by Miles Humphrey
With budget airlines flying from the UK cities to many European destinations, it’s no wonder we take the chance to hop over to the continent for short breaks throughout the year. Rome, Paris, Barcelona; the major cities are full of culture and plenty to explore.
But they also have a lot of tourists, and where tourists flock, prices only tend to creep upwards. This year, why not discover some of the hidden Europe?
Choosing to holiday in the Pyrenees is certainly a different option to Paris or Rome, but if you love the outdoors a change of scene can be inspiring. The Pyrenees is a mountain range that forms a natural border between France and Spain, stretching from the Atlantic’s Bay of Biscay to the warmer waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
In fact, it is likely that you would have seen the natural rise and falls of the land if you’ve had a window seat on a flight to the Balearic Islands or the Costa Blanca.
Cheap flights and hire cars:
One of the most appealing aspects of the Pyrenees is that they aren’t too far from home; you could take your car if you wanted to. However, most people tend to take board a cheap flight from the UK to one of the airports in or near the Pyrenees: Pau, Biarritz, Toulouse and Carcassonne.
It is sensible to book a hire car before you leave, perhaps at the same time that you order currency for your trip. This way you can pick up your rental car and get on your way in no time.
Seeing the sights:
Having a car in the Pyrenees is essential if you want to cover a lot of land in a small amount of time. It can get you from point A to point B a lot faster than on two legs, but remember that holidays to the Pyrenees are all about the outdoors.
Depending on the season you can go hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, skiing and plenty more besides. If want to incorporate the relaxation of the beach for at least a day of your trip, focus your stay near the Mediterranean end of the mountain chain for the benefit of warmer waters.
Why the Pyrenees?
Mountain holidays aren’t for everyone, but the Pyrenees are thought to be a lot more forgiving than the mighty Alps. Walkers of all levels can explore the range, with different paths taking routes of different heights.
The GR10 is a 538 mile long hiking path, often best explored in the late spring or early autumn for more favourable weather conditions. Those with more experience (and a head for heights) might instead opt to walk some of the ‘Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne’ – the high route path over the mountains.
The Pyrenees are a great mix of cultures: French, Spanish, Catalan, Occitan, Aragonese and Basque. This combination of cultures leads to a wide range of new cuisines to try, such as the ‘pan con tomate’ (bread and tomato ) native to the Catalonia region.
So not only do you get to see a new part of the world, you can be completely immersed in it to get a feel of real life away from the tourist traps!.