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Photo of Béarn des Gaves

The Béarn des Gaves is the name given to the area in the north of the Pyrenees-Atlantiques department of south-west France between Peyrehorade (to the north-west) and Oloron-Sante-Marie (to the south-east), in the Béarn region.

The region follows the course of the Gave d'Oloron betwen these two places, and is about 50 kilometres long and 15 kilometres wide. Several smaller rivers and streams also cross the region in the same direction such as the Saison, the Lausset and the Saleys before they converge with the Gave d'Oloron.

Explore Béarn des Gaves

France This Way comment: the Béarn des Gaves is a peaceful area of France, with hills and forests, river views, historic towns and villages to explore where you can pass several very pleasant days

Salies-de-Béarn houses on riverside

Here we start a visit in the north-west and travel upstream along the Gave d'Oloron towards the south-east, suggesting places that you might like to visit in the Béarn des Gaves en route...

The first important town you reach is Salies-de-Béarn. This quite a charming small town on the Saleys river, with the views along the river at the houses as the highlight - several of the houses have balcones overhanging the river.

The town centre in Salies-de-Béarn also has several interesting houses and there are various other sites of interest including a church and a vault that can be visited and also a salt museum, in a 17th century house, where you can discover the importance of salt to the history of the town.

A separate part of the town includes an imposing 19th century thermal treatment centre and a casino, and a visit to the town is very pleasant: see the Salies-de-Béarn guide.

Close to here in Labastide Villefranche you can also see traces of the long history of the region, with the town hall incorporating the arches from the original market square, and a 14th century tower next to the Pounte Lake.

South of here, on the Gave d'Oloron, the town of Sauveterre-de-Béarn is also a highlight of your visit to Béarn des Gaves, with a remarkable roman style church and very lovely views along the river - both of these are in the same location so even if you do not have much time, you should visit to see this part of the town.

Be sure to walk along the belvedere from the church to see more views across the valley to the distant mountains and the area around the rear of the church. You can also see a medieval tower and walk down a flight of stairs to reach the riverside path that leads to the ruins of the ancient bridge that dominates views from the belvedere. See the Sauveterre-de-Béarn gude for information.

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South of Sauveterre-de-Béarn there are numerous small villages that typically have river or lake access and a picnic area, if little else. These include Montfort, Viellenave-de-Navarrenx and Laas.

It is Laas that is the most picturesque of these villages, with a very small centre that has some pretty cottages and the ruins of a an ancient chapel as well as the Chateau de Laas, now a centre for various leisure activities, and the location of the Serbat Museum and with large gardens to explore. See the Laas guide.

Towards the south-east limit of the Béarn des Gaves you reach the village of Navarrenx. This is a remarkable village, listed among the "most beautiful villages in France".

Navarrenx is said to be the first fortified city in France, and is still encircled by most of the original defensive walls, in very good condition and offering lovely views across the rooftops of Navarrenx and the river just outside the walls. The centre of the village is perhaps slightly less interesting although the area around Place des Casernes is attractive. See the Navarrenx guide.

If you are in the region for a few days you will want to explore the countryside and numerous walks and trails are availble: ask at the tourist office of the town you are in.

Several of the important medieval pilgrim paths to Saint Jacques de Compostella that cross France also pass through the Béarn des Gaves, so several of the walks follow sections of these pilgrim routes.

Other outdoor activities such as mountain biking and horse-riding are available in the area, and there is an 18 hole golf course close to Navarrenx.

Centre of Laas

Attractions nearby

Outside the Béarn des Gaves, the town of Oloron-Sainte-Marie has several sites of interest, and further south you can explore the valleys that lead into the Pyrenees.

The Atlantic coast with Biarritz and Saint-Jean-de-Luz is only about 50 kilometres west of Salies-de-Béarn so it would be very easy to organise a "two-centre" trip to the region, with a few days to enjoy the countryside, towns and villages here before spending a week at the beach - this would make for a very pleasant trip!

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