The Pyrenees (/ˈpɪrɪniːz/; Spanish: Pirineos [piɾiˈneos]; French: Pyrénées [piʁene]; Aragonese: Pirineus; Catalan: Pirineus [piɾiˈnɛws]; Occitan: Pirenèus; Basque: Pirinioak [piˈɾinioˌak]) is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between Spain and France. Reaching a height of 3,404 metres (11,168 ft) altitude at the peak of Aneto, the range separates the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of continental Europe, and extends for about 491 km (305 mi) from the Bay of Biscay (Cap Higuer) to the Mediterranean Sea (Cap de Creus).
For the most part, the main crest forms a divide between Spain and France, with the microstate of Andorra sandwiched in between. The Principality of Catalonia alongside with the Kingdom of Aragon in the Crown of Aragon, Occitania and the Kingdom of Navarre have historically extended on both sides of the mountain range, with smaller northern portions now in France and larger southern parts now in Spain.
|The Pyrenees Mountains|
Basque: Pirinioak, Auñamendiak
|Elevation||3,404 m (11,168 ft)|
|Length||491 km (305 mi)|
|Etymology||Named for Pyrene|
|Countries||Spain, France and Andorra|
|Age of rock||Paleozoic and Mesozoic|
|Type of rock||granite, gneiss, limestone|
In Greek mythology, Pyrene is a princess who gave her name to the Pyrenees. The Greek historian Herodotus says Pyrene is the name of a town in Celtic Europe. According to Silius Italicus, she was the virgin daughter of Bebryx, a king in Mediterranean Gaul by whom the hero Hercules was given hospitality during his quest to steal the cattle of Geryon during his famous Labours. Hercules, characteristically drunk and lustful, violates the sacred code of hospitality and rapes his host's daughter. Pyrene gives birth to a serpent and runs away to the woods, afraid that her father will be angry. Alone, she pours out her story to the trees, attracting the attention of wild beasts who tear her to pieces.
After his victory over Geryon, Hercules passes through the kingdom of Bebryx again, finding the girl's lacerated remains. As is often the case in stories of this hero, the sober Hercules responds with heartbroken grief and remorse at the actions of his darker self, and lays Pyrene to rest tenderly, demanding that the surrounding geography join in mourning and preserve her name: "struck by Herculean voice, the mountaintops shudder at the ridges; he kept crying out with a sorrowful noise 'Pyrene!' and all the rock-cliffs and wild-beast haunts echo back 'Pyrene!' … The mountains hold on to the wept-over name through the ages." Pliny the Elder connects the story of Hercules and Pyrene to Lusitania, but rejects it as fabulosa, highly fictional.
Other classical sources derived the name from the Greek word for fire, Ancient Greek: πῦρ (IPA: /pŷːr/). According to Greek historian Diodorus Siculus "..in ancient times, we are told, certain herdsmen left a fire and the whole area of the mountains was entirely consumed; and due to this fire, since it raged continuously day after day, the surface of the earth was also burned and the mountains, because of what had taken place, were called the Pyrenees."
The Spanish Pyrenees are part of the following provinces, from east to west: Girona, Barcelona, Lleida (all in Catalonia), Huesca (in Aragon), Navarra (in Navarre) and Gipuzkoa (in the Basque Country).
The French Pyrenees are part of the following départements, from east to west: Pyrénées-Orientales (North Catalonia and Fenolheda), Aude, Ariège, Haute-Garonne, Hautes-Pyrénées, and Pyrénées-Atlantiques (the latter two of which include the Pyrenees National Park).
Physiographically, the Pyrenees may be divided into three sections: the Atlantic (or Western), the Central, and the Eastern Pyrenees. Together, they form a distinct physiographic province of the larger Alpine System division.
In the Eastern Pyrenees, with the exception of one break at the eastern extremity of the Pyrénées Ariègeoises in the Ariège area, the mean elevation is remarkably uniform until a sudden decline occurs in the easternmost portion of the chain known as the Albères.
Most foothills of the Pyrenees are on the Spanish side, where there is a large and complex system of ranges stretching from Spanish Navarre, across northern Aragon and into Catalonia, almost reaching the Mediterranean coast with summits reaching 2,600 m (8,500 ft). At the eastern end on the southern side lies a distinct area known as the Sub-Pyrenees.
The Pyrenees are older than the Alps: their sediments were first deposited in coastal basins during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras. Between 100 and 150 million years ago, during the Lower Cretaceous Period, the Bay of Biscay fanned out, pushing present-day Spain against France and applying intense compressional pressure to large layers of sedimentary rock. The intense pressure and uplifting of the Earth's crust first affected the eastern part and moved progressively to the entire chain, culminating in the Eocene Epoch.
