The Pyrenees in Motorhome : advices, areas, itineraries


Are you going to stay near the French-Spanish border? Discover how to visit the Pyrenees in a camper van!

Are you interested in visiting the Pyrenees in a motorhome or a converted van this year? The Pyrenees mountain range, which crosses the border between Spain and France, is full of wonders. What could be better than criss-crossing this massif from the Côte Vermeille to the Basque coast? Doing it while sleeping in your vehicle! Going on a road-trip is a fashionable way to travel. Indeed, road-trip allows you to discover a region or a country at your own pace, without having to check hotel schedules and rates. You roam by stages, in complete freedom.

Stretching over 430 kilometres, the Pyrenees separate France from Spain through two regions and six French departments: Occitania and New Aquitaine. In Spain you will discover the foothills of Catalonia, Aragon, Navarre and the Basque Country. This natural barrier culminating at an altitude of 3,404 metres, shelters an exceptional fauna and flora.

Are you looking for adventure? Here is our mini-guide with advice on how to visit the Pyrenees in a motorhome or a converted van.

Also read :
The French Basque Country by motorhome: advice, areas, itineraries
Catalonia by motorhome: advice, areas, itineraries
The French Riviera in Motorhome : advices, areas, itineraries
The 20 most beautiful lakes in the Pyrenees

Ideas for itineraries in the Pyrenees by motorhome

From the French or Spanish regions, there are a plethora of possible itineraries to visit the Pyrenees by motorhome, van or converted van. From Perpignan, start with the Vermeille coast and its famous seaside towns: Collioure, Port-Vendres, Banyuls-sur-Mer.

Enter the Catalan Pyrenees Regional Nature Park, continue on to Foix and the Ariegeoises Pyrenees Regional Nature Park. To the west from Lourdes or Bayonne, the ancient glacial valleys of the Pyrenees National Park and the Basque country are within easy reach. Of course, it all depends on the length of your stay.

You will not establish the same itinerary depending on whether you come to visit the Pyrenees by motorhome for 7 days, 15 days, a month or more. You don't know where to go and what are the must-see places to visit? Here are our itinerary ideas:

  • From Lourdes: the Louron valley with Arreau, Saint-Larry-Soulan, the lake of Génos, the Pic du Midi via the Col d'Aspin, Bagnères-de-Luchon and the Pic d'Aspe, the Col du Tourmalet, Aragnouet and the lakes of the Néouvielle massif, the Gavarnie cirque, Argelès-Gazost.
  • From Bayonne, towards Spain: the Izpegui pass and the Otxondo pass, Roncesvalles, Aribe, the Arbayun canyon, Sangüesa, Torla-Ordesa and the Monte Perdido, Jaca, the Lumbier gorges, Pamplona, San Sebastian, Irun-Hendaye, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Biarritz.
  • In the centre of the Pyrenees: Oloron-Sainte-Marie, Laruns, the lakes of the Ossau valley and the Pic du Midi d'Ossau, Cauterets-Pont-D'Espagne.
  • East of the Pyrenees : same stages, plus the villages of the Ariège Pyrenees Park, Ax-les-Thermes, Andorra, Porté-Puymorens, the Pic du Carlit, the lake of Bouillouses, Foix, Font-Romeu, the Organs of Ille-sur-Têt, the peak of Canigou, the Albères massif with Céret, the Vermeille coast, the Anse de Paulilles, Cadaqués, Roses and Figueras.

These stages are only indicative and may not suit everyone's tastes. Above all, they should be selected according to the duration of your road-trip. To visit the Pyrenees in one week, you only need to restrict yourself to one area, the Pyrénées-Orientales for example. It all depends on whether you want to explore in detail or have a global overview of the Pyrenees' must-see places.

Book your motorhome for the Pyrenees

Driving in the Pyrenees in a camper van: traffic rules to know

The Pyrenees straddle France, Spain and the Principality of Andorra. Driving in these three countries is done on the right, and overtaking is done on the left. In any case, you will have very few overtaking to do in a motorhome. Because the roads can be winding, especially on the high mountain passes.

Here are some basic rules for driving in the Pyrenees:

  • Take extra care on mountain roads. The roads can be narrow, which makes it difficult to cross.
  • The rules of the road code in Spain and Andorra are singularly the same as in France.
  • Motorhomes that do not exceed 3.5 tonnes in weight are considered cars from a legal point of view.
  • All passengers must have their seatbelts fastened when the vehicle is in motion.
  • Of course, nobody is allowed to sleep in the back of the motorhome while driving.
  • The driver must be able to provide the driving documents to the authorities in case of control (driving licence, insurance and car registration).
  • In addition, the motorhome must be equipped with a warning triangle, spare bulbs and a yellow reflective vest.
  • On the Spanish side, it is mandatory to honk the horn in mountain turns if you lack visibility.

The speed limits in France are :

  • 50 km/h in built-up areas,
  • 80 km/h on dual carriageways,
  • 110 km/h on dual carriageways (100 km/h in bad weather),
  • 130 km/h on motorways (110 km/h in bad weather).

In Spain, the limitations are similar, except on dual carriageways, where they range from 90 km/h to 100 km/h.

