Who Are We ?
In 1984 a small walking holiday company was created, based in the beautiful Val d’Azun in the heart of the French Pyrenees. This company, named « La Balaguère » after the warm breeze that blows upwards from the Sahara to the Pyrenees, offered guided walking trips led by a small group of friends with a huge passion for the mountains.
Little by little La Balaguère expanded and more than 35 years later we help over 13,000 people every year enjoy walking and cycling holidays in the Pyrenees and further afield, to the most unspoilt areas of the world.
In 2018 we launched a new and exciting project. Purely Pyrenees is the English language branch of our business, offering self-guided and guided trips, walking and cycling from Spring to Autumn and snowshoeing in the Winter. Using our decades of experience we created a new range of holidays designed for English speakers who come, maybe for the first time, to experience the best the Pyrenees has to offer. Our focus is always to provide highlights, iconic places to visit, wonderful itineraries, authentic hotels and, of course, tremendous cuisine.
Purely Pyrenees and La Balaguère are now owned by the UCPA (Union des Centres Sportifs de Plein Air) which is a non-profit organisation in France that specialises in making outdoor sports holidays available for all. We are still based where we have always been, in the Pyrenean village of Arrens-Marsous.
We are very proud of our Pyrenean chain and of the knowledge that we have of it, amassed over years of providing guided and self-guided holidays. You can be sure that if you travel with us we will do everything we can to make sure you have a wonderful trip.
There are five things you can be sure about with Purely Pyrenees :
1. Independent, self-guided holidays, so we don’t offer group holidays, but groups of friends or family upto 6 or even 8 are most welcome.
2. The Pyrenees – or “The Greater Pyrenees” region – and nowhere else, but we offer more choice than any other tour operator. All our holidays are journeys, so you move from place to place, because we’ve found that’s the best way to discover the true Pyrenees.
3. Walking and cycling holidays – and nothing else. With our walking holidays, transfers make sure each day is a comfortable distance for you, route directions are well written and clear as glass, baggage is transported for you, and support always available. With our cycling holidays, electric bikes are an option – and sometimes included.
4. Well organised, comfortable and enjoyable holidays with good quality, authentic accommodation with character and good food. We don’t do trekking or roughing it, but when staying in a mountain refuge for one night gives you a truly unforgettable experience then we will include that in the itinerary.
5. Great value for money because we have more buying power than any other tour operator offering Pyrenees holidays, and because we include more so transfers from airport or rail station are included as are good quality hotels and three course meals on most (or all) nights. When you compare like for like, we can’t be beaten on price !
1 Shoe: Ideal for someone new to walking holidays, or for the occasional walker. You will have time to hike at a slow pace, you need to be in good physical condition but do not need to be an experienced hiker.
2 Shoes: For anyone who has some experience of walking holidays and / or practices endurance exercise regularly. The pace will be low to moderate for a person in good physical condition.
3 Shoes: For anyone used to hiking and / or doing an endurance activity 1 to 2 times a week. The pace will seem fairly steady to a person in good physical condition.
4 Shoes: For anyone very accustomed to hiking trips, who practices a sports activity at least 2 times a week. The pace will seem sustained to a person in good physical condition.
5 Shoes: For any sports person very accustomed to hiking, in excellent physical condition and capable of maintaining a fast pace over a long period.
We have designed our itineraries to be comfortable rather than challenging, and they are suitable for people aged 12 to 82 who are reasonably fit and like “a good walk” or bike ride. Some are inevitably more strenuous than others, and the first couple of days are usually harder until you get into the rhythm.
When walking, there are often longish ascents, but usually they are along shepherds’ paths and cart tracks so rarely steep - and the panoramic views from the top always make it worth the climb! On many days, we begin or end with a transfer so you only do “the best bits” – something others rarely if ever do – and of course we transport your luggage for you, so you only need a small daysack.
Our cycling itineraries are in the foothills and up glorious valleys deep into the heart of the Pyrenees. They avoid like the plague Tour de France type steep climbs, and electric bike options are available. That should tell you we want you to gently enjoy discovering the best of the Pyrenees, not train you for racing !
Natural hospitality, authentic cuisine and magnificently located hotels are part of the DNA of the Pyrenees. We make sure you enjoy all three every night !
Only small owner-managed hotels where often Monsieur or Madame are the chefs. Usually 3 and 4 star hotels, always with en suite - except when the best place to stay is in a characterful chambres d’hôtes or mountain refuge (no more than one night per holiday). Always good rooms, almost always with stunning views. Your luggage waiting for you when you arrive. Three course table d’hôte dinner included, so you have choices with each course, except when you are staying in a village where there are several restaurants, and we think you would prefer to choose the one that suits you best. You choose and pay for your wine and other drinks on departure.
Simple, filling picnic lunches are included except when there are no shops, cafes or restaurants en route for that day, and anyway you can always ask the hotel to make you a picnic.
Our choice of accommodation is based on answering this simple question: where would I like to stay if I had checked out all the hotels in this village or town? That is the place you will be staying in.