Experience the beautiful Pyrenees on a day trip from Lourdes
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I have listed 10 ideas for a day trip from Lourdes to give you a hand with planning your trip to the Pyrenees based on my knowledge of the area. The good news is that there are plenty of things to do within a short distance from Lourdes, many of which can be reached by public transport. I also have a list of things to do within Lourdes, if you are looking for something to do within the town itself as well as a practical guide to visiting Lourdes to help plan your stay.
My first visit to this region was in 2013 and I fell in love with the Pyrenees mountains and returned every couple of years after that first trip. In 2019 my wife and I made the decision to move here permanently and finally took up residence in 2021. We both still love getting out and about and discovering new sights of the region and being able to share them with our readers.
If you are visiting Lourdes during the winter months, you will find some of the activities and attractions unavailable or closed. You can expect everything listed here to be available from June to October but outside these months I advise you to check their websites to make sure they are operating. Some of the mountain passes mentioned will be closed from November through May.
So now we will take you through my list of 10-day trip ideas from Lourdes.
1. Discover the historic village of Cauterets
People have been travelling to the spa village of Cauterets for centuries, to bathe in the healing thermal waters of the Pyrenees. In the 1950s the ski industry developed here and today it is a popular year-round tourist destination. I visit Cauterets on a regular basis and love the architecture and grandeur of the buildings. There are numerous cafes and restaurants to grab a bite to eat and relax. From the village, you can head off on one of the many walks in the area or catch a cable car up into the mountains. I also enjoy wandering through the streets and enjoying the mountain scenery.
A little further on from Cauterets is Pont d’Espagne, or the Bridge of Spain that joins France and Spain through the mountains. The bridge was built in 1886 and is classified as one of the Grand Sites of Occitane. It is a popular summer destination and the start of hikes in this area of the national park. There is a chairlift from the car park to take you to Lac de Gaube or you can walk which takes just over an hour.
Cauterets is 32km southwest of Lourdes and it will take you about 30 minutes to drive there. If you don’t have access to a car, the 965 bus has regular services to Cauterets. Pont d’Espagne is 7km from Cauterets and there are shuttle buses from Cauterets village if you arrive by bus. The Cauterets website has lots more information about things to do in this beautiful mountain village.
2. Head underground at the Grottes de Betharram
The Grottes de Betharram is a cave system located 15km from Lourdes towards Pau and another great option for a day trip from Lourdes. The caves were discovered in 1819 and first opened to the public in 1903. Your guided tour takes in 2.8km of the cave system where you will walk, take a boat and finally take a train back to the start. During the tour, you will experience the magical rock formations created by water over centuries.
You can find more information about visiting the Grottes de Betharram on their website.
3. Bathe in one of the region’s historic spas
The thermal waters of the Pyrenees have long since been associated with healing and health. The use of the thermal springs in the region dates back to Roman times. There are various spas that you can visit for a short period and experience the thermal baths.
There are a few spa facilities a short distance from Lourdes if you would like to enjoy some relaxation in the thermal pools. Aquensis is located in Bagneres de Bigorre, 21km to the east of Lourdes, Le Jardin des Bains is located in Argeles Gazost, 14km to the south of Lourdes, and Le Bains du Rocher is located in Cauterets. All three destinations can be reached by bus if you do not have a car for transport.
4. Visit the towns and villages of the Lavedan Valley
Argeles Gazost is a short 15-minute drive from Lourdes and a popular summer destination for cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. It is home to the Parc Animalier des Pyrenees, a small zoo housing over 500 animals including bears and wolves. Each Tuesday morning the local markets spring to life and we are told by locals it is the best in the region. The markets have been operating for over 900 years and run from 8 am to 1 pm. I shop for our produce there regularly and love the atmosphere and fresh local vegetables, cheeses, and meats. Relax in one of the cafes and soak in the atmosphere over coffee or lunch.
A short distance from Argeles Gazost is the beautiful village of Saint-Savin which sits overlooking the valley below. Here you will find the Abbey of Saint-Savin-en-Lavedan dating back to the 10th century AD and the smaller Chapelle Notre-Dame de Pietat de Saint-Savin. Saint-Savin also boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant, Les Viscos if you would like to enjoy some fine dining. I recommend making a booking which you can do online through their website.
