with travel. Such a period will also allow you to build in some contingency for storms and adverse weather, important especially if you are walking parts of one of the long distance trails.

A two week trail will also allow you to mix and match a little, perhaps, giving yourself an urban break or weekend at the end. A night or two in Pau is always a pleasure. Lourdes is a bit different unless you are a serious Catholic; I find it all a bit too weird. And, of course, if you are travelling by train you have the option of a break in Paris or even Lille (which is a city that often surprises).



The Pyrenees are a wonderful range of hikers and backpackers a place to which many return over and over again. 

Please feel free to get in touch:  andy DOT howell AT me DOT com.


  1. Jayaways says

    Great Andy.. Thanks for sharing. I first went to the Pyrenees eight years ago, fell in love with a lady there, and almost made it my new home. Wonderful hiking country and wonderful people. Lourdes is a good train (from London St. Pancras) or flight option. I got a €9 return flight London Stansted – Lourdes, hotel in Lourdes €21 then the 45min bus to Cauterets. From there the world’s your oyster for hiking/wild camping.

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