Extending form the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, the Pyrenees is a 270 mile (430 km) long mountain range, forming a natural partition between Spain and France. The range has played an integral part in the history of both countries and is the venue for some of the most intriguing spots in the Pyrenees.
Historical Background of the Pyrenees
The history of the area started with a myth. According to classical mythology, Pyrene, the virginal daughter of the King of Mediterranean Gaul (Bebryx), was violated by the drunken Hercules during his travels to Geryon. Fearing her father and after giving birth to a serpent, Pyrene runs away into the woods, where she is killed by wild animals as she is tells her stories to the trees. Upon his return trip, the sober Hercules encounters Pyrene’s mutilated remains. The grief stricken and remorseful Hercules cries continuously making the sorrowful sound “Pyrene” and demanding that the mountains mourn and preserve the name of the Princess. Hence, the riged mountains came to be known as Pyrenees.
Four of the Most Intriguing Spots in the Pyrenees
The Pyrenees mountain range is littered with countless tiny enchanting villages, each with its own culture, architecture and character. Each village offers stunning scenery, medieval churches and castles, and narrowing cobblestoned paths lined in geranium filled balconies. Some of the most intriguing spots in the Pyrenees that are not to be missed include:
- Jaca, an ancient fort and the capital of Aragon’s kingdom. It houses a very eye catching Old Town and the 16th century citadel. Just a few hours away and to the west of Jaca are the villages of Valles de Echo and Anso. With a population of no more than 600, they are the gateway to the Park Natural Valles Occidentale.
- Those with a love for the Roman Empire will find Tarragonés to be captivating. Originally known as Tarraco and one of the most important Roman cities, still has many remains of the era. Among them the Roman Circus, an amphitheater, and a portion of the ancient aqueduct.
- Bages is one of the better well-known places in Catalonia. The village houses a monastery museum with unique paintings, a statue of the black Virgin Mary, alluring walking trails and rock formations.
- Lourdes is a vital Catholic pilgrimage site where a shepherd girl by the name of Bernadette had visions of the Virgin Mary. The Catholic Church has documented and validated 67 miracles here. Bernadette received her visions at the Grotto and is the most holy location, while the Byzantine church Basilique du Rosaire is another important place of worship.
- Approximately 30 km form Lourdes is the spa town of Pont Napoléon. The town houses a church constructed by the Hospitaliers de Saint-Jean de Jerusalem in addition to a small museum.
- The ancient town of Foix hovers over a formidable peak with an imposing castle and its three remaining towers. Once the capital of the historical County of Foix, the town attracts tourists for its 12th -15th century churches, half-timbered houses and the nearby prehistoric caves housing rock drawings.
The few towns noted here do not even begin to scratch the surface of the multitudes of the most intriguing spots in the Pyrenees. Visitors can select towns to visit based on personal choices such as skiing, cycling, health or religious.