For those of you who do not know the highest train in all of Europe, we are here to introduce it to you. At the top of the Atlantic Pyrenees there is a train that will allow you to take an excursion among the most virgin nature in the area and with which you will be able to enjoy views that are impossible to enjoy without this means of transport. Something original that cannot be missing from your list of plans and that we are sure you will want to repeat. In addition, it is the perfect excursion to go with children and so that they can also enjoy the mountains without having to go on excursions that involve walking for hours.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE ARTOUSTE TRAIN
Since 1924 the Alpine Train of the Pyrenees has been running along its tracks at 2000 meters of altitude. This railway is a well-known journey for all kinds of audiences due to its long history. In addition, it allows you to enter incredible places such as the tops of Balaitous, Palas, Arriel and Le Lurien.
This Artouste train is a real tourist attraction in the Pyrenees, not only because it is the highest train in Europe, but also because it will allow you ten kilometers to travel in one hour on a trip that will involve the Pyrenean mountain ranges, the green slopes and lakes. The landscape that you are going to enjoy has names and surnames: the Artouste Lake and the fantastic Ossau Valley.
The route is very close to the border with Spain and if you are lucky, along the way you will be able to see some of the animals that roam freely among the mountains, such as marmots or chamois.
HER LONG STORY
The Artouste train was built in 1924 for the Company des Chemis de Fer du Midi. The train was set in motion for the creation of the Lac d'Artouste dam, from the Col de La Sagette to which a cable car arrived from Lac de Fabreges. Therefore, at first the objective of this train was to serve the workers who were dedicating themselves to the creation of the dam. Thus, from its beginnings the work of this railway was of great importance.
After 10 years of building the line, the company realized its tourism potential that began to see its first customers in the 1930s. On the other hand, since 1966 the area of the Col de la Sagette has become the Artouste ski resort.
TYPES OF TICKETS TO CHOOSE
There are different types of tickets that you can select depending on the type of excursion you want to do in which what varies are the hours and the duration of the journey. Next, we present the three types of tickets offered by the artouste train:
- Artouste round trip closed: about three and a half hours of journey with access via a gondola to reach the station of departure of the train “La Sagette”. Afterwards, an hour and twenty of free time after the arrival of the train at the "Lake Station" and return to the base of Artouste.
- Artouste full day: this is a ticket that will allow you to enjoy a whole day on the train. Includes access by cable car to the train station "La Sagette" and return to the base of Artouste. Departures in low season are 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. In high season the departures are at 9:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., the return is at 7:15 p.m.
- Atouste one way: like all the accesses it is by gondola to the “La Sagette” station. Above all, it is used by mountaineers who go to the Arremoulit refuge from where they start their journey. In any case, if you want to go back down later you can buy a ticket at the Estación del Lago. Normally the route they take is that of Col d'Arrious.
A LITTLE GUIDE TO THE ACTIVITY
This train receives people from all over the world during the year, but the Spanish are the second largest group, after the French. This information is important since all the train staff speak both languages perfectly. The activity consists of taking a cable car that leads to the departure station at 1950 meters above sea level. From there begins the journey by train of about 50 minutes that culminates with a walk of between 15 and 20 minutes to the Artouste lake located at 2000 meters of altitude.
The guide that we are going to indicate consists of taking the Formigal ski resort as a reference. Just 6 kilometers from this station you will find the Portalet border that opens the way to the French Valley of Óssau where we will find the famous silhouette of the Midi d'Ossau that is an icon of the valley for its 2.885 meters.
We recommend that if you do the excursion in summer, do not trust the good weather and always wear something warm, since you want to not, you are at the top of the mountain and the weather can be unpredictable. As for the places, you can go early to make sure you have one or book directly at the Laruns tourist office.
THE PLACES OF THE JOURNEY ON THE ARTOUSTE TRAIN
It seems unbelievable that you can sit comfortably on a train at 2,000 meters above sea level, but in Artouste nothing is impossible. During the tour you will be fascinated with nature and the most iconic places in the valley.
