Want to visit the Cirque de Gavarnie? We HIGHLY recommend this incredible place as part of your Pyrenees road trip. You don't be sorry!
If you're anything like us, you have a lot of questions about visiting the Cirque. Here, we do our best to answer them.
What is the Cirque de Gavarnie?
The Cirque de Gavarnie is a location in the French Pyrenees. It's a natural semi-circle in the mountains, about 3000m wide at the top and around 1500m high.
A cirque is a natural opening (like an amphitheatre). They're often huge and horseshoe shaped- like this one!
Why visit the Cirque de Gavarnie?
Because it's one of the most beautiful places you will ever see. Ever.
It was truly breathtaking- like something out of a movie.
The Gavarnie Falls are the second highest waterfall in Europe (422m high) and can be clearly seen from miles away! The Falls usually freeze in the winter, (when the whole area is covered in snow) but during Spring, Summer and Autumn you can walk right up to them (if you're well-equipped; more on that later)
Map of the Cirque de Gavarnie
Here's a map, showing the Cirque, parking for motorhomes and cars and where the restaurant/ cafe is, as well as a good picnic spot.
The nice thing with the Cirque de Gavarnie is that it is VERY easy to find everything- there's only one road/ path to take!! 🙂
What is there to do at the Cirque de Gavarnie?
Apart from take a lot of photos, the main reason to visit is to walk. Or hike.
You can walk right up to the cirque and the Falls (but NOT with a dog- see below)
You can also hire horses and donkeys to ride, you can have a picnic by the river and you can admire the beautiful animals and plants which live in the area.
When is the best time to visit the Cirque?
Honestly, I don't think there would be a bad time.
I imagine it would look spectacular in the winter, with snow everywhere. I also think it could be one of the best places in Autumn in Europe– as the colours of the leaves would look amazing. But we feel lucky to have visited in Summer, with the beautiful greens and blue of the sky.
Are dogs allowed at the Cirque de Gavarnie?
Yes. They must be kept on a lead at all times, both due to other visitors and also because some of the paths are on the top of VERY steep cliffs and you don't want them to run off the edge.
You can do half of the hike with a dog (up to the hotel) but NOT into the National Park. There's a large yellow sign warning you where to stop.
Honestly, the walk up to the hotel was more than enough- we are not hardened walkers (especially after 3 months at home due to the pandemic!) and we were quite happy to turn back 🙂 To get to the hotel and back took us about an hour (with several stops for photos and a drink!)
Are there places to stay in Gavarnie?
Yep! Lots. If you're not in a motorhome/ camping-car, there are hotels, hostels, apartments and more.
Can I visit the Cirque de Gavarnie with a motorhome/ camping car/ campervan?
Absolutely! We tour France in our motorhome and you can easily access the Cirque- the roads are not difficult to get there. Our camping-car is 6.8m and there were no problems at all- there were several larger motorhomes at the aire with us. There is a large parking place with great views.
The aire was free when we visited, but it was at the end of the pandemic, so it might be paid in normal times.
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Can children/ elderly persons do the walk?
The beginning of the hike is flat and easy- children and adults of all ages who can walk well can do this and it's very pretty, with nice places near the river for a picnic or a run around.
Once you start the ‘hike' proper, it can be quite steep and is also pebbled. This might be hard for young children or anyone who struggles walking.
Can wheelchair/ pushchair users visit?
For the beginning part where it is flat, yes. After that, no, it's not suitable for wheels.
What about bicycles?
No, these are prohibited too.
Can you drive up to the Cirque de Gavarnie?
No. It's a walk only. You can also hire horses or donkeys at the beginning if you wish. They were closed when we visited so not sure how much they cost.
How much does it cost to visit?
It's FREE to visit the Cirque de Gavarnie. You may need to pay parking in high season, and you may wish to buy an ice cream or food from the Hotel du Cirque (which is actually a cafe/ restaurant.) Sadly, that was also closed when we visited- but the views were incredible!
Of course, if you hire horses or donkeys, there will be a charge for that.
Is it possible to camp?
There are some reports of people who have wild camped with a tent in the National Park, but it is forbidden, so it would be at your own risk.
There is a campsite at nearby Argeles-Gazost
Can you visit the Cirque de Gavarnie on public transport?
Yes, you can get there by bus. You'll find all the details you need here: https://www.valleesdegavarnie.com/summer/convenient/getting-there-and-pubic-transport
Want to rent a vehicle for your road trip?
Here's what you need:
Other things to do near Cirque de Gavarnie
If you're planning a Pyrenees road trip, make sure you add these to your itinerary too:
Col du Tormalet
Yep, we drove up the Col du Tourmalet in our motorhome (camping-car). Yes, it was steep in parts, but it was not as bad as some of the roads we've done. We did it in thick cloud as well, which didn't help! 🙂
Lac de Gaube
This incredible lake is near the Pont d'Espagne (Spanish Bridge). It's either an hour hike or you can take a cable car and then a short walk.
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