Gaube lake
Oulettes de Gaube
High Pyrenees
Self-guided holidays
7 nights, 6 walking days
Level :
Itinerary : Hotel to Hotel
Holiday code : FP2PUVG
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A World Class Journey To The Heart Of The Pyrenees

A wonderful walk through beautiful valleys and foothills before arriving at the amazing UNESCO Site of the Cirque de Gavarnie, the absolute must-see natural feature of the High Pyrenees. High quality accommodation, with one unforgettable night in the highest mountain refuge in the Pyrenees.

A summary of your journey

This sometimes challenging (but always rewarding) walk offers so many highlights and so much variety! It is a journey from the gentle pleasures of the renowned Azun valley up into the very heart of the Pyrenean mountains. Walk along ancient paths until reaching the most magnificent highlight of any Pyrenean journey, the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the Cirque du Gavarnie. There are astounding cliffs rising to 10,000 feet, and numerous waterfalls - the Grand Cascade shoots out of the cliff face before falling over 1,400 feet to the ground below.. Then there are the herds of cattle, the marmots, the birds of prey, the villages, the hotels, the restaurants, the traditional and contemporary dishes - and a night 8,000 feet up where the light-pollution-free stars feel as close as the mountains do in daylight. Unforgettable? Most certainly!
This itinerary includes several private transfers to enable you to only walk the "best bits". Inevitably, this adds to the holiday cost (as well as the quality and enjoyment of the holiday), so the overall price cannot be directly compared with apparently similar holidays.

The Plus Points

  • The sceneries
  • Authentic accommodations and food
  • 24/7 customer service

Day 1

Arrival at Arrens-Marsous

Standard option: You make your own way to Arrens-Marsous, where it is easy to park your car. You can leave your car here for the week.

With extra airport pick-up: We meet you at Lourdes airport or railway station (or a hotel of your choice in Lourdes) and take you up to Arrens-Marsous.

Arrens-Marsous is in one of the most attractive Pyrenean valleys, the Val d'Azun. There will be a great sense of anticipation as all around you are the hills you'll begin walking through the next day.
You stay in one of our favourite places in the whole of the Pyrenees, although it is "only" a chambres d'hotes rather than a hotel. Maison Sempé is a beautiful 17th Century village house built of stone and wood in the local style with so much character and ambience that descriptions don't do justice to. The bedrooms (with en suite facilities, of course) are truly memorable with wooden balconies that give you wonderful views of the village's stone houses and the hills beyond. What makes it even more special are your hosts, Sylvie and Jean-Paul, who speak English, are most welcoming, and are full of fascinating information about the area. You'll also eat well!
Transfer time if you have booked the option : 30 minutes.

Day 2

Arrens-Marsous - Estaing
You begin your journey with gentle valley walking to the 12th century golden chapel, or chapel of stars, at Pouey Laun before taking an ancient lane up through woods. You are now on the famous GR10, which runs for 900 kilometres from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, yet, except from July to mid August, you can walk all day and barely see anybody other than shepherds. At the Col des Bordères, you can see the restored summer barns and shepherds' accommodation in use as they have been for centuries, and at the summit called Predousset you can enjoy magnificently panoramic views over the Azun valley. You now stroll through extensive alpine type pastures, rich with flowers in early summer, and begin your descent to the tiny valley of Estaing. Finally for today, you follow the stream to arrive at Estaing lake with its reflections of the peaks all around. Transfer.
We transfer you from the lake to Marsous for another night at the Maison Sempé. After your efforts you will enjoy Sylvie's homemade cooking even more this evening!
Walking time : upto 5h. Distance : 12 to 18km. Elevation : + 800m / - 500m. Transfer time : 15 minutes.

Day 3

Estaing - Ilheou lake - Cauterets
We take you on a short transfer back to the Lac d'Estaing from where you continue up the GR10 through pine forest and on to the high pastures at Arrioussec where you will see herds of the traditional horned cream cows of the Pyrenees, which are so tranquil that you can often walk among them without any of them moving an inch! From the Col d'Ilhéou, you walk to Ilhéou lake - a great place for a well earned rest - then can enjoy a gentle downhill walk to the lovely Cambasque valley where we meet you to save those just-a-little-too-far extra miles to Cauterets. A really rewarding day's walking.
Now for many of us, Cauterets is an enigma. On the one hand, it is a somewhat austere stone-built mountain town, but, on the other hand, since the 18th century it has been a spa town popular, even today, with those wanting or needing to benefit from its sulphurous waters. What is still called "taking the cure". The three star Hôtel le Lion d'Or is also an enigma. At first sight it is an unchanged traditional hotel with a wonderfully retro ambience, yet it has been very expensively and extensively refurbished right through to space age showers! The best of both worlds, especially as the menu remains true to its historic roots.
Walking time : Upto 6h. Distance : 12km. Elevation : + 1050m / - 850m. Transfer time : 30 minutes.

