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PATRIMONIO MUNDIAL PYRÉNÉES-MONT PERDU

Paisaje: naturaleza y cultura

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Gavarnie

Gavarnie is situated at an altitude of 1,375 m at the end of a long and narrow valley cut by the Gavarnie River. It is a strip development along a main road that runs parallel to the river. Of all the towns and villages in the French Pyrenees, this is the one most closely associated with mountain tourism, walking and climbing, as it is the birthplace of the most famous guides to the Pyrenees.


It lies at the entrance to the Gavarnie Cirque, a vast and striking setting in the very heart of the Pyrenees National Park. Gavarnie Cirque and Gavarnie Falls are part of the Pyrenees-Monte Perdido World Heritage Site and also part of the Grands Espaces des Midi-Pyrénées.


The Way of St. James passes through this village, one manifestation of this being the Church of Notre Dame du Bon Port (14th century), a former chapel of the Knights Hospitallers of the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem which, together with its burial ground, was declared a Historical Monument in 1998. Pilgrims stop on their way here before heading off to the Brecha de Roland gap or the Bujaruelo Pass.


In the late 19th and early 20th century, Gavarnie began to turn itself into the Pyrenean resort we see today. Emblematic buildings were erected at this time, among them the Hôtel des Voyageurs, the first to be constructed, followed years later by the Hôtel Vignemale and the Hôtel Compostela.

The guests who stayed here included the great Pyrenean climbers and explorers who cultivated a particular way of understanding the mountains, among them Frederic Swan, Victor Hugo, Ramond de Carbonnières and of course Count Henry Russell, whose statue at the entrance to the town marks the boundary between the two nucleuses that make up Gavarnie today and which are a manifestation of the town's past and present. To the right stands the old town with its narrow streets; to the left, the typical shopping quarter aimed at tourists.


Next to the church is Gavarnie Cemetery, where most of the Pyrenean climbers and other figures of renown lie. Here rests Jean Arlaud, the founder of the Pyrenean Skiing Federation, Georges Ledormeur and Ludovic Gaurier, as well as the guides who were members of the Passet family, among them Celestin Passet, and other leading mountain guides from Gavarnie such as François Bernart-Salles, Claude Valleau and Richard Winkler.

In the Pyrenees National Park House, there is an area given over to these famous men of the Pyrenees.
Gavarnie welcomes almost a million visitors a year and remains the Pyrenean tourist resort par excellence and a base for hundreds and hundreds of mountaineers.

Despite the growth of tourism in the area around Gavarnie, there are still numerous signs -- tracks, farms and shepherd's huts -- of the animal husbandry of the past and which still continues today.