On the opposite side of the valley sits the beautiful village of Beaucens. Here you will find the Donjon des Aigles, home to the magnificent birds of prey, some of which call the Pyrenees home. It is housed in a medieval castle with views over the valley. I highly recommend visiting for one of the two daily shows where you will see these magnificent birds flying free.
5. Head for the heights of Pic du Midi
Pic du Midi is an observatory that sits at 2 877m with 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and landscape. You can see it perched on the mountain top all around the Pyrenees. Access is via a cable car from the ski station of La Mongie, 47km southeast of Lourdes. A shuttle service runs from Lourdes if you do not have access to a car. The Pic du Midi website has all the practical information you will need to visit the site.
The adventure starts with the cable car to the top, where you gain just over 1 000m in 15 minutes. The journey takes place in two stages and you switch cable cars at 2 341m for the final push to the top. Once there, marvel at the views, dare to walk out on the suspended bridge, visit the museum or dine in the restaurant. It is possible to stay overnight at the observatory, although bookings need to be made many months in advance.
6. Be awed by the UNESCO listed Cirque du Gavarnie
The Cirque de Gavarnie is a natural rock amphitheatre that is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. The cirque is home to France’s highest waterfall and Europe’s second-highest at 422m. The small village of Gavarnie has cafes and restaurants as well as a range of tourist shops and is the starting point for many of the hikes in the region. It is one of our must-do locations when we have visitors and is a great day trip from Lourdes.
The most popular hike is the one from the village to the auberge (cafe/bar) overlooking the cirque and falls. The return walk is 8km and will take around 2 hours to complete. The trail follows the access road for the auberge and although steep in places is not at all technical. It is possible to walk to the base of the falls from the auberge which will take a further 40 mins in each direction. This section of the trail is much more technical than the first section with steep gradients often on small tracks.
If you have some time we would also recommend driving up to Col de Tentes which is 12km further up the road from the car parks in Gavarnie. From here you can walk through the border into Spain, Porte de Boucharo, a distance of 1.6km. There are fantastic views of the surrounding mountains and a great place to really take in the mountains.
From Lourdes, it’s a 50 km drive to Gavarnie that will take you about an hour to complete. Once through the roundabout at Soulom the road enters the Gorge de Luz and follows the river all the way to Gavarnie. I recommend taking your time and soaking in the atmosphere of the mountains. The 965 bus from Lourdes also runs services to Gavarnie if you wish to take the bus instead of driving.
7. Chill out by the side of Lac d’Estaing
Lac d’Estaing is 29km to the south of Lourdes and is a natural lake with beautiful mountains as a backdrop. A great place to go for a picnic or for a walk. There are two restaurants at the lake if you would prefer to eat out, rather than bring your own. On a still day, you get beautiful reflections in the water of the surrounding mountains so make sure you bring your camera. It’s another regular destination for us and somewhere we bring visitors. A great spot to sit back, relax and soak in the stunning views.
There is a walking track around the lake that is 2.4 km in distance and can be undertaken in under an hour. If you would prefer something a little more adventurous, then consider one of the hikes into the mountains. These are much longer in length and require more experience in walking and hiking. However, it is up to you to decide how far you wish to go.
8. Drive the roads of iconic Tour de France climbs
If you watch the Tour France on TV at home and have marvelled at the mountain passes the riders climb, then why not take a drive and see some of them for yourself? An easy day trip from Lourdes that can be tailored to suit your own time frame. The Pyrenees are home to some of the most iconic climbs of the Tour de France and there are plenty within a short distance from Lourdes for you to visit. Being keen cyclists ourselves we regularly cycle these mountain cols and love their history. On many of the climbs, you can still see the faded paint on the road cheering on various riders. The mountain roads look very different without the thousands of people who line the road during a stage but you can imagine the roar of the crowd.
The most famous climb in the region is Col du Tourmalet. It was first used in the 1910 Tour de France and has been used 87 times since that first ascent. There are two sides to Col du Tourmalet and our suggestion would be to drive up one side and down the other to get the full experience of the mountain. You could also combine this with a visit to Pic du Midi. Col du Tourmalet will feature in the race once again in 2023 for both the Tour de France and Tour de France Femmes.
