Cycling in the Pyrenees – you’ll never want to leave

Cycling in the Pyrenees for the first time will not fail to disappoint. Home to Tour de France icons such as the Col du Tourmalet, Col d’Aspin, Col d’Aubisque, and many others you will be spoiled for choice. Compared to the French Alps you will find the Pyrenees much quieter with less traffic and the ability to lose yourself in the mountains. Add in the spectacular views all around, and no matter how long you stay you will be left wanting more.

This guide to cycling in the Pyrenees has been designed to give you all the information you need to plan your holiday in this fantastic destination. In it, we include where to stay, where to hire a bike, a list of cycling hotels and lodges, how to get there, and much more. To help plan your cycling we have a list of over 40 cycling routes in the Pyrenees to whet your appetite and download to your device for easy navigation.

We first visited the Pyrenees in 2013 and instantly fell in love with the area and the cycling opportunities it offered. Not only will you find the famous climbs you watch on TV during the Tour de France, but many other climbs that still offer plenty of challenges and take you to parts of the Pyrenees the Tour de France will never visit. Since that first trip in 2013, we have returned here a number of times and ultimately decided to call this part of the world home in 2021. We are still exploring and finding many great new rides to discover which we share on our site here.

We can help plan your trip

Planning a holiday is always great fun but can also be quite time-consuming. As you research more and more you may find yourself with more questions than answers. We offer a range of services to assist people with planning their own cycling holiday to France, ranging from one-on-one calls to answer your questions to a full planning and itinerary service. You can find a rundown of the services we offer on our Travel Planner page.

We first visited France for a cycling holiday in 2013 and returned numerous times before moving here permanently in 2021. Over the years we have traveled by plane, train and hire car with our bikes and learned lots of lessons about visiting France generally as well as traveling around with a bike. We enjoy both road cycling and cycle touring and look forward to being able to help you plan that perfect trip.

A perfect cycling holiday location

For the cyclist, the Pyrenees has everything you could want in a cycling holiday destination. There is a great mix of rides ranging from the icons and challenging mountain passes of the Tour de France to gentler gradients in the valleys. Across the length of the mountains, there are numerous towns and villages for you to stay in, with all the services you need.

The Pyrenees is well connected to public transport including air, rail and bus services. The Tour de France visits the area each year if you choose to visit during the month of July. There are a host of activities other than cycling if you want some days off the bike or have non-cycling members in your traveling group.

A view of the Pyrenees mountains from the top of Col du Soulor

Where to stay in the Pyrenees for a cycling holiday is determined primarily by what climbs you wish to ride. Towns that you can consider include Pau, Oloron Saint Marie, Lourdes, Argeles Gazost, Bagnere de Bigorre, Saint Lary Soulan, Bagnere de Luchon, Foix, Ax les Thermes and Tarascon sur Ariege. Each of these locations has readily accessible climbs nearby for you to ride and you will be spoilt for choice.

Once you have read through our recommendations on where to stay you can look at our destination guides where you will find more detailed information about each of the regions. We also have over 40 suggested riding routes for you to view which include GPX files that you can download to your devices.

Getting your bearings

The Pyrenees are located in the far south-west of France and form the border with Spain. They run 491km from the Mediterranean Sea in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. They are home to numerous peaks reaching over 3,000m with the highest being Aneto at 3,404m. The closest major city to the Pyrenees is Toulouse which is anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 hours by car depending on which part you go to. Pau is the largest town within the Pyrenees and has a population of nearly 80,000 people. The larger population centers including Foix, Lourdes, Tarbes, and Pau sit in the foothills of the mountains and are the major transport hubs in and out of the region. The majority of towns and villages within the mountains sit in the many valleys which run roughly north to south. The valleys slope upwards toward the Spanish border, typically getting steeper the further in you go.

You can see our map of the Pyrenees here which shows where the towns are in relation to the major cycling routes and climbs.

Tour de France

The Tour de France first visited the Pyrenees in 1910 crossing Col du Peyresourde, Col d’Aspin, Col du Tourmalet and Col d’Aubisque in a single 326km (203mi) stage. A brutal effort on largely unpaved roads it was the start of a long history of cycling in these stunning mountains. Since that first crossing in 1910 the Tour de France has been a regular visitor to the region and the Col du Tourmalet has been used 87 times. The Pyrenees and French Alps traditionally take turns in being featured in the last week of the Tour de France where riders have their last opportunity in the high mountains to win the coveted yellow jersey.

