RSS Feed The Best Places for Cycling in The Pyrenees

The Pyrenees are a vast mountain range, stretching over 400km from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean Sea and spanning three countries. Because of their size it can be quite daunting when planning a cycling holiday to the area. Without knowledge of the area, it can be difficult to know where to base yourself, where the best climbs are and which areas are generally the most enjoyable for cycling.

It may come as somewhat of a surprise for us to say this, as a Spanish based company, but the French Pyrenees are by far the best for cycling. In France there are more climbs, less traffic, the most famous cols and better facilities for cyclists than in the Spanish Pyrenees. That is not to say that the Spanish Pyrenees and Andorra are bad for cycling - because they're not, they are amazing - but the French Pyrenees are just even better.

Below you can find our analysis of all the main road cycling areas for all three countries:

Luz-St-Sauveur (France)

Advantages In our opinion, Luz St Sauveur is the best place to stay in the Pyrenees. The climbs here are so close together that it is easy to do them from one location, or to comfortablye combine several into a longer ride.

Aside from the cycling, it is a lively and picturesque town, with some great restaurants and a couple of bike shops. There are also several excellent valley routes here, following the picturesque Gave du Pau.

Luz is also easily accessible from Lourdes airport/train station.

Disadvantages The only disadvantage is that the road between Argeles Gazost (Hautacam / Aubisque) and Luz St Sauver (Tourmalet) is quite busy with traffic. It's not such a big problem though, and you basically have to ride this road anyway if you intend to climb Tourmalet.

Notable Climbs Nearby Luz Ardiden (1715m)
Col du Tourmalet (2115m)
Hautacam (1635m)
Cirque de Gavarnie (2270m)
Cirque de Troumouse (2092m)
Col d'Aubisque (1709m)
Col d'Aspin (1489m)
Hourquette d'Ancizan (1564m)
Col de Spandelles (1378m)
Cauterets - Cambasque (1356m)

Overall Rating 10/10

Bagneres de Luchon (France)

Advantages On the border of the Haute Pyrenees and the Midi-Pyrenees, Bagneres de Luchon offers a great base for cyclists. From here you can do numerous climbs of different lengths and difficulties, including some of the most famous ascents of the Tour de France.

Luchon is another fantastic place for cyclists. It is a small town, but with good facilities and is lively throughout the year. There is a great variety of climbs here with diverse scenery and of different difficulties. There are also a lot of climbs close together, making it a great location for stringing several together on one ride.

Disadvantages It doesn't reach 10/10 because the climbs are not quite as spectacular as the ones that you can do from Luz St sauveur. The main road to the north (direction of St Gaudens) can be quite busy, and the only alternative route is to climb the Hors Categorie Port de Bales.

Notable Climbs Nearby Col du Portillon (1293m)
Col de Peyresourde (1569m)
Superbagneres (1800m)
Port de Bales (1755m)
Col de Mente(1349m)
Col d'Azet (1580m)
Col des Ares (797m)

Overall Rating 9/10

Saint-Lary-Soulan (France)

Advantages Saint Lary-Soulan is situated mid-way between Luz St Sauveur and Luchon and is another excellent option. There is a good variety of climbs from here, with the area also incredibly popular with hikers.

Star climbs include the Col de Portet and Route des Lacs - both coming in at well over 2,000m altitude. However, there are many other 'supporting' climbs that allow longer circular routes as well.

Disadvantages The main disadvantage to this area is that it is quite an awkward location to get to. Lourdes and Toulouse are fairly close, but still require driving to. Also, a couple of marquee climbs, such as Tourmalet and Port de Bales, are just slightly too far away to do comfortably in a single day ride.

The climbs here also tend to be steeper and more challenging than in some other areas.

Notable Climbs Nearby Route des Lacs (2196m)
Col de Portet (2215m)
Piau Engaly (1870m)
Pla d'Adet (1678m)
Col d'Aspin (1489m)
Col d'Azet (1580m)
Hourquette d'Ancizan (1564m)
Col de Peyresourde (1569m)

Overall Rating 8.5/10

Tarascon-sur-Ariege (France)

Advantages Tarascon is a small town situated on the eastern edge of the Ariege Pyrenees.

Several of the great cimbs of the Tour de France are within easy reach of Tarascon. There are also many smaller cols in the area which you can add in to make a really challenging route. Tarascon is also very easy to get to from Toulouse.

Disadvantages The main valley road from Foix to Andorra is busy. In order to climb Plateau de Beille and Port de Pailheres you either have to go on this road for a short section, or to take the hilly and undulating route directly to the east.

