Pyrenees Walking Holidays Discoverer Level
Pyrenees Discoverer walking holiday – Lakes, Cirques & Summits
The Discoverer level Pyrenees guided walking holidays are our most popular guided program. The trip is based in the stunning French High Pyrenees, where you can walk high in the National parks and nature reserves to remote glacial lakes and take in a few summits and the breath-taking views they offer. From well known cirques, like Cirque de Gavarnie, to hidden ones, you will see a range of mountain scenery including the famous sites such as the Breche de Roland, which stands guard at the frontier to Spain.
While walking through this unspoilt land, your guide will share with you information about the local flora, fauna, culture and language.
Accommodation is at our chalet “Les Cailloux” in the traditional French Pyrenees mountain village of Barèges. A 3-star 300yr old chalet renovated to a very high standard, providing all the amenities to help you relax after your day’s walking including ensuite rooms with very comfortable beds, Sauna, lounge, equipement room and great cooking including home made afternoon tea after every walk!
What the price includes
The price shown for a Discoverer guided mountain walking week includes:
- Ensuite accommodation in the chalet, Les Cailloux
- Packed lunch for each walking day
- Transport to and from the beginning and end of walks
- A qualified, experienced International Mountain Leader for all of your walks.
As with all mountain ranges, the Pyrenean mountain weather can be varied. Normally we have clear skies and sunny days over the summer walking period but it can equally rain, snow, or have fog settle in. We advise our guests to come prepared for any weather by bringing lots of layers. A guided walk that begins in rain can end in glorious sunshine and vice-versa. Because of the terrain you’ll be walking on and the way the weather can affect it, we always recommend you wear broken in, sturdy walking boots for your Pyrenees walking holiday.
Your guide will plan your day’s route to make the most of the weather and group ability, which is why our itinerary isn’t totally fixed.
Please read our Kit List for more information on what we’d advise you bring with you.
A typical week’s itinerary on a Pyrenees Discoverer level guided walking holiday:
Saturday – Arrival and settling in
With your free afternoon we suggest a leisurely stroll to the creperie at St Justin where you can enjoy a traditional French snack in the sunshine. The restaurant is on an isolated promontory looking out onto the lovely Bastan valley, the village of Barèges and the towering mountains on every side – it can only be accessed on foot and has wonderful views. We will then have a welcome talk with the guide at around 6pm.
Sunday – Day 2 Pyrenees guided walking holiday: Montagne Fleuri and the valley of Barèges
- Montagne Fleuri
Leaving from the house (1250m), we cross the Bastan river and attack the horizon which dominates the view from our patio. A steady ascent from the village takes us to the farms and meadows of the Transarrious plateau, where following a farmers’ track we walk amongst ancient barns and grazing animals to reach the Montagne Fleuri path. The trail ascends through shady forest – keep an eye out for coal tits and crossbills flitting in the trees, and lots of wild mushrooms amongst the leaf-litter. At the top, 1900m, we traverse across to a rounded ridge and our lunch stop looking right across to the Spanish frontier and the Brèche de Roland. Now making our way down the ridge, we peek into a hidden cirque, strewn with ancient cabins and bergers’ paths, then rejoin the woods of the “Bois du Lys” – home of elusive deer and capercaille. After a zig-zag descent through woodland and a grassy hillside that is smothered with flowers in the Springtime, we can return directly to the village, or there is the option to continue along to St. Justin to admire the views from the lookout point, and enjoy a cool drink and an icecream on the terrace of the creperie de St. Justin.
- Another popular route we follow for the first day is to explore down the valley from Bareges and a trek through the villages of the Pays Toy.
Monday 17th June: Exploring the Bastan valley – a village-to-village walk from Bareges to Luz-St. Sauveur
Depart directly from Bareges, climbing into the idyllic meadows of the Transarrious plateau, where we see some historic farms and field systems still in use today. Following the old drovers’ paths, we make our way to the ancient village of Sers, with its 12th century church and narrow, cobbled passageway. The trail continues down through the pretty villages of Viey and Viella, before a short ascent to the Ste. Marie castle, commanding fantastic views over the village of Luz-St. Sauveur. In Luz there is time for an icecream and a visit to the fortified Templars church before our ride back up to Bareges making use of the local bus service.
