The Pyrenees © Nicolas Guionnet
The wild mountains of the Pyrénées stretch for 250 miles (402km) from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and have for many centuries formed a natural frontier, physical, climatic and linguistic, between France and Spain. Second only to the Alps among the great mountain ranges of Western Europe, the Pyrénées are much less frequented, and still offer an exciting combination of knife-edged summits, small glaciers, forested valleys, mountain tarns and little-trodden summer passes. Splendid trails lead to the magnificent cirques and lake-spangled basins of France's Pyrénées National Park. Over on the Spanish side paths lead through the spectacular canyons of the Ordesa-Monte Perdido National Park, one of Europe's oldest nature reserves.
In 1997, the United Nations inscribed a portion of the French and Spanish Pyrénées near the French village of Gavarnie and the Spanish village of Torla on its list of World Heritage Sites. Here, nature over the eons has carved three stupendous glacial cirques, including the renowned Cirque de Gavarnie, and a 3,000-foot (914m) deep canyon called Ordesa - Spain's 'Grand Canyon.' Hiking in this region is very rewarding and the dramatic landscapes are breathtaking. Although some of the trails require hiking experience and fitness, visitors can also find easy day-walks.