The eastern part of the Pyrenees consists largely of granite and gneissose rocks, while in the western part the granite peaks are flanked by layers of limestone. The massive and unworn character of the chain comes from its abundance of granite, which is particularly resistant to erosion, as well as weak glacial development.
The upper parts of the Pyrenees contain low-relief surfaces forming a peneplain. This peneplain originated no earlier than in Late Miocene times. Presumably it formed at height as extensive sedimentation raised the local base level considerably.
Conspicuous features of Pyrenean scenery are:
The highest waterfall is Gavarnie (462 m or 1,515 ft), at the head of the Gave de Pau; the Cirque de Gavarnie, in the same valley, together with the nearby Cirque de Troumouse and Cirque d'Estaubé, are notable examples of the cirque formation.
Low passes are lacking, and the principal roads and the railroads between France and Spain run only in the lowlands at the western and eastern ends of the Pyrenees, near sea level. The main passes of note are:
The metallic ores of the Pyrenees are not in general of much importance now, though there were iron mines at several locations in Andorra, as well as at Vicdessos in Ariège, and the foot of Canigou in Pyrénées-Orientales long ago. Coal deposits capable of being profitably worked are situated chiefly on the Spanish slopes, but the French side has beds of lignite. The open pit of Trimoun near the commune of Luzenac (Ariège) is one of the greatest sources of talc in Europe.
Mineral springs are abundant and remarkable, and especially noteworthy are the hot springs. The hot springs, among which those of Les Escaldes in Andorra, Panticosa and Lles in Spain, Ax-les-Thermes, Bagnères-de-Luchon and Eaux-Chaudes in France may be mentioned, are sulfurous and mostly situated high, near the contact of the granite with the stratified rocks. The lower springs, such as those of Bagnères-de-Bigorre (Hautes-Pyrénées), Rennes-les-Bains (Aude), and Campagne-sur-Aude (Aude), are mostly selenitic and not hot.
The amount of precipitation the range receives, including rain and snow, is much greater in the western than in the eastern Pyrenees because of the moist air that blows in from the Atlantic Ocean over the Bay of Biscay. After dropping its moisture over the western and central Pyrenees, the air is left dry over the eastern Pyrenees. The winter average temperature is -2 °C (28.4 °F).
Sections of the mountain range vary in more than one respect. There are some glaciers in the western and snowy central Pyrenees, but there are no glaciers in the eastern Pyrenees because there is insufficient snowfall to cause their development. Glaciers are confined to the northern slopes of the central Pyrenees, and do not descend, like those of the Alps, far down into the valleys but rather have their greatest lengths along the direction of the mountain chain. They form, in fact, in a narrow zone near the crest of the highest mountains. Here, as in the other great mountain ranges of central Europe, there is substantial evidence of a much wider expanse of glaciation during the glacial periods. The best evidence of this is in the valley of Argeles Gazost, between Lourdes and Gavarnie, in the département of Hautes-Pyrénées.
The annual snow-line varies in different parts of the Pyrenees from about 2,700 to 2,800 metres above sea level. In average the seasonal snow is observed at least 50% of the time above 1,600 metres between December and April.
A still more marked effect of the preponderance of rainfall in the western half of the chain is seen in the vegetation. The lower mountains in the extreme west are wooded, but the extent of forest declines as one moves eastwards. The eastern Pyrenees are peculiarly wild and barren, all the more since it is in this part of the chain that granitic masses prevail. Also moving from west to east, there is a change in the composition of the flora, with the change becoming most evident as one passes the centre of the mountain chain from which point the Corbières stretch north-eastwards towards the central plateau of France. Though the difference in latitude is only about 1°, in the west the flora resembles that of central Europe while in the east it is distinctly Mediterranean in character. The Pyrenees are nearly as rich in endemic species as the Alps, and among the most remarkable instances of that endemism is the occurrence of the monotypic genus Xatardia (family Apiaceae), which grows only on a high alpine pass between the Val d'Eynes and Catalonia. Other examples include Arenaria montana, Bulbocodium vernum, and Ranunculus glacialis. The genus most abundantly represented in the range is that of the saxifrages, several species of which are endemic here.
In their fauna the Pyrenees present some striking instances of endemism. The Pyrenean desman is found only in some of the streams of the northern slopes of these mountains; the only other desmans are confined to the rivers of the Caucasus in southern Russia. The Pyrenean euprocte (Euproctus pyrenaicus), an endemic relative of the salamander, also lives in streams and lakes located at high altitudes. Among other peculiarities of Pyrenean fauna are blind insects in the caverns of Ariège, the principal genera of which are Anophthalmus and Adelops.