Many epic battles have taken place over the years and riding the climbs yourself, you can’t help but imagine the crowd lined roads and the cheering and noise of the fans. If you are planning on visiting the Pyrenees in July, when the Tour de France is in the area, take note of the towns that will be used as start or finish points. Once the route is announced in October accommodation in these towns is quickly snatched up by the teams, journalists, and other people that make up the tour entourage.

Cycling in the Pyrenees

As the snow melts and the weather warms up the skiers are replaced by cyclists who come from across the world to experience the iconic climbs. The cycling season runs from May to October with the busiest period in July and August. Depending on the snow conditions some of the higher mountain passes may open later than May, or close earlier than October. The Pyrenees are well set up for cycling and you will find everything you need from bike hire, bike shops, and accommodation. While everyone knows the climbs made famous by the Tour de France, if you have time there are plenty of climbs you will have never heard of that are equally stunning and tough. There are also options for flatter riding if you feel like an easier day on the bike or have members of your group that are looking for something a little less challenging.

Cycling routes

We have mapped out over 30 different routes across the Pyrenees with files you can download to your device. Our routes cover the length of the Pyrenees and include all the iconic climbs as well as some of the lesser-known ones. You could definitely spend a few weeks in the Pyrenees and not come close to having to ride the same route twice.

The Pyrenees vs the French Alps

The riding in the Pyrenees is very different from that of the French Alps. Here you can expect smaller roads that twist and turn and are often tree-lined on the lower slopes. The gradients on the roads are much more variable which makes getting into a nice rhythm that little bit harder. The area is not as popular as the French Alps which means that there is not as much traffic, especially as you get into some of the more remote areas of the region.

Nearly at the top of the Col d’Aubisque

How to get to the Pyrenees

Getting to and from the Pyrenees is relatively easy using public transport if you do not want to hire a car and drive. While a car will make getting to some parts of the Pyrenees easier, it is definitely not essential. We have hired a car on a number of occasions to get to the Pyrenees but find once there we do not need to use it.

Flying to the Pyrenees

For those looking to fly to the Pyrenees, there are a number of options to choose from. The closest major airport to the Pyrenees is Toulouse Blagnac which is well connected to other destinations within Europe and internationally. Bordeaux airport is a little further away but is also an option to get to the Pyrenees.

Toulouse Blagnac airport is connected to the city via both tram and bus. Travel times on the tram are 30 mins and, on the bus, 20 mins. If you plan to catch a train from Toulouse the bus from the airport is the better option as it stops at the train station. If you are driving to the Pyrenees access to the A64, the main route to the Pyrenees is relatively easy as the airport is on the same side of the city.

Bordeaux airport is connected to the city via bus only. There is a dedicated bus that takes you directly to the train station or a bus that takes you into the city center with multiple stops on the way. The airport sits on the outskirts of the city making access by car straightforward. The A65 is the main route into the Pyrenees from Bordeaux.

Within the Pyrenees, there are smaller airports at Pau and Lourdes/Tarbes. Pau is primarily for domestic flights within France while Lourdes/Tarbes offers European destinations as well. Flights to and from these airports are much less frequent than either Toulouse or Bordeaux but still worth looking at. Both airports sit a short distance from town but public transport is available to get you to where you are going.

Flying with your bike

If you are considering flying to the Pyrenees from within Europe and have your bike with you be mindful that you will have to pay a fee for your bike regardless of the airline you fly with. The fee at present is €50 per leg per bike. If you are flying on an international flight originating outside Europe, you may not have to worry about this fee depending on the rules of your airline.

Catching a train to the Pyrenees

It is possible to catch a train to the Pyrenees and there are multiple daily services from both Toulouse and Bordeaux connecting to destinations across France. Both Lourdes and Pau are on the high-speed TGV network which connects through to Bordeaux. There are train stations in Pau, Oloron Saint Marie, Lourdes, Lannemezan, Saint Gaudens, Foix and Ax les Thermes.

The main rail station in Toulouse is called Gare Matabiau and is located a short distance from the city center. The closest Metro station is Marengo.

The main rail station in Bordeaux is Gare St-Jean and is located a short distance from the city center. You can catch a tram to the station from the city center.

Buses in the Pyrenees

Local bus companies connect the various towns and villages in the valleys and operate multiple services each day. Bus services also run between the Pyrenees and Toulouse if this suits your travel plans better than the trains.

Driving to the Pyrenees

The A64 autoroute runs between Toulouse and Bayonne on the Atlantic coast and is the major road accessing the mountains. There are various exits off the A64 to take you into the different regions of the mountains.

