Flight and hotel Lourdes
Lourdes, once just a village in French foothills of the Pyrenees, became famous worldwide in the 1850s after a local schoolgirl, Bernadette Soubirous, claimed to have seen apparitions of the Virgin Mary. The town, which has a permanent population of just 15,000 people, welcomes over six million visitors from around the world every year, making it the third-most important international Catholic pilgrimage site after Israel and Rome.
What to know before visiting Lourdes
Take euros for your weekend in Lourdes. While French is the area's main language, you may also hear older locals speaking a dialect known as Gascon. Most people will speak some English, and the town is one hour ahead of the UK.
Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrenees Airport (LDE) is the nearest international airport to the town and main pilgrimage sites. The airport is seven miles from Lourdes, with a bus service taking visitors into town. Travellers on Lourdes package holidays for winter skiing will be happy to hear that shuttle buses travel from the airport to the main ski resorts. Direct flights from the UK to Lourdes depart from a few airports, including Manchester and London Stansted.
When is the best time for Lourdes city breaks?
The town is busy all year with pilgrims, with several people coming to Lourdes to search for a cure for an illness. For hiking in the mountains and visiting religious sites, the best time for a flight to and hotel in Lourdes is in the summer, when temperatures reach highs around 25°C. During the winter months, you can head just a little way into the Pyrenees and you'll soon find yourself surrounded by snow. A weekend in Lourdes is a great option for both winter sports enthusiasts and pilgrims.
What to do in Lourdes
Take a ride on the town's 100-year-old funicular railway, which takes passengers to the top of the Pic de Jer hill, dominated by a giant cross illuminated at night. Regardless of whether you are visiting Lourdes on a pilgrimage or not, the religious trail Chemin de Croix, which passes by various shrines, is an interesting walk.
Head out of the town on your weekend in Lourdes, and enjoy the stunning scenery of the Pyrenees, where you can follow hiking routes like the Voie Verte, climb hills and visit underground caverns. Ski resort Hautacam, only a few miles from town, is a popular winter sports destination.
Places to visit in Lourdes
Pilgrimage sites are the main visitor attractions on package holidays in Lourdes. When in the town, you may find the following information useful:
- Whether you believe the sightings were real or not, the churches, chapels and the Grotto of Massabielle, where Bernadette reportedly saw the Virgin Mary, are fascinating and inspiring locations.
- Services are held regularly at the grotto and at churches throughout Lourdes.
- The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, the area of ground around the shrine, is home to more than 20 churches.
- Visit Bernadette's childhood home, which has been transformed into a museum dedicated to her life and her visions.
- For a look at a different aspect of the area's history, spend a few hours exploring the 1,000-year-old château fort de Lourdes, a defensive castle sitting high on a hill overlooking the town. Don't forget to visit the medieval gardens, where you can browse interesting artefacts of the indoor exhibitions.
What is there to eat in Lourdes?
The Pyrenees area is well known for its delicious cheeses, including namesake Pyrenees and Barousse cheeses, which can be made with cow's, goat's or sheep's milk. Traditional Pyrenean food blends the best of French and Spanish cuisine, as can be seen in the spicy piperade sauce, made with peppers and tomatoes and served with meat or as an ingredient in stews. Make sure you sample some of the local wines, such as Jurançon and Madiran. If you have time on Lourdes city breaks, stop in at some local wineries.
Souvenirs from Lourdes
The souvenir shops in Lourdes are overflowing with religious icons, statues, prayer books and bottles of holy water from the spring in the Grotto of Massabielle. This water, which is thought to have restorative and curative powers, can even be bought in bulk if you want to bring back enough for your friends and family.