Welcome to the Ultimate Pyrenees Coast to Coast Route Guide. This packed article is filled with downloadable route maps, expert tips, detailed advice and a top ride report.
Pyrenees Motorcycle Tour Guide
Welcome to the Ultimate Pyrenees Motorcycle Route Guide. The Pyrenees and Picos offer fantastic riding and once you’ve ridden these mountains, I promise, you will want to return every year! The aim of this guide is to explain in detail how to get there and what exact route to take so you can have the best possible motorcycle tour.
Leaving from the UK, you can ride through France (check out this guide for that route) if you have the time and inclination. Or you could save your tyres, sit back and enjoy the start of your adventure with a beer and bonding with old riding buddies on the boat to Spain instead! I rate the Pyrenees and the Picos areas of Northern Spain as possibly some of the best motorcycle riding in the whole of Europe, so it makes sense to spend more of your holiday there. So, let’s get to it!
Pyrenees Coast to Coast Route Guide
The 12-night route is a 1,956-mile loop from Santander. It begins in the UK via Brittany Ferries, Plymouth/Santander with hotels pre-organised in Pamplona – Larrede – Roses – Labarre – Oloron-St-Marie – Brinas – Cosgaya – Santander/Plymouth.
It incorporates two rest days to enjoy the beach on the East coast of Spain, or sightseeing around the pretty river town of Oloron St Marie. This route offers something for the solo rider, couples on a relaxed tour and groups of friends.
When to go?
The extra UK Bank Holiday days in May or August can be useful for planning purposes, but even in September/October the weather is (usually) warm and dry too. Avoid the heat of the Summer months, plus their School Summer Holidays which is usually late June – mid Sept.
My total costs in Sept 2018 for hotel, dinner B&B (sharing a room) were approx. £775, plus ferries, fuel, lunch snacks and bar bills.
Here’s a list of hotels I used on my trip and recommend:
- Hotel Pamplona El Toro, Pamplona, Spain
- Hotel Vinas de Larrede, Larrede, Spain
- Hotel Canyelles Platja, Roses, Spain
- Hotel du Lac, Foix, France
- Alysson Hotel, Oloron-St-Marie, France
- Hospederia Senorio de Brinas, Brinas, Spain
- Hotel Oso, Cosgaya, Spain
Take originals of your passport, driver’s licence, insurance certificate, MoT if required and your V5 (logbook). It’s also highly advisable to get a UK Motorcycle Travel Insurance.
International Driving Permits (IDP) are available from your local Post Office and will be required once the UK leaves the EU, probably from Jan 2021. Check the Gov website for more information.
Getting there and away
Brittany Ferries the following routes from the UK to Spain:
- Book your ferry as soon as timetables are released late in the year. Demand for the following year can quickly outstrip supply, so don’t dither. (Example of booking for a September trip: 50% deposit paid while booking early November and 50% balance due the following July).
- One month before your trip double check the ferry tickets, expiry dates on your passport, credit/debit cards, motorbike insurance/tax, travel health insurance and International Driving Permits (IDP)
Pyrenees Coast to Coast Ride Report
12:15 Brittany Ferry arrival at Santander. The adventure begins with about 10 miles on main roads to get out of the port city. Then at ‘Solares’, we jump onto the CA-161 which morphs into the wiggly CA-261. Heading further southeast across country via the ‘Gorbeiako Nature Park’ to skirt around ‘Vitoria-Gastiez’ and down to ‘Estella’ where we pick up the wonderful NA-700 to Pamplona.
These sweeping rural roads are a final tonic for the day and about 13 miles from the hotel you pop-out on a corniche with fantastic views over the ‘Ciriza’ valley. We arrive 7pm at the hotel which backs onto farmland, north west of Pamplona. There’s plenty of time to freshen-up as evening meals in Spain usually begin 8/8:30pm. I’ve stayed at this hotel before and highly recommended it.
Skirting the northern edge of ‘Pamplona’ we pick up the NA-150 before heading across the Pyrenees. Brace yourself for the great ride along the NA-214 after ‘Navascues’ with a fantastic viewpoint en-route at ‘Alto de Las Coronas’ and then the sweepers down to ‘Burgui’.