If you are heading to Foix and Ax les Thermes you will need the A61 and A66 from Toulouse.

From Bordeaux, you will take the A62 before turning onto the A65. You will join the A64 just outside of Pau.

Travel times to the Pyrenees

If you are traveling from Toulouse Airport it will take you between 1.25 hrs and 2.25 hrs to drive or 2.5 hrs and 4.25 hrs to catch public transport depending on which part of the mountains you plan to go to. The travel times by public transport include getting to the main train station in Toulouse from the airport which takes about 30 mins.

From the airport, in Bordeaux, the trip by car will take between 2 hrs and 3.5hrs while public transport will take between 4.5 hrs and 6 hrs depending on your final destination. Like Toulouse, this allows a 30 min transfer from the airport to the train station.

If you plan to drive from Paris, the trip will take around 8.5hrs regardless of your final destination. Flight times from Paris are approximately 1.25hrs to Toulouse, Bordeaux, Pau or Tarbes/Lourdes. By train from Paris, the trip will take between 6 and 10hrs. If you are planning on traveling by train from Paris you will need to change trains at least once, and in some instances onto a bus to reach your cycling base.

Useful travel planning websites

We found a number of useful websites to assist in working out how to get from A to B:

Rome2 Rio – allows you to enter your start and endpoints and it will give you a range of transport options with travel times, timetables, and links to booking.

SNCF – this is the official website for the French rail network and will allow you to book rail tickets online

Via Michelin – provides all the details you need if you are planning on driving to the Pyrenees including route options and estimated toll charges.

Google maps – provide routes and travel times for a range of transport options. It also includes options if you are cycling.

A cyclists on the road surrounded by green fields and mountains on the Hourquette d'Ancizan in France

Where to stay for a cycling holiday in the Pyrenees

For a first-time visitor to the Pyrenees choosing a base for your cycling holiday can be difficult which is why we have put this guide together. There are many factors that go into choosing the best base for your cycling holiday in the Pyrenees but the first thing you need to consider are the climbs you would like to ride. To help you make the choice of the best place to base yourself in the Pyrenees we have a list of the more popular climbs at the beginning of each region. We have also included a list of the towns you could consider staying in.

1. Bearn region

Climbs in this region: Col d’Aubisque, Col de Marie Blanque, Col de Soulor, Col du Soudet, Port de Castet, Col du Portalet, Lac de Bious Artigues

We recommend staying in Pau, Oloron Saint Marie or Laruns


The largest city in this region, Pau sits in the foothill of the mountains. From Pau, the ride to either Laruns or Ferrieres is about 40km while the ride to Arette is about 50km. These three towns serve as a base for many of the climbs in this region and you will need to get to them to begin the longer climbs. Being a city of nearly 80,000 you will find a wide variety of places to stay and eat. There are also plenty of things to do off the bike. Pau features regularly in the Tour de France so be mindful of this if you are looking to book accommodation when the tour will be in town. Pau is the major transport hub in the area.

You can catch a train to Bordeaux via the high-speed TGV or into Toulouse on the regional network. Access to the Atlantic coast is also possible by train. The city sits just off the A64 autoroute which will take you to Toulouse or Bayonne and is also close to the A65 which heads north to Bordeaux. The airport at Pau is located just outside the city and offers primarily domestic flights within France.

Oloron Saint Marie

Located 32km south-west of Pau and further into the mountains it is another great option for your cycling holiday base. From Oloron Saint Marie Ferrieres is 46km, Laruns 32km and Arette 18km. Around the town, there are plenty of options still for flatter riding staying away from the more challenging routes. The town has a population of just over 10,000 and has everything you would want for your holiday. There is a train station in the town where you can catch a train to Pau in one direction or Bedous, near the Spanish border, in the other.


The town of Laruns sits at the base of the eastern side of Col d’Aubisque at the end of a valley and 40km to the south of Pau. It serves as the base for plenty of challenging riding in the area. Being in a valley there are fewer options for flatter less challenging routes but the valley itself provides gentler gradients. The town has a population of just over 1,100 and is much smaller than the other 2 options but still has everything you need to make it a great option for your cycling base.