Day 4

Cauterets - Gaube valley - (Petit Vignemale) - Baysselance refuge
As you will by now have realised, mornings generally begin with an uphill climb, while afternoons are for descending - essentially because towns and villages are in valleys - and today is no different, except you have a lot of ascent and minimal descent - but then you have a privileged stay tonight still high up in the Pyrenees. FP2PUVG Last update 29/12/2020 3 / 15 You begin by walking up to Gaube lake in which you will see mirrored the imposing grandeur of the north face of Vignemale and the crevasses of the Petit Vignemale glacier - one of the most beautiful and dramatic of panoramic views in the Pyrenees. You now walk alongside a glacial torrent, and among alpine meadows interspersed with numerous waterfalls before arriving at the Oulettes mountain refuge from which mountaineers climb Grand Vignemale (3298m). You, however, climb up gradually to the Col d'Ossoue, which gets you very close to Petit Vignemale. You can climb to the summit if you want to, or just go straight down to the wonderful Baysellance refuge where you will spend a truly memorable night.
Built of stone with a copper vaulted roof in 1899, and refurbished in 2003, this unique refuge is the highest staffed refuge in the Pyrenees at 8,000 feet, and offers simple, shared accommodation with private, but shared bathrooms (no hot showers), unfussy but plentiful meals, a warm welcome from Peio and Morgane, a convivial atmosphere, and, above all, a magnificent location, both in daylight and at night when the light pollution-free stars seem almost as close as the mountains. It really does feel like a privilege staying here.
Walking time : Upto 5 à 6h. Distance : 12,5km. Elevation : + 1300m / - 100m. Transfer time : 20 minutes.

Day 5

Baysselance refuge - Gavarnie
Get up early enough, and you will see the sun rise over Ossoue glacier - well worth it! You can take pleasure in the fact that where yesterday was all about ascending, today is all about descending. You walk down the lovely Ossoue valley with its streams, waterfalls - and marmottes. In meadow areas at certain altitudes, they are ubiquitous, and eminently photogenic. However, your eyes will increasingly be captivated by the sight of the Cirque de Gavarnie, which you may be surprised to find actually challenges some of yesterday's panoramic views as the best you've ever seen!
You stay for 2 nights at the positively traditional and very comfortable two star
Hôtel du Marboré in the centre of Gavarnie village, but with exceptional views of the Cirque de Gavarnie and the 1,300 feet Grand Cascade waterfall, not least from its terrace. Bernard will prepare dishes for you which bring together the best of traditional Pyrenean cuisine (stews, meats, mushrooms, cheeses and more), while Roseline will ensure you have a warm welcome, and everything you need.
Walking time : Upto 6h. Distance : 15,5km. Elevation : + 100m / - 1400m.

Day 6

Cirque de Gavarnie
This is what most people regard as the most exceptional and memorable site in the whole of the Pyrenees. You walk fairly gently up a wide pat to the Bellevue plateau, with privileged panoramas of the high mountain scenery all around you. From the top, you descend into the centre of the enormous natural "amphitheatre" that is the Cirque du Gavarnie with its myriad waterfalls - many impressively long and powerful - sheer bare rock cliffs, and contrasting peaceful valley bottom.
The appropriately named Grande Cascade at about 1,300 feet is over 300 feet higher than the Eiffel Tower and one of the highest in Europe. The bucolic final section is along the valley bottom, or, more challengingly, by the Espugues route, which cuts across a rocky cliff face. Either way, you arrive back in the village of Gavarnie. Truly memorable, we are confident you will agree.
You stay a second night at the Hôtel du Marboré.
Walking time : 4 or 5h. Distance : 11km. Elevation : + 500m / - 500m.

Day 7

Gavarnie - Troumouse Cirque

We transfer you to the Troumouse valley so you can begin your walk visiting the historic Héas chapel - a 16th century pilgrimage chapel built to house a wooden Black Madonna found by local shepherds, and which miraculously (say some) survived an avalanche - before gradually walking up to the Aires cabin situated in the middle of the incredible "arena" that is the Cirque de Troumousse, rising to almost 10,000 feet. You then descend to the Auberge de Maillet before continuing to the much photographed turquoise waters of the Gloriettes lake, which often reflects the magnificence that is Mont Perdu.

There can be no doubts about why this whole area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can now either get picked up here or descend on foot to Gèdre village (adding an extra 2h30m) by crossing the Coumély plateau with its historic stone barns, and then taking the Lucien Briet footpath descending steeply (but safely) down to the village. And that, we're afraid to say, is it for this walking holiday.
For your last night, you stay at the recently refurbished, very comfortable and renowned three star Hôtel de la Brèche de Roland with its impressive and enjoyable restaurant serving local traditional dishes transformed into contemporary masterpieces by chef-owner Philippe Pujo. The Brèche de Roland - Roland's Breach - is a 40 metre wide, 100 metre high gap in the cliffs dividing the two sides of the High Pyrenees, and legend claims it was cut by Count Roland using his sword Durendal after losing the 8th century Battle of Roncesvalles. The hotel is the only place that you can see the breach from the bottom of the valley.
Walking time : 5h. Distance : 14,5km. Elevation : + 800m / - 600m. Transfer time : 30 minutes.

