2015 Tour de France: The Pyrenees from north to south
The day before Bastille Day on 14 July, the 2015 Tour will take up residence in the Pyrenees for three stages in southwest France. Separating France and Spain, the Pyrenean chain forms an imposing natural barrier extending across a distance of 430km from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. A place where the backdrop of pristine nature offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy mountain hikes, visit towns and villages teeming with character, explore underground caves and chasms, as well as discover the beauty of the Basque coast.
Rest day (Monday 13 July): Pau
Stage 10 (Tuesday 14 July): Tarbes > La Pierre-Saint-Martin (167km)
Stage 11 (Tuesday 15 July): Pau > Cauterets Vallée de Saint-Savin (188km)
Stage 12 (Thursday 16 July): Lannemezan > Plateau de Beille (195km)
Pau (Pyrénées-Atlantiques / Aquitaine)
In Pau, you’ll find yourself at the gateway to the Pyrenees. The birthplace of Henri IV, Pau is justifiably proud of its château and famous medieval fortress, from which it has taken its name. Wander through the narrow streets of the old town, lined by beautiful old houses, before making a stop at the jam museum (Musée de la Confiture). For a unique view of the Pyrenees, head for the Boulevard des Pyrénées.
Things to do around Pau
- Go hiking in the magnificent Ossau valley, where you’ll see lots of cows, sheep and horses (50min drive).
- Get to know the Basque country in Bayonne (1hr 10min drive).
- Watch the surfers along some of the finest beaches of the Basque coast in Biarritz (1hr 15min drive).
Tarbes (Hautes-Pyrénées / Midi Pyrénées)
Tarbes is a pleasant and attractive town just 40km from Pau with numerous opportunities for strolling through its gardens (including the Jardin Massey and the English garden) and streets, along which you’ll discover a number of fascinating museums and religious buildings (Gothic-style Saint Jean church, Sède cathedral etc).
Things to do around Tarbes
- Visit Lourdes, a major Catholic pilgrimage site and famous around the world for its Notre-Dame de Lourdes sanctuaries. Every year, millions of pilgrims visit the Massabielle grotto where the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared to Saint Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 (25min drive).
- Take a ride on the Pic du Jer funicular railway and enjoy spectacular views of Lourdes, Tarbes, Pau, the Argelès-Gazost valley and the surrounding Pyrenean peaks (30min drive).
- Do some star-gazing at the Pic du Midi de-Bigorre observatory, at an altitude of 2,877m (1hr20min drive).
- Admire the Cirque de Gavarnie, a geological wonder created from glacial-style natural formations. The grey, ochre and pink-hued limestone landscapes here have experienced upheavals over the millennia and now rise to altitudes in excess of 3,000m (1hr35min drive).
La Pierre-Saint-Martin (Pyrénées Atlantiques / Aquitaine)
On 14 July (Bastille Day), the peloton will arrive in La Pierre-Saint-Martin, a mountain resort that even in summer offers plenty of activities for visitors: summer tobogganing, mini-golf, botanical walks, a hike along a discovery trail through the Braca forest etc.
Cauterets (Hautes-Pyrénées / Midi Pyrénées)
Riders will arrive in this small mountain spa town surrounded by myriad waterfalls which will provide an orchestrated spectacle along the Pont d’Espagne road, in particular in front of the Lutour and Ceriset waterfalls.
Things to do around Cauterets
For those who like higher altitudes, these famous, vertiginous passes synonymous with the Tour de France will provide stunning views that will take your breath away in the resort of Hautacam (where you can also try summer tobogganing), at the Col du Tourmalet and the Col d’Aspin (25min, 1hr and 1hr25min drive respectively).
Plateau de Beille (Ariège / Midi Pyrénées)
For the sixth time, the Plateau de Beille will be a host town on the Tour de France. Nearby, you’ll find two caves that are worth visiting:
- The Grotte de Lombrives, the largest cavern in Europe with 39km of galleries (45min drive).
- The Grotte de Niaux, with its huge underground chambers, including the Cathedral Chamber and Satan’s Chamber (55min drive).
Lannemezan (Hautes-Pyrénées / Midi Pyrénées)
Situated to the southwest of Tarbes, Lannemezan is the start town for the 12th stage of the 2015 Tour de France. Here, you’re in the heart of moorland carpeted in heather, halfway between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
Things to do around Lannemezan
- Head back 27,000 years in time with a visit to the Grottes de Gargas (25 minutes drive).
- Hike in the Domaine des Dieux, where you can admire the highest Pyrenean peaks such as the Pic du Midi de Bigorre (1hr drive).