2. Lourdes region

Climbs in this region: Col du Tourmalet, Col d’Aubisque, Col du Soulor, Hautacam, Luz Ardiden, Col d’Aspin, Horquette d’Ancizan, Col de Tentes, Cirque de Tromouse, Col du Spandelles, Col de Couraduque, Col de Borderes, Pont d’Espagne, Cambasque

We recommend staying in: Lourdes, Argeles Gazost or Bagneres de Bigorre

This region is characterized by 3 different valleys, the Val d’Azun, Vallee de Gave, and Vallee de Campan. Lourdes sits just outside all 3 valleys while Argeles Gazost sits in the Vallee de Gave and Bagneres de Bigorre in the Vallee de Campam. We chose these 3 towns as bases because they give you the best access to all the rides in the area. All three towns have everything you need for a cycling base in terms of accommodation, places to eat and drink, bike hire and shops as well as other activities off the bike. All the towns are accessible by public transport and easy to get to without the need for a car.


The town is situated 20 km southwest of Tarbes and has a population of 13,500. It is a popular tourist destination with over 5 million visitors each year who come for religious and pilgrimage purposes. Lourdes is well connected to transport with air, rail, bus, and car all options. Lourdes is on the TGV network with multiple services each day to Bordeaux. Regional trains will take you to Toulouse in one direction and Bayonne in the other.

Argeles Gazost

Sitting in the shadow of the imposing Hautacam, Argeles Gazost is 13km from Lourdes and has a population of 3,000. It is a popular summer tourist location and the town is always full of cyclists and hikers. Local buses and taxis run from here to Lourdes to connect with other transport options. The Tour de France often passes through the town as riders make their way off the Col du Soulor and onto Col du Tourmalet or other climbs.

Bagneres de Bigorre

Sitting on the road leading to both Col du Tourmalet and Col d’Aspin, Bagneres de Bigorre is 21km to the southeast of Lourdes and has a population of 7,500. Like Argeles Gazost it is a popular summer tourist destination and a regular feature in the Tour de France. It is connected to Lourdes by bus and taxi.

A cyclist stopped on Col de Tentes looking at sheep

3. Saint Lary Soulan Region

Climbs in this region: Col d’Aspin, Horquette d’ Ancizan, Col de Azet, Col de Perysourde, Col de Portet, Pla d’Adet, Route des lacs

We recommend staying in Saint Lary Soulan

This region is characterized by a single valley running broadly from the town of Lannemezan near the A64 all the way to the Spanish border. Saint Lary Soulan sits 40km to the south of Lannemezan and has a population of 900. It is a popular ski destination in the winter months and as such has plenty of accommodation options for you to choose from. The closest train station is Lannemezan and there is a bus service that runs regularly between the two towns.

4. Bagneres de Luchon region

Climbs in the region: Col de Perysourde, Col de Mentés, Port de Balés, Superbagneres, Col de Portet d’Aspet.

We recommend staying in Bagneres de Luchon

The town of Bagneres de Luchon sits close to the Spanish border and has a population of 2,500. The town has a rich history with cycling and was the start location for the very first stage of the Tour de France held in the Pyrenees in 1910. It regularly features as a stage start or stage finish location. Bagneres de Luchon is well set up for cycling and there are plenty of mountains to challenge you within easy reach. The closest rail station is 38km away in Gourdan-Polignan where you can travel to Toulouse in one direction or Lourdes, Pau, and Bordeaux in the other. Bus services connect the train station to the town.

5. Ariege region

Climbs in the region: Col de Pailheres, Ax 3 Domain, Plateau de Beille

We recommend staying in Ax les Thermes or Foix

This region is closest to the Mediterranean Ocean and not far from both Andorra and Spain. It is the closest region to Toulouse and offers plenty of riding options for you to enjoy.


The largest town in this region, Foix has a population of 9,500. It is well connected to Toulouse by train and has everything for the cyclist. The town sits on the outskirts of the Ariege National Park and you will find plenty of riding options here. Like the other areas, the Tour de France is a regular visitor to this part of the Pyrenees and Foix has been used as a start and finish location on numerous occasions.

Ax les Thermes

The village of Ax les Thermes sits in a valley within the mountains. It is a small town of 1,200 and connected to both Foix and Toulouse by rail. Despite its small size there are plenty of places to choose from to stay and everything you need for a holiday. The ski resort of Ax 3 Domaine overlooks the town.

Destination Guides

We have created destination guides for each of the regions we have listed here. In the guides, you will find more information to help you with the next steps in booking your cycling holiday in the Pyrenees. Included in the destination guides are:

  • Cycling-specific hotels and lodges
  • Bike hire outlets
  • Activities you can do off the bike
  • Links to the riding routes

If you have any questions about where to base yourself in the Pyrenees please feel free to contact us at