Col du Pourtalet: A Scenic Mountain Pass at the France-Spain Border

Col du Pourtalet is an international high mountain pass at an elevation of 1.798m (5,898ft) above sea level, located on the border of Spain and France. The pass offers the most beautiful views of Ossau Valley.

El Portalet

Where is Col du Pourtalet?

The pass is located on the outskirts of Parc National des Pyrénées, on the French-Spanish border. It links the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in south-western France with the province of Huesca, in northeastern Spain. The pass is a former border crossing and you can still see a border post. 

Can you drive through Col du Pourtalet?

The road to the summit, also known as El Portalet or Portalet d'Aneu, is totally paved. It is 54.4 km (33.80 miles) long and runs north-south from Laruns (in France) to Biescas (in Spain). There is some traffic on the climb, and it can get quite busy with cars at weekends and in the middle of summer. 

Spanish side:

The road is called A-136. Starting from Biescas, the ascent is 29.04 km long. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 923 meters. The average percentage is 3.1 %. The road is fast, wide, open and scenic. It’s fast and wide because there are ski resorts at the top and so the road is designed for the myriad coaches that bring the skiers up in winter.

French side:

The road is paved but has worst quality. It’s called D934 road and connects the pass to the town of Laruns. Starting from Laruns, the 29-km climb is comprised of 3 successive “ramps” with a 7% grade, alternating with long, slight uphill, as it passes through steep-sided gorges, high-mountain prairies and authentic Pyrenean villages. The road is very easy and constantly about 5%, with only one little steep section just when reaching a dam. It is not too heavily trafficked.

Is Col du Pourtalet worth it?

The view at the top is well worth all the effort: an uninterrupted view of the Pic du Midi d'Ossau mountain and the Cirque d’Anéou, where sheep and cows can be seen peacefully grazing. Various supermarkets, bars and restaurants also allow to refuel before heading back down. The pass links the Ossau (in France) and Tena (in Spain) valleys.

Is Col du Pourtalet steep?

The pass has made numerous appearances in the Vuelta a España and Tour de France races. It’s a pretty steep climb, hitting an 8.8% of maximum gradient through some of the ramps.

Is Col du Pourtalet open?

Set high in the Massif du Pic du Midi d'Ossau of the Pyrenees, the pass is kept open in the winter, but in case of heavy snowfall may be closed for a couple of days.