LAVEDAN VALLEYS & VILLAGES
Hotel-to-Hotel Trek : from Lourdes to Gavarnie
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Walk between B&Bs and hotels through dramatic scenery with comfortable beds and gourmet food each night. We transfer your bags so you walk only with day packs along with providing a personal briefing, marked maps and notes (full of historical and geographical points of interest), and all the support you require along the way.
The valleys you pass through present a fascinating complexity of twists and turns, tumbling streams, flat glaciated valley bottoms and high peaks. The views are superb and the landscape changes constantly as you move: from sparse mountain tops above the tree line to wild and steep river valleys lined with pines and beech, and on down to the level of human habitation where you will find attractive small stone built farming villages typical of this part of the Pyrenees. Covering a large part of the old province of Lavedan the walk follows parts of an old high route back into France from Santiago de Compostella in Spain over the Pyrenees. The passes of the Central Pyrenees are often snow covered at the beginning of summer when pilgrims set out for their grand adventure to Santiago, but by the end of summer pilgrims often passed through these valleys on their way home, converging on the monastery in St Savin where you will stay.
We’ve chosen a route challenging enough for strong walkers and flexible enough for those who like shorter days. Walks can often be varied from four to seven hours depending on the routes chosen. There are three levels: challenging, moderate and gentle.
950€ pp (5 nights) - 1250€ pp (7 nights)
1495€ pp (10 nights) - 1695€ pp (13 nights)
This price includes :
• Twin share accomodation in B&B, 2* and 3* hotels
• Half board (breakfast & dinner)
• Collection in Lourdes and transfer to Ouzous
• Marked maps & walks notes
• Full briefing
• Picnic lunches, drinks
• Shuttle buses (Pont d'Espagne & Gavarnie)
7 DAY TREK ITINERARY
If you arrive early in Lourdes take the chance to look around this interesting pilgrimage town. From the garish religious paraphernalia to the quiet calm of the sanctuaries themselves, the town is full of colours and contrasts. We collect you late afternoon, stop at the supermarket for picnic supplies, and drive to your lovely B&B in Ouzous (573m). We then sit down with maps and route notes and explain how the week works and each days’ options. We live just a few miles away and you will have all our contact numbers in case you need to call. The view from the garden of the B&B allows you to see all the valleys you will walk through during your week, so is the perfect place to start. You then have a short walk to dinner in the next village at the very special Auberge du Bergons.
Your first walking day takes you straight up from Ouzous village into the Pibeste Nature Reserve, home to 25 species of predatory birds, isards, mouflons and numerous Mediterranean plants which happily make their home on the south facing slopes of the Pic du Pibeste (1349m). The peak is a great vantage point, looking over the plain to the north and the mountainous Lavedan province to the south. You will fully appreciate the valleys you will be exploring in the days to come. The width of the Argeles valley, carved out by glaciers during successive ice ages and subsequently filled with river sediments making the almost flat valley base contrasts with the narrower, steeper gorges of the Val d’Azun to the west, the Cauterets Valley to the south-west and the Luz Valley directly south. More challenging and more gentle options are possible today. A taxi collects you tonight taking you to Argeles for dinner, and subsequently returns you to Ouzous for a second night.
Ascent/Descent: 775m, ~10kms.
Today you largely follow one of the paths of the Way of St James leaving the limestone massif of the Pibeste behind you. The landscape is complex, largely agricultural, and utterly charming, giving you a sense of how life may have been here hundreds of years ago. It is an interesting route for those who enjoy looking at village architecture and life and you pass through or near a number of very typical Lavedan villages with their substantial houses and agricultural outbuildings, well organised for self sufficient living. At times the valley town of Argeles Gazost is visible below, at others it is shielded by low hills. Argeles is a traditional market town which turned itself into a fashionable spa in the 18th century by re-routing the thermal waters from the other side of the valley. On the shorter route you meander around the bottom of the Mont de Gez via Les Gerbes to Arras-en-Lavedan. The longer route takes you up and over the Mont de Gez (1050m) before arriving in the village of Arras. There is an option for collection in Arras, or you can continue on foot to St Savin, a village whose substantial church and abbey was a junction on the trails to/from Compostelle during the middle ages.
