The Pyrenees in the South of France

The two most famous mountain areas in Western Europe are the Alps and the Pyrenees. Both lie partly in France. The Alps are a bit higher and have a slightly larger area. The Pyrenees are also very beautiful. The Alps are very popular among tourists, the Pyrenees are slightly less popular and therefore remain more unspoiled.

Pyrenees, the ideal holiday region

The Pyrenees form the border between France and Spain and stretch for about 430 km from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. They are 60km to 130km wide. The landscape is beautiful with snowy peaks, vast valleys, rock massifs, mountain lakes, deep gorges and authentic, medieval villages. The Spanish side of the mountains is dry, the French side is certainly not. It has several national parks with a wide variety of animals, plants and forest areas. The mountains by the coast of the Mediterranean Sea have a Mediterranean climate. The region is great for an unforgettable holiday.

From the Mediterranean Sea to Andorra

The Eastern Pyrenees drain into the Mediterranean Sea. This region  is called Catalonia and lies partly in Spain and partly in France. This Mediterranean region is very popular among holiday-makers. Along the coast there are beaches, bays and numerous villages such as Port-Vendres, Banyuls and Collioure. Directly behind this varied landscape, the ground rises fairly steeply. There are many vineyards on the slopes. A short distance from the coast you’ll find the first high mountain with a height of 2784m, the Canigou. This mountain has a symbolic significance for the Catalans. For this reason, hiking tours to the top are organized where you can spend a night in a mountain hut. Other peaks in the area are the Pic de Carlit, the Pic de Madrès and a little further north the Pic de Bugarach, the highest mountain in the Corbières.

Eastern Pyrenees

  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Banyuls and Collioure
  • Vineyards
  • Pic du Canigou
  • Pic Carlit
  • Pic de Madrès
  • Pic de Bugarach


In the middle of the peaks of the Pyrenees lies the Abbey of Saint-Martin-du Canigou, which is only accessible by 4x4 or by foot. The abbey was founded around 1000 AD by the Count of Cerdagne in honor of Saint Martin. Monks lived in it until about 1800, after which it stood empty, was looted and proceeded to stand in a dilapidated state. During the 20th century, the buildings were restored by order of Jules de Carsalade du Pont, bishop of Perpignan-Elne. From 1988 onwards, the abbey was inhabited again. The buildings are beautiful and the abbey and the courtyard are also worth a visit.

Pic de Madrès

The southernmost departments of Languedoc-Roussillon are Pyrénées-Orientales, which lies by the Spanish border, and north of it the Aude. The Aude is one of the most versatile departments of France with a coastal region, the Minervois and Corbières vineyards, the city of Carcassonne and the foothills of the Pyrenees. The Pic de Madrès is the highest point in the Aude. The mountain is a fairly easy climb with a height difference of approx. 1000m. You’ll need around 3 hours to climb up the mountain and a little less to climb back. From the top of the mountains you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Pic de Canigou and Carlit but also the Mediterranean Sea.

Pic de Bugarach

East of Quillan lies the Pic de Bugarach, the highest mountain of the Corbières with a height of 1230m. It is also known as the inverted mountain and even became world news in 2012. According to the Mayan calendar, the world would perish in 2012. Bugarach was one of five places in the world where you could survive. In the mountain, there were said to be UFOs. People went to Bugarach from all over the world. The mountain is also interesting for scientists because the top of the mountain is older than the bottom. An older layer of earth has been pushed over a younger one or the mountain has fallen over as some believe. From the top you can enjoy beautiful views.

Hiking during the holidays

The whole area of the Pyrenees between the Mediterranean Sea and Andorra has beautiful hiking areas. The Vallée d'Eyne is  known for its many types of flowers. Vallée d'Orlu is also highly recommended. In the Eastern Pyrenees there are also some cirques such as the Cirque de Troumouse and the Cirque de Gavarnie. Cirques are round valleys surrounded by steep rock walls. If you are up for a challenge, visit the Gorges de la Carança. You can take a walk along the gorge at a high altitude on a carved path. Only do this if you are not afraid of heights, the views, however, are spectacular. We also recommend visiting the mountain lakes. The water surface acts like a mirror and reflects the surrounding mountains Be sure to visit Les etangs de Fontargente, the Lac des Bouillouses and the waterfalls of Ars.

Walking Areas

  • Vallée d’Eyne
  • Vallée d’Orlu
  • Cirque de Troumouse
  • Cirque de Gavarnie
  • Gorges de la Carança
  • Les etangs de Fontargente
  • Lac des Bouillouses
  • Cascade d’Ars

Vallée d’Eyne

The Vallée d'Eyne valley has been a nature reserve since 1993, you will understand that when you walk through it. It looks like a large botanical garden and has the most diverse plants and shrubs. In the eighteenth century the valley was discovered by botanists and to this day it is a popular place for nature lovers. The unique vegetation of this valley is due to various factors. The climate is a combination of a Mediterranean climate with a continental and maritime climate. The location of the valley and the gradually increasing landscape in relation to the sun has also played a role in this. The many plants attract insects, which then again attracts birds and other insectivores to the valley.

Cascade d’Ars

One of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Pyrenees is the Cascade d'Ars. The river Ars rises in the vicinity of the Spanish border, flows north to the lower parts of the Pyrenees. The impressive waterfall with a height of 246m can be reached from the town of Aulus-les-Bains. From the parking lot just outside the village there are several routes to the waterfall. The walk to the waterfall takes about 1.5 hours and starts on a wide forest path, it later narrows and you’ll be surrounded by boulders on both sides. The path finally turns into a narrow mountain path that runs up fairly steeply. The climbing is rewarded when you arrive at the waterfall and can then admire the spectacular natural phenomenon.

Gorges de la Carança

South of Quillan, in the direction of the border with Spain, are the Gorges de la Carança. The Carança is the river that flows down from the Pyrenees through a gorge towards Thuès-entre-Valls. High above the river, paths are carved into the rocks. The hiking trail starts wide with beautiful views over the gorge. Soon the path becomes narrower and sometimes so narrow that there are steel cables attached to the wall that you can hold on to. Don’t do this hike if you are afraid of heights, you can look down tens of meters below you. As the tour progresses, you will face more challenges: narrow steel bridges, stairs and a wobbly suspension bridge.

Cirque de Gavarnie

This cirque, which looks like a natural theatre, is a popular hotspot in the Pyrenees. You can walk to the cirque from the village of Gavarnie. You’ll first walk past "Plateau de Bellevue", which is, as the name suggests, a plateau from which you can enjoy a beautiful view over the cirque. Wander round the valley and enjoy the beautiful views. The walls of the valley are  perpendicular and have a height of 1500m.

Cirque de Troumouse

Cirque de Troumouse is slightly smaller, but still very impressive. Its walls have a height off 500m. A big advantage of Cirque de Troumouse is that you can enjoy great views towards the cliffs. In all directions you can see the beautiful landscape. Because it is less known than Gavarnie, it is also less touristy. In Troumouse you can properly enjoy the nature and surroundings. A small train takes you to the valley.

Tarascon and Ax-les-Thermes

Two beautiful mountain villages in the Eastern Pyrenees are Tarascon and Aix-les-Thermes. Both villages are known for their hot springs and the thermal baths that have been built there. Because of this, they have become popular villages for tourists. There are also some public hot springs in the village. In the Pyrenees there are many hot springs. This is because two layers of earth collided there, creating holes through which hot water can come up. This water contains all kinds of minerals, in this case mainly sulfate and sodium. There are great hikes you can do around these villages.

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