The central section of the range is home to the highest summits
including Vignemale, at 3,298 metres the highest point in the French Pyrenees. Here you will also find the impressive outlines of the Pic de Néouvielle (3,091 m), Mont Valier (2,838 m) and the Pic du Midi de Bigorre
(2,877 m) topped by an astronomical observatory
and an unmissable museum of astronomy.
Carved out by gigantic glaciers long since gone, huge limestone cirques
are one of the distinctive features of the Pyrenees. The most famous of these is the Cirque de Gavarnie
, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spectacular waterfalls
such as those at the Pont d’Espagne
and countless high-altitude lakes
, stunning green or azure in colour, are another of the Pyrenees' characteristic landmarks.
Often running north-south, the valleys are scattered with pretty villages clad in schist and slate, with Romanesque churches and barns built of rough hewn stone. The Ax, Bethmale, Luchon, Aure, Louron, Campan and Barèges Valleys and their cousins, each forms a tiny 'pays' with a distinctive character rooted in a way of life fashioned over the centuries by pastoralism, transhumance of the herds and the comings and goings between hay meadows and high-level grazing land.