The Pyrenees National Park
This Hautes-Pyrenees park is located in the south-west of the Hautes Pyrenees department.
The ‘Parc National des Pyrénées’ extends from east to west over a hundred kilometres of stunning scenery and natural landscapes.
In this prize of the Hautes-Pyrenees, you’ll find over 200 mountain lakes, rushing waterfalls, giant gorges, endemic Pyrenees flora, fauna and forests, as well as the famous cirques of Gavarnie and Troumouse.
There are six main valleys within the Park: Aure (which has the highest mountain pine forest in Europe), Luz-Gavarnie, Cauterets (with the highest peak of the French Pyrenees – the Vignemale, (3298m), Azun, Ossau, and Aspe (the last refuge of the Pyrenees Bear).
The Pyrenees National Park shares a border of 15km with the Spanish National Park of Ordesa and Monte Perdido (3355m).
A trek up to the magnificent Cirque of Gavarnie is highly recommended.
This spectacular glacier valley is the highest in Europe, and has been recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO for its outstanding natural and cultural landscape.
The Pyrenees National Park is a favourite destination of hikers and mountain enthusiasts.
Trekking is just one among an array of outdoor activities that can be enjoyed in this amazing Hautes-Pyrenees park.
It’s a favourite spot in the French Pyrenees for climbing, biking, skiing, and observing wildlife.
There are over 70 different species of animals and flora in the park, and many of them are endemic to this area.
Highlights of the Pyrenees National Park:
- Birds of Prey: Bearded Vulture ( lammergeier), Griffons, Snowfinches, Alpine Accentor, Peregrine Falcons, Egyptian Vultures, Golden Eagles, etc.
- Visitors Centres (Maisons du Parc)
- The charming French Pyrenees villages of Gavarnie and Gèdre, set in the heat of the Park.
- GR10 walking route
- This Hautes-Pyrenees park is home to a very high variant of the trail, which leads up to Vignemale (3298 m), the highest peak in the French Pyrenees.
- The Cirque de Gavarnie is the base camp for this trek.
- The Cirques of Gavarnie (UNESCO World Heritage site), Estaubé and Troumouse.
- The Cirque de Troumouse can be reached by car from the village of Héas, in Gèdre. From the last parking lot, it’s only a 1 hour walk up to a point (and statue of the Virgin Mary) providing some truly spectacular panoramic views.
- Gaube Lake
- A shimmering, turquoise blue lake, surrounded by impressive French Pyrenees peaks of over 2000 metres.
- The lake can be reached by cable car, or on foot (a one hour walk), from the Bridge of Spain.
- Brèche de Roland
- A natural opening in the wall of the Cirque de Gavarnie, it’s also an entrance to the Ordessa National Park (on the Spanish side of the border). This is also a great place in the Hautes-Pyrenees for cross country skiing.
- The Heas’ Chapel
- A 16th century pilgrimage Chapel located close to the Cirque de Gavarnie.
- Surrounded in legends and stories, this little stone church was built in order to house a wooden Black Madonna found by local shepherds, who were led to it by two doves.The church was later destroyed by an avalanche. The statue, as is said to have happened to so many other Black Madonnas, managed to survive the destruction of its church; by, what some believe, was a miracle.
- The Heas Chapel is open to the public every day, from May 1st to November 1st.
- A mass is held every Sunday at 11.00 a.m. Two pilgrimages are carried out every year, on August 15th and September 15th. They depart from the Barèges valley, before heading up to Gavarnie.
- Bridge of Spain (Pont d’Espagne)
- Located above the Hautes-Pyrenees spa resort of Cauterets. A pretty place in the park where a number of waterfalls converge, and cascade together under the arch of a small stone bridge.
- A Hautes-Pyrenees Ski resort with excellent snow conditions, 52 km of alpine skiing, and 7 km of some of the best cross country skiing in the French Pyrenees, and Pyrenees mountains.This resort and surrounding area is also known for good rock climbing and ice climbing.
Néouvielle Nature Reserve
This glaciation formed ancient plateau is made up of sharp, granite peaks, dark green forests and about a hundred high-altitude mountain lakes.
The Néouvielle Nature Reserve is known for its massif (group of mountains), micro-climate and ‘rosary of water’, as it is sometimes described by locals, due to its stunning series of beautiful lakes, joined together like blue beads, by a string of shimmering streams.
Needless to say, the views are spectacular here. The focal point of the valley is the awe-inspiring pyramid shaped peak of Néouvilee which towers above all else at a height of 3091 meters.
In spring and early summer the foothills of this massive Pyrenees mountain are covered by pretty purple and and pink wild rhododendrons, among other fantastic flora.
While here you may spot some of the Pyrenees most popular fauna. Over 370 species of animal roam in the reserve, including; the Grey Partridge, the golden eagle, the griffon vulture, the capercaillie, izards, marmots, midwife toads, ptarmigans, and Seoanei’s Viper.
This French Pyrenees Reserve, and Hautes-Pyrenees park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, walkers, hikers and trekkers of all levels.
There are well-marked circuits and routes throughout the area, along with a nice welcome centre, good parking and bathrooms.
