The Pyrenees by motorhome: tips, areas, itineraries

station les angles vtt pyrenees

Are you planning a holiday near the French-Spanish border? Find out how to visit the Pyrenees by motorhome!

Interested in visiting the Pyrenees by motorhome or converted van this year? The Pyrenees range, which crosses the border betweenSpain and France, is full of wonders. What could be better than criss-crossing this massif from the Vermeille coast to the Basque coast? Sleeping in your own vehicle! Road-tripping is a trendy way to travel. Itinerant travel lets you discover a region or country at your own pace, without having to check hotel schedules and rates. You roam in stages, in complete freedom.

Stretching over 430 kilometers, the Pyrenees separate France from Spain through two regions and six French departments: Occitanie and Nouvelle-Aquitaine. In Spain, you’ll discover the foothills of Catalonia, Aragon, Navarre and the Basque Country. This natural barrier, culminating at an altitude of 3,404 metres, is home to exceptional flora and fauna.

Going on an adventure? Here’s our mini-guide to the Pyrenees by motorhome or van.

Route ideas in the Pyrenees by motorhome

Pic de Canigou parapente dans les Pyrénées

Photo credit: CRISTIAN IONUT ZAHARIA / Shutterstock

From the French or Spanish regions, there’s a plethora of possible itineraries for visiting the Pyrenees by motorhome, van or camper van. From Perpignan, start with the Côte Vermeille and its famous seaside towns: Collioure, Port-Vendres, Banyuls-sur-Mer.

Enter the Parc naturel régional des Pyrénées Catalanes, continue on to Foix and the Parc naturel régional des Pyrénées Ariégeoises. To the west, from Lourdes or Bayonne, the ancient glacial valleys of the Pyrenees National Park and the Basque Country are just a stone’s throw away. Of course, it all depends on the length of your stay.

Whether you’re visiting the Pyrenees by motorhome for 7 days, 15 days, a month or even longer, you won’t have the same itinerary. Don’t know where to go or what to visit? Here are our itinerary ideas:

  • From Lourdes: the Louron valley with Arreau, Saint-Larry-Soulan, Lac de Génos, Pic du Midi via Col d’Aspin, Bagnères-de-Luchon and Pic d’Aspe, Col du Tourmalet, Aragnouet and the lakes of the Néouvielle massif, Cirque de Gavarnie, Argelès-Gazost.
  • From Bayonne, towardsSpain: Izpegui Pass and Otxondo Pass, Roncesvalles, Aribe, Arbayun Canyon, Sangüesa, Torla-Ordesa and Monte Perdido, Jaca, Lumbier Gorge, Pamplona, San Sebastian, Irun-Hendaye, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Biarritz.
  • Central Pyrenees: Oloron-Sainte-Marie, Laruns, Ossau Valley lakes and Pic du Midi d’Ossau, Cauterets-Pont-D’Espagne.
  • East of the Pyrenees: same stages, plus the villages of the Ariege Pyrenees Park, Ax-les-Thermes, Andorra, Porté-Puymorens, Pic du Carlit, Lac des Bouillouses, Foix, Font-Romeu, Orgues d’Ille-sur-Têt, Pic du Canigou, Albères massif with Céret, Côte Vermeille, 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 length of your road-trip. If you want to visit the Pyrenees in a week, you’ll need to restrict yourself to a single area, such as the Pyrénées-Orientales. It all depends on whether you want to explore in detail or get an overview of the Pyrenees must-sees.

Book your motorhome for the Pyrenees

Driving a motorhome in the Pyrenees: traffic rules you need to know

Hendaye

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Sasha64f

The Pyrenees straddle France, Spain and the Principality of Andorra. Driving in these three countries is on the right, and overtaking on the left. In any case, you’ll have very little overtaking to do in your motorhome. The roads can be quite winding, especially on the high mountain passes.

Here are a few basic rules for driving in the Pyrenees:

  • Take extra care on mountain roads. They can be narrow, making crossing difficult.
  • The rules of the road in Spain and Andorra are remarkably similar to those in France.
  • Motorhomes weighing up to 3.5 tonnes are legally considered to be cars.
  • All passengers must be wearing seat belts when the vehicle is in motion.
  • Of course, no one is allowed to sleep in the back of the camper van on the road.
  • The driver must be able to provide the authorities with driving documents in the event of an inspection (driving license, insurance and vehicle registration document).
  • In addition, the motorhome must be equipped with a warning triangle, spare bulbs and a reflective yellow vest.
  • On the Spanish side, it’s compulsory to honk your horn on mountain bends if you lack visibility.

