The Pyrenees is a mountain range of southwest Europe, extending along the French-Spanish border from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean Sea. Pico de Aneto, The scenery and views are spectacular.
Pyrenees, mountains are between France and Spain, a formidable barrier between the Iberian Peninsula and the European mainland. The principality of Andorra is located among the peaks. Parts of six French departments and six Spanish provinces are in the Pyrenees region. Perpignan, Bayonne, and Orthez in France and Girona, Huesca, Pamplona, and Irún in Spain are other important cities.
The Pyrenees are said to be “a wonderland to the holiday-maker”, whether your interests be backpacking, mountain biking, skiing or simply the desire for adventure.
The recently developed coast to coast long distance footpaths (Atlantic to Mediterranean) offer a superb opportunity to pass through green countryside, climbing snow white peaks and valleys of untouched natural beauty.
The Pays Basque has green, gentle lower slopes with nearby seaside resorts perfect for families and more spectacular forests and gorges as you go inland. The Central Pyrenees are composed of much higher mountain peaks with waterfalls, glaciers, mountain lakes and meadows full of flowers in early summer. The Eastern Pyrenees are drier, hotter and more Mediterranean, and the meadows of the high pastures give way to the vineyards of the lower slopes. The towns of this area have a strong Catalan influence. Nestled between the Eastern and Central Pyrenees is Andorra, worth a visit to take advantage of its duty free shopping.
In the past thirty years the Pyrenees have been rediscovered and is everyday increasing in popularity and becoming an alternative to the well-known Alps.
The amount of the precipitation, including rain and snow, is much greater in the western than in the eastern Pyrenees, which leads to a marked contrast between these sections of the chain. The eastern Pyrenees are without glaciers, the quantity of snow falling there being insufficient to lead to their development. The glaciers are confined to the northern slopes of the central Pyrenees, and do not descend, like those of the Alps, far down in the valleys, but have their greatest length in the direction of the mountain chain. They form, in fact, a narrow zone near the crest of the highest mountains.
Both sides of the Pyrenees are popular spots for winter sports, like alpine ski and mountaineering. Some resorts are Formigal, Panticosa, Baqueira-Beret.
Pyrenees National Park – Created in 1967, the Pyrenees National Park stretches for about 100km (60mi) along the French-Spanish border and covers an area of 460 sq km (180 sq mi) that contains
hundreds of high-altitude lakes and the highest point in the French Pyrenees, the 3300m (10,825ft) Sommet du Vignemale. Forested…
Castillo de Loarre
A magnificent castle located just 5km from the town of Loarre. Sitting high above a fertile valley, this huge fortification has a wealth of history
Ordesa National Park
Ordesa National Park – natural attraction – 56,000 acres of forests, alpine peaks and wildlife. This huge and beautiful park hugs the French border and the many marked trails make it suitable for the experienced hiker or the beginner. You can stay in the park in basic mountain huts, or if you have a car the surrounding villages.
Andorra – The visitor to the area can go to three countries in the space of a weekend. Andorra, France and Spain. Tax free shopping, fishing, skiing and mountain biking are just some of the attractions of this small Pyrenean nation.
La Vella is the capital and geared towards the European bargain hunter.
Sanguesa – This charming town is set in the foothills of the Pyrenees and is 44km east of Pamploma. Use the town as your base to discover the many attractions in the area. Two amazing gorges are 12 km from town, Castillo de Javier only 8km away is worth a visit and the surreal Leyre Monastery is very interesting.
Roncal Valley -This inviting town is located in a valley, with many interesting towns, villages and mountain walks in the area. The town is well known for it’s sharp, tangy cheese made from sheep’s milk. The mountain air is refreshing.
Aca – A good central base in which to explore the surrounding area, though not without it’s charm. La Cuidadela is the town’s ancient pentagonal fortress built in the 16th century. Also visit The Cathedral.
How to get there
The quicker and economical way of getting to the Pyrenees is to fly. There are flights from London and most European cities that take just under two hours or less to Barcelona, Bilbao, Biarritz, Toulouse, Carcassone, Perpignan or Lourdes.( Barcelona’s modern El Prat airport is located about 12km soth-west of the city.)
Reaching the Pyrenees from UK by train, bus or car has been simplified since the opening of the Channel Tunnel and Eurotunnel services.