And, if you feel like disappearing for a few days, you’ve got the option of doing the ‘grand tour of the Néouvielle’, during which, you can trek for days while staying in any of the 5 guarded refuges in the reserve.
Tourmalet Botanical garden
This garden is located between the legendary Tourmalet Pass (the Grand Tourmalet of the Tour de France)and the resort town of Barèges, in the Hautes-Pyrenees, France.
It covers an area of over two hectares (five acres), and houses more than 2500 Pyrenees plants which are grouped according to their natural habitat zones.
You can take several walks around the park, and children will enjoy a special area where they learn about local Pyrenees flora while they play.
The Tourmalet Botanical Garden is open from mid-May to September.
Pyrenean Botanical Conservatory
The Conservatoire botanique Pyrénéen, also known as the Conservatoire botanique national Midi-Pyrénées, is located in Bagnères-de-Bigorre, in the Hautes-Pyrénées, France.
The conservatory was created to preserve the flora of the Pyrenees mountains, which are filled with endemic plant species.
It is mostly used a research centre of the Hautes-Pyrenees, but has a museum and is open to the public on Friday afternoons in spring and summer.
Massey Garden – Jardin Massey
Jardin Massey is an English-style garden, found on France’s official list of Remarkable Gardens (Jardins Remarquables), and situated in the centre of the town of Tarbes, in the Hautes-Pyrenees, of the French Pyrenees, France.
This landscape country park was created in the 19th century by Naturist Placide Massey. It has several interesting species of trees, roses and flowering rockeries.
You’ll also find an ancient greenhouse, a 14th century cloister (which houses the School of art and ceramics), a cactus house, two lakes, and several shady paths with Peacocks and other decorative wild fowl roaming at will.
The park also has an outdoor cafe, a mini-train for children, and a free horse-driven carriage for sight-seeing trips around Tarbes.
The Massey Museum is in the middle of the park. It’s a Moorish-inspired mansion, topped with an observation tower which has a collection of fine art, and one based on the history of the Hussars (light calvary).
Also worth visiting is the nearby – Haras National de Tarbes, a National Stud Farm founded by Napoleon in 1806, and today, a listed building.
You can take a guided tour of the Empire style group of buildings on the grounds.
The European Equestrian show and Festival is held here in late July early August.
There’s also a covered market every Thursday called Halle Marcadieu.
The Parc Animalier des Pyrénées
The Parc Animalier des Pyrénées- Pyrenees Animal Park is located just 10 minutes away from Lourdes, at the entry of Argeles-Gazost, in the Hautes-Pyrenees, France.
In the 10 hectare Park you can observe all kinds of animals that live in the French Pyrenees mountains, including; squirrels, otters, chamois, marmots, Roe deer, lynx, foxes, wolves, and even bears.
There’s lots to do at this Hautes-Pyrenees park and wild life, safari center. You can watch otters eating, witness bears fishing and see packs of wolves working together.
Visitors can also play with, and feed certain species. Pyrenees marmots are definitly the favourite animal here.
You also have the option to mould the imprints of your preferred French Pyrenees animals and take them home as an interesting souvenir.
There is a visitors centre and a Museum of Natural History at the Pyrenees Animal Park.
The Pyrenees Animal Park is open from April 1st till the end of October, every day.
From April to September: 9:30-6:00pm
In October: 1:30-6:00pm
Hautes-Pyrenees Caves and Chasms
Médous Caves (Grottes de Médous)
- Located near Begneres de Bigorre, in the Hautes-Pyrenees, 2km south of Bagnères on the D935.
- Big caverns with various interesting limestone formations.
- Classified as a Karst cave and Karst springs.
- Visit includes a 200m underwater boat ride along the cave river.
- Whole visit lasts about 45 mins to 1 hour.
Gargas Caves (Grottes de Gargas)
- Located in the community of Aventignan, in the Hautes-Pyrénées region of Midi-Pyrénées, France). And just a few kilometres from the Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges basilica
- Palaeolithic caves with hundreds of images of hands printed on the walls from the Stone Age.
- Over 200 hand prints are noted for their mysterious outlines with missing digits or joints.
- Also has many animal carvings and paintings, left behind by hunters 27,000 years ago.
- The site of Gargas is understandably quite vulnerable, hence the number of visitors is limited. It’s a good idea to book your visit in advance, but not absolutely necessary.
- Phone number of Gargas is: 05 62 39 72 39
Betharram Caves (Grottes de Betharram)
- These caves are located 15 km west of Lourdes,in the Hautes-Pyrenees, via the D937.
- They have many different formations including huge limestone deposits and waterfalls.
- They are said to be some the most beautiful grottos in the world.
- Part of the visit can be made by boat and train.
Esparros Caves (Gouffre d’Esparros)
- In the Baronnies valley, in the village of Esparros, Hautes-Pyrenees.
- Huge galleries and chasm, with aragonite concretions that look like snow crystals.
- Visit includes a light and sound display.
Bastide Caves (Les Grottes De la Bastide)
- Situated in the valley of Baonnies, Hautes-Pyrenees.
- Famous for 14,000 year old cave art.
- The visit includes educational shows about the Stone Age, workshops and guided nature walks.