Pick up the cracking NA-214 and its 50 miles of enjoyment. After ‘Isaba’ the NA-1370 starts to climb up a series of bends to the viewpoint at ‘Mirador de Larra-Belagua’. You then cross the cattle-grid onto the high roads to ‘Arette la Pierre St Martin’, so be prepared to slow down for horses and cattle around any corner. ‘Oloron-St-Marie’ might be a good place to catch your breath and have lunch. Then we head East to ‘Arudy’, before joining the narrow roads south across the Pyrenees again, down to ‘Larrede’, north of ‘Huesca’. Located up a side road, the modern, hillside ‘Swiss chalet’ style hotel with pool overlooks the local countryside.
A long day but a great day. We ride east along about 270 miles of the well-known N260 road. There’s too much detail to fully report here but we head via ‘Ainsa’, ‘La Pobla de Segur’, ‘La Seu d’Urgell’ & ‘Ripoli’. If you’re heading for the beach tomorrow and don’t plan to ride the loop suggestion on the rest day, then I recommend jumping onto the quieter, narrower N260a at ‘Ripoli’, as it’s a great little find, offering about 30 miles of wiggles to play on before returning to the more trafficked N260. Filter through the popular town of Roses and along the seafront to our beach-side hotel for two nights. There is underground parking and great bedrooms with sea-facing balconies. Relax and enjoy a beer, you’ll have earned one!
A rest day for those wanting the beach. Alternatively, this 150-mile loop north west out into the countryside will take you via ‘Capmany’ and the start of the GL-502. The only speed-check I found on this route was right out in the middle of nowhere, so keep your eyes peeled for ‘spotters’ loitering at the side of roads and back-off before you get pinged further along the road.
Now, about 56 miles of fast sweepers and numerous hillside bends towards and after the ‘Coll dels Horts’ and down into ‘Camprodon’ (fuel on LHS saved me) and the valley beyond. The route then covers 18 miles on the C-38 to ‘Ripoli’. As mentioned yesterday, jump on the N260a for 30 miles of wiggles back to ‘Roses’ before some beach time.
Heading out of ‘Roses’ to ‘Figueres’, before turning North on the N-11 to ‘Le Perthus’. Now join the D900 before going west on the D115 via ‘Arles’ and follow this curvy road to the mountainous section beyond ‘Prats-de-Mollo-la-Preste’ all the way down to ‘Ripoli’. Join the fabulous N260 North for 30 miles of curves before joining the N20 and up into the mountains along the N-320 after ‘Porte-Puymorens’, then down the lush valley into ‘Ax-les-Thermes’ before reaching our riverside hotel in ‘Labarre’.
The route is pretty convoluted today to ride the maximum possible number of Cols (7 at least) via the French Pyrenees. Too much to describe in detail, so first up is the ‘Col de Portet-d’Aspet’, then the ‘Col de Mente’, ‘Col du Portillon’, ‘Col de Peyresourde’, ‘Col d’Aspin’, ‘Col du Tourmalet’ and the ‘Col D’Aubisque’. Now head for a rest and a well-deserved beer at our hotel in the riverside town of ‘Oloron-St-Marie’ for two nights.
A rest day in ‘Oloron’…or my morning loop ride of 94 miles via Isaba to the south. Take your time, stop and take photos, enjoy the ride – it’s meant to be a rest day after all. The first part of the loop is more winding, up to the glorious ‘Col d’Erroymendy’ before riding over the ridge to find the coffee stop on the far side, sit in the sun and do some bike/car watching! Then enjoy the rest of this rural ride back to ‘Oloron’ for lunch overlooking the river and sightseeing perhaps?
We head back South today over the French Pyrenees into Spain again. The first two-thirds of the ride is across lovely countryside before the Pyrenees, which is the better part of this route, than the busier roads from Logrono to our destination in Brinas.
The D26 South from Atherey and beyond to Ochagavia is a special section of the route with fantastic views before the roads start to widen as we approach Logrono. Our charming hotel backs onto the River Ebro in the quaint Spanish town of Brinas. There is a massive garage to the rear of the hotel to secure bikes.
Into the fabulous Picos today! Another great day riding some amazing roads, travelling westward across farmland initially and faster roads via the massive Ebro Reservoir and then the Aguilar Reservoir. Twenty or so miles later, we join the CL-627 North across the Parque Natural de Fuentes towards ‘Potes’. (Caution on the CL-627, there are some tight bends which have caught-out some riders featured on YouTube, so choose your moments carefully).
