Few departments of France offer quite so much character and diversity as Hautes Pyrenees. Here you will find traditional French-shuttered bastide houses, ski/spa resorts and one of the best-known sites of religious pilgrimage, Lourdes. The most spectacular scenery can be found in the mountainous south of Hautes Pyrenees. Vignemale, the Pic du Midi de Bigorre, the Neouvielle and Arbizon ranges and the spectacular Parc National des Pyrenees attract hikers, climbers, cyclists (including the Tour de France) and skiers. One of the best-known ski resorts of Hautes Pyrenees is the village of Saint-Lary-Soulan. Hautes Pyrenees is in the Occitanie
region of France and shares part of its border with Spain
. In contrast to the mountains of the south, the northern portion is largely flat and agricultural. The city of Tarbes is the department’s economic and administrative capital.
Despite its proximity to Spain, this is an area rich in French tradition. The famous French beret originates from this part of France and, just across the border in Pyrenees Atlantiques in the neighbouring region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine
, there is even a museum dedicated to this well-known item of headwear.
The pace of life in Hautes-Pyrénées is gentle and, thanks to the fact that there are on average 2,000 hours of sunshine a year, life is generally lived outdoors, making this an ideal place for families and those who appreciate having the time and space to focus on fitness and wellbeing. Even in the higher altitude towns and villages, summer temperatures regularly reach the mid 20s, and there are distinct seasons, with snow on the mountains in the winter, vibrant spring days and crisp, colourful autumns.
The food is earthy and nourishing with local favourites including cassoulet, a warming bean stew, and aligot, a comforting mash of potato, cheese and garlic. Wherever you travel in Hautes Pyrenees the restaurants and shops offer a plentiful choice of local cheeses and wines, including those from the vineyards of Madiran and Jurançon near Lourdes.
Hautes Pyrenees is easily accessible from European airports. There are flights from London and other major cities to Tarbes-Lourdes airport and the international airport of Toulouse, just across the border in Haute-Garonne
, welcomes more than 9 million passengers a year from all over the world. The chic Atlantic coastal resorts of Biarritz and St Jean de Luz are also within easy reach.
With historic attractions such as the Bridge of Spain, the breathtakingly scenic Troumouse and Gavarnie cirques (both UNESCO world heritage sites), in addition to ski and wellness resorts, traditional bastide villages and unspoilt scenery, it is easy to see why Hautes Pyrenees is such a popular destination for tourists and expats looking for a heady mix of nature, culture and a laid-back way of life.