The best things to do in the Ossau Valley, on holiday in Béarn

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Nestled between the vineyards of Jurançon and the Pic du Midi, the Béarn Valleys extend to the foot of the Pyrenees. The Ossau Valley is a natural setting. It is an exceptional setting for many sports: hiking, cycle tourism, canyoning and rafting, all kinds of aquatic and nature activities... It is also imbued with local traditions and crafts, which you can discover in its authentic villages.


Photos of the article © Guide du Béarn unless otherwise stated


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The most beautiful villages in the Ossau Valley

The Vallée d'Ossau is full of picturesque villages. Some are perched on the mountains and offer breathtaking views of the Pyrenees chain. Others are deep in the valley, in a very pleasant natural environment, between forests and meadows. In any case, you will appreciate the rustic atmosphere of Béarnaise villages. The small local heritage is typical, with pretty churches and austere monasteries. Here are our favorite villages in the Ossau Valley:

  • Sévignacq-Meyracq: a belvedere over the Ossau Valley

This village faces the Vallée d'Ossau and the panorama is absolutely beautiful. Originally, it was made up of two abbeys, founded by the former lords of the place. They were united to form the current village.

  • Laruns: on the banks of the Gave d'Ossau

Laruns is crossed by the Gave d'Ossau. You will take a refreshing stroll along the water's edge. Its alleys are charming, with small authentic shops. Don't miss a visit to the Gabas chapel and the Saint-Pierre church.

  • Sarrance: a stage on the Ways of Santiago de Compostela

Sarrance is on the border between the Vallée d'Ossau and the Vallée d'Aspe. It is a stage of pilgrimage and its religious heritage is worth a detour, in particular the Saint-Norbert monastery or the 18th century chapel.

Learn more Read our article The most beautiful villages of Béarn to continue your visit to these charming villages.


Laruns
Gave d'Ossau

Hiking in the Ossau Valley

The Vallée d'Ossau is a favorite place for family hikes. If some routes have a good drop, there are many that are accessible with children. The mountain paths cross beautiful forests, flowering meadows in spring and the panoramas of the Pyrenees are grandiose. We recommend the following hikes:

  • The Ossau Valley Nature Reserve: It is home to typical fauna of the Pyrenean mountains. It is best known to birdwatchers for its griffon vultures. Its preserved environment is conducive to hiking. Among other things, you can take an 18 km loop, starting from Cauterets.
  • The Pic d'Escurets: A beautiful climb of about two hours, allows you to reach it from the Col de Marie-Blanque. A car park is at your disposal, at the level of the pass. The beginning of the hike will take you through an undergrowth. Then you will cross green and colorful grazing meadows, depending on the season, with beautiful views of the Ossau Valley.

Learn more Our hike on the Pic d'Escurets.


It is a 19 km hike that takes you to Lac de Fabrèges, in the town of Laruns, from the Ayous refuge. At a maximum altitude of 1973 m for 1731 m of negative altitude difference, it is a fairly sporty course.


Pic du Midi d'Ossau
Fabègres Lake

Cycling the mountain passes of the Vallée d'Ossau

The Col du Pourtalet, Aubisque and Marie Blanque are the most famous in the Ossau Valley. They are part of the stages of the Tour de France. They are sporty and require a good level to last over time. But it is precisely the challenge that attracts many cyclists. The most famous passes for cycling are:

  • The Col du Pourtalet: You start from Laruns to reach this pass. This ascent is a great challenge of nearly 28 km for 1279 m of elevation. The climbs are steep and its level of difficulty is high.
  • The Col d'Aubisque: It culminates at 1710 m altitude for an approximate length of 16 km. It is not the length of the course, but its elevation that ranks it among the most difficult.
  • The Col de Marie Blanque: This is the easiest to reach in this selection. It extends over barely 9 km. Its elevation is also lighter! It is therefore perfect for starting your first cycling passes!

Knowing The best mountain passes in Béarn by bike.


Col du Pourtalet  Col du Pourtalet

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Go rafting and canoeing on the Gave d'Ossau

On the Gave d'Ossau, rafting is only available in spring. This sport requires good physical condition and team spirit, but it is very nice to practice with friends. However, it is quite intense.

Canoeing is accessible to all. It is a quieter activity that will allow you to enjoy the incredible environment of the Ossau Valley. You can embark alone or in pairs, even with young children. It is therefore a more family sport than rafting.

Learn more Rafting and canoeing in Béarn.


Rafting on the Gave d'Oloron

Canyoning

The Ossau Valley has 17 canyons! It is therefore the ideal site to practice canyoning. Professionals will show you routes adapted to your sporting level. Some are very simple and look like a ride. Others require practicing rock climbing and being well trained physically. You will discover there natural and preserved landscapes, often inaccessible by the ways. The main canyons are: Arrouges, Besse, Cély, Soussoueou.

Our good plan Discover canyoning at Ossau de l'eau.


Learn more Canyoning in Béarn.


Photo @ Water Ossau

Canyoning all around the region with Ossau de l'eau; Photo credit @ Ossau de l'Eau

Visiting the Ossau Valley with the family

To visit the Vallée d'Ossau in a different way, we suggest you get on the Petit Train d'Artouste. It criss-crosses the mountains and transports you to the very heart of untamed nature. You will have an exceptional panoramic view of the lakes below. It climbs over 10 km, up to 2000 m altitude, which makes it the highest train in Europe!

Learn more Climb aboard the Artouste train, an exotic journey in the Pyrenees.


The Artouste Train © Leslay Williamson

Photo Credit @ Lesley Williamson


The Vallée d'Ossau is a natural site where you will find many family activities. Among other things, the Asson Zoo benefits from the wide open spaces of the valley to take care of unusual animals. It will allow you to observe various species of felines and learn more about their way of life. It is a visit that is as instructive as it is fun. You can see panthers, ocelots, and many other amazing animals!

Learn more Discover the felines at Asson Zoo.


Photo @ Asson Zoo

Photo credit @ Zoo d'Asson


The municipality of Laruns has long lived thanks to pastoralism. It is a tradition deeply rooted in the Pyrenean valleys. More than just a job, it's a way of life and an ancestral passion that is passed down from generation to generation. By visiting the farms or the mountain cabins, you will meet these shepherds, who always live close to their herds.

Find out more : To visit a farm, we recommend:


    Our good plan Take advantage of Cheese Day in October in Laruns to discover the pastoralism and traditions of the Ossau Valley.


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    We hope that this visit to the Vallée d'Ossau and its wonders will have made you want to discover more during your next vacation in Béarn.


    Did you like our article? Find more on the Béarn Guide Blog. Find us on the Facebook page of the Guide du Béarn Pyrénées and also on Instagram @guidebearnpyrenees


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