The road snakes onward for miles and squeezes between the rocks just before you reach the ‘Mirador De Piedrasluengas’, where you must stop for a photo of the view. Now, we start to ride down the 20 miles of winding bends beyond into ‘Ojedo’. Another 7 miles takes us to probably the best hotel on our trip in ‘Cosgaya’, in the heart of the Picos de Europa. Located about halfway up the CA-185, this is effectively a no-through road ending at ‘Fuente De’ where a cable car can take you 753m up to a viewing platform, if you have time in the morning. When I last used the cable car, it was 17 euros, and it was very cold up there with snow on the ground!
Our last day’s ride of the trip back to Santander for a 16:15 ferry. This route makes the very most of the last day in the Picos by taking a large, clockwise loop around the Picos de Europa area via the huge lake at ‘Riano’ then north on the N-625 up the valley and over the mountain to the dramatic River Sella gorge with towering roadside cliffs at ‘Casielles’. Onwards to ‘Cangis de Onis’ before striking east across the north of the Picos area on more great roads to ‘La Hermida’ where we turn left, up the CA-282 (which was a great recommendation from a friend). It’s about 45 miles across the hills to ‘Valle’ before picking up the fast N611 that will take us straight into Santander.
About the author
Paul Yarrow is based in the UK with 40 plus years’ touring experience of the UK & Europe. Two years ago, he started filming his trips and created a growing YouTube channel, plus social media pages to share his trips, photos and routes with other motorcyclists.
You can follow Paul’s travels here:
- YouTube: Yarro Moto
- Facebook: Yarro Moto
- Instagram: Yarro_Moto
- Downloadable route: myrouteapp.com/yarromoto
- Hotels organised by: PEMC – UK Motorcycle Club
- Read more of Paul’s articles on our Contributors page
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29 thoughts on “The Ultimate Pyrenees Motorcycle Route Guide”
Thanks for the in depth guide, will give this a go hopefully on the 15th of July.
Any idea what temperatures to expect?
Hi Paul – thanks so much for this guide. It’s brilliant. We are planning a week riding the Pyrenees this September – looking at your route for day 7 (the rest day from Oloron) – if we had to pick one road to Oloron, the D26 or D132, which would you recommend?
Firstly, great to hear you’re planning a trip there…I’m heading back in September too, on part of a larger tour!
Regarding your question, I’m not sure I fully understand your Q, as my optional route is a loop ride via both of those D roads. However, I think the D26 was more interesting for me…if that helps. You’ll enjoy either route if the weather is on your side.
I hope your trip goes to plan and let us all know what worked for you?
All the best, Paul.
Hi Mike, if you’re going in July (normally) I’d expect early to high 20c but there seems to be a heat bomb going on this year, so pack your mesh jacket!
Let us all know how the trip goes.
Have a great time.
Heading to the Pyrenees for the first next month and I can’t wait. Thanks for putting all this useful info out there!
Thanks Nick, you’ll love the riding and will return, time and time again, like myself. I’ll be there for an 18 day trip next month too, ferry to Bilbao, 3rd Sept Pamplona, before hitting the Pyrenees for a couple of days and turning West across Spain to Portugal and then North, to play in the Picos area for three days. Perhaps you will fancy this route for next year? Anyway, have a fantastic time on your trip. Paul.
Wow! Just found this trip and have now booked to go in May 23. Many, many thanks for posting this. When crossing from Spain to France, are there any restrictions with a UK passport now or can any crossing be used? Thanks again
Hi Brian, great to hear that you’ve booked a Pyrenean trip for 2023. I’ve just got back from a couple of days there, during my 18 day Pyrenees, Portugal & Picos trip organised for 20 people. I’ll start to edit that trip video in due course but please consider following my social media links. You can read the daily posts I made about that trip, on my ‘Yarro Moto’ FB page, if you’re interested. Regarding your UK passport, any crossing can be made…in fact, you may cross from one country to the other and back again in a day in the Pyrenees, and not really notice! Just ensure you take a written & electronic version of your Covid jab status…although, I think they may have just relaxed even that, during my trip away. We experienced a little extra delay at Passport control when leaving/returning the UK. Enjoy! Paul.
