Hautes Pyrenees

Region Info

Why Hautes-Pyrénées?

  • 1 UNESCO world heritage site and Four “Grands Sites du Midi- Pyrénées”
  • Eight thermal Spa towns

The Hautes-Pyrénées is a department in south-western France and is part of the Midi-Pyrénées region. The department consists of several distinct geographical areas; the southern portion consists of mountains such as the Vignemale, the Pic du Midi and the Neouvielle and Arbizon ranges. The Northern part of the department consists of largely flat agricultural land. A third area consists of low-altitude rolling hills.

The Hautes-Pyrénées as its name implies is an high altitude mecca for sports; there are 35 summits measuring over 3,000m high and 34 mountain cols in the department making it a sports paradise. Each year more than 100,000 people take the cable car up to Pic Du Midi (in La Mongie).


The largest resort in the whole of the Pyrénées. “Grand Tourmalet” is made up of La Mongie and Barèges and has 100km of pistes. Other Hautes-Pyrénées resorts of note are Luz-Ardiden (Luz Saint Sauveur), Peyragudes, Saint-Lary-Soulan and Cauterets.


There is an abundance of activities in the Hautes-Pyrénées in summer time. Cycling and hiking is a top summer past time here but as well as this there are many other activities such as caving, swimming, climbing, national parks, spas, the unforgetable trip to the observatory on top of the Pic Du Midi (see individual resort pages)!

The Hautes-Pyrénées has a wealth of natural and historical attractions. With over 300 lakes, 2,600 km of rivers, 150,000 sheep, 1,600 hectares of vineyards and 600 churches and chapels there is plenty to do in this area. 


The Pyrénées National Park covers an area of 45,700 hectares and includes well-known attractions such as the famous “Pont d'Espagne” near Cauterets and the UNESCO listed Cirque de Gavarnie near Luz saint Sauveur. Gavarnie is the birthplace of Pyrenean Mountaineering and the entire area of the National Park is a favourite destination for hikers and mountain enthusiasts.

Néouvielle Nature Reserve covers an area of 2,300 hectares and is a sanctuary for Pyrenean flora and fauna. The natural jewels in the reserve include lakes, granite mountain ranges and mountain pine forests.


The area is perhaps historically renowned for its hot springs. Several towns were built around these, most notably Cauterets, Luz-Saint-Sauveur and Bagnères-de-Bigorre. The thermal spas rose to prominence in the 19th century and are famed for the medicinal properties of their mineral rich waters. A visit to the Hautes-Pyrénées would not be complete without a visit to one of the many spas.

Spas are not the only waters that are regarded as having healing properties. The spring water in the pilgrimage town of Lourdes is claimed to have healed the sick. Lourdes is now a mecca for pilgrims and tourists alike. The torchlight procession set against the backdrop of the Gothic style basilica is a wonderful experience to witness.


For those who err more towards the scientific, the Pic du Midi Observatory, set above the ski resort of La Mongie, offers star gazing set high above the mountain tops from what appears to be an impossibly perched platform. The views are amazing and give a 'top of the world' feel. Festival abound in the department over the summer and winter months, celebrating the rich cultural and natural heritage. Tarbes hosts an annual horse festival, Equestria, and a Tango festival, Tarbes en Tango, but perhaps the most notable festival is the region's premier avant-garde jazz festival is held each year in Luz-Saint-Sauveur: Jazz a Luz.


The Hautes-Pyrénées fact file:

  • Department number: 65
  • Population: 230,160
  • Population density: 5 inhabitants per sq.m
  • Size: 4,464 km2
  • Region: Belonging to the Midi-Pyrénées (along with: Ariège, Aveyron, Haute-Garonne, Gers, Lot, Hautes-Pyrénées, Tarn, Tarn et Garonne.

Natural facts:

  • Highest point: Vignemale Mountain (3,298 meters).
  • Main River: The Gave de Pau (River Pau)
  • Famous Cols: Col du Tourmalet; Col D’Aspin, Col De Peyresourde, Le Col Du Soulor
  • UNESCO World heritage sites: One (Cirque de Gavarnie near Luz saint Sauveur)
  • Grands Sites du Midi-Pyrénées”: Four (Pic Du Midi Cable car; Cirque de Gavarnie mountain cirque; “Pont D’Espagne” site of natural beauty; Lourdes pilgrimage site.
  • Thermal Spa Resorts: Eight (Cauterets, Luz Saint Sauveur, Bagnères-de-Bigorre, Barèges, Argelès-Gazost, Saint Lary, Genos-Loudenvielle (Peyragudes, Louron valley), Capvern Les Bains).
Saint Lary
Saint Lary is a large traditional Pyrenean resort, located in the Aure valley in the Hautes-Pyrenees. It is an authentic Pyrenean village, which has been in existence for many years. A place of passage, it is part of the pilgrimage route of St. Jacques de Compostela, and also the only road crossing Hautes-Pyrenees to Spain via the Bielsa tunnel-Aragnouet.
Louron Valley (Peyragudes)
Louron Valley shows the extreme beauty of the traditional Pyrenean villages, with access to the “Balnea” thermal spa there is relaxation or fun for the family. Situated in the Pyrenees National Park, not far from the Spanish border, the Louron valley is a treasure trove of natural beauty and cultural heritage.
Barèges - Grand Tourmalet
Barèges, located at 1,250m, is an authentic Pyrenean village within “Le Domaine Du Grand Tourmalet”, the Pyrenees’ largest ski area. A small and intimate village with the River Bastan running through it, its reputation is built upon the healing powers of its waters. Today Barèges combines excellent summer activities and healing spa relaxation making it an ideal summer destination.
Elegant “Belle Epoque” style spa town, with great walking locations in the Natural Cirque du Lys and the “Pont D’Espagne”. It boasts an excellent Thermal spa, “Les Bains du Rocher”. The village of Cauterets is situated at the end of the Cauterets valley in the “Vallee des Gaves” (Valley of Rivers) area of the Hautes Pyrenees.
Located in the “Vallee des Gaves” (Valley of Rivers) the town of Lourdes is surrounded by high mountain peaks in a wide valley that was formed thousands of years ago by a glacier that hung above the summits of the “Vignemale” mountains and carved its way through the earth creating this amazing valley.
Luz Saint Sauveur
Located at 740m in the heart of the Pays Toy area of the Hautes-Pyrénées, the welcoming village of Luz Saint Sauveur has a friendly, welcoming and relaxed atmosphere. The charming village with its rich history of the Knights Templar its friendly locals is a pleasure to wander around. With a good selection of bars, restaurants and general amenities in the village there is always something to do.
Argelès-Gazost (Agos Vidalos)
Pretty Pyrenean thermal spa village in a tranquil open valley, Argelès-Gazost is centrally located for exploring the Pyrenees with fun activities for all the family. It is a favourite hub of road cyclists with iconic climbs on its doorstep. Argèles-Gazost, the emerald of the Pyrenees, is a small and Charming Pyrenean spa village.
Bagnères de Bigorre - Grand Tourmalet
Bagnères-de-Bigorre is located in the Hautes-Pyrénées, 550m above sea level, on the Ardour River that runs through the Campan Valley. It also lies at the foot of the Pic du Midi, with its perilously perched observatory, and the legendary cols of the Aspin &Tourmalet, while the pilgrimage town of Lourdes is but a short and scenic drive away.

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