Self Guided Valley Base

Exploring the Pyrenees on foot is a rewarding experience however you choose to go about it. Independent, or self-guided walking, gives you the freedom to amble or stride along at your own pace, and Pyrenean Odysseys provides you with the support you need to make it a holiday rather than a logistical and organisational challenge. Our independent walking is based in the valleys neighbouring our own (the “Vallées des Gaves” between Lourdes and Gavarnie), where we can provide support quickly should it be needed. The range of walking in and around these valleys is enormous – from the foothills just south of Lourdes to the 3000m+ peaks on the French-Spanish border. Long distance trails such as the GR10, the Pyrenean High Route and variants of the Camino de Santiago all pass through here. Meander along ancient donkey paths between villages, or climb higher to glacial lakes and hanging valleys, through high mountain pastures, over high passes and reach summits over 3000m, all on well trodden paths. There are numerous summits accessible without ropes or technical equipment. In general the Pyrenees are a safe place for an independent walking holiday despite the mountains being relatively remote and people relatively thin on the ground in places (particularly in May-June and Sept-Oct).

Pyrenean Odysseys help you walk independently by providing all the detailed planning and logistical back up you need. We book your accommodation, provide marked maps and walk notes for each day, give accurate bus timetable information, and brief you on your itinerary for the next day each evening. We provide holidays where you do not need a car, but for accessing many of the higher areas as day walks a car is necessary. Remember that coming by train and then hiring a car in Lourdes is likely to be a lower carbon solution than driving from the UK. During your holiday we are always available on the phone for questions or emergencies. Staying in the hotel (or close by in an apartment) in Luz gives you the advantage of our advice and assistance in walk selection each day along with bus timetables and weather forecasts to make sure that each day you choose the most suitable walk for you, and the weather conditions. Similarly in Barèges our partners at the Agence Pic du Midi are available each day for you to drop in and

While we provide all the help and advice we can, remember that you are walking independently and at your own risk. We make every effort with the instructions in our notes, and provide excellent 1:25000 maps, but you remain responsible for your own safety. We recommend you carry a mobile phone with you, and your own personal first aid kit.

Independent Walk Notes

All of the walks we offer on a self guided, independent basis have been walked by one of us. Each section is described in terms of where to walk, where to take a turn, what markings are on the footpath, key landmarks, and the approximate time each section will take to complete. You can walk confidently knowing that your notes have been written and checked by one of us. Our Pyrenees walking holidays are in France, on our home ground, so we know the area well. However as we are not continually walking these routes it is possible that things change, and that what looks obvious in one season (early spring or autumn) when we are walking, is not so obvious in another season (the height of summer) when you are walking. As our clients are walking these routes more than us we listen to what they tell us and re-check or update notes where necessary.

Cultural and Historical Notes

Our notes are peppered with historical and cultural references. Who was the first person to climb the Mont Perdu? Who was Count Henry Russell and why is he so important to the history of Pyrenean mountaineering? What happened in the legendary battle at the Breche de Roland? The Pyrenees are also an environment for unique flora and fauna, so we indicate in the text places that you are likely to be able to see particular wildlife or flowers. It’s well worth carrying a small pair of binoculars in a handy pocket because the area is famous for its large birds of prey.

Maps

When you arrive in the Pyrenees we will provide a set of maps with your walking route pre-marked on it. We use the French IGN maps at a scale of 1:25,000. If you would prefer an unmarked map we can lend you these as an alternative or you can buy them in a local shop. Maps are easily available in the Pyrenees.

Local Transport

Different transport arrangements are necessary for different independent walking weeks. The walks in the Eco Walks Luz St Sauveur and Eco Walks Barèges packages use many of the ancient footpaths created over centuries by people travelling from village to village, or taking their animals to market. While you may not ‘bag peaks’ on these walking holidays (although the options are there if you are keen) you will certainly enjoy wonderful mountain scenery. From your base in Luz (generally in Hotel Les Templiers but there is the option of another hotel, hostel or apartment nearby), you can use the local bus services to access a surprisingly large range of walks, and certainly enough to keep you occupied for a week to ten days. The bus services are improving all the time and we have all the timetables and information to ensure that you can move around easily (see our Transport page for an idea). Using the local bus network gives you the freedom to walk from place to place rather than being required to return to your car (e.g., the bus drops you in one place and you walk to another, catching another bus on your return).

If you wish to access the high mountains, including bagging a few peaks, and then come back to the comfort of your accommodation in Luz each evening then the Pyrenean Cirques and Lakes or the Pyrenean Passes and Summits weeks are for you. You will, however, require a car. The closest car rental service is Avis at Lourdes train station. Catching the train to Lourdes and then renting a car is a lower carbon solution than driving from home.

Independent walking from Luz/Barèges

Eco Walking Luz

Ardiden Viey webDay walks from the three star Hotel Les Templiers in Luz, mainly using the local bus network to access the start, or return from the end of a walk. Some walks are straight from the hotel. There are plenty of options in every direction. The great advantage is that you don’t need a car. The minus is that the buses can’t take you right up the top of the mountains so higher walks are more difficult to access unless you have the legs! Apartment options also available. (300-800m daily ascent June – Oct)

Eco Walking Barèges

Bareges_valley_st_justinYour holiday at your own pace. From a comfortable apartment in the thermal spa village of Barèges (the highest spa town in France) walk out each day into the forests and high pastures of the Pyrenees. De-connect and enjoy. Enjoy a soak in the thermal waters or pamper yourself with a treatment or two. Luz St Sauveur and Argeles – two bigger centres in the valley – are accessible by bus and make nice day outings with walks around them. (300-800m daily ascent June – Oct)

Pyrenean Cirques and Lakes

Troumouse CirqueYou are based in Hotel Les Templiers in Luz St Sauveur and explore the classic sites of this and neighbouring valleys on foot.  Thanks to the construction of the hydro-electricity scheme in the 1950s there are many roads reaching high into the mountains, and having a car means you gain height easily each day to explore many areas which would require an overnight stay in a refuge if you were simply on foot. (300-500m daily ascent, June – Oct)

Pyrenean Passes and Summits

Sarah_BrecheAgain you are based in Hotel Les Templiers in Luz St Sauveur and use your car to gain height each day. This allows you to reach the range of high passes and peaks that are on offer in the valley. These walks require a good level of fitness and previous experience walking in the mountains. You are likely to encounter snow on the peaks until mid-August. (800-1500m daily ascent, July-Oct)