Interesting facts about the Pyrenees Mountains


The Pyrenees are a mountain range in southwest Europe.

This mountain range stretches from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea on the east to the Bay of Biscay on the Atlantic Ocean on the west.

For the most part, the main crest forms a divide between Spain and France, with the microstate of Andorra sandwiched in between.

The total length of the Pyrenees is about 491 km (305 mi); it is barely 9.5 (6 miles) wide at its eastern end, but at its center it reaches some 130 kilometers (80 miles) in width.

pyrenees topographic map

The highest point is Aneto Peak, at 3,404 meters (11,169 feet) above sea level, in the Maladeta massif of the Central Pyrenees.

There are only 21 glaciers in the Pyrenees (10 on the Spanish side and 11 on the French side) covering an area of 4.5 square kilometers (1.7 square miles), the researchers found.

The crisp, white glaciers of the Pyrenees have substantially receded in the past 15 years and could disappear by 2050 due to global warming, a new study suggests.

The large number of the mountain torrents locally called gaves, which often form lofty waterfalls, surpassed in Europe only by those of Scandinavia. The highest waterfall in the range is Gavarnie [photo below] at 462 meters (1,515 feet) above sea level.

gavarnie waterfall

Pyrenean scenery is characterised by the absence of great lakes, such as those that fill the lateral valleys of the Alps.

The frequency with which the upper end of a valley assumes the form of a semicircle of precipitous cliffs, called a cirque.

Forest land covers about 60% of the surface of the Pyrenees mountain range and represents a natural renewable resource, a set of ecosystems rich in biodiversity, exceptionally popular tourist zones and visitor attractions, a form of protection against natural phenomena (avalanches, large rock falls, flooding, etc.) and a large natural reserve of CO2.

The lower mountains in the extreme west are wooded, but the extent of forest declines eastward, and the eastern Pyrenees are wild and barren, all the more so since it is in this part of the chain that granitic masses prevail.

pyrenees forest

The landscape, the diverse types of exposure, the Atlantic and Mediterranean climatic influences and the diversity of its geological layers combine to create a wide variety of conditions for growth.

The wild flowers of the Pyrenees are justifiably famous. Known as the flower garden of Europe the alpine flora is spectacular throughout the summer and a must for all wild flower lovers.

Pyrenees residents that live here are the bearded vulture, the Pyrenean desman, the genet and the brown bear. Furthermore, the wooded areas are home to deer, wild boars, foxes, badgers and smaller mammals. In and around the water one can discover the Pyrenean brook salamander, rainbow trout and the dipper.

pyrenees ibex

Higher in the mountains one reaches the habitat of griffon vultures, bearded vultures, chamois, ibex (which have recently been reintroduced again) and marmots. You can also enjoy the presence of many species of lizards, newts, dragonflies, beetles and butterflies.

The amount of precipitation the range receives, including rain and snow, is much greater in the western than in the eastern Pyrenees because of the moist air that blows in from the Atlantic Ocean over the Bay of Biscay.

The winter average temperature is -2 °C (28.4 °F).

The Pyrenees are older than the Alps: their sediments were first deposited in coastal basins during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras.


Between 100 and 150 million years ago, the Bay of Biscay fanned out, pushing present-day Spain against France and applying intense compressional pressure to large layers of sedimentary rock.

The intense pressure and uplifting of the Earth‘s crust first affected the eastern part and moved progressively to the entire chain, culminating in the Eocene Epoch.

According to Greek mythology the Pyrenees are named after Pyrene, the daughter of Bebryx and a lover of Hercules. A horrible experience led her to flee to the woods, where she perished. A mountain range formed from her tomb and was thus named in her honor.