When my husband and I agreed that we wanted to take a few days in the Pyrenees during our trip to the south of France, we initially wanted to just book ourselves a gite (cabin) or B&B. It turned out that with only a few weeks notice and us arriving the week before the Tour de France, that wasn’t going to happen. So we started looking into alternatives.
We looked at a place that had Mongolian Yurts, which looked really cool, but were unfortunately booked already. Then I thought, well… if we were going to stay in a tent, why not our own? Then I settled in with Google to look for what campgrounds were in the area of the mountains that we wanted to stay in. I remembered some camping forums I had posted on when I was looking at my camping gear and asked them if they had anywhere they could recommend. The forum is made up mainly of British camping enthusiasts and you can be fairly certain that there is someone who has been to the destination you are planning to visit.
They all came up with the same answer, Camping Pyrenees Natura. It came very highly recommended!
It was about a five hour drive from my in-laws and we arrived late in the afternoon. By the time we looked around, unpacked and got the tent set up, the sun was already starting to disappear behind the mountains. You can see that the sun was already starting to go down as Xander hammered in the few last pegs of our tent.
I never really thought of that when booking the campsite, the fact that we would be in a valley where sunshine would be more limited due to the surrounding mountains. It didn’t matter though, because before long we were both completely in love with the place.
How could we not be? This is what we saw when sitting just outside our tent…
Sunshine, hills, mountains… oh my word, they really do still exist!! After so many years in the Netherlands, we sometimes forget that the rest of the world isn’t flat too. So when we see things like this, it almost takes our breath away!
Sunshine, fresh air, spaaaace! We could stretch out, enjoy the peace and quiet and just take in the scenery. We’d only been there a matter of hours and were already more relaxed than we could remember being in a very long time… and that was after setting up our monster of a tent!
Once we were finished with the tent we went for a walk around the grounds. I wish now that I had taken more photos, but it will just give me one more reason to go back for a visit. Not like I don’t already have about a hundred anyway. I would go here every summer if I could, no lie…
One of my favorite bits is this little old water mill, which they have turned into a tiny shop. I wouldn’t have even noticed it if they hadn’t told us about it when we checked in.
It’s small, but holds a surprising amount of supplies. If you were out all day and didn’t get a chance to stop somewhere for food, you could easily put together a meal from what you’d find in this shop. They also have bottles of wine and snacks if you are feeling peckish in the evening. The closest proper supermarket is not exactly within rock throwing distance so it’s best to stock up as best you can if you are going to do a lot of cooking for yourself.
What I love most about this little shop is that it runs totally on an honor code. Which, coming from Rotterdam, was almost unfathomable. When you go into the shop, there are pens and little pads of paper for you to write down the prices of the items you take. You pick out the food, write down the prices and then go to the main desk to pay.
The little shop is open all day, people could easily just walk in, grab a bag of crisps and then head back to their tent without paying. I think the amount of trust they put in the people who are staying with them is amazing, and I liked the feeling that gave us while we were there, it was nice. That’s the kind of campground they are though, it’s not a commercial campground that is aimed at families with a lot of children who need constant entertainment. It’s a small, quiet campground where all are welcome but are expected to follow the rules, such as recycling your garbage and adhering to quiet times.
The quiet times were after 10pm, and boy was it quiet. I was in heaven! We would go to bed with no sounds other than the nature around us, which thankfully never got too frightening at any point. Not that it really mattered, we both sleep with ear plugs so if something was coming to get us, it’d get us before we even heard it coming.
We both slept like babies straight through until the mornings, which at 1000m up in the mountains was usually in the middle of a cloud.
It was always a bit difficult to tell what kind of day was ahead of us, because even though it looked totally rainy, cloudy and wet, that didn’t mean that it was going to stay that way. Often a cloud had just settled on us and after hopping in the car and driving for a bit, we would drive right out of it.
Well, that would mean getting out of bed first, of course… which I was never keen to do.
I’d still be up with the birds, but it was just so cozy there in the tent that I hated getting out of bed. It may have had something to do with it being pretty darn cold at night and early in the morning. The temperature would drop down to 10-12 degrees overnight, which isn’t terrible but I wasn’t in a big hurry to crawl out from under my warm covers either.
My husband knew me well though, and always took advantage of one of the campgrounds other perks… the bakery! Each evening you could put an order for bread, pains au chocolat and croissants at the main building and in the morning you could go pick them up, still warm from the oven.
You can bet your ass I got out of bed for that!
There was a lot more that we loved about this place. We loved that after a long day out hiking (you’ll hear more on that later) that we could book a room with a big hot tub and infrared sauna all to ourselves for 12 euro an hour. At first I thought it was a little expensive, but an hour is actually a fair bit of time, not to mention it was so relaxing we ended up doing it three nights in a row!
They have games around the grounds that you can play, like the chess set seen above, checkers, ping pong and other activities, so if you are waiting for dinner or just want something to do on a quiet evening, you have options.
There are planned events leaving from the campground each day, whether it’s a nature walk, a local sheep festival or horseback riding, they always have something on the go for people who may be looking for something to do.
They have herb gardens planted around the campground, so if you are cooking you can cut off herbs and use them to give your food an extra kick. Another thing I noticed close by the herb gardens was a misting pole. I didn’t know what it was, and foolishly stood in front of it and pushed the button. My guess is that it’s there for those hot days when you want to cool off. I wasn’t warm that day though, so all I felt was wet.
Their washrooms and showers were well kept and spotless. The showers were quite modern compared with some other places I’ve been, as well as free!
I don’t think we had a bad thing to say about this place. Our pitch was beautiful (we got their largest pitch and it was more than enough for our tent and car with space to spare), the staff was extremely friendly, the campground was well organized and quiet, just the way we like it.
The only warning I would give is for those with large caravans / trailers. To get to the campground you have to go through a few small villages and it’s a tight squeeze in places. I know from speaking to some who were there with caravans (trailers, to us North American folks) that said it was difficult getting through. I’m pretty sure they all felt it was worth the effort though. So just be aware that there are some tight spots along the way.
We would go back in a heartbeat and recommend it to anyone who was looking for a beautiful, clean, and quiet place to stay in the Estaing area of the Pyrenees!