17 Fun Facts About The Pyrenees Mountains

This famous mountain range forms the natural border between France and Spain.

In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about the Pyrenees Mountains.

1. There’s a division between 2 countries, as well as a geographical one

The Pyrenees Mountains are located in 2 different countries, France and Spain. Therefore, there’s a distinction made between the mountains in France which are called the “French Pyrenees” and the mountains in Spain which are referred to as the “Spanish Pyrenees” on each side of the border.

Looking at the Pyrenees Mountains from a geographical point of view, there’s also a distinction made between the eastern, central, and western sections of the mountain range.

facts about the pyrenees mountains

2. It forms the natural border between France and Spain

One of the most interesting facts about the Pyrenees Mountains is that it runs nearly completely along the border between France and Spain, effectively forming a natural border between the two countries.

The Pyrenees Mountains run for about 491 kilometers (305 miles), from their connection with the Cantabrian Mountains in the west to the Mediterranean Sea near the Cap de Creus peninsula in the east.

Pyrenees mountains seen from space

3. There’s a micro-state located right in between

One of the most amazing facts about the Pyrenees Mountains is that a small country, also referred to as a “micro-state,” is located right in between the two countries in the eastern section of the mountain range.

Andorra has a population of fewer than 80,000 inhabitants and covers an area of just 468 square kilometers (181 square miles). Its capital, Andorra la Vella, is the highest capital in Europe located at an elevation of 1,023 meters (3,356 feet) above sea level.

Andorra la Vella
Andorra la Vella / Gertjan R. / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

4. The highest peaks are located in Spain

The highest mountains are located in the central part of the range, extending to the east. These are all located on the Spanish side of the mountain range and include:

  • Pico d’Aneto – 3,404 meters (11,168 feet)
  • Pico Posets – 3,375 meters (11,073 feet)
  • Monte Perdido – 3,355 meters (11,007 feet)

5. The Aneto is the third-highest mountain in Spain

The Pico de Aneto is located in the Spanish province of Huesca and stands just 6.4 kilometers (4 miles) south of the Spanish border with France.

It isn’t the highest mountain in Spain as there are 2 peaks higher, the Teide on Tenerife, and the Mulhacén in the Sierra Nevada in the south of the country.

6. The mountains got its name from a princess in Greek Mythology

In Greek Mythology, the mountain range got its name from Princess Pyrene, daughter of King Bebrycius. She was the lover of Heracles and when she was about to deliver a baby, it turned out she delivered a serpent instead.

After running off to the woods in utter shock, she never returned and died there. Heracles ended up building a tomb for her by piling up rocks which eventually would become the Pyrenees Mountains.

So there you go, the Pyrenees Mountains are supposed to be the tomb of a princess who bore a snake!

7. The Pyrenees Mountains are a very old mountain range

One of the most stunning facts about the Pyrenees Mountains is that they are actually older than the Alps, another famous mountain range in Europe.

Their sediment as formed between 100 and 150 million years ago, and as the Bay of Biscay expanded, the ocean floor gradually pushed the sedimentary rock eastward.

The initial phase is believed to have happened during the Lower Cretaceous Period between 145 and 66 million years ago. The mountain range was formed from east to west during the Eocene Epoch between 56 and 33.9 million years ago.

The result of the process that took millions of years to complete is this amazing mountainous landscape!

Pyrenees interesting facts

8. The Pyrenees contain a large number of waterfalls with a specific name

The Pyrenees don’t contain a large number of large lakes such as the lakes in the Alps or Dolomites, for example, Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy.

One of the most prominent features of the Pyrenees is a large number of torrential rivers. These streams, which are referred to as “gaves” locally, often form amazing-looking waterfalls.

What’s even more amazing is that these waterfalls mostly occur in an amphitheater-like valley that is formed by glacial erosion. This phenomenon is referred to as a “cirque.”

fun facts about the Pyrenees Mountains

9. The highest waterfall in France is located in the Pyrenees

The mountain range also contains the highest waterfalls in France, and yes, these are also located inside a so-called “cirque.”

The waterfall of Gavarnie has a drop of 462 meters (1,515 feet) and is located inside the “Cirque of Gavarnie.” Both are named after the village with the same name nearby.