The Pyrenean ibex mysteriously became extinct in January 2000; the native Pyrenean brown bear was hunted to near-extinction in the 1990s, but it was re-introduced in 1996 when three bears were brought from Slovenia. The bear population has bred successfully, and there are now believed to be about 15 brown bears in the central region around Fos, but only four native ones are still living in the Aspe Valley.
Principal nature reserves and national parks:
The Pyrenean region possesses a varied ethnology, folklore and history: see Andorra; Aragon; Ariège; Basque Country; Béarn; Catalonia; Navarre; Roussillon. For their history, see also Almogavars, Marca Hispanica.
The principal languages spoken in the area are Spanish, French, Aragonese, Catalan (in Catalonia and Andorra), and Basque. Also spoken, to a lesser degree, is the Occitan language, consisting of the Gascon and Languedocien dialects in France and the Aranese dialect in the Aran Valley.
An important feature of rural life in the Pyrenees is 'transhumance', the moving of livestock from the farms in the valleys up to the higher grounds of the mountains for the summer. In this way the farming communities could keep larger herds than the lowland farms could support on their own. The principal animals moved were cows and sheep, but historically most members of farming families also moved to the higher pastures along with their animals, so they also took with them pigs, horses and chickens. Transhumance thus took the form of a mass biannual migration, moving uphill in May or June and returning to the farms in September or October. During the summer period, the families would live in basic stone cabins in the high mountains.
Nowadays, industrialisation and changing agriculture practices have diminished the custom. However, the importance of transhumance continues to be recognised through its celebration in popular festivals.
The following is the complete list of the summits of the Pyrenees above 3,000 meters:
Both sides of the Pyrenees are popular spots for winter sports such as alpine skiing and mountaineering. The Pyrenees are also a good place for athletes to do high-altitude training in the summertime, such as by bicycling and cross-country running.
In the summer and the autumn, the Pyrenees are usually featured in two of cycling's grand tours, the Tour de France held annually in July and the Vuelta a España held in September. The stages held in the Pyrenees are often crucial legs of both tours, drawing hundreds of thousands of spectators to the region.
Three main long-distance footpaths run the length of the mountain range: the GR 10 across the northern slopes, the GR 11 across the southern slopes, and the HRP which traverses peaks and ridges along a high altitude route. In addition, there are numerous marked and unmarked trails throughout the region.
Pirena is a dog-mushing competition held in the Pyrenees.
Ski resorts in the Pyrenees include:
The following is a list of the 546 communes of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department of France.
(CAB) Communauté d'agglomération du Pays Basque, created in 2017
(CAP) Communauté d'agglomération Pau Béarn Pyrénées, created in 2017Ger, Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Ger is a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in south-western France.Great Pyrenees
The Great Pyrenees, known as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog outside of North America, is a large breed of dog used as a livestock guardian dog. It should not be confused with the Pyrenean Mastiff.
As late as 1874 the breed was not completely standardized in appearance, with two major subtypes recorded, the Western and the Eastern. They are related to several other large, white, European livestock guardian dogs (LGD), including the Maremma Sheepdog (Italy), the Kuvasz (Hungary), the Akbash (Turkey) and the Polish Tatra Sheepdog or Polski Owczarek Podhalański, and somewhat less closely to the Newfoundland and the St. Bernard. According to the Great Pyrenees Club of America, the Great Pyrenees is naturally nocturnal and aggressive with any predators that may harm its flock. However, the breed can typically be trusted with small, young and helpless animals of any kind due to its natural guardian instinct.The Great Pyrenees breed has experienced a dramatic falloff in the number of U.S. AKC breed registrations from 2000 to 2010. The breed was ranked at #45 in 2000 and by 2010 the Great Pyrenees had dropped to #71. In 2013 the breed was ranked #69. Other large breeds in the same working group classification, the Newfoundland and the St. Bernard, have fared far better in maintaining their breed rankings. In 2010 the Newfoundland and the St. Bernard were ranked #44 and #45, respectively.Hautes-Pyrénées
Hautes-Pyrénées (French pronunciation: [ot pi.ʁe.ne]) (Gascon/Occitan: Nauts Pirenèus / Hauts Pirenèus ['awts piɾeˈnɛʊs]; Spanish: Altos Pirineos; Catalan: Alts Pirineus ['alts piɾiˈneʊs]) is a department in southwestern France. It is part of the Occitanie region.Lagos, Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Lagos is a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in south-western France.Midi-Pyrénées
Midi-Pyrénées (French: [midi piʁene] (listen); Occitan: Miègjorn-Pirenèus or Mieidia-Pirenèus; Spanish: Mediodía-Pirineos) is a former administrative region of France. Since 1 January 2016, it has been part of the new region Occitanie. It was the largest region of Metropolitan France by area, larger than the Netherlands or Denmark.
