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France - Butterflies of the Pyrenees

Tour Code: FRA03

An 8-day holiday in search of the profusion of butterflies, and other natural history, to be found on gentle day walks in the French Pyrenees.

8 days from £1495(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1375 SRS: £180

On this holiday we’ll explore the Parc National des Pyrénées on foot, using well-maintained mountain trails for a series of gentle day walks to enjoy the best of the great number and diversity of butterflies to be found in the hay meadows, woods and alpine pastures of this high central region of the French Pyrenees. We’ll set out each day from our friendly family-run hotel, serving traditional French fare, to enjoy some of the best mountain scenery in the Pyrenees as well as the birds, flowers and mammals that we may encounter during our search for butterflies.

  • A wealth of butterfly species (70-100) including Pyrenean specialities
  • Apollo, Clouded Apollo, alpine ringlets & whites at high altitudes
  • Scarce, Purple-shot & Purple-edged Coppers
  • The very rare Gavarnie Blue plus a host of other blues & fritillaries
  • Alpine flowers including Alpenrose, plus gentians, saxifrages & orchids
  • Spectacular Pyrenean scenery & delicious picnics in flower-filled meadows
  • Look out for Marmot & Chamois
  • Golden Eagle, Lammergeier & Griffon Vulture
  • Expert naturalist guide with superb local knowledge


All included in the price.


A delightful family-run hotel, all rooms with private facilities.

Piedmont Ringlet (unknown)

Piedmont Ringlet (unknown)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly to Lourdes and then drive to Gèdre

Day 2/7 Walking excursions in the Parc National des Pyrénées

Day 8 Return London

On this holiday we will be exploring the Parc National des Pyrénées on foot, using well-maintained mountain trails for a series of gentle day walks which, in July, will enable us to enjoy the best of the great numbers and diversity of butterflies to be found in the hay meadows, woods and alpine pastures of this high central region of the French Pyrenees. These largely north-facing slopes, closer to the Atlantic than the Mediterranean, are wetter, lusher, greener and more forested than the southern, Spanish slopes, and in a typical week’s stay in this area during midsummer we may hope to see at least 70 species of butterfly, with 100 being possible in a good year, including local endemics and many high-altitude specialists. Our base, throughout our stay, will be a pleasant country hotel in the quiet village of Gèdre. Situated at just over 1,000 metres, and just a short drive from the magnificent Cirque de Gavarnie, it is an ideal base from which to explore the full spectrum of Pyrenean habitats during daily walking excursions of varying distances.

We will explore at all altitudes between 500 and 3,000 metres in order to enjoy as wide a range of species as possible, but it is in the high Pyrenees where we’ll find most of the butterfly, plant, bird and mammal specialities, not to mention the most spectacular scenery! The area around the Cirque de Gavarnie, with its high forests, alpine meadows and spectacular waterfalls, will be the focus of our attention on several days of our holiday. Its steep slopes, and surrounding high peaks and passes, offer fine walking and the best of high Pyrenean butterflies, birds and flowers. On the bleak and craggy Col de Boucharo, perched high on the Spanish border above the canyons of the Ordessa National Park, we will look for Peak and Mountain Dappled Whites, Apollo and Clouded Apollo, and various alpine Ringlets including Bright-eyed, Lefèbvre’s, Yellow-spotted, Mountain and Western Brassy. Snowfinches and Alpine Accentors are found feeding around the melting snow, whilst the tree-line is the place to look for Citril Finches. Black Redstarts, Water Pipits, Rock Buntings, Ravens, Choughs and Alpine Choughs are common, while overhead we’ll see Golden Eagles, Lammergeiers, Griffon Vultures and other raptors. High cliffs will receive particular attention, for on these we will always have a chance of finding that most elusive of all Pyrenean birds, the Wallcreeper.

The tranquil and airy Cirque de Troumouse, high above the tree-line, is quite as beautiful. Less well known than Gavarnie, its relative peace and quiet make it a haven for mammals such as Marmots, Chamois and Foxes, with small pools and streams being the home of the rare and elusive Pyrenean Brook Salamander. The boulder-strewn slopes here and the alpine meadows of the Heas Valley just below, are at this time of year a superb place to marvel at the fabulous show of colourful plants, including the beautiful blue English Iris, Alpenrose, Field, Spring and Trumpet Gentians, a bewildering array of different saxifrages, various orchids and a wealth of other interesting species. Of course, where the flora is rich it follows that the insect fauna is also very diverse, with Scarce, Purple-shot and Purple-edged Copper, numerous fritillaries, Camberwell Beauty, Large Tortoiseshell and many species of blue being found. The star attraction, though, is the very rare and appropriately named Gavarnie Blue, restricted to just a few sites in the central Pyrenees and the adjacent Cantabrian Mountains in Spain.

