You could join the hordes from Lourdes and take a coach up a beautiful valley to the amazing Cirque de Gavarnie. But would you really want to see such natural beauty from inside a steel box with 50 other people, all eating boiled sweets and complaining about the food? An excellent alternative is to cycle up to Gavarnie. It is not too far, just under 50km, and not that much of a climb. Lourdes is around 400metres above sea level and Gavarnie village is at 1365 metres a.s.l. Less than 1000 metres over 50km – only 2%. That shouldn’t trouble the average cyclist.
Lourdes is in a fantastic location, nestling in between some small hills of the Pyrenees – with a view of some of the more serious Pyrenean mountains behind. As in most places around the world, there are too many cars in Lourdes. Wouldn’t the whole place be nicer if it were car free? A lot more peaceful – and safer.
Head south out of Lourdes on the main road and after about 600 metres there is a sign on the right, indicating the start of a cyclepath. Taking the route of the old railway (shame that the railway has gone) it is an excellent route, about 18km long, towards the Pyrenees.
The path ends in the village of Pierrefitte-Nestalas. From here, the road continues to Luz St Saveur.
A fairly steady climb and not too much traffic… and some great views of the Pyrenees.
Not far from Luz, on the road to Gavarnie is Napoleon’s Bridge, named after Napoleon III who used to come to Luz St Saveur to ‘take the waters’. This is a popular place for bungee jumpers.
Superb autumnal colours. A large heron was waiting for fish in the river next to the road.
Approaching Gavarnie there were some unusual houses with a special style of roof. Many of these old farm cottages have been converted into holiday flats.
And finally, the village of Gavarnie.
A view of the cirque from the village of Gavarnie. Luckily the buses and cars have to park below the village and only people staying or living in the village can drive through.
For those wishing to visit the Cirque as well, there is another 4km to walk – cycling is not permitted. It is a beautiful walk – just try to avoid being there between 10.00 and 18.00, particularly in summer. It can be heaving with the hordes from Lourdes.
A native flower of the Pyrenees…
This is the view that people come to Gavarnie for. I was fortunate enough to be there on a beautiful day in July. Still snow above the cirque. If you’ve been to Gavarnie and want to buy this image, drop me a line.
It is possible to walk into the cirque itself. Visible in the middle of the picture is what the French claim is the largest waterfall in Europe. This is disputed by the Norwegians…
Gavarnie has a great campsite. Simple and inexpensive – catering for hikers rather than holidaymakers. What a place to wake up in the morning… And yes, that’s my tent in the foreground.
For local railway services click here.
Falconry displays at Beaucens (next to Pierrefitte Nestalas), click here
For a Pyrenean park zoo in nearby Argeles Gazost, click here.
For the campsite just outside Luz St Saveur, click here.
For the campsite in Gavarnie, click here
More of the Pyrenees ?
Breche de Roland Flora and Fauna Gavarnie 2 day hike in Pyrenees chemin de la mâture Gorges de Kakouetta Lescun in Summer Cycling to Gavarnie Cycling Western Pyrenees Cycling to Tourmalet Cycling South West coast of France
Or other things French?
Parce Que Je T’aime (a novel) Food in France
An optimistic view of France A pessimistic view of France