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 is a special magic about the Catalan coast, near the border of France and Spain. Far from the crowds and the sandy beaches, this is a wild coast with a fusion of light, wind, sunshine and rock, the brightly painted houses, the exotic plants and the pretty fishing boats have worked together to create the atmosphere that has drawn many a famous artist to the region.
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was born in Malaga, Spain, but spent the majority of his adult life in France. In the summer of 1910, Picasso and some of his friends rented a house in Cadaqués for several months and it was believed that this trip influenced his Cubism period, the art movement of which Picasso was a pioneer, and which brought European painting forward towards 20th century Modern Art.
Henri Matisse was born in France in 1869, and was best known for his use of colour, and his fluid and original draughtsmanship. He is principally known as a painter, although he was also a draughtsman, printmaker and sculptor.
In 1905, at the age of 36, Matisse arrived in Collioure. At the time he was depressed, short of funds and full of self-doubt. As soon as he arrived he was struck by the colour and the vitality of the Catalan fishing port and his depression lifted. He saw light and colour everywhere, and was about to start a new movement in the history of art, the “Fauves”.
Later that year the “Fauves” exhibited together in Paris. The paintings expressed emotion with wild, often dissonant colours. Matisse showed Open Window and Woman with the Hat, which was later brought by Gertrude and Leo Stein.
Salvador Dali ( 1904 – 1989) is probably the artist the most frequently associated with the Costa Brava. He was inspired by the wildness of the area, particularly its rock formations, which can be seen in many of his paintings.
Born in Figueres, Spain, Dali is best known for his striking and bizarre surrealist work. His love of excess and luxury and his eccentric manner sometimes drew more attention than his art, to the irritation of critics who recoginsed him for his skill and talent as an artist and draftsman.
Dali spent long periods of time in Cadaques and nearby Port Lligat. Today
you can visit a number of Dali attractions, the Theatre-Museum in Figueres, Dali’ summer house in Port Lligat, and Gala Dali Castle in Pubol.
The French sculptor, painter and tapestry designer Aristide Maillol was best known for his sculptures of female nudes. Born in 1861 in Banyuls-sur-Mer, Maillol studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and forged a unique style that closely resembled Classical Grecian statues.
Maillol began his career as a painter and tapestry designer, his early work reflected his great admiration for the Nabis, a group of artists in France whose work was composed typically of decorative patterns. In 1893 Maillol opened a tapestry workshop in Banyuls, producing works whose high technical and aesthetic quality gained him recognition for renewing this art form in France.
When he was almost 40 years old eye disease forced him to give up tapestry weaving and he turned his attention to sculpture.
Some of his most famous works are Mediterranean (1902) Torso (1906) and the Cyclist (1907)
In later life Maillol returned to live in the mountains near Banyuls, he died, aged 83, from injuries sustained in a car accident.
All our walking holidays in the Mediterranean Coast including our best off : Mediterranean Pyrenees Coastal Walk: Collioure to Cadaquès and Quintessential Collioure To Cadaques.
All our coastal journeys
Why not by electric bike ? Cycling the Mediterranean Pyrénées : Collioure to Cadaqués