Best of Pyrenees
Since 1910 people have spoken about the amazing Pyrenees as one of the most revered cycling destinations in the world when it was audaciously included in the Tour.
However, it does not stop there. There is so much more to the Pyrénées than the dozen or so, albeit justifiably, celebrated cycling monuments. Truly exceptional off-the-bike experiences are waiting to be discovered. So if a cycling holiday means more to you than a collection of Strava times, read on for a first glimpse of why we think the Pyrenees is one of the best places to visit for your holiday.
With many years experience hosting our tours in the Pyrenees, we have selected places where locals love to eat, drink, see and relax. Here we share some of our favourites with you.
A place to eat: dine with a view!
La Grange Aux Marmottes, serves very authentic cuisine, beautifully prepared with genuine passion. Located in a very picturesque little hamlet of stone houses that clings to the side of the towering Pyrenees mountainside the drive is a feast for your eyes as much as the food is a feast for your tastebuds and tummy!
Inside the restaurant, the decor is authentic and perfectly adds to the occasion of tucking into a local shepherd’s soup called garbure or other favourites like trout, foie gras, lamb chops, duck breast, and “homemade” desserts and cakes are some of the dishes proudly served by Didier (chef) using carefully selected fresh seasonal products from local producers.
A place to drink: Cafe in the middle of a world heritage region
The “Tour” can’t visit Gavarnie as it’s smack bang in the middle of a UNESCO World Heritage region. For us that makes it a lot more interesting, the hidden gem of a ride to Gavarnie is often overlooked by holidaying roadies. It’s a stunner! A superb 20 km (12 miles) of gentle climbing meanders up beside a tumbling creek, towering mountains, through some hamlets and all on smooth tarmac. The view that awaits you from Gavarnie’s “LES GLACIERS” terrasse is breathtaking. Proprietors Christian & Martine offer one of the best ride coffee stops ever! An uninterrupted view of Cirque de Gavarnie’s 1500m wall and fresh espresso (if you think cyclists are fussy about coffee, try serving hikers!). Really what more could you want? (well there IS more, but that’s for later) This all makes for a perfect mid-ride coffee stop!
Extra note: After embracing the challenge of riding Col de Tentes we return to Les Glaciers for the most outrageously delicious homemade cassoulet.
A place to see off the bike: the beauty of Pont d’Espagne
As part of our June Pyrenees tour, we will be riding Pont d’Espagne. As amazing as it is for a cycling route, it is also an amazing place for a hike in the pristine heritage area with the mountain ranges towering over us. Located at about 1,493 meters up, the Pont d’Espagne was once upon a time a trading route between France and Spain. The green and dense forests with rushing torrents and waterfalls, sparkling lakes and majestic peaks create a feeling of calm and immersion within this exceptionally beautiful region. To add even more epicness we’ll be joined by a local forager who shares his knowledge and stories of the region and has us looking down in search of the plants and edibles that sustained the nomadic Shepards over the previous millennial.
Spring will have snow-capped mountains, Autumn will have wonderful colours. You choose!
A place to relax: the local pyrenees experience
In our opinion, every corner of the Pyrénées and places we’re taking you to will be the perfect place to relax. Especially when most things are sorted and organised for you but one of our favourite post-ride stops is “La Terrasse” cafe located at kilometre 0 for the Tourmalet.
Sure, they serve local Basque Beers, have pinch-yourself mountain views, a street scape full of rustic facades and they do the “how do Europeans make umbrellas on a terrace look so enticing” perfectly.
The location at a lively T junction. You are front row to enjoy the melange of passing sports cars & motorbikes (Tourmalet isn’t just a cyclist’s dream) slow camping cars looking for directions, farm and local traffic, tractors, riders heading up the Tourmalet with a look of trepidation in their eyes, or the ones who have come down – eyes lit from the achievement of a dream. Roadies – strava tragics, mates full of buzz. Nowadays there are the e-bike riders, and in all of this, the dear old locals who dodge the commotion as they go about their normal daily life.
This is people watching at its best, made even better as we bask in the glow of our epic day of Live, Laugh, Ride… ing! fantastic post-ride tonic.
Views like no other, from savagely majestic mountains, rushing valley rivers, wide panoramas and pretty stone villages – the whole Pyrenees experience is just around the corner, up the road, above and beside and even behind you – you won’t miss those as we’ll politely let you know when you need to turn around and look in awe!
Exceptional mid and post-ride stops, even our bidon top-up stops are pretty incredible!
So, I think we have covered it all – the ride, places to eat, drink, see and relax. All those are waiting for you on our Pyrenees tour.