A destination for hikers, cyclists and snow-sports enthusiasts rather than casual day-trippers, the route up the Ossau valley rises fast towards the gnarled eminence of the Pic du Midi and the Cirque d’Aneou on the Spanish border. Outside winter the landscape is lush and green, with high pastures grazed by the sheep whose milk provides the distinctive Ossau-Iraty cheese, a Bearn/Basque delicacy not to be missed. Near the Col, look out for marmots (a type of rodent), that never stray far from their burrows. The villages on the way are little reason to stick around – except for unremarkable Laruns, in order to stock up on supplies, and the two spa resorts of Eaux-Chaudes and Eaux-Bonnes, which retain charm even if they have seen more prosperous times.

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