We start the engines at an altitude of 1,240 meters in the magnificent Lake of Fabreges in the Gave du Brousset valley, it can be accessed by road or by gondola that goes up to the ski resort of Artouste.
As soon as you leave you cross the "Tunnel of the Bear" which crosses below the ridge to reach a point above the Gave de Soussoueou valley. This is where the adventure begins, as you will see how the train passes through tracks that will offer you incredible views of a ledge that is checked every morning by a specialized team.
Regarding the characteristics of the train, we are talking about 10 kilometers long, with six wagons with 12 seats. The diesel locomotive operates from late May or early July to late September early October. The best plan at your disposal for all summer .
The maximum speed it can reach is 15 kilometers per hour and the trip lasts just under an hour. The arrival point is at 1940 meters at the dam of Lac d'Artouste. When you arrive you can regain strength in its bars or restaurants, also for those who want to continue with the adventure it will only be the beginning of any excursion to the peaks that surround it.
WHERE TO STAY AND EAT?
The best thing to do is to stay in Formigal in hotels like the Sno Formigal which is located very close to the border. It has single and family rooms. To be four stars, its price is affordable. A perfect place for all those who want to do the route on the Artouste train and discover the surroundings of Formigal such as the Lanuza Reservoir.
Other very appropriate areas if you are going to do this activity is Laruns due to its proximity to Artouste or the accommodations in the Atlantic Pyrenees.
The good thing that the area has grown as a tourist place over the years is that eating will not be a problem. You can taste the best traditional food in the area with some typical and quality dishes.
We hope that you have been as excited as we are to get on board this train and explore the Artouste mountains with a different perspective and from the comfort of a train seat.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
- WHAT DATES AND TIMES DOES THE TRAIN HAVE?
The dates available for the train are in low season from May 26 to July 8 and from August 29 to October 2 with the train leaving every hour from 10am to 3pm. In high season the dates go from July 9 to August 28 with the train leaving every 30 minutes from 09:00 to 17:00. These hours may vary each year, so it is advisable to find out on their website.
- DOES THE TRAIN OFFER ANY OFFERS?
Yes, it is free for children under 4 years of age and reduced rate up to 12. Adult/child fares vary depending on the type of ticket.
- CAN TICKETS BE CHANGED OR CANCELED?
Tickets can be canceled, but they are not refundable. If you want to change the train tickets, any modification may entail an added expense. We also recommend taking the printed or mobile tickets on a screenshot because you may not have coverage.
- CAN I DO THIS EXCURSION WITH MY PET?
Dogs do have access to the cable car and the train as long as they are on a leash.
- WHAT SHOULD WE BRING TO THE EXCURSION?
Although its schedule is in summer, you are at 2000 meters above sea level, so it can be cold on the train. It is advisable to wear comfortable and closed shoes, something warm and protection from the rain. Also, sun cream, hat and sunglasses. Above all, the coat will come in handy when you return.
- ARE THERE BARS AND RESTAURANTS ON THE ROUTE?
At the bottom when you arrive there is a small kiosk and a restaurant, so it will not be necessary to bring your own food. However, it is better to take some money with you in case they do not accept cards and if you are going to spend the whole day it is good to have water and something to eat. At Lake Artouste there is nothing to buy anymore.
- WHAT OTHER ACTIVITIES CAN BE DONE IN THIS AREA?
Other activities that can be done at the Artouste resort are the routes to practice mountain biking. Regarding this activity, it is best to contact the team and see which ones are most appropriate for you.
- DO I HAVE TO ARRIVE AT THE STATION EARLY?
We recommend you arrive 45 minutes before boarding time under the cable cars.
- WHERE DO YOU CATCH THE ARTOUSTE TRAIN?
You must go to Artouste in France, which is located at the foot of Lake Fabréges, just a few kilometers from the Aramón Formigal-Panticosa ski resort.
- HOW MUCH IS THE ARTOUSTE TRAIN?
Adults around 24.50 euros and children from 4 to 12 are 17.50 euros. There are also family packs.