Walking Holidays – Pyrenees Taster VV
Taster – Valleys & Views walking holiday
This walking holiday is based in the traditional mountain village of Barèges, in the French Hautes Pyrenees. From Bareges we combine day walks directly from the village, with excursions out to see the other local sights. The walking is at a gentle level, on clearly marked tracks and paths, taking in breath-taking views of snowy peaks, stone barns, and tinkling mountain streams. Some highlights of the week include a walking tour of one of the Pyrenees’ most famous spots, the Cirque de Gavarnie – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and also a visit to the astronomical observatory at the Pic du Midi, which offers stupendous views across the Pyrenees.
We will use a combination of our own legs, mini-bus and cable car to explore the area. The excursions are accompanied by a local expert – a qualified International Mountain Leader, who will share with you their knowledge and love of the area, including facts about the culture, history and language of this rich and varied part of France.
This holiday is based from our lovely catered chalet “Les Cailloux”, in the traditional French mountain village of Barèges, in the Pays Toy.
What the price includes
The price shown for a Taster guided mountain walking week includes:
- 7 nights accommodation, based on two sharing an en-suite room at the chalet
- half board meals – continental breakfast buffet, afternoon tea & cake and 3-course evening meals on 6 nights
- 3 packed lunches for walking days
- local mini-bus transport
- ticket for the Pic du Midi
- accompaniment by an experienced MountainBug team member
Please note that airport transfers, optional snacks and beverages at restaurants visited along the way, lunch in La Mongie (on the Pic du Midi visit) and produce from the farmers’ market in Argeles (for our picnic at Lac d’Estaing) are not included in the price.
Spring time and Autumn are the perfect seasons to visit the French Pyrenees, when the climate is mild and the walking trails and favourite tourist sites are quiet. From late May to early July the Spring wildflowers at at their best. The weather is often very pleasant in June and September, but, naturally, mountains are changeable so we advise that you bring layers of clothes and lightweight waterproofs so that you can easily adapt to changes in the weather.
Please read our Kit List for more information on what we’d advise you bring with you.
A typical week’s itinerary:
We suggest a stroll round the village before dinner and your Welcome Talk, where you will meet your guide and the rest of the group, take a look at the local maps and discuss plans for the week.
Sunday – Village to village walking in the Pyrenees
Starting from Barèges, today’s walk takes us down the valley to Luz-St. Sauveur, visiting seven different villages along the way. This is a wonderful walk to discover the Pays Toy – from the spectacular viewpoint at St. Justin, through the cobbled passageways winding through perched villages, to the ruined castle of Ste. Marie. We will stop to look at the historic churches, ancient communal wash-houses fed by mountain spring water, and learn about the traditional farming methods. This is our longest day of walking, around 5 hours, but it is mainly downhill and is broken up by plenty of breaks, lunch and photo opportunities!
Monday – Cirque de Gavarnie
Today we head out in the mini-bus and start the day with a scenic drive to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Cirque de Gavarnie at the Spanish frontier. Departing from Gavarnie village, our walk takes us up the valley bottom following a mule track beside a picturesque mountain river. As we climb steadily towards the Spanish border, the incredible backdrop of the cirque grows in size and splendour – kilometre-high cliffs loom beneath the 3000m peaks, capped with snow and bisected by the Grande Cascade – the highest free-hanging waterfall in Europe.
After a short foray into the cirque itself, we can enjoy a refreshing drink (or icecream!) at the Hotellerie du Cirque, before making our way back down the valley on a secret woodland trail. This narrow path soon pops out in idyllic Alpine meadows – one of the best places to see a whole host of different orchids in June. If the weather is warm, we’ll be sure to stop to dip our feet in an ice cold (glacier-fed) stream, and admire the view back to the cirque.
Today’s walking time is around 4 hours, plus stops – we will want to take our time to appreciate this truly spectacular natural limestone amphitheatre.
Tuesday – farmers’ market at Argeles Gazost and a lakeside picnic at Lac d’Estaing
A leisurely day, beginning with a visit to the regional farmers’ market at the pretty town of Argeles-Gazost. This weekly market is great opportunity to sample the local produce – including mountain sheep’s cheeses, honey, dry-cured sausage and hams. In the early Summer the flavour-packed melons, strawberries and ripe peaches are a must!
You’ll be able to buy your own food for a picnic lunch in the tranquil Val d’Azun – our next stop for a stroll around the beautiful Lac D’Estaing. After a relaxing picnic beside the lake, we make our way back to Bareges on scenic mountain roads, stopping along the way for another visit – either one of the quaint villages, or the abbey at St. Savin.
Wednesday – Free day
This is your free day to use as you please. We recommend an hour or two at the Bareges spa, where the thermal waters are reputed to have healing properties, but are certainly a great way to relax and unwind. The pilgrimage town of Lourdes is also a popular day trip, around 1 hour away on the local bus service. In the evening, you have the chance to eat out at one of the local restaurants – just ask us for a recommendation.
