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Trek the Freedom Trail

Trek on a World War II escape route spanning the Pyrenees on this hike from France into Spain. 7 days.

DURATION
6 Nights
COMFORT
Comfortable
LOCATION
France
SEASON
May, June
NEAREST AIRPORT

On this historical seven day adventure, you’ll discover one of the routes used to escape the German occupation in France. Visit the crash site of a Halifax bomber, swim in crisp mountain lakes framed by snow-coated mountain vistas, stay in mountain huts and hopefully meet the Griffon vultures or wild black mountain ponies of the Pyrenees.

Your hassle-free adventure includes:

  • A hiking tour with a knowledgeable, local guide
  • All airport transfers to and from Toulouse Airport
  • Six night’s accommodation in varied settings including mountain huts, camping and a hotel
  • Five breakfasts, three lunches and five dinners
  • All camping equipment required, except what is noted in the kit list

Perfect for

Experienced trekkers with an interest in history who like the idea of ending their adventures with a little indulgence in spa town.

Need To Know

Book any flights that will coincide with the stated transfer times.

British Airways and Easyjet both fly to Toulouse from a few major airports in the UK. There are many flights that come to Toulouse daily from many different airports. Your host will be at the airport at 11.30am on day one. On the last day your host will drop you off at Toulouse airport for 2.30 PM. Please find flights that work for these timings.

If there are any issues with this please let your host know and they will try and help however it might mean in getting a hire car, catching a train or taxi to your start / finish point. Bagneres de luchon is 1h 40 mins drive away.

This trip is physically tough. Expect to be able to do 8 hour days in hilly and often steep train, carrying a pack of 6-10kg in weight with the occasional extra long day.

No previous climbing or trekking experience is necessary.

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You will be carrying only your own rucksack for most of the trek but there will be some days where you will also be required to carry some extra camping equipment. Expect your rucksack to weight approximately 10kgs when fully packed so train accordingly.

  • 55-65L Rucksack
  • Waterproof rucksack cover
  • 3 season sleeping bag with sleeping mat and cover
  • Warm headgear and scarf
  • Swimmers and sun protection including hat, sunscreen and lip salve
  • Layered clothing including under and mid layers, gloves and waterproof jacket
  • 3-4 season walking boots, trekking socks and spare laces
  • Water bottle
  • Casual evening clothes and shoes
  • Toiletries including insect repellant, toilet paper, nappy bags and first aid kit
  • Trekking poles, head torch, mess kit, snacks

Typically at this time of year weather in the Pyrenees is reasonably warm and can get quite hot. However, being in the mountains, inclement weather, thunderstorms and cold nights are very possible. The climate is generally better than the UK but check the forecast before leaving for more specific details.

In general, meals that are included will consist of basic expedition food, including typical food rations.

Below are your meal inclusions for breakfast, lunch and dinner:

Day 1: Arrive Saint Girons: D

Day 2: Saint Girons (391m) – Aunac (766m) - BLD

Day 3: Aunac (766m) – La Cabane de Subera (1,499m) - BLD

Day 4: La Cabane de Subera (1,499m) – Le Refuge des Estagnous (2,245m) - BLD

Day 5: Refuge des Estagnous (2,245m) – Pont de Perosa (1,500m) BD

Day 6: Relaxing day in Bagneres de Luchon - B

Day 7 : Return Home - B

Location

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After an airport transfer of a little over an hour from Toulouse Blagnac, you’ll find yourself in the French river-side town of Saint Girons for a night, famous for its impressive Saturday market.

The start of this trip, however, is the Freedom Trail, a challenging trek rewarding in both its natural beauty and historical significance. One of several important routes used for those fleeing the German Occupation of France, escapees included Frenchmen, Jews and stranded RAF airmen. The terrain is gentle and rural in places showcasing mountain meadows and quiet paths, while harsh and full of jutting limestone in others. The views are green, expansive and dotted with unexpected mountain lakes, populated by soaring vultures and rugged mountain ponies.

Suitable for fit travelers (although no hiking experience is necessary), the Freedom Trail is a solid climb by today’s standards. Imagine tackling it at night, malnourished and ill-equipped while hunted by Austrian troops.

Our trek is finished off nicely in the thermal town of Bagneres de Luchon. Popular for its rejuvenating spa waters, the village has also become a famed ski town and boasts some lovely lakes. It also showcases some amiable 19th-century buildings for those looking for a more urban change of pace on their final day.

Start point

Transfer from Toulouse Blagnac Airport at 11:30 to Saint Girons.

Finish point

Transfer from Bagneres de Luchon to Toulouse Blagnac Airport for 14:30.

