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Béarn travel guide

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Visit Béarn (Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France)

Béarn is a historical region of south-west France that now forms the eastern part of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department (the western part of the department is the three provinces that make up the French Pays Basque region).

The region has a very long history, and was an independent province before it became a French province in 1620. 2000 years ago it was occupied by a tribe called the Benarni, which is where the name Béarn comes from.

Explore Béarn

France This Way comment: it is the southern part of the Béarn that is of most interest to visitors, because of the access to the hiking opportunities in the western Pyrenees south of Laruns, but several of the towns and villages in the north of the region are also interesting to visit when you are here.

The Béarn area has the town of Laruns to the south, Pau to the east and Sauveterre-de-Béarn to the north-west. It is crossed from south-west to north-east by two rivers: the Gave de Pau (between Pau and Orthez) and the Gave d'Oloron (between Oloron-Sainte-Marie and Sauveterre-de-Béarn).

The principal town is Pau, which has several buildings of interest and a pleasant town centre, and is best known for the boulevard that has far-reaching views to the Pyrénées about 40 kilomtres to the south. See the Pau guide.

The most picturesque group of towns and villages is in the north-west Béarn. Although none will take you long to visit each has a highlight of interest:

  • in Orthez you can see a lovely 13th century bridge,
  • in Salies-de-Béarn the area around the river is picturesque,
  • in Sauveterre-de-Béarn there is a very impressive view across the river and the remains of an ancient bridge from the area in front of the church

As you travel south along the Gave d'Oloron through the region you reach Navarrenx, where you can see another attractive section of river as well as an extensive part of the ramparts that once defended the town.

In Oloron-Sainte-Marie the cathedral Sainte-Marie is perhaps the main highlight, and there is a pretty section of river in the town centre with houses built along the rock above the Gave d'Ossau.

Although the high mountains of the Pyrenees are outside the Béarn region, to the east of here, the countryside south of Oloron is where you will find the most dramatic scenery in the region.

There are numerous trails that you can follow to reach the lakes and mountain peaks here: of course, as with all mountain hkes these usually require proper walking equipment and planning.

The road to the south through Laruns that leads to the Col d'Aubisque via Eaux-Bonnes and Gourette and also to the Pic du Midi d'Ossau is the easiest way to reach the mountains, A second road south from Oloron-Sainte-Marie allows you to cross the western Pyrénées and reach Spain.

Attractions nearby

The western part of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department, between Béarn and the Atlantic coast, is called the Pays Basque region. It is among the most visited destinations in France, with Biarritz, Saint-Jean-de-Luz and several very pretty villages among its attractions.

To the east of Béarn you reach the beautiful scenery of the high Pyrénées, and the famous mountain passes that are used during the Tour de France every year such as the Col du Tourmalet. There are fewer towns and villages here, and it is the outdoor activities that are the attraction. See the Hautes-Pyrénées guide for information.

See also: 

Map of Béarn and places nearby

Visit near Béarn with France This Way reviews

Eaux-Bonnes

Eaux-Bonnes

Eaux-Bonnes is a 19th century belle-epoque spa town at the base of the Col d'Aubisque

Eaux-Bonnes guide
Gourette

Gourette

Gourette s a small ski station on the route to the Col d'Aubisque near Eaux-Bonnes

Gourette guide
Laruns

Laruns

Laruns is a pretty village, but it is the surrounding mountain scenery that attracts most visitors here

Laruns guide
Navarrenx

Navarrenx

Navarrenx is a traditional fortified French bastide town in the western pyrenees

Navarrenx guide
Oloron-Sainte-Marie

Oloron-Sainte-Marie

There are several sights of interest in Oloron-Saint-Marie including a picturesque section of river

Oloron-Sainte-Marie guide
Orthez

Orthez

The 13th century stone bridge across the river is the highlight of your visit to Orthez

Orthez guide
Pau

Pau

The large town of Pau is well known for the views from the belvedere that cover a large section of Pyrenees mountains

Pau guide
Salies-de-Bearn

Salies-de-Bearn

The small town of Salies-de-Bearn is a pleasure to explore, and a nice place to visit when you are passing through the region

Salies-de-Bearn guide
Sauveterre-de-Bearn

Sauveterre-de-Bearn

The view from the terrace in front of the church in Sauveterre-de-Béarn is one of our favourites in the Basque Pyrenees region

Sauveterre-de-Bearn guide
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