Thursday – the Pic du Midi Observatory
Today’s sightseeing programme takes us over the famous Col du Tourmalet to La Mongie. Cycling fans will recognise the winding mountain roads from the Tour de France, which includes the notoriously tough Col du Tourmalet in its route almost every year.
From the mountain village of La Mongie, we take the cable car to the Pic du Midi observatory – an iconic James Bond-style structure, perched on top of a soaring mountain peak at 2877m. The cable car ride is impressive in its own right, but from the summit we are rewarded with fabulous views across the whole of the Pyrenean range – reaching as far as the Atlantic coast on particularly clear days. The Pic du Midi has a panoramic restaurant, and an interesting museum describing the gruelling process of constructing the observatory in the late 19th century. Later, the surface of the moon was mapped from here for the Apollo missions, and most recently the scientific research has focussed on solar flare studies.
Friday – the Balcony of Bareges
Today we pull our hiking boots on again, and leave on foot from Barèges to walk up to Le Lienz and Plateau Lumiere. We begin the day with a steady climb through the beech forest above Bareges. This forest was planted under order of Napoleon III, to protect the village from avalanches. After around an hour of climbing, we’ll stop for a coffee at Chez Louisette – one of the most traditional and well-known local restaurants serving the specialities of the region.
Our route now takes us to the WW2 Resistance Camp Rollot – a poignant reminder of the wartime history of France, before we follow an easy trail to the Plateau Lumiere. Here, the woods open out into flower-filled meadows, dotted with traditional stone barns, and we’ll pick a tranquil spot for lunch. The plateau has superb views down the valley towards the mountain villages of Sers and Betpouey, and beyond to the snow-capped peaks of the Ardiden massif.
We return to Bareges on the GR10 trail, with up to 4 hours total walking today – broken up by breaks and a leisurely lunch.
Saturday – depart
Leave in your own time after breakfast.
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.
|5-11||Walking – Spanish Pyrenees Kingdom of Aragon hike.||£810|
|12-18||Walking – Cathar country Explorer The Cathar Trail, castles, views and history of the Albigensian crusade.||£895|
|25-1||Walking – Valleys & views Taster Sight seeing and walking||£810|
|1-8||Walking – Valleys, villages & cirques Explorer Gentle guided walking||£790|
|8-15||Walking – Lakes, cirques & summits Discoverer Intermediate guided walking||£790|
|15-22||Walking – Valleys, villages & cirques Explorer Gentle guided walking||£790|
|22-29||Walking – Lakes, cirques & summits Discoverer Intermediate guided walking||£790|
|22-29||Walking – Neouvielle Lakes – Discoverer walking (2 nights at manned refuges) – Pyrenees Lake District||£810|
|29-6||Hiking – Peaks, ridges & refuges Adventurer Unlimited trekking to the guides favourite spots, 1 night in catered refuge.||£810|
|29-6||Walking – Valleys & views Taster Sight seeing and walking||£810|
|6-13||Walking – Valleys, villages & cirques Explorer Gentle guided walking||£790|
|20-27||Trekking – HRP Stage 1 The Pyrenees Haute Route Trek (Coast to Coast long distance hike)||£890|
|20-27||Walking – Gavarnie & Ordesa Discoverer France and Spain inc. 2 night mini-trek in catered refuges||£810|
|20-27||Catered Accommodation for independent activities/hiking||£450|
|27-3||Trekking – HRP Stage 2 The Pyrenees Haute Route Trek (Coast to Coast long distance hike)||£890|
|27-3||Catered Accommodation for independent activities Half board with afternoon tea||£450|
|3-10||Trekking – HRP Stage 3 The Pyrenees Haute Route Trek (The Aneto -3404m, ascent stage)||£990|
|31-7||Walking – Gavarnie & Ordesa Discoverer France and Spain inc. 2 night mini-trek in catered refuges||£810|
|31-7||Trekking – HRP Stage 1 The Pyrenees Haute Route Trek (Coast to Coast long distance hike)||£890|
|31-7||Catered Accommodation 4 nights Half board with afternoon tea and 3 nights B&B||£400|
|7-14||Walking – Valleys, villages & cirques Explorer Gentle guided walking||£790|
|7-14||Trekking – HRP Stage 2 The Pyrenees Haute Route Trek (Coast to Coast long distance hike)||£890|
|7-14||Bespoke guided walking/trekking/climbing/activity week Your choice! contact us||—|
|14-21||Trekking – HRP Stage 3 The Pyrenees Haute Route Trek (The Aneto -3404m, ascent stage)||£990|
|14-21||Walking – Lakes, cirques & summits Discoverer Intermediate guided walking||£790|
|21-29||Walking – Gavarnie & Ordesa Discoverer France and Spain inc. 2 night mini-trek in catered refuges||£810|
|29-5||Bespoke guided walking/trekking/climbing/activity week Your choice! contact us||—|
|6-12||Walking – Cathar country The Cathar Trail, castles, views and history of the Albigensian crusade.||£895|
|13-19||Walking – Spanish Pyrenees Kingdom of Aragon hike.||£810|
Choose your walking or trekking holiday dates, then contact us to book.