Warning: the maximum legal blood alcohol level is 0.5 g/l.

Motorway tolls in the Pyrenees: which tariff for your category of motorhome?

Although the Pyrenees are full of natural areas, there are motorways to access them. On the French side, the A64, A63 and A9 serve the towns in the south-west leading to the massif: Perpignan (A9), Saint-Gaudens, Tarbes, Pau (A64) and Biarritz (A63).

On the Spanish side, the AP-7 starts at Perthus and the AP-8 goes from Irun to Bilbao.

In France, motorways are toll roads, which are managed by ASF and VINCI. The A64 is a toll road from Toulouse to the Sames toll station, before Bayonne. To cross the Pyrenees, it will be necessary to use the secondary network of national roads. On the Spanish side on the other hand, only the AP-7 and AP-8 have to be paid for. The other motorways (the A-23 and A-21) are autovíaset are free of charge .

How much do you have to pay on the motorway to visit the Pyrenees by motorhome? Here are some indicative rates for class 2 :

  • Perpignan-Figueras (A9 and AP-7): 3,90€,
  • Toulouse-Le Perthus (A61 and A9) : 34,40€,
  • Narbonne-Le Perthus (A9) : 15,40€,
  • Bordeaux-Irun (A63) : 23,50€,
  • Bayonne-Irun (A63) : 6,30€.

Crossing France from east to west to visit the Pyrenees can therefore be expensive. The French toll system is simple: just pick up a ticket at the entrance terminal and pay according to the mileage travelled.

How and where to rent a motorhome in France?

In France, it is now possible to book your motorhome online? How can I do this? Thanks to various online booking platforms, such as Yescapa for example.

How does it work?

  • First of all, you have to choose the motorhome in your city (for example Bordeaux, Nantes, Toulouse, Paris, Montpellier or Marseille).
  • Make sure you choose the unlimited mileage, check the number of beds available and if travelling abroad is possible.
  • Make your rental request online and share your travel information (dates, rental options, mileage, etc.) with the owner.
  • If your request is accepted and after payment, you will have access to the owner's contact information to arrange a first meeting.
  • On the day, present your driver's license and pay the deposit.
  • An inventory of fixtures is carried out and a rental contract is signed between the two parties. On your return, after having scoured the Pyrenean roads, sign the inventory of fixtures and that's it!

Rent a motorhome in France

How to rent a motorhome in the Pyrenees?

The Pyrenean massif is very touristic. Therefore, it will be easy to rent a motorhome in the surroundings. Big cities like Pau, Perpignan, Tarbes or Lourdes are the best places to find rentals.

On the other hand, the demand is important. It is possible that once you arrive, all the campervans have been rented. It is therefore advisable to book your motorhome for the Pyrenees online before you leave.

Book your motorhome for the Pyrenees

Motorhome parks in the Pyrenees: where to park?

Here is a worrying question when you go to visit the Pyrenees by motorhome: where to park? A motorhome is allowed to park on the same pitches as cars.

You should know that in Spain and France, camping on public roads is officially forbidden by law. In principle, you are therefore liable to a fine if the police check you in the middle of the night and you are parked on the public highway. There are, however, many spots where you can set up camp, especially in the remote areas of the Pyrenees. However, avoid camping illegally in the Catalan and Ariegean Pyrenees Natural Parks and the Pyrenees National Park. Favour instead villages that are not in the parks. In a converted van or small van, you will be more unnoticed, however.

If you're reluctant to sleep illegally, there are plenty of campsites and service areas for camper vans. These places charge a fee, but they are allowed to receive travellers. The websites Campercontact and Caramaps can be very useful to find motorhome service areas in the Pyrenees. If you want to find a remote spot, we have the solution. Consult the interactive map of Park4night. It is a tool to share spots between travellers on mobile phones.

When is the best time to travel by motorhome in the Pyrenees?

Finally, the question of climate and weather is very important to come and visit the Pyrenees in a motorhome or converted van. The Pyrenees chain is subject to important climatic contrasts. To the west, the chain is under oceanic influence.

In the east, Mediterranean and continental influences predominate. From Cape Higuer in the Bay of Biscay to Cap de Creus in Catalonia, the climate is variable. Moreover, the altitude ranges from high mountains in the Hautes-Pyrénées and Ariège to sea level in the Pyrénées-Orientales.

So when is the best time to visit the Pyrenees by motorhome? Winters are quite cold and summers can be very hot, even suffocating. In addition, rainfall can be heavy at high altitudes and in the valleys.

In summer, the accumulation of heat and humidity gives rise to intense and powerful thunderstorms, especially in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques.

In the centre, between the Pic du Midi d'Ossau and the Carlit, the climate is more continental or even mountainous. In the east, the Pyrénées-Orientales are at lower altitude and the sunshine is more generous.

You can therefore visit the Pyrenees by motorhome all year round. The best time to visit the Pyrenees is insummer and autumn, between June and the end of October: this is a dry, sunny and temperate period. This makes it possible to comfortably visit all the reliefs of this natural region.

We wish you a pleasant journey! And be careful!

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