Five ways to cross the Pyrenees

Here are five ways to cross the Pyrenees to reach Spain and its landscapes of olive trees, volcanoes, canyons and ocher cliffs.

By the Esnazu pass, in the footsteps of kintoa

Passing through the green valley of the Aldudes, as big as a pocket handkerchief, is really to sink into the Basque Country.

The road begins with a long, dark and humid defile to Banca, the first village. You have to get to Aldudes to see the horizon open up: green hills and valleys dotted with thick trees where herds of Manex, red and black sheep graze. It is here that you have to taste the ossau-iraty, the Banka trout with fine flesh and the pig, the kintoa, a name inherited from a tax, the quinta, which had to be paid in the 13and century, the peasants of the valley to access the mountains.

We then cross the Pyrenees via the Col d’Esnazu following a winding road before descending into Spain, towards Pamplona. There, you have to take advantage of the capital of Navarre then go to Alzuza to visit the Oteiza Museum. Built around the house-workshop of the Basque sculptor, it houses a large part of his work.

From Bayonne, take the direction of Saint-Etienne-de-Baïgorry (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), then follow the D58 to the Col d’Esnazu and the N135 to Zubiri, then Pamplona and Alzuza.

Via the Col du Pourtalet, in the shadow of Jean and Pierre

The Cirque d'Anéou and the Pic du Midi d'Ossau, seen from the Col du Pourtalet.

En route to the Ossau valley, which you go up to Pourtalet (1,794 meters). Up there, when the two peaks of the Pic du Midi d’Ossau (2,884 metres), nicknamed “Jean-Pierre”, come to light, it’s magical. A legend says that two shepherds called Jean and Pierre would have been petrified by witches… From the pass, you can approach it by climbing to the refuge of Pombie. Two hours of walking to enjoy an exceptional panorama before descending and taking the road south.

In Biescas, on the other side of the border, you can choose to head for two other marvels: to the west, the grandiose landscape with golden reflections of the Mallos de Riglos, 300 meter high cliffs overlooking the village of Riglos; to the east, that of ordesa canyona long glacial valley that can be traversed by taking its fajaspaths carved into the walls lined with trees and broom.

From Pau, follow the D934 towards Laruns and the Col du Pourtalet, then the A136 and the N260 to Biescas (for Ordesa) and Sabinanigo (for the Riglos).

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