The Pyrenees, as a range of mountains, spread from coast-to-coast across France, from the Atlantic to the Med, and it will take many visits to get to know them intimately, not that you should allow that to be a deterrent.
This is a spectacular, protected environment, a realm with the tang of wild places, a place of untold plant life and more than 70 species of animals, including the curious and elusive desman. The mountain runs coast-to-coast across southern France along the frontier with Spain, although the national park is a much smaller area south of Pau and Tarbes.
Why the Pyrénées?
• Not so far away as you would think.
• Great family resorts
• Stunning scenery, unspoilt villages, authentic French atmosphere
• For winter sports activists there has been recent massive investments in high speed lift systems, snow cannons, pistes maintenance.
• A wide range of recently built quality accommodation, including many superb hotels
• Spa Culture – focussing on well-being which creates a more peaceful and relaxing atmosphere
• With groceries, bar drinks and restaurant meals, ski school and equipment hire also cheaper, the savings can be huge
• Great value for money, and
...it's an all-year-round location!
To begin an exploration, start with the great swathe of high ground that was created a National Park in 1967, with the specific aim of preserving the beauty of this magnificent environment. It covers an area of 176 square miles, and varies in width from less than a mile to more than 9 miles; it ranges in altitude from 1,000m/3,250ft to 3,298m/10,820ft.
The Pyrenees National Park is surrounded by a peripheral area of 765 square miles, embracing almost 90 municipalities in the Hautes-Pyrénées and Pyrénées-Atlantiques departments. This massive zone is a kind of buffer, focused on developing and enhancing the pastoral economy.
The Park is a superb habitat for wildlife, notably izards, a kind of chamois, marmots and brown bears, although the few remaining bears are now very difficult to locate. But the skies above are the place to see the massive griffon vulture, eagles and bearded vulture.
For the mountaineer, this is a paradise; for the skier likewise, with numerous ski resorts niched into the valleys and high cirques.
There are National Park offices in all the valleys.
The resorts of the Hautes-Pyrénées are easy to reach by car, by train and by plane, from the airports of Toulouse, Tarbes-Lourdes and Pau, with more than 70 daily flights from more than 50 French and European cities. Low-cost flights are available with Ryanair from London Stansted to Tarbes, and with EasyJet from London Gatwick to Toulouse.
Aéroport International Tarbes – Lourdes – Pyrénées www.tlp.aeroport.fr
Aéroport Pau-Pyrénées www.pau.aeroport.fr
Aéroport Toulouse www.toulouse.aeroport.fr