A short distance from the base of Col du Tourmalet at Luz Saint Saveur you will find the start of the climb to Luz Ardiden. While not as famous as its neighbour, Luz Ardiden has seen many epic battles over the years. It was last used in the 2021 Tour de France. The road leads up to a ski station and once at the top, you return the way you came up. A feature of this climb is the 31 hairpin bends to the summit. Once you reach the top the view back down at the road is one I never tire of.
Heading into the Val d’Azun takes you to the Col du Soulor and onto the Col d’Aubisque. A feature of this road is the breathtaking Cirque du Litor that sits between the two cols. The road is perched on the side of a cliff and features two short tunnels. We regularly cycle the Cirque du Litor and rate it as our favourite road in the Pyrenees.
9. Catch one of Europe’s highest trains at Artouste
Explore the high mountains with this exciting day trip from Lourdes on “Le Train d’Artouste”, one of the highest trains in Europe which run on narrow gauge tracks. The small train winds its way up to an altitude of 2 000m where you can dine in the restaurant or take the short walk to Lac d’Artouste. The experience starts off with a 15-minute cable car ride up to the station at 1 900m before jumping on the train for the 55-minute journey to the top.
From Lourdes, you will need to make your way to the station d’Artouste, a distance of 71km that will take about an hour and a half to drive. There are no public transport options for this day trip. The Artouste website has all the practical information you need about the train including the ability to book your tickets.
10. Swap the mountains for a city day trip from Lourdes
Lourdes is well connected via direct train to a range of destinations giving you the option of a city day trip. It is easy to jump on a train and head to places such as Bordeaux, Toulouse, or Biarritz. While you can drive to all of these destinations, I much prefer relaxing on a train, saving you the hassle of parking and navigating unfamiliar cities. The train will take you directly into the centre of each city and from there, let the exploring begin. This could be a good option if you get a day when the weather in the mountains is not great. It also takes advantage of using Lourdes as a base to explore other cities in France.
I visit Toulouse regularly and enjoy walking around the city centre with the large square, cafes, and cobbled streets. Toulouse is known as the Ville Rose or rose city due to the colour of the bricks used in many of its buildings. The banks of the Garonne River are a favourite of ours and it is a nice place to grab some food and sit and relax. Toulouse is the home of Airbus and it is possible to visit the factory where many of their aircraft are assembled. There is also the Aeroscopia Museum where you can walk inside a Concorde or A380 among others.
From Lourdes, the train trip takes a little under 2 hours. There are regular services throughout the day in both directions giving you plenty of options and time to spend in Toulouse.
A day trip from Lourdes to Bordeaux gives you the opportunity to spend some time in one of my favourite French cities. There is no shortage of things to visit here and you can have a look at our article about things to do in Bordeaux. While the article is focused on doing things by bike in Bordeaux there is plenty that can be done without bikes as well.
The train journey will take 2 hours 30 minutes on a TGV or 3 hours on other services. The first TGV from Lourdes leaves around 7 am getting you into Bordeaux around 9:30 am. There are plenty of services throughout the day for you to choose from leaving you plenty of time to explore Bordeaux.
Bayonne and Biarritz
The Atlantic coast is close enough for a day trip from Lourdes if you feel like some salt air in your lungs. There are direct train services to Bayonne and from there you can connect to another train into Biarritz. The total journey time is about 2 hours and there are multiple services throughout the day in both directions.
I highly recommend a walk along the coast in Biarritz. Its a beautiful location and the views out over the surf beaches is stunning. You can see all the way to Spain as the coast heads south.
More information about the Pyrenees
As well as this article there are a number of other articles about the Pyrenees that you might find interesting. The How to Get to the Pyrenees article outlines the different options for travelling to the Pyrenees. If you are looking for other ideas for things to do, our Things to Do in the Pyrenees article lists more ideas for places and attractions to visit. Finally, we have guides about staying in Argeles Gazost and Luz Saint Sauveur, both are a short distance from Lourdes and could be alternative places to stay.