Hi Paul. This is super useful. Planning my first big ride for may bank holiday. Got 14 days to play with. I’m based in jersey so a 45 min boat over to st malo and then thinking of driving down to Spain to almost replicate your very informative ride. I have also been looking at your Switzerland trip too and completely undecided on which one to do. I need recommendations help lol. Also what is your social media so I can start following you on there too. How do you create these routes? Must take you some serious planning. Thanks so much.
Hi Greg, firstly, my social links are above, at the foot of the article. Yarro Moto on FB + yarro_moto on Insta.
Those two trips are completely different, so you’ll have to make the decision whether to ride one this year and perhaps the other next year!
Regarding route creation, I have used the MyRoute-app for desktop for many years to create routes for my Garmin GPS…it’s pretty easy to figure out and there are loads of training vids on their YT channel, if help is needed getting started.
Please message me via the FB page for a faster response time, as this page doesn’t always inform me of fresh comments that need a reply.
All the best.
Heya Paul, apologies on the delays with the comments – all of the pages on the site now send comment notifications to the authors immediately. All sorted 🙂
Doing my first tour with a buddy the beginning of may, We’re getting the ferry to st Malo arriving on a Friday 8.15am and coming home via Santander on the Monday @ 18:00. Not a lot of time I know but its our first and was all we could negotiate with the wives. We really want to spend a day in the Pyrenees which we think we can just about do, Day one St Malo to la Rochelle 220 miles, Day two la Rochelle to Laruns 265 miles, Day 3 Laruns route around the Pyrenees then to Pamplona 265 miles, Day 4 Pamplona to Santander 175 miles. All avoiding motorways and tolls. Would you have any other suggestions or would you suggest avoiding the temptations to do the Pyrenees on this trip and focus elsewhere given how much time we have? Also hows the weather there the beginning of may?
Hi Ashley. Your route looks doable but will only give you a brief Pyrenees flavour. If time is tight, then just go for it. Alternatively, look at ferry to/from Santander and ride the Picos Mountains maybe?. The weather in May should be good but, as you probably know, mountain weather can change quite quickly, so always pack for the worst case scenario…and hope for the best. Well, that’s what I do! Have a great trip to the Pyrenees, you’ll love it. Paul.
Hi Paul. Many thanks for the information and guidance you have freely provided it is fantastic.
We are currently in Roses having followed your route across from Santander. After a couple of rest days we are now heading back and will be following day 5 tomorrow to Foix.
So far, we have had brilliant weather, and although we saw lots of snow higher up, particularly on day 2 the temperature was no lower than about 8° C and the roads were clear without ice.
However, there is a dramatic change in the weather from Wednesday with quite significant snow forecast on the peaks. Consequently I think we will have to re-route and sadly will not be able to do day 6 as this is the day you say takes in the maximum number of cols and the risk of snow and ice, will be too great. I was just wondering which are the highest points on the actual route to try and get a sense of whether we will have to completely re-route or whether we may be able to take on some of the route does but avoid the highest points. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. All the best.
Hi Ian, great to hear that you’re trying the routes, albeit, a little early in the year to maximise the Cols, as unfortunately you’re finding. I just cannot remember which Cols are the highest on Day 6, so, suggest Googling the weather by name of Col…although, you never really know what’s happening near the top, until you get there! Sorry I cannot be more helpful but hope you have a great trip overall. Paul.
Now I have only about 5 weeks before doing this trip. Cannot wait. Thanks again for sharing with us. I have had to change a few parts due to hotel availability but no big deal. I was wondering though if the recent Pyrenees National Park restrictions will affect baby of this route? https://www.britishmotorcyclists.co.uk/motorcycles-banned-from-pyrenees/
These recent articles are not very clear are they?! From what I understand, it affects the area East of Vielha and the Parks l’Alt-Pirineu & Natural Park of the High Pyrenees. Some people are telling me that affects off-roaders trails mostly but I’m not so sure myself…it’s all a bit vague at the moment. If I were you, I’d head for the area but leave enough time to recalculate your route, if necessary. Let us all know how you get on? Have a great trip, the Pyrenees are stunning and the roads fantastic. Paul.
