Menu

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

  • France

  • Spanish Pyrenees

  • Spain

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

Highlights

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.

Other guides you might like

Why Horizon Guides?

Impartial guidebooks

Impartial travel guides

Our guides are written by the leading experts in their destinations. We never take payment for positive coverage so you can count on us for impartial travel advice.

Expert itineraries

Expert itineraries

Suggested itineraries and routes to help you scratch beneath the surface, avoid the tourist traps, and plan an authentic, responsible and enjoyable journey.

Specialist advice

Specialist advice

Get friendly, expert travel advice and custom itineraries from some of the world's best tour operators, with no spam, pressure or commitment to book.