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Walking in the Pyrenees France French Holidays

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Walking in the Pyrenees is of course an extremely popular activity. The GR10 route takes you 700 kilometres from the Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean coast. Following much the same line but over more tricky terrain, the Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne (HRP) is not for the faint hearted.

Walking season is from mid June to late September as, for much of the rest of the year, the mountains are covered in snow. Walking in the Pyrenees must be taken seriously because weather conditions are erratic, often leaving walkers stranded in a storm when they least expect it. Proper preparation is therefore vital if you are to enjoy your walk: follow the weatherweather forecasts with a devotion worthy of a Lourdes pilgrim; take water, food and good maps with you; and don't overdo it! If in doubt, turn back the way you came rather than getting lost. Guidebooks are available in French and English or, for more expert advice, call Randonnées Pyrénéennes on 05.62.90.09.90 or write to them at 4, rue Maye Lane, 65420 Ibos.

In the central Pyrenees, the Parc National des Pyrénées Occidentales runs for around 100 kilometres along the Spanish border. The park was created in 1967 in order to protect this area of extreme natural beauty from the damaging effects of tourism. You only have to look at some parts of the AlpsAlps to see how ski resorts, car parks, ski lifts, picnic areas strewn with rubbish and illegal camping have harmed nature. Thus the Parc National des Pyrénées protects the two hundred or so lakes, dozen valleys, forests, streams, flowers and wildlife from such damage. The wildlife is further protected by the ban on hunting and dogs, which means that extremely rare animals such as the golden eagle, or the even rarer brown bear, can be spotted from the peaks. Some of these peaks measure up to 3000 metres, especially in the area around Cauterets, and are a very impressive sight indeed. Lower down the slopes, the flowery meadows around Barèges are good for a lighter stroll for those of you who would rather leave the ice picks and compasses at home.