Tarascon as a town is not the most interesting; it is pleasant and has some good hotels and restaurants, but is not quite as lively as Luz St Sauveur or Luchon.

Notable Climbs Nearby Col de Port (1250m)
Port de Lers (1517m)
Plateau de Beille (1790m)
Ax-3-Domaines (1375m)
Col de Puymorens (1920m)
Col de Marmare (1361m)
Col du Chioula (1454m)
Port de Pailheres (2001m)

Overall Rating 7/10

Tardets-Sorholus (France)

Advantages Situated in the western Pyrenees Atlantique region, Tardets-Sorholus (or any of the nearby villages), makes a great base to explore the Basque Pyrenees. The climbs here tend to be steeper and are not as high as in the Central Pyrenees, but it is still an excellent area for cycling.

This region is really beautiful and feels more remote than the Central Pyrenees. There is very little traffic on the roads (watch out for farm animals though) and it is a wonderfully peaceful place to cycle. There are a lot of climbs in the area; we have just listed the four most famous ones, but there are dozens more of varying steepness and length.

Many of the climbs are along small, single track roads where you probably won't meet another person on the whole climb. Although feeling very remote, the area is only one hour from Pau and one and a half hours to the Atlantic Coast by car.

Disadvantages The beauty of the region is mostly in the vibrant green countryside; however, this is a result of the high amount of rainfall in the area. It rains often, including in summer, although there are also plenty of sunny days. If good weather is the number one priority for you, then the Central or Eastern Pyrenees are a safer choice.

Another disadvantage is that there are not many of the really famous cols here. If you want to climb as many of the most well known climbs as possible, then this is not the best region to be based.

Notable Climbs Nearby Ahuski (1080m)
Port de Larrau (1585m)
Col de la Pierre St Martin (1766m)
Col de Marie-Blanque (1035m)
Col d'Osquich (495m)
Col de Somport (1632m)

Overall Rating 7.5/10

Girona (Spain)

Advantages We are often asked about cycling holidays in Girona; a place that has gained a big reputation in the cycling community because of the high number of professional cyclists based there. In our opinion, although There are some nice routes around Girona, there are much better places to be based in the Pyrenees.

This region is really beautiful and feels more remote than the Central Pyrenees. There is very little traffic on the roads (watch out for farm animals though) and it is a wonderfully peaceful place to cycle. There are a lot of climbs in the area; we have just listed the four most famous ones, but there are dozens more of varying steepness and length.

The number one advantage is accessibility. You can fly directly to Girona, unpack your bike and start cycling, with no concerns about awkward transfers. There is also a wide choice of good accommodation in Girona and it is home to some excellent restaurants. The climbs nearby are not especially famous, but there are some picturesque routes and the road surfaces are generally of a very highly quality.

Disadvantages There are very few climbs that you can do from Girona that are over 1,500m in altitude. The gradients also tend to be more gentle than in the French Pyrenees, and so the climbs are quite longer, limiting the number that you can comfortably fit into one ride.

Another big disadvantage is the traffic around Girona itself. Once you are 20km out of the city then it is fairly quiet, but most of the routes in and out of Girona are busy and not very enjoyable for cycling.

Notable Climbs Nearby Els Angels (490m)
Mare de Deu del Mont (1123m)
Rocacorba (970m)

Overall Rating 5/10

La Massana / Ordino (Andorra)

Advantages Andorra has many excellent cycling climbs, with several over 2,000m in altitude. The road surfaces are superb and many of the climbs have little traffic on them, even in the height of summer.

Good accommodation is plentiful and easy to find throughout the summer. We have chosen La Massana as one of the more lively towns in the centre of the country; however, you could stay anywhere in Andorra and still be able to do any of the climbs easily on a day ride.

Disadvantages There are two big disadvantages with being based in Andorra. Firstly, although there are a lot of good climbs, they are close together and some are quite short, so a strong cyclist could easily exhaust the available in climbs in just two or three days.

The other major problem, linked with the above, is that the main road that runs through the country is busy and not very enjoyable for cycling. The borders to both France and Spain are on this road so to do a route outside of Andorra, you will have to ride along the busy road and pass through border controls. The Port d'Envalira - one of the most famous climbs - is on this road and is often busy, particularly when the tunnel is closed.

Notable Climbs Nearby Arcalis (2225m)
Coll d'Ordino (1980m)
Port de Cabus (2328m)
Cortals d'Encamp (2087m)
La Gallina (1910m)
La Rabassa (2020m)
Port d'Envalira (2407m)

Overall Rating 7.5/10