The Lourdes region offers many ride options and being in the valley means your rides always finishes with a downhill or flat run. This region incorporates the towns of Lourdes, Argeles Gazost, Luz Saint Sauveur and Bagnéres-de-Bigorre.
We have focused on the larger towns and villages in the region where there is a good range of accommodation, restaurants and services. It is not to say these are the only options and there are plenty of smaller villages in the area such as Saint Savin and Pierrefitte Nestalis you may wish to consider.
This area has perhaps the broadest range of riding to do. We spent a single two week block here on one of our visits and did not ride the same route twice. There is something for everyone here from a gentle rail trail to the famous cols of the Tour de France. We have put together a list of routes to help with your planning. Each route includes the ability to download files to a range of devices and includes other helpful information. The majority of the routes start and finish in Argeles Gazost but can be easily ridden from most of the other towns listed below or modified to suit your requirements.
Lourdes is the natural gateway to the region and is well served by regular air and rail services with onwards connections to other destinations along the valley by bus or taxi. Rome2rio.com is an excellent site to help plan your trip to the Pyrenees. Simply enter your start and end points and it will tell you the different options available, cost range and timetable.
If you are flying internationally to the Pyrenees both Bordeaux and Toulouse are the closest international airports to this area. Depending on the airline you fly you may have to fly to Paris and then make your way down by car, train or air. There are two airports to choose from in the Pyrenees, one in Lourdes and one in Pau that offer a range of European services. From Pau you can connect to Lourdes via train. See our airports page for further details on these airports.
Lourdes is well serviced by both the TGV (Bordeaux only) and RER (Bordeaux and Toulouse) trains and there are a number of daily services to both Bordeaux and Toulouse. Our page about the French rail network has more information the French train network and booking tickets.
The main Autoroute to the area is the A64 which runs between Toulouse and Bayonne. It is located 16km north of Lourdes. From Lourdes Toulouse airport is 2hrs 15min, Bordeaux airport 2hrs 50mins and Paris Charles de Gualle airport 8hrs.
A bus service runs from Lourdes up the valley to both Cauterets and Gavarnie offering an alternative to needing your own car if you feel like a day or two off the bike or to get to your destination. This is handy for any non-cyclists in your group who can explore the region while others are out cycling. If you are heading to Bagnère de Bigorre the bus runs from Tarbes rather than Lourdes. You can either catch a bus or train between Tarbes and Lourdes.
Being a popular cycling destination there are a number of accommodation options that cater specifically for the cycling market. Typically these establishments provide secure bike lock up and maintenance areas, bike wash down area, special catering and of course plenty of local advice on conditions and where to ride. A number of these places also operate tour style businesses where you stay in the one place and ride set routes each day which are fully supported.
To help plan you stay we have included a list of the cycling specific accommodation options below.
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.
There are 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.
There are a number of weekly farmers markets in the region 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. Times for the markets are:
Lourdes – Thursday morning
Argeles Gazost – Tuesday morning
Pierrefitte Nestalis – Saturday morning
Cauterets – Friday morning
Luz Saint Sauveur – Monday morning
Bagnére de Bigorre – Saturday morning
The markets will typically start between 7am and 8am and run through to lunch time or until sold out. The markets are held in town squares and are easy to spot. Lourdes also has an undercover market know as the Halles of Lourdes located in Place du Champ Commun. It runs from Monday to Saturday starting at 6.30am and finishing at 1pm.
Every region in France has is culinary specialities and the Pyrenees is no different. Some things to try include:
Gâteau à la broche – a spit fired cake traditionally cooked over an open fire.
Brebis cheese – a cheese traditionally made from sheep’s milk. There can be many variations in flavour and texture from village to village so try a few different ones.
Porc Noir de Bigorre – pork meat from the Gascon Noir De Bigorre pigs, the oldest breed of pig in France. It has been granted Appellation d’origine côntrolée (AOC) status meaning only meat from these specific pigs in the Pyrenees can be called Porc Noir de Bigorre.
Barege-Gavarnie Lamb – meat from sheep that roam the high pastures in the mountains it has also been granted AOC status.
Like the south west of France expect to see plenty of duck and goose on the menu including confit and other dishes as well as plenty of fresh local fruit and vegetables.
There are many options for cycle hire in this part of the Pyrenees. Largely this is owing to the popularity of cycle tourism. In the table below you will find an outline of cycling stores as well as places which offer rental bikes. You can sort the table via location to find the one most suitable for you. Be sure to double check that the store you select is not too far from where you are staying.