Day 8

End of stay

Standard option: After breakfast, we will take you back to Arrens-Marsous to collect your car.

With extra airport pick-up: After breakfast, we will take you back to Lourdes airport or railway station (or a hotel of your choice - see our recommendation below).
You can choose to stay an extra night at the three star Hôtel Beauséjour in Lourdes to visit the religious sites, and take the funicular up to the Pic du Jer, which has panoramic views.
  • Practical details
  • Equipment
  • Formalities, Health


15 June to 30 September


Standard option: You make your own way to Arrens-Marsous, where it is easy to park your car. You can leave your car here for the week.

With extra airport pick-up: We meet you at Lourdes airport or railway station (or a hotel of your choice in Lourdes) and take you up to Arrens-Marsous.


Standard option: After breakfast, we will take you back to Arrens-Marsous to collect your car.

With extra airport pick-up: After breakfast, we will take you back to Lourdes airport or railway station (or a hotel of your choice - see our recommendation below).

You can choose to stay an extra night at the three star Hôtel Beauséjour in Lourdes to visit the religious sites, and take the funicular up to the Pic du Jer, which has panoramic views.


This holiday includes sometimes challenging, but always rewarding walking, and is suitable for people who are reasonably fit, and used to walking for much of a day. It can get hot in July and August, as well as much more crowded. We would recommend June and from mid August to the end of September as the best months.




We will transfer your main luggage between each hotel, so all you need to carry when walking is a daysack with whatever you regard as essentials, except for the night in the mountain refuge where you will need to carry clothes and washing essentials.


This is an independent, self-guided holiday.


You stay in double or twin rooms for 2 nights in three star hotels, 2 nights in two star hotels, 2 nights in an excellent chambres d'hotes and one night in a mountain refuge.


You will eat very well. Dinners are based on set menus featuring regional specialities etc usually with 3 or 4 choices for each of three courses, but not at the chambres d'hotes or the refuge.Breakfast is included every morning as are picnics on those days when there are no immediate shops or en route places to eat, although the night before you can always ask for a picnic, which you can pay for locally.


Usually transfers are in people carriers, mini-buses, cars or taxis. Often they will be exclusively for you.


To make the right choice

Have a look at our detailed explanations on the types of hiking, the standards of accommodation, and understand baggage transport ... How to choose your trip ?


  • A soft travel bag, avoid suitcases, which are more cumbersome and limit the weight of your belongings to 10 kg.
  • A small backpack of 30 litres minimum for your daytime requirements.


  • A waterproof and breathable jacket (Gore-Tex type)
  • A fleece or a sweater
  • A raincoat (poncho)
  • Walking trousers
  • 1 pair of gloves
  • 1 hat
  • Shorts
  • A bathing suit + towel
  • Several pairs of socks (not too large)
  • Underwear
  • 1 pair of trainers
  • Loose clothing for the evening


  • 1 pair of walking shoes that have been used before
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip protection
  • 1 bottle (allow 2 to 3 litres per person per day in summer)
  • A Tupperware type plastic bowl for the picnic + cutlery
  • 1 compass
  • Waterproof map cover (advised)
  • 1 head torch in your rucksack (for safety)
  • 1 survival cover (from a chemist)
  • 1 mobile phone (advised)
  • Camera and why not a novel, your watercolours or other desires...
  • Your identification documents
  • Sleeping bag liner : your itinerary includes a night in a mountain refuge, then you will need a sleeping bag liner as the refuge will supply sleeping bags and/or blankets. Sleeping bag liners range greatly in size (avoid a "mummy" shape if you are a larger person) and material (from nylon through cotton to silk), so we think it is better for you to buy and bring one that suits you.


Please use soft travel bags, and restrict each bag to 10 kilos. You will also need a daysack of about 30 litres.


You will know what to bring, but casual as much as smart casual clothing works for most evenings, and your priority should be comfort, especially for your feet!


For walking, you will know what to bring, but we would recommend ankle protecting walking boots, a complete waterproof and breathable outfit, sunhat, plenty of sun protection, a 2 litre water container per person, waterproof map case, compass, head torch, mobile phone, small first aid kit, and a Tupperware container and utensils for lunches.


You need to keep your passport with you at all times, and ideally insurance information. You need to make your own arrangements to claim local healthcare. There are requirements in France for all vehicles to carry safety equipment.


7 nights dinner, bed and breakfast plus one picnic; people transfers from and to Lourdes; luggage transfers; detailed walking instructions; 1:25,000 IGN map; 24/7 customer phone service.


The journey to the start point, and from the finish point, except as specified; lunches except one picnic; drinks with meals; non- standard menu items.

Prolongez votre séjour

"Where to go in the Pyrenees ? 3 of the Unmissables : the Cirque de Gavarnie (one of the most beautiful places in the Pyrenees), Lourdes (visited by well over five million pilgrims every year) and the Royal Monastery of San Juan de la Peña (a beautiful Monastery) !"
Sally Simmonds
Walking and cycling holidays
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