Midi-Pyrénées has no historical or geographical unity. It is one of the regions of France created in the late 20th century to serve as a hinterland and zone of influence for its capital, Toulouse, one of a handful of so-called "balancing metropolises" (métropoles d'équilibre). Another example of this is the region of Rhône-Alpes which was created as the region for Lyon.Monségur, Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Monségur is a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in south-western France.Occitanie
Occitanie (French: [ɔksitani] (listen); Occitan: Occitània [utsiˈtanjɔ]; Catalan: Occitània [uksiˈtaniə]) or Occitania is the southernmost administrative region of metropolitan France excluding Corsica, created on 1 January 2016 from the former regions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées. The Conseil d'État approved Occitanie as the new name of the region on 28 September 2016, coming into effect on 30 September 2016.The modern administrative region is named after the cultural and historical region of Occitania, which covers a larger area. The region as it is today covers a territory similar to that ruled by the Counts of Toulouse in the 12th and 13th centuries. The banner of arms of the Counts of Toulouse, known colloquially as the Occitan cross, is used by the modern region and is also a popular cultural symbol.Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Pau (French pronunciation: [po], Occitan pronunciation: [paw]; Basque: Paue [pau]) is a commune on the northern edge of the Pyrenees, and capital of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques Département in the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France.
The city is located in the heart of the former sovereign Principality of Béarn, of which it was the capital from 1464. Bordered by the Gave de Pau, the city is located 100 kilometres (62 mi) from the Atlantic Ocean and 50 kilometres (31 mi) from Spain. This position gives it an exceptional panorama across the mountain range of the Pyrenees as well as on the hillsides of Jurançon. The name of Horizons Palois aims to protect this vision, in particular with the famous Boulevard des Pyrénées which extends for 1.8 kilometres (1.1 miles) from the Château de Pau to the Parc Beaumont. Alphonse de Lamartine said: "Pau has the world's most beautiful view of the earth just as Naples has the most beautiful view of the sea."
Archaeology has asserted that the site has been occupied at least since the Gallo-Roman era. Nevertheless, it wasn't until the first half of the 12th century that the first mentions of Pau as a settlement are found. The town originated from the construction of its castle, likely from the 11th century by the Viscounts of Béarn, to protect the ford which was a strategic point for access to the Bearn valleys and then to Spain. The city thus took its name from the stockade (pau in Bearnese) which set the boundaries of the primitive castle.
The village which was built around the castle took advantage of its strategic position as well as the protection of the Viscounts of Béarn to widely develop over the following centuries. Pau became the capital of Béarn in 1464, thus becoming the political, cultural and economic centre of this small State which continued to defend its independence from the neighbouring French, English and Spanish territories. The town and its castle took on a new dimension by becoming the seat of the Kings of Navarre, at the capture of Pamplona, by the Kingdom of Castile in 1512. Pau became a leading political and intellectual centre under the reign of Henry d'Albret and his wife Marguerite.
The history of Pau is marked by the birth of Henry of Bourbon 13 December 1553 in the castle of his grandparents. He gained access to the throne of France in 1589 under the title of Henry IV. The image of the city is since widely associated with that of this monarch made famous for his willingness to put an end to the seemingly endless Wars of Religion. With the end of Béarnaise independence in 1620, Pau lost its influence but remained the same at the head of a largely autonomous province. It was home to the Parliament of Navarre and Béarn which wrote its texts in Occitan until the Revolution and its dismantling to create the Department of Basses-Pyrénées (renamed Pyrénées-Atlantiques in 1969). It was during the 18th century when another famous person was born in Pau, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte who became Marshal of the Empire and King of Sweden, today still the ruling dynasty of Sweden and also of Norway when that country was under the Swedish monarchy.
The Belle Époque marked a resurgence for the Béarnaise capital with a massive influx of wealthy foreign tourists (including English but also Russian, Spanish and American), they came to spend the winter to take advantage of the benefits of Pau's climate described by the Scottish physician Alexander Taylor. Pau turned widely with the construction of many villas and mansions to accommodate these wintering rich people, the city also developed all elements of modernity for their comfort: baths, funicular and railway station. It was at this time that Pau became one of the world capitals of the nascent aerospace industry under the influence of the Wright brothers, crowned heads then pressed there to observe the flight of the first flying school in the world.