What to Expect

Day 1: Arrival in Saint Girons

Your guide will meet you at Toulouse Airport for a transfer to the market town of Saint Girons, which sits nestled on the banks of the Salat River surrounded by lush hills. St Girons earned a place in history due to its position at the start of a trail leading through the Pyrenees into Spain which allowed for escape from the German Occupation.

Day 2: Saint Girons to Aunac

Your trek starts at Le Pont le Chemin de la Liberté, the bridge forming the recognised starting point of the Freedom Trail during the war. It marked the spot where escapees would jump from the moving train, with those brave enough to tackle the leap then collected by the Resistance and secreted to the nearby woods to begin their arduous journey.

You now begin a long but gentle 23km trek through soft hills towards the rustic Gite d’Etape, your second night’s lodgings. Set in the foothills above the village of Aunac, guests here are treated to an al fresco dinner of home-grown vegetables while serenaded by the braying of the local donkeys. The Gite d’Etape offers a communal sleeping space with a welcome hot shower.

6 to 7 hours of trekking, 375m height gain

Day 3: Aunac to La Cabane de Subera

Rocky but verdant paths and old Beech forests form the scenery for today as you tackle a section of the GR10 trail during a slightly more gruelling 16km stretch. A shorter walk but harsher country made of jagged rocks and tough grass will make our destination, La Cabane de Subera, a welcome break.

Lying underneath the rock wall of Le Cirque de Lameza, the Cabane operates on a first come-first served basis but tents will be raised if space is limited.

6 hours of trekking, 733m height gain.

Day 4: La Cabane de Subera to Le Refuge des Estagnous

Today’s 13-kilometre stretch takes you from the Cabane up the Pic de Lampau (Lampau Peak) where you remember the crew of the Halifax bomber that crashed here in 1945. The site is all the more poignant for the debris of the wreckage that can still be found littering the ground.

After a moment’s silence, the path continues with a scenery change from the soft meadows of the lower path through a craggy, snow-seamed gully to the Col de Craberous, followed by a steep descent of 300m. Herds of wild Merens ponies graze the weathered terrain, while the Griffon and massive Lammergeier vultures swoop. The trail leads past lakes and boulder fields as we approach the Col de Pouech and the Refuge of Estagnous, your home for the night. The refuge here offers dorm-style accommodation with hot showers, a warm dinner, local wine and those soaring sunset views.

7-8 hours of trekking, 833m height gain.

Day 5: Refuge des Estagnous to Pont de Perosa

The last leg of your trek to freedom takes you on an 8km journey past the glistening water bowls that form Lac Rond (Round Lake) followed by Etang Long (Round Pond). From here it’s all downhill to the Frontier Col and Lac de Clauere where a refreshing dip and bite to eat from our pack awaits. After the final descent to the Noguera Palaresa River, your hike ends as you are picked up by mini-bus and transferred to the stony mountain village of Arties for a tapas lunch. (This final section of the trek is dependent on the road being passable. An alternate path to Refuge de Fortet will be undertaken in unfavourable conditions.)

Your final stop for the day is at the end of a short drive to the spa town of Bagneres de Luchon and the comfortable beds of a charming hotel.

5-7 hours trekking, 745m descent

Day 6: Bagneres de Luchon

The final day is yours to enjoy as you like – you’ve earnt it! Wander the café-filled streets or enjoy a long soak in the thermal springs – we’re willing to bet you’re not up for another hike!

The evening will be spent in our Bagneres de Luchon home.

Day 7: Home

Homeward bound with a transfer to Toulouse Blagnac Airport and a final wave goodbye.

Accommodation

Your six nights’ accommodation will be in various types of properties. Starting in four-star style in the airy and spacious rooms of the Chateau de Beauregard, our first night will be on a B&B basis in shared twin rooms. The charming rose-hued chateau dates to the nineteenth century and was requisitioned as German HQ for the Ariège region during WWII. It offers traditional French hospitality with spacious rooms and swimming pool. Dinner is at the locally respected Auberge d’Antan restaurant.

Night 2 will be more rustic in the communal Gite d’Etape with half board. As we ascend higher into the mountains our accommodation gets even more adventurous with night 3 in the basic Cabane de Subera shepherd’s hut (or a tent) cooking our own rations. Night 4 is in the dormitory-style Refuge des Estagnous on half board, while nights 5 and 6 see weary trekkers treated to accommodation in a charming hotel in the spa town of Bagneres de Luchon.

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Dates & Prices

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Your host will confirm your booking subject to availability. There may be a minimum number of guests required to guarantee that a trip will go ahead.

Prices include

Accommodation · Airport Transfers · Equipment · Guide · Meals As Described · Happiness Guaranteed · 100% Financial Protection · No Single Supplements

Please note: Flights are NOT included and must be purchased separately.

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Guide Prices

Group size Adults Children
6–12

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