At lower altitudes we will explore some of the many lakes and reservoirs, around which the waterside meadows are a botanist’s paradise, with numerous species of butterfly proliferating in a pesticide-free environment. Fritillaries are particularly abundant in these habitats, with Niobe, High Brown, Shepherd’s, False Heath, Marbled and Lesser Marbled amongst others, while Blues are also numerous and include Amanda’s, Turquoise, Escher’s, Long-tailed, Osiris and Large Blue. A further challenge will be the identification of the many species of fast-flying skippers.

One day will also be set aside to visit the ancient conifer forests, on granite rocks, that surround the beautiful Lac de Gaube, the change to acid conditions giving us a whole new range of different butterflies, plants and birds to enjoy. The former include Mountain Clouded Yellow, Glandon, Baton, Osiris and Idas Blues, Apollo, Large and Spanish Brassy Ringlet and Large Wall Brown, while Water Saxifrage, Large Yellow Gentian, Alpine Sow-thistle and Alpine Leek are amongst the many plants to be found here. The pine woods also support a wide range of birds, including Black Woodpecker and Crested Tit, and the endearing Red Squirrel.

This holiday, taking in the broad range of Pyrenean natural history, and offering a wide variety and choice of walking excursions, should suit a broad range of interests and abilities. But it is the butterflies that are the stars in July, and they are what we place a special focus on during this ‘high summer’ holiday.

Lesser Marbled Fritillary (Mark Galliott)Port de Boucharo (Mark Galliott)Purple Sandwort, Arenaria pururascens (Mark Galliott)Ramonda myconi (Mark Galliott)View towards Gavarnie from Port de Boucharo (Mark Galliott)Scarce Copper (Mark Galliott)Ashy Crane's-bill, Geranium cinereum (Mark Galliott)Port de Boucharo (Mark Galliott)Meadow, Héas Valley (Mark Galliott)Cirque d'Etaube from Lac des Gloriettes (Mark Galliott)English Iris, Lac des Gloriettes (Mark Galliott)English Iris, Iris latifolia (Mark Galliott)Eryngium bougatii (Mark Galliott)Naturetrek Group (Mark Galliott)Globe-headed Rampion, Phyteuma hemisphaericum (Mark Galliott)Alpine Marmot (Mark Galliott)Apollo (David Morris)Common Rockrose (Mark Galliott)Heath FritillaryInvestigating an interesting specimen! (Julian Gayarre)<i>Iris latifolia</i> English Iris (Mark Galliott)Lac de Gaube (Mark Galliott)Lac des Gloriettes (Mark Galliott)Lesser Marbled Fritillary (Mark Galliott)Naturetrek group in the Cirque de Gavarnie (Julian Gayarre)Pyrenean Brook Newt female (David Morris)Pyrenean Squill (David Morris)Scarce Copper (Julian Gayarre)Silver-studded Blues (Julian Gayarre)Small BlueSnow Gentian (Mark Galliott)Upper Ossoue valley (Mark Galliott)A morning walk in the French Pyrenees
Very impressed with the leaders’ expertise and their willingness to teach. A special mention to Odile and Philippe Pujo (owners of the hotel) and their delightful hotel where we stayed.
Hotel and village - first rate. Leaders - tremendous! Scenery and weather - brilliantly organised!
A splendid trip with two professional, enthusiastic leaders. Mark and Jason are a terrific team.
Very enjoyable, particularly given Mark's detailed knowledge of both butterflies and plants; and beautiful countryside.
Both leaders were enthusiastic, expert and energetic - and good drivers! Great weather. Super butterflies, and moths and birds were a bonus. Careful IDs of butterflies appreciated. Delightful 'logis' in Gèdre. I feel better educated, more relaxed and more enriched by the interesting company.
I was very pleased with the tour leader, Mark Galliott. He looked after all domestics admirably, and in the field knew the common and scientific names of all the butterflies and plants, and much else. He was friendly and helpful and worked extremely hard each day to ensure we saw as much as we could.
Mark Galliott was an excellent leader - conscientious, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, approachable and energetic! He accommodated the diverse interests of the group, managing to keep both the 'flower girls' and the 'butterfly boys' happy. He was a patient teacher, taking time to explain identification criteria on butterfly wings - excellent for those of us who were beginners and wanted to learn. I would certainly look for tours led by both leaders, as I respect them as naturalists and like them as people!
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Fri 5th July 2019 - Fri 12th July 2019



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Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are limited. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1375 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: France

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Tour Reviews

Very impressed with the leaders’ expertise and their willingness to teach. A special mention to Odile and Philippe Pujo (owners of the hotel) and their delightful hotel where we stayed.
J.B., Shropshire