The Pyrenees, while famous in cycling circles due to annual visits by the Tour de France, are off the beaten path for most cycling vacationers…(and many would like to keep it that way!) The Pyrenees form France’s natural southern border with Spain and stretch 270 miles from the Mediterranean in the east to the Atlantic in the west. The width of the range varies greatly from 6 miles at its eastern end to 80 miles at its center. The highest peak in the range is Aneto Peak at just over 11,000 feet.
The cycling in the Pyrenees is legendary. You’ll encounter twisting and long climbs, and of course be rewarded by fast descents. Luckily the roads are usually traffic-free, enabling you to enjoy both the cycling as well as the scenery you will encounter. Because of the terrain, we recommend Pyrenees cycling vacations to strong intermediate riders, enthusiasts, and up.
Typically, we meet guests in Tarbes or Toulouse, with Tarbes as the the starting point for most trips. While our itineraries are custom, we recommend a route that includes the Col D’Aubisque, the legendary Col du Tourmalet (which means “Distance Mountain” in the Gascon dialect) , the Col d’Aspin, and the Col de Peyresoude. Towns visited could include Bagnères-de-Bigorre, Argelès Gazost, Saint-Lary-Soulan, and Bagnères-de-Luchon. Those with time may choose to spend extra time at any individual or multiple towns…to simply enjoy the mountain scenery or take on an active day hike.
Those who are fans of bike racing will further appreciate a cycling tour in the Pyrenees. The Tour de France, while it changes every year, usually visits various parts of the LifeCycle recommended tour. The Col du Tourmalet, for example, has been included more often in the Tour de France than any other pass since 1910, counting 83 visits as of 2014. Outside of climbing and mountain passes, the towns of Bagnères-de-Luchon, Tarbes, and Bagnères-de-Bigorre, (all part of our recommended itineraries) have all been starting or ending points for stages of the Tour de France for the majority of its history. The Tour de France first ran in 1903 and has run every year in July, with the exception of the World War years. Approximately 180 riders compete over the race’s 23 days composed of 21 “stages”.
Beyond the mountain scenery, you are still in France. And with that comes the food, the culture, and the wine! It certainly helps to have that to look forward to after a long day of riding. Traditionally, the villages and people of the Pyrenees have depended on livestock and and agriculture for their livelihood, something that is still quite visible today. In accordance with the varying climates along the mountain range, the east end is characterized by more Mediterranean-oriented products such as wine, vegetables, and fruits, while the central and western end of the range the abundant rainfall provides for perfect conditions for crops such as potatoes and sweetcorn.
The cycling season in the Pyrenees is relatively short as you would expect of a mountain destination, with the window of early June to the end of September being the optimal time period for a visit in the region. Outside of this window, expect lower temperatures and the possibility of snow at higher elevations.
Pyrenees 4-Day Sampler
Pyrenees 8-Day Sampler