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.
If you are generally in good health, and your idea of the perfect holiday is not just to discover a new region, but to really soak it all in, the sights, the sounds, the tastes, even the feel of the earth beneath your feet and the new scent that teases your nostrils, then what could be better than a walking holiday ?
Each day there is something new to see as you move along at a pace that agrees with you, the beauty of the nature that surrounds you, the changing scenery, the buzz that you get from being active, the feeling of taking your boots off at the end of the day, and the extra enjoyment you take from your delicious evening meal with a glass of wine or two, the ease with which you fall asleep after the effort of the day, dreaming only of doing it all again tomorrow… perfect !
It is possible to take a walking holiday in virtually every country in the world nowadays, but as our name suggests we are the only company that offer you exclusive expertise in the Pyrenean chain. We have been based in the village of Arrens-Marsous in the French Pyrenees since 1984, and we know the region inside out !
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains that form a natural border between France and Spain, and they have played a significant role in the history of both countries. They stretch from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in the east to the Atlantic Ocean and the Basque coast to the west. The Pyrenees may not be as high as the Alps, and it could be said that they don’t have the same glamour, but one thing is for sure, they have retained a charm and authenticity that can be hard to preserve in such a beautiful area of the Europe. The atmosphere is relaxed and low key, a trip to the Pyrenees means rubbing shoulders with the locals, you are more likely to hear Occitan, Catalan or Basque than English or Russian !
Well the answer is, of course, that it could mean one of a huge variety of things. Lets do a quick tour, this is non-exhaustive but if I had to describe everything there is to see across this wonderful mountain range then I could be writing a book ! Towards the centre of the land mass you have the French High Pyrenees with such highlights as the Cirque de Gavarnie and the Pic du Midi Observatory, as well as the famous Tour de France cols such as the Tourmalet and the Aubisque. On the Spanish side there is the magical kingdom of Aragon and the unending lakes of the Encantats. As you go towards the Mediterranean you travel through Cathar Country with it’s spectacular perched castles and huge historical interest.
The Mediterranean coastline around the frontier is a jewel, as the Pyrenees plummet into the crystal blue sea. It is no wonder that this coastline was the stomping ground of many a famous artist, the light really does have a magical quality. Let’s whizz westwards to the Basque country, whether you are in France or Spain this area has so many unique highlights, beautiful rolling countryside dotted with little villages where the houses are painted with the classic Basque red or green, the high point of La Rhune, a rugged windswept coastline and of course the food is reputed to be amongst the best in the world.
The walking season is relatively short in the High Pyrenees, to avoid the possibility of snow fields we offer these trips from mid June until the end of September. Walking in the middle and low mountain areas, and on the coast is possible from Spring until Autumn, with the Mediterranean coast having a very pleasant climate virtually year round. This year we have introduced Winter Walking, snow-shoeing trips with an expert bi-lingual guide. The perfect way to explore the Pyrenees under snow, get away from the crush of the ski stations and walk off the beaten track.
We offer two different formats of walking holiday, guided or self-guided, and each has its attractions. If you want the freedom to choose a start date that suits you, you want to walk at your own rhythm with your partner or in a group of friends, you are confident with reading a map and following written route descriptions, then self-guided is probably the format that would suit you best. We are there in the background, we have booked all your accommodation and arranged your luggage transfers, and we are available 24 hours a day to help you if you have any problems or issues, but you are free and independent.
If you are a single traveller, if you like meeting new people, if you don’t feel confident guiding yourself, or you like the idea of having a guide who is an expert in the region, then a guided group holiday is right up your street. The conviviality of walking with others, sharing stories at mealtimes and learning from your guide as you discover new landscapes can be a very enriching experience. Purely Pyrenees is the only tour operator who has introduced mixed French and English customer groups, ambience guaranteed ! The “entente cordial” is still very much alive and kicking.
So, what is a walking holiday with Purely Pyrenees ? It is the chance to discover part of this wonderful region, to enjoy a trip that you will benefit from not only mentally but physically, to pass some well-deserved leisure time in the enjoyment of nature, to be independent or guided, but always well cared for.