A guide to cycling in Pau, Bearn Pyrenees
There is so much great cycling in Pau to explore which makes it a great holiday destination in the Pyrenees. Whilst in the heart of the mountains, this side of the Pyrenean range is just a short distance from both the sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Spanish border directly to the south. Pau is the largest city in the area and if it sounds familiar to you it may be because it has played host to the Tour de France many times. Most recently in 2019 where it was the location for the Stage 13 Individual Time Trial. This page is full of practical information to help you plan a cycling holiday in Pau.
Cycling routes near Pau, Bearn Pyrenees
There are many great cycling route options near Pau in the Bearn Pyrenees. From here you can take on the legendary Col d’Aubisque or Col de Marie Blanque both Hors Categorie climbs that have featured in numerous editions of the Tour de France. Both the Col du Portalet and Col de la Pierre Saint-Martin will see you riding right up to the Spanish border. Then there is the ride to Lac de Bious Artiques – a beautiful man-made lake nestled between huge mountain peaks.
We have mapped out a series of routes and linked them below. Each route includes the ability to download files to a range of devices and includes other helpful information. Some of the routes are a loop so can be ridden in either direction. One thing is certain – each route generally ends with a long downhill return – a great reward for reaching those alpine summits. Click below to see the cycling options from Pau in greater detail.
Getting to Pau in the Bearn region of the Pyrenees
Pau is a great city to base yourself in for a cycling holiday in the Pyrenees. It is also the largest city and the natural gateway to what is known as the Bearn region. There are great public transport connections to Pau by air as well as regular rail services with onward travel available to smaller towns within the area. Rome2rio.com is an excellent site to help plan your trip to this region of the Pyrenees. Simply enter your start and endpoints and it will tell you the different options available, cost range, and timetable. We have outlined the different travel options below which will help you to plan your cycling holiday in Pau.
The main Autoroute to the area is the A10 which connects Pau to Bordeaux and Paris. The trip to Pau from Paris along this route will take approximately 7 hours.
We recommend reviewing the route planning tool on the ViaMichelin website which will also indicate any tolls along the route as well as fuel stations.
Pau is easily accessible by rail. The Gare de Pau station is the central station where all services are connected. The TGV network has regular connections to Pau from both the larger cities such as Paris and Toulouse. The French TER service also operates numerous services connecting to Pau with other larger cities in France such as Bordeaux. In addition to this, local train services operate in and out of Pau station to smaller towns and villages in the region. Our page about the French rail network has more information on the French train network and booking tickets.
Pau is serviced by its own international airport which is conveniently located just a short trip from the city center. There are not many daily flights to Pau but you can fly directly here from a number of European cities. If you are traveling to France from outside of Europe you may you may have to fly to Paris first and then take another internal connecting flight to Pau itself.
There are regular bus services operating to Pau from numerous cities in France. We would point out that taking the bus isn’t the most time-efficient way to travel to the area and that using rail will provide you with a far quicker option if traveling via public transport. If you do wish to travel by bus then we recommend referring to the Get by Bus website which shows you all possible connections to the region.
Cycling friendly accommodation in Pau and the Bearn Pyrenees
Pau and the Bearn region of the Pyrenees is a very popular destination for cycle tourism and many thousands of people choose this area each year for their cycling holiday. As such you will find most accommodation providers are extremely welcoming to cyclists. Here is our list of cycling accommodation in the Pyrenees that includes options in the Bearn region. This style of accommodation caters specifically to guests on a cycling holiday and will include facilities such as secure bike storage, maintenance areas, and bike wash stations. Generally, the owners of these establishments are keen cyclists themselves.
There are plenty of other options available to you if this style of accommodation is not what you are after. To help you plan we have provided links to a number of booking sites so you can see what is available. Have a look at our page on French accommodation types if you are not sure what is available.
B & B
Eating and drinking
There is no shortage of places to eat and drink in the area and we generally turn to tripadvisor.com to look at options for restaurants and cafés or just take a punt on a place that looks nice and busy and is open and serving food. We have yet to be disappointed.
Fresh food markets to explore close to Pau
There are a number of farmers markets in and around Pau that are worth checking out if you have the time. Here you will find lots of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as local cheeses, small goods, seafood and meats. Be aware the majority of the markets listed below are open only in the mornings and many are closed on Mondays.
