Cirque de Gavarnie (Pyrenees)
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Cirque de Gavarnie is very gentle for the first 18km of the climb, as you follow the river between Luz-Saint-Sauveur and the village of Gavarnie. From here, however, the road kicks up and the gradient becomes much more challenging - remaining that way until the summit.
Roads & TrafficThe road surface is in very good condition throughout.
The first part of the climb from Luz-Saint-Sauveur to the village of Gavarnie is on a road with some traffic. It is not busy enough to be especially annoying, but expect cars to be passing every minute or so. From Gavarnie there is very little traffic.
Cirque de Gavarnie (also known as the Col de Tentes) is one of the finest cycling climbs in the Pyrenees. It climbs to the border between France and Spain, in the heart of the Pyrenees National Park. Its protected national park status is what has prevented the Tour de France from coming here - the park authorities are understandably concerned about the impact of all the fans and support that comes with the Tour going into an area of such outstanding beauty. Make no mistake though, this is a true Hors Categorie climb.
The climb gently begins by following the river out of Luz-Saint-Sauveur until the village of Gavarnie (the first part of this route is the same as the climb to Cirque Troumouse. Here you continue through a large car park and begin the switchbacks which signal the start of the challenging part of the climb. This is also where the scenery is at its finest; the views are stunning - including of the Cirque itself as well as the majestic high mountains that form a very natural border with Spain.
If you are in the Pyrenees, don't give Gavarnie a miss just because it is not one of the famous Tour de France climbs - it is every bit as challenging and stunning as the very best of what the Tour has to offer. It is also one of the most popular hiking areas in the whole of France.
Cirque de Gavarnie is open as far as the ski resort (at 1740m) throughout most of the year. To reach the top (which is well worth doing) we recommend climbing it between June and October.
Other sidesThis is the only way to climb to Cirque de Gavarnie.
Nearby ClimbsLuz Ardiden
Col du Tourmalet