600m descent, 150m ascent
Monday – Day 3 Pyrenees guided walking holiday: The Pont d’Espagne, Cauterets or Pic de Viscos (2141m)
- Pyrenees walking holiday – the summit of the Pic du Viscos
An exciting day, tackling the watershed between the valleys of Luz and Cauterets. The Pic du Viscos stands guard over the two valleys, with spectacular 360 degree views across the high peaks and the plains.
A staedy ascent from the Luz ski carpark takes us to the Col de Riou (1949m), and a pleasant grassy walk through pasture. The route then turns progressively more rocky, becoming a farily narrow ridge covered in wild flowers, pine trees and sun-bathing lizards. Lunch in the shade of the gnarled Pin a Crochets, before we climb the peak itself at 2141m. This is a great spot to see vultures and eagles, playing on the thermals.
Descend to a lower trail, lined with wildflowers, wild raspberries and bilberries, to complete the circuit back to the bus.
- Another possible day hike takes us to the neighbouring valley of Cauterets and into the Pyrenees National Park at the Pont d’Espagne.
Lac de Gaube and the Refuge des Oulettes de Gaube
A minibus transfer over to the next valley, and the Pont d’Espagne – gateway to the Pyrenees National Park. We start the day with a stiff climb over sculpted granite blocks to arrive at the Lac de Gaube. This glacial lake is one of the most famous sites of the Pyrenees, and it shimmers green or blue, depending on the time of day. In the distance, the Vignemale mountain (highest summit in the French Pyrenees) and its North Face glacier are visible at the head of the valley. For hardy walkers, there is the option to continue up the valley to the Oulettes de Gaube refuge, where we can enjoy a hot chocolate in the shadow of the Vignemale. On our return to the Pont d’Espagne, we pass a series of thundering waterfalls that have carved a narrow gorge beneath the Spanish Bridge.
350m ascent and descent to the Lac de Gaube. Extension to the Oulettes refuge – approx. 3 hours/500m ascent and descent.
Tuesday – Day 4 Pyrenees guided walking holiday: Breche de Roland (with an optional ascent of Le Taillon, 3144m)
A dramatic drive to the Col de Tentes (2208m), then an easy warm up to the Port de Boucharo (2270m) and the Spanish border. From here, we follow a good path, which skirts above the Pouey Aspe valley. A slow climbing path takes us up to the Col des Sarradets, with spectacular views of the Cirque de Gavarnie and the legendary Grande Cascade. After a quick break at the Sarradets refuge, we climb to the Brèche de Roland (2807m). This incredible slash in the frontier cliffs is our window to Spain and looks into the Ordesa National Park. From the Brèche we have the option of ascending the most accessible of the Pyrenean 3000m peaks – Le Taillon (3144m), which will add about 2hrs to our walk. We descend via the same route.
Wednesday – Day 5 Pyrenees guided walking holiday: Free day
Your free day to use as you please. We suggest you try out the thermal spa in the village of Bareges, visit the Pic du Midi observatory or take the bus to the pretty towns of Luz St Sauveur or Argelès-Gazost. Here you can stock up on the delicious local sheep’ cheeses and ‘saucissons sec’ (knobbly French salamis). The pilgrimage town of Lourdes is also accessible by public transport (about 1hr by bus).
For those who can’t get enough exercise, there are plenty of trails to be explored on foot from Barèges, and we can arrange activities including paragliding, white water rafting, pony trekking, mountain biking, canyoning etc.
Thursday – Day 6 Pyrenees guided walking holiday: Aygues Cluses & the Col de Tracens (optional ascent of Pic de Madamète, 2657m)
Five minutes drive to the Pont de la Gaubie (1538m). Our morning’s ascent follows part of the famous trans Pyrenean GR10 and ascends the beautiful Aygues-Cluses valley. The path climbs gently under gnarled pine trees, then across pasture to the Lacs de Madamète – a good place for lunch and a feet-dip before we climb up to the Col de Tracens (2463m). From here, the Pic de Madamète (2657m) is easily accessible for the more energetic walker, but even from the Col the views across the the Néouvielle Natural Park are superb. We descend through very wild and rugged country, across granite boulders with few signs of human passage. From the Lac dets Coubous (2041m) we make our descent back to the Pont de La Gaubie on a good path, keeping an eye out for marmots on our way down.
