Visit Southern France's Scenic Sanctuary Of Lourdes

Lourdes, a town in southern France near the Pyrenees mountains, has cultural picturesque spots to attract locals, tourists, and pilgrims.

Southern France’s Lourdes is nestled in the region’s breathtaking landscapes, and stands as a testament to the place’s natural splendor and cultural affluence. It is renowned for its serene atmosphere, stunning vistas, and its blend of historic architecture and lush terrains.

Aside from its scenic views, it is also one of the most revered pilgrimage destinations in the world. It gains traction from travelers around the world to see their sacred grotto. Lourdes is truly a magnificent place where everyone can find a piece of sanctuary and a unique way of life.

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Reasons to visit Lourdes

There are various reasons for visiting southern France, especially the town of Lourdes. Visiting the Sanctuary is a giveaway as it is a unique architectural complex that pilgrims purposely include in their itineraries. Whether you are a regular tourist or a devotee, Lourdes will definitely be worth the travel. 

The town boasts the magnificent Pyrénées, Gavarnie Cirque, which is listed as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site. Tourists may indulge in nature at its purest as the mountains appear in close proximity to Lourdes. 

Visiting the town will allow people to experience the distinct way of life in the south-west France region. They have a relaxed and easygoing vibe and every place has convenient accessibility, especially for people with disabilities. 

The town offers a wide range of accommodations that ensure a comfortable stay. Within exploring, you can enjoy activities like cycling, hiking, wine tasting, epicurean excursions, and town tours. You’ll be immersed in the culture and traditions of Lourdes in no time.

Experience Lourdes, one of the beguiling towns in the Southern France region.

Visiting the Sanctuary

The town is home to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, a destination that sees millions of devotees and tourists annually. There are 22 places of worship located in the 52-hectare area. The Sanctuary has three basilicas and holds 50 masses per day in at least six languages.

It is believed that 18 apparitions of the Virgin Mary to a young Bernadette Soubirous happened in the site in 1858. Within the Sanctuary lies the Massabielle Grotto, a pivotal and historic location as this is where the apparitions took place. If you’re planning to visit Lourdes, this is a must-visit place that you should include in your itinerary. 

Visitors may incorporate the Sanctuary’s three basilicas in their list of must-visit sites. These are the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, The Basilica of the Rosary, and the Basilica of St. Pius X

The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is adorned with stained glass windows.

The former has a distinct tall spire with stained glass windows depicting events that occurred in Lourdes, while the second one has chapels covered with 2,000 square meters of mosaics. 

The Basilica of the Rosary consists of beautifully-done mosaics.

Meanwhile, the latter is an underground basilica with gemmail-style mosaics, giving the art works a three-dimensional illusion.

Basilica of St. Pius X is an underground place of worship.

Visitors who visit from April to October will delight in the candlelight procession every evening between these months. Pilgrims gather to walk and sing with flaming torches in their hands, uniting people from all over the world with flames illuminating the Sanctuary. This creates an unforgettable and mesmerizing spiritual experience that transcends geographical boundaries.

Attractions in Lourdes

Vacationers should visit the Pic du Jer which overlooks the town and boasts an illuminated cross that serves as its hallmark. A hundred year-old funicular or a cable railway system can help you get there which ascends to an altitude of 1,000 meters. It provides tourists with a breathtaking journey and a walking trail to the observatory as people reach the top. Here, you can delight in a 360° panoramic view of Lourdes and the Pyrénées peaks. 

Tourists should not miss the Château Fort de Lourdes. It boasts a rich history encompassing the site serving as home to counts and even became a royal prison and barracks while withstanding time. The castle developed defensive and offensive features like a drawbridge and watch towers. 

Meanwhile, the Pyrenean museum exists within the chateau. It was inaugurated in 1922 and recounts the history and cultures of the French and Spanish Pyrénées from the 19th century onwards. It features a botanical garden as well, where traditional houses and a reconstruction of a Pyrenean cemetery stand. 

The Château Fort de Lourdes has an defensive architectural history dating back 1,000 years
The Château Fort de Lourdes has an defensive architectural history dating back 1,000 years/Photo from P.Vincent-OT Lourdes

Pau is Lourdes’ glacial lake, a place of relaxation that is just three kilometers from the city center. People can do canoeing, stand-up paddle boarding, or even fish. 

The local food scene in Lourdes

Within the town center is the Halles de Lourdes or the covered market. It highlights its remarkable architecture and the epicurean experience that awaits inside. Producers and traders will gladly show visitors of all the products in the region. 

There is also the Lourdes food tour, where you can embark on a 100 percent, immersive Pyrenean tasting experience. It has a nice walk through historic streets and the food tour lasts for three hours. It includes six tasting spots, two wine tastings, and a passionate local guide. 

Three unique shops offer a memorable regional food experience as well. Pierre Sajous utilizes only local ingredients like Tarbais beans, Southwest duck, and a Porc Noir de Bigorre (pig). 

Another is the Pailhasson Chocolate, founded in 1729, which serves the finest and rigorous selections of cocoas. It was a favorite amongst 19th century romantic authors, Empress Eugenie, and Pope Leo XIII. 

Lastly, Terroirs Pyrénéens, where you meet Serge, a local gastronomy advocate. He will share his passion for preserving traditions while visitors explore a variety of items exuding the spirit and culture of Pyrénées. 

Local breweries exist in the town as well, and each of them differs in individual charms and identity. People may arrange for a tasting and meet with the producers to learn about their offerings and the process of traditional brewing. 

Banner photo from P. Vincent-OT Lourdes.

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