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.
My husband Hugo is crazy for castles.
We both love walking. I’ve wanted to go back to the Pyrenees since walking in the foothills with my aunt, many years ago. She talked to me in Latin for most of it and we had a wonderful time.
Hugo has been interested in the Cathars for years.
The mere mention of the siege of Montsegur brings tears to his eyes. I googled walking and Cathars and found Purely Pyrenees who offered exactly what we wanted.
The absolute highlight for me was the castle of Peyrepetuse.
It’s magnificent, impossibly positioned like a ship wrecked on a sheer cliff. The view, all the way to the Mediterranean, was absolutely awe inspiring.
For Hugo it was the approach to Montsegur through the woods.
The forbidding drop from the castle heights makes it impossible to imagine how the crusaders actually took it.
Our walk through the gorge was magical - the narrow winding passage through vertical cliffs and a jump into a rock pool. There was no-one there.
In fact in our first six days of walking we saw barely anyone at all. The terrain was varied and never more than we could manage.
We were supplied with an excellent walk book giving detailed descriptions of where to go and markers along the way.
We managed to leave the entire kit that Purely Pyrenees had sent us on the plane when we landed in Toulouse... disaster ! But Purely Pyrenees were incredibly elegant and efficient about it and sent us replacements to our second hotel. That meant we did our first walk without the walk book and managed to get lost, but it was quite a hoot and we still managed to make our meet time !
The hotels were very varied but all very comfortable and clean. The one in Cucunan was our favourite. The most beautiful medieval village and a wonderfully understated hotel front that belied the comfort and prettiness within. An amazing restaurant in the beer cellar too !
We absolutely loved our holiday. It was beautifully organised and lacking in any sort of pretentiousness or fuss. We wanted low-key but comfortable with delicious food, and that’s what we got.
We are talking about going back to the Pyrenees.
I feel there’s so much more to explore. We both love Italy too, and so will probably walk there at some point.
But the main thing is that we’ve discovered a holiday format that we both really enjoy and want to do as much of as we can before we get too creaky !