Gascony and the South West, Part 3: Into the Mountains
Along the border between France and Spain runs the Pyrenees Mountain range, acting as a natural barrier between the Iberian peninsula and the European continent. From the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean Sea, this mountainous barricade is more than just a line of demarcation between two lands: it’s an area rich with its own unique history, tradition, and – naturally – scenic views.
Although the looming peaks of the Pyrenees can often make getting around this area a challenge, travelers who take the time to plan their route will find it more than worth their while. Those who choose to rise to the occasion will find a veritable treasure trove of remote wonder.
What to see while in the Pyrenees:
- Lestelle-Betharram – One of the most unusual holy sites anywhere in France, this oddly sinister collection of religious relics, unique architecture, and historic memorabilia has been visited by both sincere penitents and curious travelers alike since the 1600s.
- Lourdes – No trip to this region would be complete, of course, without a visit to the holy city of Lourdes. One of the world’s most popular pilgrimage sites, this Lourdes has played host to numerous alleged appearances of the Virgin Mary. Although it is often full of chattering international tour groups and jammed with souvenir stalls, the city still holds delights for non-pilgrim visitors. Try visiting the Musee Pyreneen or taking a picnic out to the shores of Lac de Lourdes.
- The valleys of the Lavedan – In the highest of the High Pyrenees, the views are nothing short of spectacular. Those who make it this far will be richly rewarded with sweeping views and ample opportunity for skiing, hiking, and cycling against one of the most remarkable backdrops in the world.
Where to stay while in the Pyrenees:
- In Lestelle-Betharram: If you plan to visit the holy sites, your best bet for comfortable accommodations would be to stay in the nearby city of Pau. Not only does this city boast its own unique attractions, but it’s also home of the Hotel Parc Beaumont, offering elegant rooms, gourmet dining, breathtaking views, and a luminous spa.
- In Lourdes: A full five-star hotel, the Grand Hotel de la Grotte is the epitome of charm and elegance. Located at the foot of a fortified castle, its claim of old world charm balanced with modern amenities sounds perfect for enjoying the best of both worlds.
- The valleys of the Lavedan: Since this area lends itself more to adventure and sport travel, accommodations tend to be a bit spare. If you desire something more comfortable than three-star hotels, we recommend that you work with an agent to book a private, fully self-catering cottage.
As you look forward to your next France vacation, be sure to plan a visit to the Pyrenees. You will find that while just a bit more exertion may be required of you during the planning stages, your efforts will be richly rewarded.
For help planning your next trip to Gascony and the Pyrenees, please feel free to contact us