After your little Aragonese adventure, leavie the Spanish Pyrenees, which are devoid of Pyrenean mountain streams, to encounter one of the most beautiful lakeside views in the mountains. Take the Mountain Lakes Route to reach the Neouvielle National Nature Reserve. The day's journey ends at Balnéa by the Lac de Génos-Loudenvielle, where you can bathe outdoors in naturally warm and soothing spring water, your eyes fixed on the peaks of the Pyrenees that reach an altitude of more than 3,000m.
Ainsa - Orédon lake car park• 67 km / 1h23
Head north out of Ainsa towards France and the Bielsa-Aragnouet tunnel. Go through the tunnel and take the D173 to Saint-Lary. Go through Aragnouet. At Fabian, turn left onto the road to the lakes.
Orédon lake car park - Loudenvielle • 32.9 km / 1h07
Leave the Lac d’Orédon car park and head for Fabian. At Fabian, turn left towards Saint-Lary-Soulan. In the village of Sailhan, turn right and follow signs for Col de Val Louron-Azet. Go over the pass and continue down to Genos (16km / 21 mins). From there, follow signs to Loudenvielle and Balnéa (2km / 3 mins).
The Cap de Long dam
" This dam is one of the largest water reservoirs of the Pyrénées. It is like a real fjord and is surrounded by the cliffs of the Pic de Néouvielle. "
This enormous dam is more than 100 metres high and forms one of the biggest reservoirs in the Pyrenees. Like a veritable fjord, it is surrounded by the cliffs of the Pic de Néouvielle. Forty kilometres of underground galleries carry water from the barrage to the Pragnères hydroelectric power station in the neighbouring Gavarnie valley. It took seven years (from 1946 to 1953) and more than 6,000 workers to construct this extraordinary structure.
On the road that goes down from the tunnel, after going through Aragnouet and just before you reach Fabian, follow the D929 to Cap-de-Long.
The Mountain Lakes Route
" This wonderland is an absolute must-see. "
The Neouvielle National Reserve Turn round at the Cap-de-Long dam. Take the first left towards Orédon onto the highest mountain lakes road in the Pyrenees. This takes you to the Lac d’Orédon (1,849m), Lac d’Aumar (2,198m) and Lac d’Aubert (2,150m). You are on the edge of the Pyrenees National Park, at the heart of the Néouvielle National Nature Reserve. How many are there? Several dozen? A hundred? No one has ever been able to count the lakes in this nature reserve. Their green and turquoise blue waters are scattered across the countryside. A small wonderland that is definitely not to be missed.
From 1 June to 30 September private vehicles are unable to access lakes Aumar and Aubert between 9.30am and 6.30pm, in order to protect the area. Leave the car at the Lac d’Orédon car park. From 9.30am - 6.30pm shuttle buses run every 30 minutes for the 15-minute trip to Lakes Aumar and Aubert. There is a commentary and description of the area during the trip. Traffic is permitted all day on the downward route.
The lakes circuit
string of lakes and pools amongst mountain pines, rhododendrons and granite rocks.
From the Lac d’Orédon car park (1856m) take the path that leads up to the left of the road that runs alongside the lake. The path goes through a pine wood before meeting the Col d’Aubert road at a bend (45 mins). Take the path to Les Laquettes on the left. The path goes through scrubland before it reaches the first of the Laquettes. A beautiful and astonishing landscape opens out before you with the Laquettes strung out like dabs of azure surrounded by cropped grass and mountain pines. A little paradise. At the end of the Laquettes, the path rises to the right to reach Lac d’Aubert (2,150m) and its surprising peninsula. To reach the next lake, follow a wide path towards the car park. And you’re there. Splendid. Lac d’Aumar (2,198m - 1½ hours) is laid out surrounded by close-cropped grass beneath the Pic de Néouvielle. After walking for 1½ hours you might decide to take the shuttle bus back to Lac d’Orédon. If you want to walk back, follow the path along the right bank of Lac d’Aumar until you get to the spillway and cross the footbridge. Carry straight on through the Passades d’Aumar pine forest towards Col d’Estoudou (2,260m). Just before the pass, turn right and go down through the forest to the mountain refuge, then on to the Orédon car park (3 hours 45 mins).
Takes: 3 h 45 mins • Climb : 300 metres • Level : easy • Start and finish : Orédon lake car park.
