1/ Montagnon lake: at the heart of the Pyrenees
To start, head for the Aspe valley. Get off to a strong start at the Lac du Montagnon, at an altitude of 2,000 metres. The hike around it is accessible to all levels when there’s no snow. Note that it takes around two and a half hours to climb up to the lake, and a little less than two hours to descend. To go further, in an additional half hour of walking, you can arrive at Montagnon d’Iseye, just above the lake, and enjoy a breathtaking view. A word of advice: the best season to see this sublime heart-shaped lake is just after the snow has melted, that’s to say in the spring, between April and May.
2/ Les Aiguilles d’Ansabère: between plains and mountains
Still in the Aspe valley, you can go deeper into the park and arrive at the height of the Ansabère ‘aiguilles’ (‘needles’, so named for their specific shape). This mountain range is known for being a remarkable spot for climbing. If heights don’t bother you, try tackling the little needle known as the ‘Spigolo’ – otherwise, there’s a route to reach the peak of Ansabère on foot, taking around three and a half hours. From there, you’ll enjoy magnificent views which, on a clear day, stretch as far as the Atlantic.
3/ The Cirque de Gavarnie: surrounded by waterfalls
The Cirque de Gavarnie crater marks the bottom of the Pyrenees National Park, on France’s border with Spain. This 90-minute hike is accessible to all, taking you to the highest waterfall in France, at 423 metres. From the village of Gavarnie, follow the Gave river to access the cirque. Once there, you find yourself surrounded by mountains each more beautiful than the last. You can’t miss the power of the great Gavarnie waterfall, which strikes the ground hard right before your eyes. Take a poncho to keep you dry!
4/ La Brèche de Roland: the passage between France and Spain
For this last stage in the Pyrenees National Park, head to a rocky setting 1,300 metres above the Cirque de Gavarnie: the Brèche de Roland. Taking around two and a half hours, the hike is special because to access it, you have to cross a waterfall and a small glacier. From the Brèche you can see the top of the Gavarnie waterfall as well as the Pic du Midi de Bigorre observatory, located around 30km from here as the crow flies. If you want to prolong the magic of the place, wait for the beautiful evening lights and even the stars by booking a bed at the refuge just below the Brèche. Xavier used his tent – but advises other campers to bring a decent roll mat, as there are no grassy plots at this altitude!