THE CENTRAL AND HIGH PYRÉNÉES HAVE PEAKS THAT RIVAL THE FINEST IN THE ALPS.
Trek through some of the most spectacular scenery in Europe
Travel through two neighboring National Parks offering dramatic backdrops
Spend one night in a traditional mountain refuge in the Central Pyrénées
Our week-long trip to the high peaks of the Pyrénées offers an opportunity to visit the stunning mountain range which defines the border between France and Spain, and enjoy the unique cultural heritage of this enchanting region. We begin our journey in the French mountain hamlet of Cauterets, nestled on the north side of the Parc National Des Pyrénées Occidentales. Over the course of the following week, we trek through some of the most spectacular scenery in Europe, ending our journey in the Spanish village of Torla, gateway to Parque Nacional Ordesa y Monte Perdido. These two neighboring national parks offer dramatic backdrops to the distinctive cultures that evolved throughout the centuries, on either side of the Pyrénées.
Our accommodations include a variety of lodging, from classic French mountain hotels, to family-run Spanish inns. All the hotels and inns are selected for their comfort, cuisine, regional flavor, and friendliness. In three locations (Cauterets, Gavarnie, and Torla), we spend two nights at the same inn, allowing us to get to know each region a little better. During the highest point on our trek, one night is spent in a traditional mountain refuge in the Central Pyrénées
Throughout the week, we experience a range of cuisine, both French and Spanish. Food ranges from haute cuisine in elegant dining rooms to regional specialties in authentic surroundings. Dinner is typically a multiple course meal shared in the company of the group, and breakfast will be an ample buffet eaten at your leisure before we begin the day’s hike.
From our arrival gateway city, make your way into the central Pyrénées and our hotel in the heart of Cauterets. Meet the group for welcome drinks and orientation before a dinner out on the town.
Today we get a preview the amazing week ahead, with a hike in one of the most stunning valleys in the range, the Vallee du Marcadau. We begin at the Pont d’Espagne trailhead, and climb to the Lac du Pourtet, perhaps the most picturesque lake in the Pyrénées, for a snack. After taking in the vista, we descend to the Refuge Wallon Marcadau for a delicious French lunch before returning to our hotel in Cauterets for the night.
Distance: 9 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 3150 ft.
We exit over the Pont d’Espagne as we ascend toward the Vignemale, the highest peak in the French Pyrénées. A lunch stop at the Refuge des Oulettes de Gaube is unforgettable, with Vignemale towering overhead. The most challenging ascent of the trip follows to the flanks of the Petit Vignemale and over the pass to the Refuge de Bayssellance, our home for the night (and the highest refuge in the Pyrénées). We enjoy a family-style dinner with trekkers from all across Europe at this well-situated hut. Optional side trip to climb Petit Vignemale.
Distance: 8.5 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 4100/270 ft.
Sunrise in the mountains is memorable and magical. After an early morning hut breakfast, we begin our traverse and descent into the Cirque du Gavarnie, one of the most impressive mountain features in Europe (or the world). Ringed by massive rock walls and huge waterfalls, we enter the hamlet of Gavarnie and our excellent and castle-like hotel.
Distance: 9.5 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 0/4200 ft.
Starting from the village of Gavarnie, a variety of easy walks from 2 to 5 hours long are possible, with different points of view of the cirque and the waterfall. You can also reach the bottom of the waterfall and the great wall of cirque. This is a great day to relax between two longer days of hiking.
Distance: 6 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 900 ft.
Today we cross over from France into Spain, from Parc National des Pyrénées Occidentales into Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido. We hike over the Port de Boucharo (Puerto de Bujaruelo in Spanish), the international boundary, and descend to the San Nicolas de Bujaruelo Refugio (hut) for a change of language and cuisine for lunch. From here, a couple more hours of hiking brings us to our splendid hotel in Torla.
Distance: 10 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 250/4200 ft.
Today we enjoy the change of geology, geography, flora, and fauna, as we hike through the Valle de Ordesa. From the high peaks and glaciers of the central range, we have descended into the carved sandstone canyons that flank the Spanish side. The climate has become more arid and the landscape has a completely different feel from merely a few miles to the north. We return from our hike in the Parque Nacional for another great meal and evening in Torla.
Distance: 7 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 2300 ft.
Depart to your gateway city.