Times for the markets are listed below:
Arudy – Tuesday and Saturday mornings.
Buzy – Thursday mornings
Eaux Bonnes– Wednesday mornings – July and August only
Laruns – Saturday morning markets. There are also markets held on Thursday evenings during July and August.
Louvie-Juzon – Wednesday mornings.
Oloron – Friday Mornings
Pau – Place du Foirail market – Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday
Pau – Halles and Place de la République market – every day (except Sunday and Bank Holidays)
Bearn Pyrenees gastronomy & food specialties
Every region in France has its culinary specialties and the Bearn region in the Hautes Pyrenees is no different. The food is greatly influenced by Basque culture which is no surprise given its proximity to Spain. It is also the second-highest producer of Foie Gras. Bayonne Ham and Armagnac also originate from this region. Listed below are some of the famous dishes to look out for.
- Garbure– a hearty stew more commonly made with cabbage and ham. Traditionally instead of ham confit d’oie (goose) would be used.
- Poule-au-Pot– Famed to have originated from King Henry IV – a local from the Bearn region – vowing to put a chicken in the pot of every French household on Sunday. The dish consists of a whole chicken, stuffed with Bayonne ham and chicken livers before being cooked in a broth.
- Jambon de Bayonne– A cured ham reigning from the port city of Bayonne.
- Ossau – Iraty Cheese – A locally produced sheep’s milk cheese of the Bearn region. This is one of only two sheep’s milk cheeses in France that have been granted AOC status.
- Le Pastis d’Amelie– A vanilla brioche cake that will delight many a sweet tooth.
- Lo Crespeth – Crispy round doughnuts traditionally found in the region during the Bearn festival. These are definitely worth seeking out.
Bike shops and hire in the Bearn Pyrenees
There are many options for cycle hire in Pau and more broadly in the Bearn region of the Pyrenees. Largely this is owing to the popularity of cycle tourism in this area. In the table below you will find an outline of cycling stores as well as places that offer rental bikes.
If you are looking to hire a bike for your cycling holiday in Pau, we would recommend getting in touch directly with the hire shop and arranging this in advance of your holiday. This will avoid the disappointment of missing out on a rental due to popular demand.
Another tip is to make sure the bike you hire is equipped with gearing which will allow you to climb the mountains with a greater level of comfort. Most road bikes for hire will now come with compact gearing to allow for this, but it is best to be certain!
Lastly, make sure to remember to pack your pedals as you will generally need to provide these for hire bikes. It is also a good idea to consider bringing your own bike saddle as well, as riding on a saddle that you know is comfortable and works for you will help to avoid any potential issues with saddle sores and discomfort.
Best cycling base in Pau and the Bearn Pyrenees region
The Bearn region of the Pyrenees offers up a few great options of places to use as a cycling base. We have listed each city/town below. When compiling this list we have taken into account ease of access to each of the rides, accommodation available as well as other services such as bike hire and eating establishments.
There are of course smaller villages dotted throughout this region which would still make a sensational base for your cycling holiday. We have not listed them below purely as we want to highlight those areas which cater to a broad range of budgets and boast a large number of services by way of accommodation as well as dining options.
The city of Pau is top of the list of places to stay for a cycling holiday in this area of the Pyrenees. There is no shortage of accommodation to suit any budget and it is well connected as a transport hub, having its own international airport and train station. Its proximity to the nearby mountain climbs is also a key reason why the Tour de France visits the city regularly. You will also have a great selection of restaurants, cafes, bistros, and brasseries to choose from whilst in Pau- perfect for sampling the local cuisine regardless of your budget. Discover more about Pau by clicking here.
Like Pau, Laruns has also played host to the Tour de France on numerous occasions. With its location at the base of the climb of the infamous Col d’Aubisque, it makes for a great base for some very memorable riding routes in this area of the Bearn Pyrenees. Laruns also has a range of accommodation providers to suit all budgets. There are also numerous activities on offer from Laruns which will keep you occupied when off the bike. All up Laruns makes for a great base.
