Holiday in southern France in the Pyrenees

In the looming shadow of the Pyrenees, the villages of the Vallee D'Aspe are a last glimpse of the charms of southern France, before you reach the Spanish border. In summer, when the snows have melted, they offer a delightful opportunity for hiking, exploring and eating well in the local restaurants.

Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) has flights from London Stansted to nearby Lourdes. Outbound fares start at £17.99 and inbound fares from £27.99. These are tax-free flights and do not include charges for baggage, EU levies, check-in, credit card payments etc. Take hand baggage only and be flexible with dates for the best prices.

A hire car, a mountain bike or on foot are the only ways to explore the tranquil villages of the Aspe, unless you know your way around a French bus timetable.This is a sedate mountain region, characterised by sleepy villages like Urdos, just a mile from the border.

Hike up to Lescun, 900 metres up, for spectacular views. The locals sell mountain cheese and milk, and Hotel Du Pic D’Anie restaurant offers mountain cuisine.

This is a great base for hiking, up to the peaks and cirques of the mountain ranges, or, for the less committed, along the valley floor, stopping at all those enticing cafes and restaurants. Check www.tourisme-aspe.com for routes and recommended places to stay or eat.

Highlights include riverside villages like Sarrance, which houses the Eco-Musee du Vallee d'Aspe museum in the cloister of an ancient church, and Borce, a medieval village that has become a base for campers and hikers.

Southern France has no shortage of great places to eat, and you'll find seasonal game and fish dishes, perfectly prepared in the villages of Etsaut, Accous, Cette-Eygun, and all the way to Oloron.

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