Best Things To Do In The French Pyrenees


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In March 2022, as part of our van life travels around France, we spent some time in the French Pyrenees. This was one of the places that we were most excited to explore, after carrying out research it seemed there were so many stunning places to see and some amazing things to do, and we were not wrong!

This blog post is all about what we got up to in the French Pyrenees in our motorhome, and our favourite places that we visited.

Saint Jean Pied De Port

Saint Jean Pied De Port is a small commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in south-western France in the Pyrenean foothills.

Located on the French side of the Pyrenees, it is close to Spain and serves as an important stopover point for hikers taking the traditional Camino de Santiago route across the Pyrenees.

The old quarter is particularly charming with its narrow cobbled streets, fortified city walls and 16th-century houses. There is also a beautiful Romanesque church in the centre of town built in the 12th century.

Visitors can enjoy the picturesque views of mountains and valleys from Pont Napoleon bridge or take part in one of the many activities such as horse riding, mountain biking or rock climbing.

Saint Jean Pied De Port is also a great base for exploring the Basque region and its delicious cuisine.

This quaint little commune is home to a Citadel, built around 1625-1627, which stands on top of Mendiguren Hill. A Citadel is a fortress, typically one on high ground above a city. The Citadel is now home to a school.

We thought that Saint Jean Pied De Port was a great place to visit. It was our first stop in the French Pyrenees and we really enjoyed walking around and taking in the magnificent panoramic views of the mountains from the Citadel.

We found road side parking on Park4night which was quiet and a really convenient parking spot close to everything –

Lac De Castet

Lac De Castet is is a lake located just outside of Saint Jean Pied De Port in the heart of the Ossau valley.

It is the perfect spot to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The lake is surrounded by majestic mountains and lush green fields, providing visitors with stunning views while they enjoy a leisurely stroll or have a picnic.

The area is also ideal for those looking to take part in water sports, fishing and camping. For those who want to explore the lake a little further, there are several boats available for hire from the nearby village of La Bizkarra.

Lac De Castet is also noted for its rich wildlife, with many species of birds, fish and plants found in the area. It’s easy to see why Lac De Castet is such a popular destination for those seeking a relaxed and peaceful break.

The lake also provides an important source of water to the local population, ensuring it remains an integral part of the beautiful Basque landscape.

We visited in the winter so everything was closed, but it does seem in the summer season that there are lots of activities to do at the Lake, such as stand up paddle boarding and Pilates which we thought sounded great fun!

We did struggle to find parking around the Lac De Castet. The car park at the lake has height restrictions which meant we couldn’t park there so we had to park a bit further out, but it was a quiet car park with plenty of space for our motorhome, and it was free.

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Lourdes is a town in southwestern France, nestled in the foothills of the French Pyrenees mountains. It is best known for its religious significance.

The area has been a popular pilgrimage destination since 1858 when the Virgin Mary appeared to a young girl named Bernadette Soubirous. Lourdes remains an important centre of Catholic faith and attracts millions of pilgrims each year.

The town centre is dominated by the imposing Notre Dame de Lourdes basilica and Grotto of Massabielle, where a number of miraculous healing stories have been reported. Visitors can explore the area’s other attractions such as the Château Fort de Lourdes or take part in a boat tour along the Gave de Pau river.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is an area of ground surrounding the Catholic shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes. The sanctuary is truly beautiful. Dogs are not allowed in the grounds, so I (Kirsty) went in alone whilst Ryan waited with Lottie. I didn’t actually go into the sanctuary, only took photos from the outside but you can see below how much of a truly stunning building it is. The detail and the colours are just amazing. You can spend a really long time just taking in the detail of the building.

A lot of the hotels, cafes, restaurants etc were still closed, we assume for the winter, when we visited at the beginning of March.

We found roadside parking a short walk from the sanctuary, but it was a Sunday afternoon in winter when we visited, so not too busy at all.

With its spiritual atmosphere and stunning scenery, it’s no wonder why so many visitors flock to Lourdes each year.

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Cauterets is a picturesque mountain village, a spa town, a lively ski resort and a commune. Cauterets is right in the heart of the French Pyrenees national park and there are lots and lots of amazing things to do and see.

Known for its thermal springs, Cauterets is one of Europe’s oldest spa towns and an ideal spot to relax and unwind. Visitors can soak in the hot springs in the town centre or take part in more active pursuits such as skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking and hiking.

Cauterets is also home to some of the most stunning natural landscapes in France, with lush valleys, steep mountains, waterfalls and rivers all within easy reach. Its unique setting makes it a great base for exploring the Pyrenees National Park as well as other nearby attractions such as Gavarnie Falls or the Cirque de Gavarnie.

We had planned to hike to the Gaube Lake, The Bridge of Spain and some waterfalls, but unfortunately we found that dogs are not actually allowed right into the Pyrenees National Park, due to rules about protected flowers and wildlife. This was really disappointing for us, but there are still plenty of places that you can walk your dog and still see some absolutely amazing views.

We found this walk on All Trails, which gave fantastic panoramic views over Cauterets and the beautiful snowy mountains –

We didn’t ski, because we were with our dog, but the skiing was really busy and popular so if you are a fan of skiing it seems that Cauterets is a great place for it!

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Saint Bertrand De Comminges

Saint Bertrand De Comminges is an ancient hilltop city and a remarkable archaeological site from the middle ages. It is a historic site in Haute-Garonne in the heart of the central Pyrenees. Tourists and pilgrims come in large numbers each year, although it was very quiet when we visited on a Sunday afternoon in winter.

It has a long history dating back to Roman times, and is most renowned for its stunning 11th century cathedral, which is considered one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe. The city also boasts a variety of other attractions such as the 12th century Saint-Just church, the ruins of a 13th century castle and a historic cemetery.

Saint Bertrand De Comminges is also home to some excellent restaurants serving traditional French cuisine, as well as many quaint cafes, bars and shops to browse.

There is a large car park just below the town which we would recommend parking in, as the roads are very narrow if you were to try and drive up to the town. It is only a very short walk from the car park up to the town.

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