If you are looking to hire a bike for your cycling holiday we would recommend getting in touch directly with the hire shop and arranging this well 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!
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 some of our suggestions.
People have been travelling to this area to enjoy the many thermal spas for hundreds of years and you will find spas in many of the towns offering a range of treatments and pools. Also a great idea after a hard day on the bike. We have compiled a list of some of the spas you may wish to visit, click on the name to access their web site.
Thermes Barèges – Barèges
Thermes Cauterets – Cauterets
Les Bains du Rocher – Cauterets
Thermes de Luz Saint Sauveur – Luz Saint Sauveur (note this is just outside the town at the base of the Luz Ariden climb)
Les Jardine des Bains – Argeles Gazost
Thermes Argeles – Argeles Gazost
There are two animal parks for you to visit. The Parc Animalier des Peyérénees is located in Argeles Gazost and is home to a range of animals including bears, wolves and birds. The Donjon des Aigles is located in the village of Beaucens and show cases birds of prey including vultures, eagles and falcons.
There are a number of “must see” attractions in the region that you could add to your list of things to do. The Pic du Midi observatory sits at an elevation of 2,877m above Col du Tourmalet. It is accessed by cable car from the ski resort of La Mongie and has commanding views of the surrounding mountains. A shuttle service also runs from Lourdes.
The Cirque de Gavarnie is on the UNESCO world heritage list and is home to the second highest waterfall in Europe. The massive rock walls rise up to 1,500m above the cirque floor creating an amazing rock amphitheatre of peaks reaching over 3,000m above sea level.
Pont d’Espagne is a stone bridge that used to connect France and Spain and is accessed from the town of Cauterets. From here you can access beautiful mountain streams and lakes and of course the stunning mountain scenery.
For something a bit different there is also the possibility of some day trips away from the mountains. From Lourdes it is easy to jump on a train and head into Toulouse for the day or in the other direction to Bordeaux and sample the regions famous wines. The town of Biarritz on the Atlantic coast can also be accessed by train.
If you are looking for transport options for your day trip we find the rome2rio.com site provides all the details you will need to help you plan your excursion.
The city of Toulouse is a great option for a day trip.
As you can see, there is no shortage of other activities in the mountains for your consideration also. Whether it be mountain biking, paragliding, white water rafting or rock climbing there is no shortage of things to see and do.
The largest town in the region, Lourdes is famous for the millions of pilgrims who come each year to visit the Sanctuary of our Lady of Lourdes where, it is said, the waters have special healing properties. The town sits at the foothills of the Pyrenees on the banks of the Gave de Pau and has great views up the valley to the mountains. Lourdes is well serviced with banks, supermarkets, doctors, chemists and car rental.
Located 13km from Lourdes, Argeles Gazost is a great base for cycling in the Pyrenees. The town is well serviced by bike shops, accommodation and other facilities and is often visited by the Tour de France. During the summer months the town is full of cyclists, hikers and holiday makers giving it a great atmosphere
Sitting in the valley between Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden, the village of Luz Saint Sauveur is another great option to base yourself in the mountains. The town is a hive of activity in both the winter and summer months and there are plenty of cycling and non-cycling activities to choose from. Located 29km from Lourdes it is connected by bus and taxi.
The spa town of Cauterets sits up in the mountains serving the both the winter skiers and summer walkers, mountain bikers and cyclists. The town is renowned for its thermal springs and 19th century architecture and is well worth a visit even if you don’t plan to stay here. There are plenty of things to do and see all year round. Cauterets is located 30km from Lourdes and is connected by bus and taxi.
Image courtesy of Florent Pécassou / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
Another of the region’s spa towns Bagnéres de Bigorre sits at the foothills of the mountains on the river Adour and only 13km from the base of the eastern side of Tourmalet. Access to Col d’Aspin and Hourquette d’Ancizan is much closer from here than the other towns listed. There are plenty of things to do and see around the town. It is located 22km from Lourdes and 23km from Tarbes. Direct buses run from Tarbes which is connected to the TGV and RER train network.
We have included some useful web sites to help you see what is on offer and plan your trip.
Viator.com – book a range of tours and attractions before you leave home
Lourdes tourism – includes lots of information about Lourdes and the surrounding area
Vallees de Gavarnie – information covering Argeles Gazost, Barèges, Cauterets, Gavarnie and more
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