Thanks for coming back to me with the advice. That is really useful. The weather is still pretty good here today so we are going to head along the route and like you say reevaluate as we go along. Our lovely French hosts where we stayed last night, discouraged us from the highest points on the route. From Oloron, and we are re-routing to Biarritz as we will not be visiting the Picos. They are fantastic and we were there in 2019, but time does not really allow us to do it justice this time.
Once again, thanks for your invaluable advice.
Sounds like you have an action plan and as one of my friends always says, “it’s an adventure, not a holiday!”.
Have a great trip.
Thanks Paul. I will certainly update once I am back. It seems a confusing picture at the moment. I’m sure any detour will be just as stunning a road. Cheers.
Hi Brian. As above we have just been following the route. We took a detour yesterday before getting into the High Pyrennes proper at Saint-Beat-Lez due to weather-snow and ice due but got biblical rain and wind instead 🤣 However, the point is we saw no indication of upcoming restrictions such as signage. We took detours through loads of little villages and no-one came out with pitchforks! While Paul has provided a great route, as I think he has suggested there are so many fantastic roads that wherever you go in the area you will find good ones. For my part being two-up on fully loaded GSA I have found the more sweeping roads in lower areas of the natural parcs on route the best rather than the hairpins and tightest bends in the higher areas we covered. We were lucky as traffic light so able to progress and not be held up.
Anyway have a great time whatever you do-it is beautiful here and hopefully if these restrictions materialise they will not impact though the whole thing seems very vague. Off to Biarritz shortly and will hopefully avoid worst if the weather today!
I cannot say that I’ve ever found a ‘bad’ road to take…enjoy!
Absolutely! Weather improving tomorrow so may ‘dip’ into Picos after all 😊
Thanks for the reply Ian. Very much appreciated. I will be on a GS with no pillion. Glad you are enjoying the route. So looking forward to it. I have modified certain parts of it to take in certain areas (Gorges de St George balcony road being one) but in the main sticking to Paul’s route. Some hotels were fully booked. As per the Picos, I never saw a bad road so looking forward to the same here. Ride safe and enjoy the rest of your trip.
Hi Brian. You will love it. We booked a couple of places on way over in advance but have been booking on the go since then. Even though Easter have had no issues finding accommodation and all good so far. Have a great time.
All the best,
Regarding the ‘Pyrenees Park Motorcycle Ban’ article recently in the press, I saw a post on the FB page of well-known motorcyclist and off-roader, Austin Vince, which provides another angle to this story and thought others would be interested….if it copies across successfully!
Austin Vince said-
“Motorcycle friends, about 30 people have forwarded me the link below. Its title tells you everything and is totally false. FEMA are not liars but lazy cut and paste ‘journalism’ has brought us a completely untrue story.
The reality, is that it concerns ONE excellent trail, just south of Vielha that started to get over-used by motorcycles. It is almost totally horizontal and like a piste. Hence, it was accessible to adventure bikes as well as trail-bikes. When I first rode it in 1999 it was deserted but now, with the internet, it has been included in certain lists of great routes. Thus began it’s chronic over-use and then abuse. By abuse, I mean non-Spanish riders turning up with their GPS plot and going literally as fast as they could, with illegal exhausts, making an absolutely racket. The trail was popular with the locals who picnic and mountain bike on it. They rightly took steps to stop these selfish idiots who were trying to use a Natural Parc (this is a different thing from a National Park) as an enduro track. So now, motorbikes are banned. Not vehicles, JUST motorbikes. The 4×4 community are rightly crowing.
I take people on tours all over the Pyrenees and one of my axioms is that I will NEVER contribute to this real problem. I don’t go where the locals go and many of my routes are known only to me, unused by the Spanish. As a life-member of the TRF here in the UK this story makes my blood boil because it NEVER had to happen.
PS the picture isn’t even in the Pyrenees”.
I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has put this site together and for making our recent trip to the Pyrenees so successful. We followed the routes easily and had a fabulous time riding through the fantastic countryside.
We met some great people in the most random of locations, but that is what makes a trip like this.
Hi Charlie, that’s brilliant news. Really glad to hear it!
Hi Charlie, apologies for delay in replying, as I just returned from the Dolomites, Croatia and Slovenia last night…to a mountain of emails.
So glad that the trip went to plan and sounds like you had a memorable adventure.
Time to pick another guide for your next trip 🤔