If you plan to drive yourself, you will need to use the two direct ferry sailings to Bilbao and Santander from Britain (See Pyrenees by Ferry) or use the Eurotunnel and Cross-Channel Services.
From London to the extreme west or east of the Pyrenees takes just under 24 hours by train and ferry, though by using services from London to Paris through the Channel Tunnel you can shave a good six hours off this total. Either option involves changing trains in Paris.
Direct ferry sailings to Bilbao and Santander.
There are also two ferry services direct to Northern Spain (Plymouth to Santander and Portsmouth to Bilbao) bypassing France.
There are regular direct bus routes from Britain to either end of the Pyrenees: London-Perpignan-Girona and London-Bordeaux-San Sebastian. Both of these routes are operated by Eurolines in Britain and by Iberbus-Linebus and Julia in Spain.
Peralada Music Festival, Catalonia Pyrenees – Every July and August the grounds of Peralada’s castle host a prestigious music and dance.
Calella Havaneres Festival, Catalonia Pyrenees – Havaneres Festival in Calella de PalafrugellCalella de Palafrugell is known for its traditional Havaneres, sea shanties brought back from Cuba by sailors in the 19th Century. These lovely sing-songs are usually accompanied by guitar and accordion.
Pyrenees Orientales – Theatre, dance, music, cinema, video, photo… more than one hundred festivals are held each year across the Pyrenees Orientales and all Languedoc-Roussillon! With a choice of festival, this region is amongst the leaders as one of the most animated regions for culture.
Basque Country – The Basque people celebrate Carnival and a vivid Easter week, with processions.
Catalunya Pyrenees – Various celebrations take place in the Catalunya Pyrenees throughout the year.In La Seu d’Urgell, the historical town of Lleida, the medieval Mystery Play of Retaule de Sant Ermengol is performed in the magnificent Romanesque cloisters of the cathedral.
Navarra – The villages and towns in the Navarra Pyrenees have deeply rooted traditional customs and preserve their folklore unspoilt. In many places and celebrations, the squares are the scene of dances in typical costumes.
Eating Dining Shopping
Spain is famous for the quality of its food. Food is very important to the Spanish, and because fresh produce is readily available it is easy to achieve fine, rich flavours. Garlic and olives are favourite ingredients. Flavoured cheeses, cured hams, and sausages are a Spanish speciality.
Before dinner, people are likely to have a drink and eat tapas, a selection of light snacks and sweetmeats served in all bars and restaurants to accompany early evening drinks.
Eating out in Spain is very affordable. Restaurants are graded in five categories of excellence, indicated by forks. A five-fork restaurant is the absolute best and highly recommended.
Spanish food is traditional and varied and differs greatly from region to region. The Pyrenees excel in their traditional tasty chilli and marinade sauces.
There are numerous shops in the area from the large department Stores in the main towns and citys to the small traditional shops in the villages.
The first news of the Basque people comes to us through the ancient geographers, in particular Pliny and Ptolemy. The “Journey of Antoninus” mentions names that indicate that the land of the Basques extended, not only to Aquitaine in the north, but also far down the River Ebro to the south.
In the third and fifth centuries the Basques defended themselves against the Barbarians who came south to the Iberian Peninsula. After fighting the Germanic Swabian tribes, they went into battle against the Visigoths. They latter gained several victories over the Basques and founded Victoriacum in the year 581 in the proximity of present day Victoria, which was in turn founded by Sancho the Wise on the site of the ancient settlement of Gasteiz.
The Basques moved to and fro on each side of their land of the Pyrenees and fought against the armies of Suintila, Recesvinto, and Wamba in the eighth century when Tarik disembarked in 711 with 7,000 Berber soldiers in what is now Gibraltar, and defeated the Goths.
This saved the Basques from both Gothic and Moslem occupation.
Christianity probably penetrated the Basque country in the third and fourth centuries from the south. It may also have been introduced from the north.
The Basques, who did not constitute a monolithic political unity, but rather a people with a certain amount of confederate organization, began to establish themselves as a political unit, with the Duchy of Vasconia, which covered the area from the River Ebro, upwater from Saragossa, to the shores of the Garrone and which was established at the beginning of the seventh century.
This Kingdom of Pamplona was later to be known as the Kingdom of Navarre.
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