With a strong pull for religious tourists and pilgrims, compare holidays to Lourdes and prepare to visit France’s Hautes-Pyrénées department. Located in the southwest of the country, close to its border with Spain, holidays to Lourdes from Stansted afford visitors not just the opportunity to enrich themselves spiritually, but also to explore a beautiful part of France.
Lying in the foothills of the French Pyrenees, Lourdes rose to prominence thanks to a set of Marian apparitions in the 19th century, which make holidays to Lourdes perennially popular to this day. Combine the town’s religious significance with a delightful setting by the Pyrenees Mountains, and you’ve got a superb destination.
Back in 1858 Bernadette Soubirous, a 14 year old peasant girl, claimed to have been visited 18 times by the Virgin Mary. This eventually led to her canonisation, and great importance being bestowed upon Lourdes by those of Christian faith. In fact, Lourdes is one of the most popular Catholic sites in the world - attracting millions of visitors every year - and one of the most important centres of tourism in France.
There is an abundance of accommodation in town due to this, with the greatest concentration of hotels found in close proximity to the centres of pilgrimage. The most prominent of these is the spiritual epicentre of Lourdes, subterranean grotto Sanctuaires Notre Dame de Lourdes - Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes - where Soubirous saw the apparitions.
There is plenty to Lourdes besides its religious importance, thanks to the town’s stunning setting. The Pic du Jer is a rocky outcrop on the outskirts of town, which offers wonderful panoramic views of Lourdes, and its surrounding terrain. The spot can be reached by taking a brief funicular, or by challenging yourself to a three hour hike that gets fairly tricky in places.
Château Fort is a lovely castle that looks down over Lourdes from an adjacent hill, which also plays host to the Musée Pyrénéen. If you're in town during July, look out for the artisan festival that springs up, and earlier in the year, lovers of classical music are treated to the Festival de Musique de Lourdes.