Col (or Hourquette) d'Aubert
" A stunning panorama, a beautiful blend of verdant greens and turquoise blues. "
Take the waymarked path (Sentier de la Hourquette d’Aubert) which goes around the north-eastern side of Lac d’Aubert. At an altitude of 2,498 metres, this pass offers stunning views of the greens and turquoise blues of the lakes and Laquettes surrounded by pine forests and grassy clearings. On the other side, you will also find a fantastic view of the Barèges valley.
Takes: 3h (round trip) • Climb: 350 metres • Level : medium • Start and finish: Aubert lake (accessible by shuttle bus from the Orédon lake parking).
The Col de Val Louron mountain pass
At the top the road passes through vast pastures, a favourite take-off point for paragliders and hangliders. Around Sailhan, before having passed the original marble fountain adorned with four water troughs, it is time to cross into the Louron Valley!
" The view from the waters is of 3000m peaks dressed like a wall as if to protect the quiet of the valley. "
The premier spa centre in the French Pyrenees
Finally, you can slide into the beneficial waters of Balnéa. In front of you, the peaks and mountain passes rise to an altitude of 3000 metres, like a high wall designed to preserve the peacefulness of this secret valley. You can gaze at it whilst luxuriously immersed to your shoulders in the warm waters of Balnéa's outdoor pools. As night falls, the villages of the valley light up one by one like the bulbs on a string of fairy lights each reflected in the lake. You could stay there forever.
2 hour pass. Massages by reservation.
On the shore of the Genos Loudenvielle lake • www.balnea.fr
The Genos Loudenvielle lake
" Take the time to climb to the towers of Genos and Loudenvielle to enjoy the view."
A pleasant walk along the banks of the Lac de Génos-Loudenvielle.
La boucle du lac :
A circular walk lasting at most an hour which is almost entirely on the level. But don’t forget to climb as far as the Guet de Génos and Loudenvielle towers to enjoy the view. There is a legend that there is an underground passageway that links the two.
Yellow waymarkings • Takes : 1 1/2 hours
Evening and night in Loudenvielle
The Hautes-Pyrenees holiday shop proposes you a small selection of very favorite accommodations in Loudenvielle and surroundings. For more choices, contact directly the Shop to 05 62 56 70 00.
A great find
" A real institution in this village! "
« Chez Roger », Bistrot de Pays at Loudenvielle
A veritable institution in this village! Open continuously since 1930, first run by ‘Lulu’ Rogé, then by Josette, her daughter. You will also meet grand-daughter Claire and great-grand-daughters Laura and Flavie. Holiday-makers and villagers, everyone meets here for a drink, to play the card game belote and to sing Pyrenean folksongs.
11 chemin de Clarabide – 65510 Loudenvielle.
Worth the detour
" The secret valley of Pineta: a pleasant stop and is surrounded by grandiose scenery. "
- The village of Mont and its Roman chapel (classified as an historic monument)
Get a little higher by following the road over the Col de Peyresourde. Villages are spread out along the route. Each of them harbours an astonishing Roman chapel, a precious treasure with splendid frescos painted to thank God for the lucrative trade in leather and wool between this French valley and its Spanish neighbour after the discovery of the New World. Choose Mont, a delightful village with 20 inhabitants and an outstanding view. Its church is the only one to have an outdoor fresco representing the last judgement and which has valiantly resisted the ravages of time. The interior is also covered with wonderful paintings. An audio guide that explains everything is available for €2.
The pass is wide and has an outstanding view. Take time to stop at the summit. And don’t hesitate to venture into the little wooden house for the inevitable refreshments. 1 crêpe: €0.50, 12 crêpes: €4.50 Go for 12! While he makes the crêpes, the owner will lend you his collection of Chinese wooden puzzles. On the other side of the pass is the Luchon valley.
By the lake, nestled amongst the mountain pines, the hotel has a pretty terrace with views.
Orédon lake – 65170 Aragnouet
+33 6 23 05 72 60
- La Table de Saoussas at Loudenvielle :
A pleasant family restaurant. The cuisine uses local produce. While you are there, visit the pretty mill on the other side of the road.
Chemin Saoussas – 65510 Loudenvielle
+33 5 62 99 96 40
A new, unique, unusual and delicious location. A bistro and arts centre located in a former sheepfold, Lily’s sheepfold. Here you can sample aperitifs and tapas - the chef offers seasonal dishes using local produce.
Centre de Montagne, Le Village – 65240 Germ
+33 5 62 39 23 03