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Crossing The Pyrenees

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We (my wife and daughter and I) are travelling from Saumur (49) to visit family in Spain in a couple of weeks. We have planned to stop overnight near Carcassonne before heading to Barcelona and onto Valencia. Our return route takes to Bordeaux via Madrid.

What we really want to know having never been that far south is the best places to cross the Pyrenees. Obviously our route takes us to eastern Pyrenees going south and more westerly heading north.

Perhaps those with experience of the region could help us. We have no great schedule and are camping en route. Also if any one knows of a cheap and cheerful yet nice place to pitch a tent around Carcassone that would be good to know. We are really looking forward to seeing more of France and especially crossing the mountains!!!
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>Our return route takes
>to Bordeaux via Madrid.

Not sure about the way there, but on the way back, you take the N1 North (now called A1, now I think about it) out of Madrid to Vitoria-Gasteiz, then follow San Sebastian. From San Sebastian, follow France and just keep going until you get to Bordeaux.

You can either go via Bilbao or Vitoria, but the Bilboa route is not any quicker, it's more expensive and the road from Bilbao to San Sebastian is notoriously dangerous.

It takes about 6 hours to get to Bordeaux once you get out of Madrid. If you are traversing Madrid from the south take the M3O, not the M40.

Bonne route!

Ben Symons
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The motorway going south through Carcassonne to Perpignan and on across the border to Girona is really easy. I have only had to wave my passport on crossing the border and continued without having to stop. I recommend you leave the motorway asap as the motorway south of the border to Girona costs 13 Euros but to the first 'off' it's only 1.65 .
In early July I was driving a very small car (read 'slow and unstable') and it only took me 3 hours from Toulouse to Figueras. The non-motorway road gets really crowded with French and Spanish drivers.
FYI At Toulouse I was told that the tunnel south of Foix - maybe to Andorra - was closed. Now? I don't know.
Hope this helps. Have a great trip!

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LAST EDITED ON 28-Jul-04 AT 12:02 PM (BST)

It's very easy to use the Autoroute all the way to Barcelona but you'd be missing quite a few sights if you do.

Suggest you head for somewhere like Collioure, have lunch on one of the beachside restaurants and then take the coast road down to Figeures (very steep cliffside roads but breathtaking views) - if you're interested in art in any way you should not miss the Salvador Dali museum in Figeures. Autoroute to Barcelona from there is no problem.
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Have you ever thought of crossing the Pyrenees through Andorra?

We did this a couple of years ago on our way to Spain. It does, however, take a lot longer and the roads can be steep.

What you gain is perhaps the most spectacular views of the Pyrrenees mountains you will ever see.

Andorra itself can get a bit crowded during the summer months but its VAT free so you can stock up at a very good price. There are customs posts on both the French and Spanish sides but they have always seemed generally disinterested.

If you have time on your hands and a real sense of adventure I can recommend it.

Good luck

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