Even though some people have changed their plans and decided not to visit France most recently due to terrorist attacks that occurred in Paris, Nice, and Rouen, the country still reigns supreme with visitors. With 82.5 million tourists in 2016, it remains the most popular destination in the world.
Nevertheless, when you hear people talking about their holidays in France, most of the time you hear people going to Paris. If else, second in choice would be Côte d'Azur, known as the French Rivera, but this region is mainly recommended during the summer time. Rarely would you be hearing of someone going to the beautiful but cold and windy regions of Brittany or Normandy. From my experience, this is pretty much it when it comes to the main destinations in France, as most people have limited time and cannot travel too long around the third biggest country in Europe.
Me and my husband have been traveling to France almost every summer for the past few years. We always try to see as many different regions and places as possible. Till now, we have mainly focused our travels on south of France, which is perfect especially in the hot summer months. Last time we visited the French Pyrenees, a mountain range that forms a natural border between France and Spain. It is widely known for holding the Tour de France, the world’s biggest cycling race. The wild landscape provides also a paradise for skiers, climbers, hikers and bikers.
We decided to stay in Pau, a small city located 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Atlantic Ocean and 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the border with Spain. We booked this apartment in the city center, to have the comfort of quick grocery shopping and being within walking distance of any restaurant in town.
Till then we didn’t have much experience in hiking. So we decided to take it easy and see first if we like it at all and if this is the kind of holiday activity that we would want to do more in the future or maybe not. Anyway, we picked some easy routes for the start. Namely: Le Tour des Lacs d’Ayous and Le Tour Cauterets and Pont d’Espagne. The only downside was that these paths are far away from each other and it took some time to get there by car due to elevation differences and narrow roads.
Nevertheless the landscape you are surrounded by on the way to the hiking trails is just amazing. As we visited the region in June 2016, we happened to pass many bikers who were preparing for the upcoming Tour de France. Apart from the bikers, there are not too many villages or towns on the way. It’s mainly just pure nature and snowy mountain peaks that you see in the far distance.
Even though both trails we hiked were marked as “easy”, it took us a few good hours to make it to the top and back. But the feeling of being physically exhausted mixed with the joy of accomplishment was amazing. One of my favorite moment during those hikes was, when we were about to finish the trail Le Tour Cauterets and Pont d’Espagne. We found a beautiful creek. There, we were able to soak our feet in cold water and massage our tired feet on its rocky bottom. I will never forget this wonderful feeling!!!
After that first, short experience of hiking the Pyrenees, we knew that we were eager to experience some more. Therefore we decided to plan a few days of hiking and exploration of mountain trails during our next summer holidays in another part of Europe. Where? We haven’t decided yet, but most probably it will come down to Austria or Switzerland. But let’s wait and see where it will take us next time...