Located a further 30km/18.5mi south of Pau is the beautiful town of Oloron Sainte-Marie. Nestled at the confluence of two rivers which then join to form the Gave d’Oloron, the town is well situated in the heart of the mountains. It is the capital of the Hautes-Bearn region of the Pyrenees and has good transport connections with 8 trains operating daily to Pau. It is also possible to catch a train to Spain! Its location at the junction of three valleys also means there are multiple mountain passes that can be reached by bike depending on which route you choose.
Explore these 8 top attractions and activities close to Pau in the Bearn Pyrenees
Whether you want to spend some time off the bikes or have family members that are not keen cyclists, there are plenty of things to do around this area. Included below are just some of our suggestions.
1. A day at the beach
This region of the Pyrenees is just a short distance from the Atlantic Coast. Popular cities such as Biarritz are well connected with public transport making a day trip to the beach an option. Definitely worth considering if you want a fix of salt air, sand, and surf.
When staying in this region you really are in the heart of the mountains. As such there are numerous hikes available to explore. The Ossau valley which is accessible from Laruns is particularly scenic. You can even choose a hike that incorporates a trip to the Pic du Midi d’Ossau Learn more here.
3. Château de Pau
The Château de Pau is one of the main attractions in the city. Built during the middle ages and the birthplace of France’s King Henry IV; the Château is the most visited site in the Bearn region. Guided Tours are run throughout the day beginning at 10:30 am and it is well worth a visit. For more information about the Château de Pau click here.
4. Zip line through the Gorge
If you like activities of a vertical nature then perhaps you’d like to book a zip line adventure through the spectacular Gorges du Hourat. With over 1000m of zip-lining on offer, this one will get your heart thumping. Find out more here.
5. Artouste Train
A fantastic way to appreciate the mountain scenery the Artouste train is a popular tourist attraction. To access the train you first take a gondola from Fabrègas lake which will transport you to an elevation of 1950m. From there the open carriage Artouste Train journey will wind its way along the side of the mountains for 10kms and 55mins later eventually arriving at its destination near Lake Artouste. From there you can enjoy a hike up in the high country before catching the train and gondola back. This is certainly a unique experience. Find out more here.
6. A day with an Artisan
A great experience on offer is to visit some of the many local artisans from the region. Whether it is a visit to the Beret factory, or a trip to the producer of Bayonne ham, these types of activities really leave you with an understanding of what goes into making the goods that the region is famous for. It is also a great way to support the local producers from the area as well. Discover more here.
7. Spa treatment
As with other regions in the Pyrenees, the Bearn is also renowned for its thermal waters. As such it is no surprise that day spas are in operation. If a day of relaxation is what you are after then perhaps you could enjoy a session at the day spa at Eaux Bonnes. The thermal waters here have been exploited for their health benefits since the 16th Century. To see what is on offer click here.
8. Day trips
Bayonne is a short distance away and well suited for a day trip. The capital of the French Basque Country, the cultural influence permeates throughout the city. If you are visiting the area during the heights of summer then also be sure to check out the festival atmosphere on offer during Les fêtes de Bayonne.
The village of Navarrenx is located to the west of Pau. A charming small french village it is a popular spot to visit. Since 2014 it has been listed as one of the plus beau villages des France. The history of The town is evident in the architecture and it holds the honor of being France’s oldest fortified town dating back to the first century AD.
The French city of Biarritz is nestled on the far southwest coast right on the Atlantic Ocean. Famous for its stunning surf beaches and golf courses it is a very popular summer tourist destination and well worth checking out. Find out more about Biarritz here.
We have included some useful websites to help you see what is on offer and plan your cycling holiday in Pau.
Viator.com – book a range of tours and attractions before you leave home
Bearn Pyrenees Tourism – More information about the Bearn region
Pau tourism – includes lots of information about the city of Pau and the surrounding region.
Discover our comprehensive guide to Cycling in the Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is very popular with cyclists who are keen to ride some of the famous climbs of the Tour de France for themselves.
If you are not familiar with what is on offer in the Pyrenees then, our comprehensive guide will help you plan everything you need for your cycling holiday. The guide includes information such as:
- a map of the French Pyrenees with climbs and towns marked
- where to base yourself whist on your cycling holiday
- cycling hotels and lodges
- bike hire outlets
- getting to and from the Pyrenees
- non-cycling attractions and activities in the region
Click here to see a list of cycling routes available in the Pyrenees. We have mapped out over 40 rides across five regions within the Pyrenees mountain range for you to explore.