Wherever there are mountains there are valleys and passes, and the Pyrénées are no exception. What makes them so special here, however, is the accessibility.
The Western Pyrénées rise dramatically from the flood-plains of the rivers to which the mountains give birth. One moment you are on a relatively flat area, crossed by ripples of hills, and suddenly the mountains rise majestically before you, the steep valleys carved by glaciers and rivers, sometimes shrouded in mists, beckoning you on to the mysteries to be discovered by the intrepid explorer.
Here is the home of the bear and vulture. The flowers of the Pyrénées, like the Alpines so well-known to gardeners, grow and bloom to their own rhythm.
Two of the loveliest are the valleys of the Aspe and the Ossau, just half an hour from the city of Pau. Right, a church perched on a moraine left by a glacier in the Ossau valley
The valley of the Aspe, alas, has been the site of a fierce battle between environmentalists and the forces of commerce. A new road tunnel is being driven through to Spain, and consequent on that will be the road improvements to ease the path of the thousands of lorries expected to profit from what many see as an unnecessary improvement. At times the valley is barely wide enough to accommodate road, river, and the old railway that could have served just as well.
To the East lie the valleys south of Lourdes, leading to the magnificent Circe de Gavarnie, a favourite with walkers.
|Arudy. Small town at the foot of the Ossau valley|
|Foot of the beautiful Ossau valley. Arudy lies at the entrance to the Vallée d'Ossau, one of the most beautiful and unspoilt valleys in the Pyrénées Atlantiques. From Arudy the road winds up past villages hardly touched by time, towering cliffs with their colony of Griffon vultures, past secret plateaux, to Laruns where one can either continue up to the Spanish border or go over the spectacular Col d'Aubisque to the East.|
It is a glacial valley, with lush vegetation, and a long tradition of farming. The sheep cheese (brebis) of the valley is famous.
|Bielle. Ancient capital of the Ossau Valley|
|The Ossau valley, and the Col de Marie Blanc. Bielle is in the middle of the lower Ossau valley. From here one can drive up to the Benou plateau and over the Col de Marie Blanc to the neighbouring Aspe valley.|
|Valleys of Jéret and Lutour. Cauterets lies at the junction of the Jéret and Lutour valleys which descend to join the Gorge de Luz, part of the Gavarnie valley|
|Valley of Gavarnie and the Cirque de Gavarnie. High in the mountains is the magnificent Cirque de Gavarnie, a popular hiking area. To the west and southwest the valleys of Ossoue and Epicières stretch further up towards Spain.|
|Laruns. Small mountain town at the head of the Ossau valley.|
|Bious-Artigues, Col du Pourtalet, Col d'Aubisque, Bénou (col de Marie-Blanc). |
|Artouste. Hamlet high up in the Ossau Valley|
|Head of the Ossau valley. |
|Lescun. Untouched mountain village in the Aspe valley.|
|Vallée d'Aspe. High up on the west side of the Vallée d'Aspe|
|Saint Engrâce. A scattering of settlements high in the Pyrénées|
|Saison Valley. Saint Engrace is perched on the eastern side o the southern fork of the Saison valley|
|Accous. Village in the Aspe valley|
|Vallée d'Aspe. Half way up the Vallée d'Aspe|
|Aramits. Main village in the Baretous valley|
|Baretous valley. A gentle valley in the Soule|
|Superb views across Capvern valley to the mountains. |
|Larrau. Village high up in the mountains in the Pays Basque|
|Head of the Saison valley. |
|Tardets-Sorholus. Commercial town close to Pyrénéen valley|
|At the foot of the Saison valley. |
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