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.
Generally the accommodation offered on a Purely Pyrenees walking or cycling trip is in a comfortable hotel, and often a good meal and a clean and comfy bedroom is just the ticket after a day on your feet, or in the saddle.
However, the best part of any holiday can sometimes be experiencing something new and a bit different, and if you’ve never stayed in a mountain refuge before then it is really worth putting on your bucket list !
Well some mountain refuges are just basic empty huts, maintained to offer shelter to mountain walkers either in bad weather or if they wish to stay out overnight, but others are much more sophisticated. A guardian or warden looks after all the refuges that we use in the Pyrenees, and although by their very nature they are basic, they are very efficiently run.
Situated in the high mountains, away from any roads these refuges cannot be accessed by vehicle. Anything you need overnight and for the next day needs to be carried in your rucksack. The provisions for high mountain refuges are transported there periodically by helicopter, with the warden or their helpers also carrying things up on foot !
Accommodation is in dormitories, the size of which varies from refuge to refuge. Covers or blankets are provided but you need to take your own sheet. Sometimes there is a shower but the time you can spend in it will be limited as water is at a premium. Quite often nowadays there will be electric plugs from which you can recharge your mobile phone, and more modern refuges even have Wi-Fi, but don’t rely on this being the case, enjoy this period of tranquillity by disconnecting from the world for a while.
Food will be simple but copious, prepared by the warden and enjoyed on the terrace or in a group dining room. Often the most enjoyable thing about a night in a refuge is meeting interesting people from all over the world and bonding over a good meal and some tales of your days walking.
If you are a light sleeper you may want to consider taking ear-plugs !
If you are lucky enough to wake up to a cloudless blue sky, or better still, if you awake before it’s light, then witnessing the sun rise over the mountains from a mountain refuge will be an image that will stay with you forever – total bliss.