Friday – Day 7 Pyrenees guided walking holiday: Cirque de Troumouse circuit
A scenic drive through the gorges above Luz brings us to the village of Gedre, then into the valley of Heas. Leaving on foot from this tiny hamlet, a steep but steady zigzag path takes us into a small cirque, from where we leave the main path and take a secret route high above the Heas valley into the great Cirque de Troumouse itself. We hardly ever see another person on this route, and hence there is a good chance of seeing some Pyrenean wildlife – marmots, griffon vultures and the rare and elusive “isard” (Pyrenean Chamois). The valley opens out into the cirque, and we soon find ourselves in grassy meadows dotted with grazing sheep and cattle, where we explore amongst giant boulders to find a traditional turf-roofed shepherd’s cabin hidden behind the rocks. The meadows and boulders here are smothered with tiny Alpine wildflowers in the spring, and extravagant purple Pyrenean irises push through the grass in the summer. Soon we come across the beautiful ephemeral lakes in the centre of the cirque. These are fed by meltwater from the small glaciers clinging to the north wall of the cirque, and they are icy cold regardless of the weather! After a relaxing lunch looking out across the lakes to snow-capped peaks, we make our way back across the meadows to another zigzag path descending back to Heas.
Saturday – Free morning
The time is yours before you leave by mid-morning to make your way home. There’s plenty of time for a rejuvenating dip in the thermal spa or a short local walk and lunch in a village restaurant. We can arrange to look after your luggage if you don’t need to leave the area until later and wish to still enjoy your time in the Pyrenees.
Please note this is a typical Pyrenees Discoverer level guided walking holiday itinerary, your actual itinerary will depend on conditions such as the weather, the fitness, ability and tastes of your group. This is one of the benefits of a walking holiday with a qualified International Mountain Leader – they can adapt the day’s walking to the circumstances, to make sure you have as enjoyable and safe a holiday as possible.
Please check individual holiday descriptions to find out what the price includes. In some cases discounts are available for groups or family rooms. For some holidays accommodation is provided in mountain refuges, or by 3rd party suppliers – please see individual holiday descriptions for details.
|7th May||Walking – Spanish Pyrenees Explorer The Kingdom of Aragon hike||£810|
|7th May||Walking – Spanish Pyrenees Discoverer The Kingdom of Aragon hike||£810|
|14th May||Walking – Cathar country Explorer The Cathar castles||£890|
|20th May||Walking – Valleys & views Taster||£810|
|27th May||Walking – Valleys & views Taster||£810|
|3rd June||Walking – Valleys, villages & cirques Explorer||£790|
|10th June||Walking – Lakes, cirques & summits Discoverer||£790|
|17th June||Walking – Valleys, villages & cirques Explorer||£790|
|24th June||Walking – Lakes, cirques & summits Discoverer||£790|
|1st July||Catered Accommodation for independent activities OR a guided program on request||£455|
|8th July||Walking – Valleys, villages & cirques Explorer||£790|
|8th July||Catered Accommodation for independent activities for independent walking or cycling - See the Tour de France this week||£455|
|15th July||Walking – Gavarnie & Ordesa Discoverer inc. 2 night trek, in manned refuges.||£810|
|22nd July||Walking – Peaks, ridges & refuges Adventurer - 3000m peaks special, inc. trek with 2 nights in high manned/catered refuges||£830|
|29th July||Trekking – HRP Stage 1||£810|
|5th August||Trekking – HRP Stage 2||£810 FULL|
|12th August||Trekking – HRP Stage 3||£900 FULL|
|26th August||Catered Accommodation for independent activities||£455|
|26th August||Walking – Neouvielle, the Pyrenees lake district Discoverer||£810|
|2nd September||Bespoke guided walking/trekking/climbing/activity week||—|
|9th September||Walking – Valleys & views Taster||£810|
|9th September||Bespoke guided walking/trekking/climbing/activity week||—|
|16th September||Walking – Lakes, cirques & summits Discoverer||£790|
|23rd September||Walking – Gavarnie & Ordesa Discoverer inc. 2 night mini-trek in manned refuges.||£810|
|24th September||Walking – Spanish Pyrenees Discoverer Kingdom of Aragon hike.||£790|
|30th September||Walking – Valleys, villages & cirques Explorer||£790|
|1st October||Walking – Cathar country Explorer The Cathar Trail||£890|
|1st October||Walking - Spanish Pyrenees Explorer Kingdom of Aragon hike.||£810|