The speed limits in France are :

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

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

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

Freeway tolls in the Pyrenees: what price for your category of motorhome?

Saint-Sébastien

Photo credit: Shutterstock / S-F

Although the Pyrenees massif is full of natural spaces, there are freeways to access it. On the French side, the A64, A63 and A9 motorways serve the south-western towns leading to the massif: Perpignan (A9), Saint-Gaudens, Tarbes, Pau (A64) and Biarritz (A63).

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

In France, freeways are toll roads, managed by ASF and VINCI. The A64 is a toll road from Toulouse to the Sames toll booth, before Bayonne. To cross the Pyrenees, you’ll need to use the secondary network of national roads. On the Spanish side, on the other hand, only the AP-7 and AP-8 are subject to tolls. The other freeways (A-23 and A-21) are autovías and free of charge.

How much do you have to pay on the freeway to visit the Pyrenees in a 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: you simply collect a ticket from the entrance terminal, and pay according to the distance covered.

How and where to rent a motorhome in France?

In France, it is now possible to book your motorhome online? How? Thanks to various online reservation platforms, such as Yescapa.

How does it work?

  • First, you need to choose the motorhome in your city (e.g. Bordeaux, Nantes, Toulouse, Paris, Montpellier or Marseille).
  • Make sure you choose unlimited mileage, check the number of berths available and whether international travel 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 details to arrange a first meeting.
  • On the day, present your driver’s license and pay the deposit.
  • An inventory of fixtures is drawn up and a rental contract signed by both parties. On your return, after a day of touring the Pyrenees, you sign the return inventory and that’s it!

Rent a motorhome in France

How do I rent a motorhome in the Pyrenees?

Port de Collioure

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Irina Papoyan

The Pyrenees are a popular tourist destination. So it’s easy to rent a motorhome in the surrounding area. Big cities like Pau, Perpignan, Tarbes and Lourdes are the best places to find rentals.

On the other hand, demand is high. By the time you arrive, all the motorhomes may have been rented. So it’s a good idea to book your Pyrenees motorhome online before you leave.

Book your motorhome for the Pyrenees

RV parks in the Pyrenees: where to park?

Carte Caramaps des Pyrénées

Photo credit: Caramaps

When visiting the Pyrenees in a motorhome, the question is: where to park? Motorhomes are allowed to park on the same sites as cars.

In Spain and France, camping on public roads is officially forbidden by law. In principle, you’re liable to a fine if the police stop you in the middle of the night and you’re camping on the public highway. Nevertheless, there are plenty of places to set up camp, especially in the remote areas of the Pyrenees. But don’t camp illegally in the nature parks of the Catalan and Ariege Pyrenees, or in the Pyrenees National Park. Instead, opt for villages outside the parks. You’ll be more likely to go unnoticed, however, in a converted van or small camper van.

If you’re reluctant to sleep illegally, you’ll find a good number of campsites and service areas for motorhomes. These places charge a fee, but are authorized to receive travelers. The Campercontact and Caramaps websites can be very useful for finding motorhome service areas in the Pyrenees. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for an isolated spot, we’ve got the solution. Check out Park4night’s interactive map. It’s a tool for sharing spots between travelers on cell phones.

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

parapente Pic du Midi de Bigorre

Photo credit: Shutterstock / LABETAA Andre

Last but not least, climate and weather are very important when visiting the Pyrenees in a motorhome or van. The Pyrenees are subject to major climatic contrasts. To the west, the range is under oceanic influence.

To the east, Mediterranean and continental influences predominate. From Cap Higuer in the Bay of Biscay to Cap de Creus in Catalonia, the climate varies. Altitude ranges from high mountain 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 fairly cold and summers can be very hot, even suffocating. What’s more, rainfall can be heavy at altitude and in the valleys.

In summer, accumulated heat and humidity give rise to intense and powerful thunderstorms, especially in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques.

In the center, between the Pic du Midi d’Ossau and the Carlit mountains, the climate is more continental to mountainous. To the east, the Pyrénées-Orientales are at lower altitude, and the sunshine is more generous.

So you can visit the Pyrenees by motorhome all year round.Summer and autumn, between June and the end of October, are the best times, as they are dry, sunny and temperate. It’s a dry, sunny and temperate period, which means you can comfortably visit all the landforms of this natural region.

All that remains is to wish you a safe journey! And be careful!