With the decline of tourism during the 20th century, the Pau economy (and its suburbs) gradually shifted towards the aviation industry and then to that of petrochemicals with the major discovery of the Lacq gas field in 1951. Pau today is a city of about 80,000 inhabitants, the main urban area of Pau and of the Communauté d'agglomération Pau Béarn Pyrénées with 30 neighbouring communes which carry out local tasks together. The Université de Pau et des Pays de l'Adour, founded in 1972, accounts for a large student population. The city plays a leading role for Béarn but also for a wide segment of the Adour area. An administrative capital, it boasts a dense economic fabric including service activities. Pau also plays the role of cultural capital with many events, including sports. Pau's heritage extends over several centuries, its diversity and its quality allowed it to obtain the label of City of Art and History in 2011.
The name of its people is Palois and the motto of Pau is in Latin: Urbis palladium et gentis ("protective of the city and its people").Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Pyrénées-Atlantiques (French pronunciation: [piʁene atlɑ̃tik]; Gascon: Pirenèus-Atlantics; Basque: Pirinio Atlantiarrak or Pirinio Atlantikoak) is a department in the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, in southwestern France. It takes its name from the Pyrenees mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. It covers the French Basque Country and the Béarn.Pyrénées-Atlantiques's 1st constituency
The 1st constituency of the Pyrénées-Atlantique is a French legislative constituency in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques département.The 1st constituency of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques (French: Première circonscription des Pyrénées-Atlantiques) is a French legislative constituency in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques département. Like the other 576 French constituencies, it elects one MP using the two-round system, with a run-off if no candidate receives over 50% of the vote in the first round.Pyrénées-Atlantiques's 2nd constituency
The 2nd constituency of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques (French: deuxième circonscription des Pyrénées-Atlantiques) is a French legislative constituency in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques département. Like the other 576 French constituencies, it elects one MP using the two-round system, with a run-off if no candidate receives over 50% of the vote in the first round.Pyrénées-Atlantiques's 3rd constituency
The 3rd constituency of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques (French: Troisième circonscription des Pyrénées-Atlantiques) is a French legislative constituency in Pyrénées-Atlantiques département. Like the other 576 French constituencies, it elects one MP using the two-round system, with a run-off if no candidate receives over 50% of the vote in the first round.Pyrénées-Atlantiques's 4th constituency
The 4th constituency of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques (French: Quatrième circonscription des Pyrénées-Atlantiques) is a French legislative constituency in Pyrénées-Atlantiques département. Like the other 576 French constituencies, it elects one MP using the two-round system, with a run-off if no candidate receives over 50% of the vote in the first round.Pyrénées-Atlantiques's 5th constituency
The 5th constituency of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques (French: Cinquième circonscription des Pyrénées-Atlantiques) is a French legislative constituency in Pyrénées-Atlantiques département. Like the other 576 French constituencies, it elects one MP using the two-round system, with a run-off if no candidate receives over 50% of the vote in the first round.Pyrénées-Orientales
Pyrénées-Orientales (French pronunciation: [piʁene ɔʁjɑ̃tal]; Catalan: Pirineus Orientals [piɾiˈneus uɾiənˈtals]; Occitan: Pirenèus Orientals; "Eastern Pyrenees"), also known as Northern Catalonia, is a department of Occitanie adjacent to the northern Spanish frontier and the Mediterranean Sea. It also surrounds the tiny Spanish exclave of Llívia, and thus has two distinct borders with Spain.Pyrénées-Orientales's 3rd constituency
The 2nd constituency of the Pyrénées-Orientales (French: Troisième circonscription des Pyrénées-Orientales) is a French legislative constituency in the Pyrénées-Orientales département. Like the other 576 French constituencies, it elects one MP using the two-round system, with a run-off if no candidate receives over 50% of the vote in the first round.Pyrénées-Orientales's 4th constituency
The 4th constituency of the Pyrénées-Orientales (French: Quatrième circonscription des Pyrénées-Orientales) is a French legislative constituency in the Pyrénées-Orientales département. Like the other 576 French constituencies, it elects one MP using the two-round system, with a run-off if no candidate receives over 50% of the vote in the first round.Villefranque, Hautes-Pyrénées
Villefranque, Hautes-Pyrénées is a commune in the Hautes-Pyrénées department in south-western France.
Mountain ranges of France
Mountain ranges of Spain