Cirque the gavarnie
Cirque de Gavarnie / ean-Christophe BENOIST / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

10. It also has one of the highest roads in Europe

If you want to cross the Pyrenees, there is no way around it, you’ll have to cross the mountains on high roads. Better yet, the Pyrenees contain some of the highest roads in all of Europe!

The highest road is the Pas de la Casa or Port d’Envalira which offers access from France to Andorra. This road is located at an elevation of 2,408 meters (7,900 feet).

Granted, some tunnels, which have been completed in the last decades, have removed the need to use some of the steepest roads. Some important ones are those at Somport, Envalira, and Puymorens.

Somport Tunnel
Somport Tunnel / Marc Celeiro / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

11. The eastern part is relatively dry compared to the western part

The western part of the Pyrenees receives a lot more precipitation than the eastern part. That’s because of the humid air that blows over the mountains from the Atlantic Ocean.

By the time this humid air has reached the eastern part, most rain or snow has already been dropped, resulting in a rather dry climate in the eastern section.

12. The eastern part doesn’t have a lot of vegetation

The result of this phenomenon is that the western part of the Pyrenees has very thick vegetation, especially near the foot of the mountains, while the eastern part looks rather desolate and barren.

One could say that the flora of the Pyrenees is divided into two sections, with the western part resembling the vegetation of central Europe, and the eastern part resembling that of the Mediterranean Region.

Moving from west to east in the Pyrenees and vice versa is really a fascinating experience!

Pyrenees vegetation

13. About half of the Pyrenees are covered in snow during the winter

The winter months in the Pyrenees are very cold, with the average temperature being around −2 °C (28 °F). This also means that the mountains are covered in snow during these months.

The mountains are completely covered in snow for the entire winter above 2,700 to 2,800 meters (8,900 to 9,200 feet), and for about 50% over an altitude of 1,600 meters (5,200 feet) between December and April.

Pyrenees snow

14. Over a dozen brown bears live in the Pyrenees Mountains

The Pyrenees are home to some peculiar endemic species, including a small mammal called the Pyrenean desman, the Pyrenean euprocte, a relative of the salamander, and blind insects living in the caves of Ariège.

Perhaps one of the most astounding facts about the Pyrenees Mountains is that there are also wild brown bears living here, logically referred to as the Pyrenean brown bear.

It’s estimated that about 15 individuals are roaming around these mountains right now, so the cows better beware!

Landscape pyrenees
The landscape / Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 & GFDL

15. It’s a paradise for amateur astrologers

An observatory that was constructed in 1878 is called the “Pic du Midi Observatory” and used to house some of the most powerful telescopes in the world. It also housed the largest telescope in France which was 2 meters long in 1980.

Recent technologies have made it possible for giant telescopes to be constructed, so right now, the observatory is mainly a hub for amateur astrologers who want to explore the nearby planets and moons in our solar system.

The observatory is located at a height of 2,877 meters (9,439 feet) above sea level.

Pic du Midi Observatory
The observatory / Pascalou Petit / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

16. It’s home to the largest solar furnace in the world

Another one of the fun facts about the Pyrenees Mountains is that it’s home to the largest solar furnace in the world! The Odeillo solar furnace has a height of 54 meters (177 feet) and a width of 48 meters (157 feet).

The solar furnace, which is located in Font-Romeu-Odeillo-Via in the department of Pyrénées-Orientales, was built between 1962 and 1968, also includes 63 heliostats.

The location was chosen because of its extremely high quality of sunshine.

Odeillo solar furnace
The solar furnace / H. Zell / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

17. The entire mountain range is a popular tourist destination

The Pyrenees are some of the most popular mountains for alpine skiers and mountaineers. Both the French and Spanish sides of the mountain range contain ski resorts welcoming millions of tourists every year!

The mountains are also famous for their yearly feature in the Tour de France, one of the most popular cycling tours in the world, as well as the Vuelta, the main Spanish cycling tour.

The flanks of the mountains are populated by hundreds of thousands of spectators during these events alone!

View over the mountain range pyrenees
View over the mountains / Nicolas guionnet / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en