What to see in France

Hautes-Pyrénées, the well-being campsite

Coucher de soleil sur les Hautes-Pyrénées
Coucher de soleil sur les Hautes-Pyrénées

The Hautes-Pyrénées, the cradle of the Occitanie region, is made up of three natural regions: the plains, the hillsides and the mountains. The latter, called the Pyrenees, separates France from Spain, forming a natural barrier. The advantages of this department are innumerable, the renowned welcome, the magnificent views, the pure mountain air but also the aesthetic emotion in front of the landscapes, the physical activity since there is a lot of hiking and of course the cultural discovery. These are definite advantages that are not contradicted by the presence of eight thermal spas in the area.

Which campsite to stay at?

Located in the commune of Argelès-Gazost, you can enjoy the Les 3 Vallées campsite**** on a 13-hectare site with an indoor swimming pool, 3 outdoor pools, 4 slides, 2 paddling pools and a river with current. The campsite also has a Balneo area with jacuzzis and hydromassage jets, which are very pleasant after a day's hiking for example. A team of qualified entertainers will look after your children at the Sunny Club, while your evenings will be entertained by the Cabaret des Oiseaux and the disco.

30 kilometres north-east of Argelès-Gazost, in Bagnères de Bigorre, the Monloo campsite**** welcomes you around a magnificent lagoon with a breathtaking view of the Pic du Midi. You will also enjoy a covered swimming pool and an open-air swimming pool, and access to the river beach is 500 metres away. 34 rentals are at your disposal as well as about 200 pitches. The campsite organises dance evenings and offers daytime entertainment for children.

The campsite Le Lavedan** in Guchen has a stream running through it and is surrounded by meadows, making it ideal for those looking for peace and quiet. Open between June and September, it offers an outdoor swimming pool, kayaking on the river, volleyball, table tennis and mountain biking as well as a restaurant and mobile homes. Situated just outside St-Lary, the owners are keen to show you the beautiful Aure valley which surrounds the campsite.

Finally, the Airotel Pyrénées***** campsite located in Esquièze-Sère in the commune of Luz-Saint-Sauveur offers you a breath of fresh air with all the mountain sports thanks to the three ski resorts near the campsite. It is also the ideal place to visit the exceptional natural sites of the region such as the Pic du Midi or the Gavarnie cirque. A perfectly equipped establishment with three swimming pools, one of which is covered, a weight room, a multi-sports ground and a balneo area.

Pilgrimage to Lourdes

It is the second largest hotel town in France (you will find a good dozen campsites in Lourdes), as well as the second largest Catholic pilgrimage site after Rome. This demonstrates the importance of this place for tourism, which was also made famous following the numerous apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. The 160th anniversary of these apparitions was celebrated in 2018. On the banks of the Gave de Pau, the sanctuaries attract many visitors and pilgrims who flock to see the famous miraculous cave located in the crypt of the Notre-Dame basilica. There is a very special mystical atmosphere here based on respect (dress, behaviour). Apart from the Sanctuary, the town has many other assets, such as the lake, which was created by a glacier slide and now has a beach in the summer. The castle which dominates the town is also a place to visit with the family. From up there you have a breathtaking view of the town, the sanctuaries and the Pyrenees. But the most beautiful view is undoubtedly from the Pic du Jer, which you can reach by funicular and which promises a unique ride. At the top, an exceptional view awaits you on the Pyrenees chain, but also on the sanctuaries and the city of Tarbes if the sky is cloudless. The Pic du Jer is known for its clean air and its mountain bike trails. Note that this visit is closed between 4 November and 22 March and that the round trip will cost you €12.50 per adult and €10 for children aged 6 to 17.

Church and sanctuary of Notre Dame de Lourdes
Church and sanctuary of Notre Dame de Lourdes© Adobe Stock

The Gavarnie cirque

Located in the Pyrenees National Park, the natural cirque of Gavarnie has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1997. It is also the highest point of many other peaks around the cirque with a height of 3248 metres. You can reach the bottom of the cirque quite easily on a family hike or mule ride, which makes the walk more fun with children. From the charming village of Gavarnie (the highest in the department), you will reach your goal in less than an hour. On the way, you will discover dozens of waterfalls that are always a delight for children and adults alike. But the most spectacular is undoubtedly the Gavarnie waterfall, which is one of the must-sees on the hike to the cirque of the same name and a waterfall of over 400 metres. It is also one of the largest waterfalls in Europe. Finally, you will discover the Breche de Roland, a glacial gash, a real geological curiosity which, according to legend, was opened by Roland, Charlemagne's nephew.

The Gavarnie cirque
The Gavarnie cirque© Adobe Stock

The Pic du Midi

If you spend a few days at a campsite near the Pic du Midi, don't miss this visit: the Pic du Midi reaches an altitude of 2876 metres, which you can reach by cable car, and is known for its astronomical observatory. In the observatory, you can see the sun, the stars and the sky in a very unique way. A cultural and exciting adventure awaits you with films, exhibitions, models and observation equipment. Outside, an extraordinary view awaits you, thanks to two large terraces and a footbridge above the void, which allow you to admire the Pyrenean summits (more than 300 km) as far as the first foothills of the Massif Central. To make the pleasure last, it is even possible to spend the night there to observe the sunset and then the starry sky and the moon, and why not the sunrise a few hours later. An excellent dinner can also be served. Needless to say, it would be a shame to spend the night in such a place to sleep!

The Pic du Midi and its observatory
The Pic du Midi and its observatory© Adobe Stock

Cauterets and the Pont d'Espagne

Very pretty village established at almost 1000 meters of altitude in the bottom of a valley and surrounded by forests of fir trees, the characteristic of the village of Cauterets is the presence of icy torrents as well as hot springs at 55°, from where its name: "caut" which means hot and "ret" which means cold. The village was very popular in the 19th century after the visit of Chateaubriand, Flaubert, Victor Hugo and George Sand, and then took advantage of its natural riches to become a ski resort in the 1960s, where both downhill and cross-country skiing are practised, while in the summer it is towards the Pont d'Espagne, one of the great sites of the Hautes-Pyrénées. Only 7 kilometres from Cauterets, the Pont d'Espagne is located in the middle of the Pyrenees National Park and was once used for trade between France and Spain. A valley classified as a "Grand Site de France", its landscapes and waterfalls will delight the whole family, from children to parents and friends, as well as hikers and nature lovers, as it is also the starting point for numerous hikes, such as the one that leads to the mythical and magnificent Gaube lake, which is well worth the 1.5 hour walk (round trip) through unspoilt nature. You won't regret it! For the others, a chairlift is available to go up to the lake. Just a little higher up, let yourself be guided by the enchanting waterways that will lead you to the Vignemale massif, the master of the place and the fourth highest massif in the Pyrenees.



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