Ascent/Descent: 500m (Mont de Gez)/150m (Les Gerbes), ~15kms.
From St Savin (575m) you head up through the tiny village of Uz to the Pouey-Aspé plateau (956m) where St Savin himself had his hermitage for 13 years in the 5th century. This spot is today marked by a small chapel and the views from the top are spectacular over the Argeles Valley. One can imagine pilgrims climbing the mountain to seek advice from the hermit, and at least having the compensation of the view if the wisdom was less than expected! You then descend through the forest almost into the village of Pierrefitte where you connect with the cycling and walking path running along the old railway line to Cauterets (1000m). You will quickly realise you are leaving the foothills, and the transition from the gently rolling hills to the steep slopes of the Cauterets valley is dramatic. Shorter walking options with a bus to Cauterets are possible, as is the possibility of riding in the car with the luggage and then taking advantage of Cauterets’ spa facilities offering thermal water swimming and treatments.
Ascent/Descent: 925m/400m, ~12kms.
Cauterets and the surrounding valleys are too good to leave after just one night! The town is interesting in itself with long streets of high buildings and elegant statues crammed tightly into the narrow valley bottom. Above the town the spectacular Pont d’Espagne (1500m) gives access to the Gaube and Marcadau Valleys, famous for their walking. There is a pretty walk over granite slabs and through pine trees to the very blue Lac de Gaube (1700m). Those who wish can then continue onwards for a view of the Vignemale mountain – at 3298m it is the highest in the French Pyrenees – from the Oulettes Refuge (2150m). Depending on the season we recommend either walking straight out of Cauterets up to the Pont d’Espagne, or in summer there is the possibility of a shuttle bus to start from there and head higher.
Ascent/Descent: variable with multiple options.
Today is really a matter of climbing up one side of the mountain and heading down the other, following the zig-zagging GR10 path. The route climbs out of the back of Cauterets up to the Col de Riou with its lovely view. You then descend through the ski station of Luz Ardiden and down the mountain eastwards into Luz. There are alternative routes for the descent but from all paths you have huge views over Luz St Sauveur and the Barèges Valley. The town of Luz itself is a delightful old mass of stone buildings huddled around the 12th Century fortified Eglise des Templiers. For those of you who love peaks there is a two hour deviation to climb to the top of Pic du Viscos – a classic triangular pointy ‘Toblerone’ peak with a cross at the top. If you don’t fancy the walk down we will collect you from the ski station or one of the villages on the Luz side of the pass. Gentle walk option: transfer with the bags and a walk around the Luz Valley villages.
Ascent: 950m, Descent: 350-1250m, ~10-15kms.
To miss Gavarnie on a trip to the Pyrenees, and in particular to this valley, is unthinkable. The impressive Grand Cascade has a continuous drop of 423m and the cirque is spectacular. The balcony paths we suggest are far less travelled than the main valley path, even in the height of summer. Outside July and August you can almost feel you have this marvel of nature to yourself. If you would like a rest from walking it is possible to take in the full view of the cirque from the terrace of one of the many cafés, or simply have a gentle stroll up to a grassy meadow for a picnic.
Ascent/Descent: 650m, option + 200m extra to the foot of the waterfall, ~11kms.
Today, either catch the bus from Luz to Lourdes, or if you have a late train or flight, you can steal a last walk and head up the valley to another thermal village – one whose waters are famous for healing broken bones. You follow the GR10 as it climbs out of the wide valley above Luz, heading up through four mountain villages on its way to Barèges. Here you will really see how 2000 years of animal grazing has sculpted the landscape and created the mosaic pastoral landscape of the Pyrenees. The valleys of Luz, Barèges and Gavarnie carry an AOP label for the sheep grazed on the slopes below and above you. In this tranquil scene it’s hard to imagine the power of the huge 1939 avalanche which poured down this valley, or the big flood in 2013, whose scars remain apparent. Catch the SNCF bus back from Barèges to Luz, collect your bags and leave for Lourdes for your connecting transport.
Ascent: 550m, ~10kms.