The Pyrenees National Park
Since its creation in 1967, the main aim of the Pyrenees National Park has been to protect the incredible natural heritage and biodiversity of the region. Completely uninhabited, it reaches over an area of 45,000 hectares and stretches 100 km from east to west at an altitude of approximately 1000 m. The Park spreads over the Pic du Midi d’Ossau, Balaïtous, Vignemale and Néouvielle Mountains and from the valleys of Aspe and Ossau in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques to the well-known glacial valleys of the Hautes Pyrénées, including Cauterets, Luz-Gavarnie and Aure.
What makes it such a paradise for hikers?
Virtually untouched landscapes with deep historical roots are waiting to be explored! The unique geology of the area (with a combination of limestone and granite) has led to the formation of some 250 glistening mountain lakes, surrounded by such colourful vegetation because of the Atlantic and Mediterranean climates. Although a protected area, these vast open spaces, or “Vallées de Gave”, remain both accessible and safe for novice and experienced hikers alike because of the highly maintained and signposted footpaths.
Traces of Pastoralism
Traces of farming activity can be detected all throughout the National Park, with long-standing, shepherds’ cabins and pastoral sites that are still used today enhancing the traditional feel of the landscape. It’s during the summer months that the land is used to keep livestock and the mountain air is filled with a concert of cowbells and the friendly lowing of cattle.
Exuberant plant life
The geology and climate conditions of the Pyrenees mean that copious plant varieties are to be found. They provide constant activity for many types of flying insects and add wonderful fragrance and striking colour to the mountainside. Irises, lilies, anemone, edelweiss and various types of blue thistle are just some of the many flowers that brighten up the verdant highlands.
Abundance of protected species
Here in the heart of the National Park you are always just a few steps away from impressive animal species. These include the solitary Izard (Pyrenees Chamois) and “whistling” Marmot and of course the Bearded Vulture (with its 3 metre wingspan), the Golden Eagle and Griffon Vulture, soaring overhead. Most recently it’s been the newly reintroduced Brown Bear that visitors have been longing to see, but remember that it’s the whistling of the marmots, the shrill cries of the Choughs and Carrion Crow and bleats of the herds that lead the way through the Pyrenees. Whether in the Néouvielle or Ossau Nature Reserve, at the glacial cirques of Troumouse or Estaubé, or at the Gavarnie Falls, you’re guaranteed to spot wildlife and be provided with an impressive natural spectacle.
Places not to be missed!
- The valleys of Aspe and Ossau
- The glacial valleys around Cauterets
- The Néouvielle Nature Reserve