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.
Our parent company, La Balaguere, is the leading tour operator for walking and cycling holidays in the Pyrenees, and sells over 13,000 holidays to French people, so guess how many holidays were sold when the website was simply translated into English ? Answer: less than 20 - not bookings, people.
Why ? Because what works for the French does not work for others. To generalise, the French often visit dozens of times, but you may only visit the Pyrenees once, so you rightly expect to discover a lot in one holiday. They want a cost-effective holiday – and if it costs too much, they’ll just book it directly themselves. They don’t mind marching long distances, and don’t necessarily want to pay for to the holiday start point, or daily luggage transfers. They don’t need much support because they speak French, and can call the emergency services or friends easily. In all of that, they are probably not that different to you in your home country.
So those are holidays that are designed for the French, and work for the French. What we have designed are holidays for English speakers that work for English speakers – and designed is the word.
We went back to the drawing board as regards itineraries, distances, people and luggage transfers, quality and authenticity of accommodation, highlights per holiday, support services – and so on. You name it, we’ve reviewed it - and probably redesigned it.
We strongly believe that the very best way to discover the real Pyrenees is on your own, as a couple, or in a small group of like-minded friends.
In other words, independently – at your own pace (fast, slow or very slow), stopping to investigate the things that most interest you whether they be waterfalls or butterflies, church architecture or vineyards.
Where panoramic views and tranquil valleys, wildlife and traditional farming methods, are so much a part of the experience, we can imagine nothing worse than being surrounded by a gaggle of goggling tourists.
Larger groups also mean fixed start dates, tourist traps, large hotels, fixed dining times and menus without choice. To us, all of that is anathema as we are Pyreneans. Many of us were born in the Pyrenees, and brought up in these mountains.
So we know the Pyrenees, and we love the Pyrenees. We are passionate about what the Pyrenees offer – and why it is such a wonderful and unique region.
We love walking in the Pyrenees – and some of us love cycling here too. We have walked the itineraries and footpaths ourselves in spring, summer and autumn. We know the best routes for particular people and for particular seasons.
We know the hoteliers, the taxi drivers, the guides, the crafts people, even the bus drivers and butchers, so we know the local prices, and can make sure you get best value for money.
We know the best places to stay – and stay in them ourselves. We know the people who own and run them. We know what they are good at, and what sort of person enjoys staying there the most.
We have tasted the transformation of Pyrenean cuisine. We know the best chefs – traditional and innovative. We know their best menus and signature dishes. We want you to be as enthusiastic as we are about the pleasures of eating in the Pyrenees!
Above all, we want you to understand for yourself why we are so passionate about living, working and walking in the Pyrenees.
Purely Pyrenees is dedicated to not only making sure you have the best possible experience of the Pyrenees, but you also have one of the most memorable and enjoyable holidays of your life.
And we’re pretty confident that’s what we will deliver.
Most of our customers are independent minded people who have been travelling around Europe and the world quite a lot – or a lot ! – over the last few decades on business and holiday. They enjoy several breaks and holidays a year, and like discovering… Read more
You can enjoy walking independently in the Pyrenees anytime between April and early November – but not everywhere.
However, you can enjoy cycling independently in the Pyrenees anytime between April and early November almost anywhere. Read more
Back in 2009, La Balaguère was a founding member of the leading French organisation for responsible tourism. Read more