Self Guided Treks

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 old stone 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, collect you from Lourdes or provide the bus timetable information, and brief you on your itinerary before your departure, either at the start of your trek, or each evening or morning if you are staying in Hotel Les Templiers in Luz. The aim is to provide holidays where you do not need a car (except where stated) and we take care of the logistics for you. We are always available on the phone for questions or emergencies. For our hotel to hotel walk (the Lavedan Valleys & Villages Trek), and the Gavarnie Balconies Trek we can move luggage from place to place, allowing you to walk with day packs only. For the Pyrenees National Park Trek and the Barèges Valley Trek there are no roads, so luggage transport is not possible and you carry your pack with you along the way. We of course keep your luggage for you to retrieve at the end of the week so you carry the strict minimum required (your pack should be less than 10 kgs, see our packing list).

We also offer independent day walking based in Luz St Sauveur from Hotel Les Templiers. Staying in the hotel 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.

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 sheep 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 possibly in a hotel or hostel nearby), or Barèges, 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).

Our Lavedan Valleys & Villages hotel to hotel walk is our version of a gourmet, and slightly luxurious trek! Instead of carrying your rucksack and sleeping in refuges, we transport your bags and you sleep in charming B&Bs and hotels each evening as you move along. Emphasis is on eating very well, and sleeping in comfort but obviously each village is different as are the accommodation options. We collect you from Lourdes train station and provide you a full briefing at the start of your walk, included detailed walk notes and marked maps. If you feel like a day off from walking you are welcome to jump in the car with your bags and take a lift to the next hotel. We can also often offer longer or shorter versions of each day’s itinerary. This walk can also be done without bag transfers, i.e., you carry your bags on your back as in a conventional trek. Ask us for a price if this interests you.  At the end of the trip you catch the bus straight from Luz or Gavarnie to Lourdes, and then continue your journey.

Trek staying in B&Bs and hotels

Lavedan Valleys & Village Trek

Maison Mayou bannerFrom Lourdes to Gavarnie on parts of an old ‘high road’ return route from Santiago de Compostella.  This is a wonderfully flexible hotel to hotel walk anywhere from 7 to 13 days. Comfortable accommodation with all your bags transferred. Bag transfers included. (600-900m daily ascent, June – Oct)

Hautes-Pyrenees / Haut Aragon Walk & Drive Holiday

Drive over the high passes of the Tour de France, from France into Spain and back again, and enjoy a short or longer walk each day. Staying in lovely hotels along the way this trip takes in the natural wonders of the Pyrenees (French) and Ordesa (Spanish) National Parks, and the cultural heritage of these border regions – ancient monasteries, fortified and deserted villages along with thriving mountain market towns. 7-10 days. New for 2018… Details coming soon!

Treks staying in gites/refuges (dorm style)

Barèges Valley Trek

La GlereThis three day, two night trek is an easy way to get up high with no hassle. Leaving directly from Luz and returning to Luz there are no transport issues and the trek takes you high into the mountains in two stages. Your first night is spent at 1300m altitude in a wonderfully converted sheep barn, and your second night in a high mountain refuge at 2100m. You then have a long descent on the GR10 to bring you back to Luz. No bag transfers possible. Escape guaranteed! (600-900m daily ascent, 1400m descent, July – Sept)

Gavarnie Balconies Trek

Saugué PlateauA very flexible trek from three to seven days around the most famous of Pyrenean sites, the Gavarnie Cirque. Enjoy the splendour of this natural geological wonder, carved out over successive glaciations, from all angles as you move from the north to the west and finally the east of the cirque. If you have the extra time the trek takes you through the two other glacial cirques that are part of the Mont Perdu World Heritage Area. Bag transport possible to all but one location. (500-700m daily ascent, July – Sept)

Pyrenees National Park Independent Trek

Vignemale and the Oulettes de GaubeThis independent trek between Cauterets and the Troumouse Cirque takes you through the highlights of the Pyrenees National Park. We book the refuges and provide you with maps and detailed notes. You walk independently and we are on hand to come to your assistance if necessary.  This trek requires a reasonable level of fitness and you are likely to encounter snow on the highest passes until the end of July. No bag transfers possible. (1000m daily ascent, Jul-Sept)

Gavarnie – Ordesa Independent Trek

Walk from France to Spain and back again between the Pyrenees (French) and Ordesa (Spanish) National Parks, taking in both the Gavarnie Cirque and the Ordesa Canyon. Some of the most spectacular scenery you could hope to walk in, this trek has it all. Options to shorten some days. New in 2018. Details coming soon! (800-1000m ascent/descent Jul – Sept)