Southwest France offers many areas of outstanding natural beauty to those who enjoy hiking, biking and generally spending time in the outdoors. If you are considering a trip to France with friends or your family, the Midi-Pyrénées should be a region high on your list of considerations. It offers something for everyone with walks, cycle routes and activities suitable for people of all ages and abilities. Here are just a few of some of the most spectacular sights to see in the region.
Cirque de Gavarnie
A cirque is a theatre-like valley formed by glacial erosion and Cirque de Gavarnie is a spectacular example of one. Located in the central Pyrenees and a stone’s throw from the Spanish border, this is ideal hiking and nature exploring territory for those new to southwest France. Gavarnie is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized internationally as an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Col du Tourmalet
Fans of mountain biking will appreciate Col du Tourmalet, also located in the Pyrenees not far from Gavarnie. This is a popular route for ambitious cyclists offering the highest paved mountain pass in the region. Col du Tourmalet is one of the most famous climbs in the Tour de France and has been included more times than any other pass.
Chateau de Monsegur
From a distance, this looks like the kind of fortress you might expect to find in The Lord of the Rings, positioned high on a rocky precipice and emanating a vibe of forgotten kings and warlords. The fortress itself is now a ruin but one with a complex and far-reaching history. Evidence suggests that the first human settlements here date back some 80,000 years. For those who like countryside walks with some history and archeology thrown in, this site is very much worth a visit.
For the more ambitious mountaineers in your family or group, Vignemale offers the greatest challenge in the Midi-Pyrénées. With the summit at 3,298 meters above sea level, this is the highest of the French Pyrenean mountains. Less experienced mountain walkers can still appreciate the beauty of this territory the flatter parts around Lac de Gaube.
Lac de Gaube
Lac de Gaube, as well as offering its scenic view of Vignemale, is also a great place for walkers who enjoy waterside scenery unspoiled by tourist exploitation such as paddle boats! This is a beautiful natural lake in one of the most stunning regions of southwest France.
Plateau de Beille
Fans of skiing will love the slopes of Plateau de Beille, located just outside the Pyrenees National Park. Opened as a ski resort in 1988, this is a relative newcomer as a skiing destination. If you are planning a trip to the Midi-Pyrénées in the winter or summer months, this is an area worth visiting whether you like skiing or not!
For an outdoors holiday in France, the Midi-Pyrénées has a lot to offer. From magical fortresses positioned high up on rocky mountain tops to sparkling lakes overlooking high mountain peaks; this is nature mixed with history at its very best. For nature lovers of all ages, this is a region that will spark your imagination and remain in your memory for many years after your visit.
About the Author
Mark Bishop is the owner and founder of Pagel Holidays, a specialist family holiday site based near Cahors in southwest France. Pagel offers three child-friendly holiday locations for families looking to enjoy a peaceful and relaxing time in the region. Many families who visit Pagel often use it as a base to explore the Midi-Pyrénées and its many outstanding sites.