Lourdes is overlooked by two immense sights, the Pic du Jer mountain and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. In 1858, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a young girl called Bernadette Soubirous in the town and helped her find a spring which now sits within the sanctuary and attracts millions of Catholic pilgrims every year. Religious or not, it is easy to appreciate the beauty of the town. The striking grey sanctuary has noticeable gold embellishments, while the colours of the religious murals become more evident as you reach closer. The sanctuary is actually made up of five basilicas and a grotto – where the spring is found. Masses and celebrations happen daily and entry to the sanctuary is free.
The Pic du Jer mountain is a great place for hiking and it is possible to walk from Lourdes to the summit following a wellmaintained and signposted path. Around the mountain you with find botanical trails, and there are wonderful views of the rest of the Pyrénées. Between March and November you can take the Pic du Jer funicular up the mountain. There is also a world-cup-quality mountain bike trail, which you can pay to go on for a day – or keen local mountain bikers can get a season pass. This year, Lourdes welcomed 146 world class cyclists for stage 19 of the Tour de France which began in Lourdes and ended in Laruns.
The Pyrénées is one of the largest and highest mountain ranges in France. It runs along the south of France forming a natural border between France and Spain. Vignemale, at 3,298m, is the highest of the range’s peaks that sit within France. Several areas of the Pyrénées are classified as regional parks including Parc National des Pyrénées to the south of Lourdes. There is a direct road from the city to the park that runs alongside the Gave de Pau river. The park is a refuge for animals and birds such as the griffon vulture, the mountain lizard and the brown bear.
Candlelight procession at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes
The funicular of Pic du Jer