Laruns, Haute Pyrenees, France


Laruns, located in the Ossau Valley, makes a great base for exploring the trails of the western side of the high French Pyrenees. It’s just large enough to have good services – restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, a boulangerie, a cheese shop, etc. but small enough that it retains its village ambiance. Surrounded by mountain peaks it’s a beautiful location.

We had mixed luck with the weather. Staying 3 nights in late September we had day of mixed sun and clouds and a second day of low clouds and drizzle. We got one good hike in and chilled on the second day. Based on the surrounding lush green vegetation I don’t think rain is unusual here, so plan accordingly.

Laruns would also make a great location for a longer stay.

Hiking Les Crêtes d’Andreyt from Col d’Aubisque

Les crêtes d’Andreyt from col d’Aubisque, a 6-mile, moderately difficult hike with a 1600ft total change in elevation, starts with sweeping panoramic views at col d’Aubisque. The road up to the pass is popular with cyclists and is sometimes a stage on the Tour de France.

We followed the loop hike clockwise, starting to the left of the 2 buildings at the pass. The first 2 miles are along a ridge with panoramic views on both sides. We did not have great weather to start so most of the views were cloaked in clouds but it did make for some amazing above-the-cloud moments. The first part of the ridge hike climbs gently and then descends steeply.

At the junction at the bottom of the descent a sign post marks the directions for a yellow/red trail. Our trail, however, blazed just yellow and marked, “Trail 18”, heads in the opposite direction, back the way we came at a lower elevation. The trail winds around the hillside and meets up with a road that took us back to the pass. The views continued along this section. With the weather improving over the course of the hike we had sweeping views with puffy whites, although some of the highest peaks were still cloaked in clouds.

On a Monday in late September we saw few other hikers. There were a few more people out in the better afternoon weather.

This is an easier trail than some, with good panoramic views, lots of sheep bells clanging and pretty patches of crocus.

Sleeping and Dining in Laruns

Le Montagnon

Le Montagnon, a comfortable second story apartment just off the main square, made a great base in Laruns for exploring the area. The spacious apartment on two levels has an open concept kitchen, dining room and living area with one bedroom and bathroom on the first level. Upstairs are two more bedrooms and another bathroom. We were staying as a couple and didn’t need the second floor.

The recently redone apartment is tastefully decorated in woods with old stone walls and old beams. The modern finishes blend beautifully with the antique elements. While the bedrooms are largish they have just a double bed. The bed, however, was comfortable. The downstairs bedroom had plenty of storage space, but the upper rooms do not have much. The upper rooms are dormer style with sky lights with views of the surrounding mountain peaks.

Good Wi-Fi connection.

The downstairs bathroom is spacious and has a good shower and a vanity with some counter space. The toilet is in a separate room. The upstairs bathroom has a tub and is not set up well for showers. It also has a toilet in a separate room.

The kitchen is reasonably well equipped. It has most of the things you need to cook a simple meal but not a large selection, i.e., one frying pan, two small sauce pans, various baking dishes, etc. There are, however, plenty of serving dishes, glasses and utensils. Appliances include a fridge, freezer, microwave, oven and a 3-burner cooktop.

There is a small balcony terrace in back without much of a view furnished with a small table and chairs and a gas grill.

This is a comfortable and spacious place for a couple, a small family or even two couples if you don’t mind sharing shower facilities.

The apartment has a great location, just off the main square where there are a few restaurants, a small grocery store, a boulangerie, and a specialty cheese shop. A larger, more complete grocery store is an 8-minute walk at the other end of the street. In front of the apartment is a quaint residential street where they drive herds of sheep up in the morning and down in the evening.

Street parking around the corner from the apartment was no problem.

The owner, Laurence, was welcoming when we arrived and explained everything but didn’t spend time with us otherwise. Everything worked as it should so we didn’t need anything more either. I spoke with her in French as she doesn’t speak much English but she did have a backup English speaking person at the property in case my French was lacking.

Dinner at L’Estive

L’Estive, a small family run restaurant located just off the main square, serves up beautifully presented traditional French fare. We started with the summer salad – a colorful plate of greens and other fresh vegetables and various cheeses, and the red tuna and beef duo. For mains we ordered the fish special of the day – hake served on zucchini stuffed with ratatouille and a side of local sausage – and a confit lamb shank served with smashed potatoes and a colorful mix of root vegetables. Both dishes were brilliantly executed. The lamb was lamby and melt-in-your-mouth tender. Service was friendly and efficient but they do get busy. It’s best to have a reservation.

September 25-28, 2022