Cycle from coast to coast across the Pyrenees on an 8 day road biking challenge conquering iconic climbs from the Tour de France.
Smaller and less crowded than the Alps to the north, the Great Pyrenees mountains run from the Basque region on the Atlantic to the Catalonian coast of the Mediterranean, separating France from Spain. They are typically divided into north, central, and south, with most of the soaring peaks being found in the central region. The northern region lies in Basque, where the lands are somewhat wet and rolling, but the coastline is full of wonderful communities and sandy beaches. The Basque region isn’t as demanding as the mid-Pyrenees, but the combination of empty roads, challenging climbs, and sunny seaside retreats is perfect for the family or mellow rider.
Most people flock to the Pyrenees to retrace the stages of the Tour de France and ride some of the more famous climbs, like the Col du Soulor or the Col du Tourmalet. With that being said, you will want to check when the Tour de France is coming through the Pyrenees, so you’re not caught by surprise when the roads are closed and there are thousands of spectators lining the routes. The cities and towns in the foothills aren’t too special — a day or two in Pau is rewarding, and Lourdes has become a mecca for Catholic pilgrims, also worth a visit. But to be honest, people come to this region for the mountains and not much more. Riding this region of France is quite demanding so you will want to be in good fitness to make the most of it.
The southeastern Pyrenees are dominated by a more Mediterranean climate and the hills are a little more arid and dry. The Catalonian influence comes through in spades; you’ll feel like you’re more in Spain than France.
Mountain biking in the Pyrenees is some of the best in all of Europe as many of the ski resorts have adapted to spending their summers occupied by those on two wheels. The riding around Luz St. Saveur and Argeles-Gazost contains over 1000 kms (621 mi) of off road trails so there is plenty available for an off-road vacation.
The Pyrenees are vast, diverse, and definitely a must do trip. The mixture of high mountain passes, sandy beaches and Spanish and French cultures makes for an undeniably unique cycling vacation.