Walking Holidays In Europe


Walking Holidays In The Pyrenees

The best hiking destinations and routes in the Pyrenees

Paul Bloomfield
By Paul Bloomfield

The Pyrenees are among my absolute favourites of all Europe's walking destinations.

This magnificent range separates France from Spain, stretching over 400km from the Mediterranean to the Bay of Biscay, where it nudges the Cantabrian mountains. Though its peaks don’t scale the heights reached by the Alps (the tallest is Aneto at 3,404m) the massif is a treat for walkers, with numerous waymarked long-distance routes at varying altitudes and levels of challenge – and far fewer feet tramping those trails.

It's historically and linguistically diverse – expect to hear not just French and Spanish but also Basque, Catalan, Aragonese, Occitan and Aranese – and bustling with wildlife. Transhumance culture, in which shepherds herd livestock to high meadows for the summer and back down to lower pastures for winter, is alive and well in the region. Visit during the migrations in June or October, and you can expect to be serenaded at all hours by clanking cowbells and the bleats of sheep and goats.

The best walking holidays in the Pyrenees

Our experts' top picks


Sentier des Pyrenees (GR10)

Paul Bloomfield
By Paul Bloomfield
  • Distance: 593 miles (955 km) – or shorter segments

  • Duration: Seven to eight weeks

  • Start/end point: Hendaye to Banyuls-sur-Mer

  • Difficulty: Challenging

The GR11, shadowing the Pyrenees from Atlantic to Mediterranean on the Spanish side of the range, is higher, rougher and wilder. But the French GR10 would be my pick: though busier, it’s also better endowed with accommodation and transport, and truly spectacular. Plan your hike for the transhumance season when livestock is herded to summer pastures, accompanied in places by great festivities.

Spanish Pyrenees

La Senda Pirenaica (GR11)

By HorizonGuides
  • Distance: 510 miles (820 kilometres)
  • Duration: 40 to 50 days, or shorter segments
  • Start Point: Irun
  • End Point: Cap de Creus
  • Difficulty: Strenuous

The GR11, also known as the Trans-Pyrenean, is a long-distance trail spanning over 820 kilometres across the Spanish Pyrenees, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

It offers a diverse range of landscapes, from the rolling meadows of Navarre to the high peaks of the Central Pyrenees and the rugged terrain of Catalonia.

The GR11 is generally higher and tougher than the GR10 which snakes along the French side.

The best hiking season is from June to September, although snow can persist on higher passes outside these months. Section hiking is common, especially through scenic areas such as the Aigüestortes and Ordesa & Monte Perdido National Parks.


Pyrenean Haute Route

By HorizonGuides
  • Distance: 750km
  • Duration: 40 to 50 days, or shorter segments
  • Start point: Hendaye
  • End point: Banyuls-sur-Mer
  • Difficulty: Strenuous

The Pyrenean Haute Route, often abbreviated as HRP, is a high mountain trail that crisscrosses the French-Spanish border.

Unlike its counterparts, the GR10 and GR11, the HRP tends to stay closer to the mountain crest, offering a more challenging, verging on technical, trek.

Scenery switches from sweeping valleys to towering peaks as the route winds through the Aigüestortes and Ordesa & Monte Perdido National Parks.

The HRP is much less popular than the other Pyrenean routes. Its remoteness and challenging terrain demands a high degree of self-sufficiency and mountaineering experience. Ideal hiking months are from June to September. However, due to its high-altitude route, unpredictable weather can occur, and snow may linger on some passes.

Cirque de Gavarnie Pyrenees National Park France

The Cirque de Gavarnie, "the colosseum of nature"

Planning a walking holiday in the Pyrenees

Everything you wish you'd known before you booked


Arguably the finest of countless spectacular views is the grand rock amphitheatre called the Cirque de Gavarnie, dubbed the “colosseum of nature” by Victor Hugo.

Watch for birds of prey, including rare bearded vultures (or lammergeier), soaring above the crags – the best place to spot these striking raptors is in Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park in Aragon; you might also encounter chamois and marmots. Historic highlights include the medieval Romanesque churches of the Vall de Boí in northern Catalonia.

Need to know

There’s a well-developed network of mountain refuges and, typically in towns, gîtes and small hotels, particularly on the French side. Many offer good-value half-board packages, with beds in dorms or simple rooms.

Public transport to trailheads is also reasonable, with buses serving many towns and villages, again more comprehensively in France. International access points include airports at Biarritz, Bilbao at the western end, Lourdes for the central region, and Perpignan, Girona and Barcelona near the eastern terminus.

Snow lingers on high trails till well into June.

Top walking holidays

The GR10, snaking along the French (northern) slopes of the Pyrenees, stretches 866 km between Hendaye and Banyuls-sur-Mer; it's deservedly popular, with plenty of well-managed gîtes, refuges and hotels along or near the route – though it's wise to book ahead in high summer. The GR11, which follows the range on the Spanish (southern) flanks, is generally tougher and, in my view, better. The Pyrenean Haute Route (not to be confused with the Mont Blanc route by the same name) is more challenging still. Several shorter GR and other other waymarked routes cross or run through the range.

About the author

Walking Holidays In The Pyrenees

Paul Bloomfield

Paul is an award-winning travel journalist writing on walking and hiking in Europe and beyond for the likes of the Telegraph, The Times, Wanderlust, Lonely Planet, BBC Wildlife and National Geographic Traveller.

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