Spectacular! How else could you describe the Cirque de Gavarnie? The huge Pyrenean limestone cirques owe their existence to huge glaciers that have long since disappeared. Gavarnie, in the Hautes-Pyrénées, is the most famous of them all.Firstly, picture the scene: you are in the heart of the Pyrenees National Park. In front of you, straddling the French-Spanish border, is the massif of Mont-Perdu, rising to over 3,000 m in height. To the south are the extraordinary canyons of Ordesa, Aniscle and Pineta. To their north is the land of cirques with the majestic Gavarnie and Troumouse, the largest of all, and Estaube, the wildest.In 1997, this area of more than 30,000 hectares was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its natural and cultural importance. Only 27 sites in the world have received such recognition to date.Gavarnie has long been a source of amazement. Its reputation is the result of the various explorations it has inspired. Botanists, scientists, romantics, painters, poets and mountaineers seeking pleasure or thrills have, since the 16th century, made Gavarnie the birthplace of what is known as ‘Pyreneism’.The cirque became legend when Victor Hugo, in his illustrious poem “Dieu”, described it as an “impossible and extraordinary object”; a “colosseum of nature”.Now it is your turn to face this immense wall - 1,700 metres high and 14 kilometres in circumference. This strikingly symmetrical arrangement of concentric terraces is framed by a series of giants: Mont Perdu (3352 m), Marboré Peak (3248 m), Taillon (3144 m) and the highly renowned Brèche de Roland, the site of many legends.Here you can see Europe’s largest waterfall, with its 413 m vertical drop.Access to Gavarnie is easy. When you arrive in the village, you are right in front of the wall. After 1½ hours of easy walking, you will be at the foot of the cirque, where you will fi nd the old inn. The journey can be made by foot or on horseback; it adds a truly theatrical dimension to your approach to Gavarnie.Less well known but equally impressive, the Estaube and Troumouse cirques are accessible to all. From a family walk to thrill seeking, there is something for everyone.