Built on the banks of the Gave de Pau River, Lourdes was a quiet French village, until the mid 19th century, when the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared near the village in a series of apparitions. Since then Lourdes has become one of Europe's most significant religious sites, visited by millions of tourists and pilgrims each year. Set in the charming south of France with the Pyrenees Mountains just a short drive out of town, Lourdes is an ideal destination for touring with a rental car and exploring the beautiful area. Auto Europe offers several pick up locations and a large fleet selection, so finding a car rental in Lourdes is both easy and economical.
Most visitors to Lourdes are pilgrims coming to visit the Rosary Basilica and the sacred site where the apparitions are said to have taken place in a cave nearby. The massive basilica is a must for anyone travelling in the area, and a truly impressive sight. Drive your rental car across the river to the west from the town centre, and visit the Basilica, which is within walking distance of the town's other sacred sites also.
Next to the basilica lies another massive piece of architecture, although it is virtually completely hidden from view. Built beneath ground level in the 1950s, the Pius Basilica is one of the largest churches in the world, capable of holding 20,000 people. A tour of the building is a must for anyone visiting Lourdes, regardless of their religious views.
Back towards the center of town, built high on a hill is Lourdes Castle, which dates back to the 13th century. Park your hire car near the base of the hill and take the elevator to the top, where you can see the castle, as well as great panoramic views of the area. Within the castle, you will also find the Museum of the Pyrenees, a great way to learn about the history and cultures of the area.
Being surrounded by so much natural beauty, it would be a waste for anyone not to take a trip to the mountains and enjoy the scenery. Just south of Lourdes is Pyrenees National Park, a massive protected area of forests and mountains. Winding roads will take you through the ancient forests, which are home to several rare plant and animal species. During winter skiing is popular here, and in warmer times of the year, you can choose from such activities as hiking, mountain biking and kayaking in the unspoilt wilderness.
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