About Pont d’Espagne (Bridge of Spain)
Pont d’Espagne (or Bridge of Spain) I think really refers to the general scenic area encompassing Lac de Gaube (Gaube Lake), the waterfalls, and the minor developments (a bustling cafe and cable car) at road’s end. It’s either that or the stone bridge (pretty standard in France) at the confluence of the two major cascades beyond the end of the road. I suppose we could’ve called this page Les Cascades du Pont d’Espagne, but we’ll just keep it short and sweet and refer to the waterfalls collectively as the Bridge of Spain for simplicity.
Even though the scenery at the paid parking area at road’s end had some memorable waterfalls on its own, there were several more waterfalls on the same stream throughout the drive up the D920. Nevertheless, we thought the main waterfall attraction was really the converging pair of cascades tumbling right besides a bustling cafe and underneath the arched stone bridge.
Even though there was nothing very special about the stone bridge itself, I believe its position right at the confluence of two thundering cascades was what gave this bridge its notoriety. Therefore, it turned out to be a very popular photo subject especially since it only made perfect sense to photograph a bridge in a place called the Bridge of Spain.
To take in the most spectacular of the falls, it was merely a ten-minute walk from the car park at the cable car area to the bridge. Since we weren’t in much of a hurry during our visit, we took much longer than that.
It was possible to continue on the trail going uphill towards some pretty lakeside scenery backed by mountains at Lac de Gaube (Gaube Lake). However, we’ve been told it was an hour’s hike each way (two hours return). We were hoping the cable car to get up there and shorten the walk was running, but our visit was a week before it was to be open for the peak season. Thus, we didn’t get to visit to visit the lake.
From a waterfalling standpoint, that was pretty much all there was to this place. Of course, there were so many more opportunities to get saturated with waterfalls on the drive up to the Bridge of Spain itself that perhaps this was a fine way to cap off a visit here.
As for the drive up the D920, the waterfalling experience already began for us about 10 minutes from the thermal spa town of Cauterets. This was where there was another convergence of a pair of cascades with the tumbling Cascade du Lutour (the one tumbling by a restaurant and bridge) being the most impressive. The other one originated directly from the Bridge of Spain and tumbled past some hydro facility as well as the trailhead for the 90-minute uphill trail called Le Chemin des Cascades (the way of the waterfalls). There was a very large pullout area for parking to check out the scenery as well as to buy stuff at the cafes and souvenir shops right across the road.
Beyond this well-touristed spot, the D920 continued uphill along a slow and winding mountain road full of switchbacks (I didn’t count how many). At seemingly every switchback, there were gushing cascades from the same river coming from the Bridge of Spain that one could easily be tempted to stop for and check out.
We managed to stop at a pair of such waterfalls though pullouts were few. In both the cases that we stopped, we actually drove further to the next switchback where there were pullouts. Then, we walked along the road back towards the waterfalls themselves. Specifically, one of the waterfalls we stopped for was called La Cascade de Cerisey. This particular one was hard to photograph given how misty it was.
Another one we stopped for didn’t appear to have a name though it could’ve easily been famous in its own right if not for its location in a place full of others. That waterfall was on the second-to-last switchback where we parked at the last switchback then walked back towards a trail (which I believe was a continuation of Chemin des Cascades). This trail offered some limited views of the cascade between trees. In hindsight, we probably could’ve done what others had done and save the 5.5 euros to park at Bridge of Spain by walking from where we parked the car. Oh well, you live and you learn.
Like Gavarnie, the Bridge of Spain also resides in the Hautes-Pyrénées (Upper Pyrenees) department of the Midi-Pyrénées region in the far south-southwest of France. We did notice quite a bit of Spanish being spoken here probably because of its proximity to Spain and the number of Spanish tour buses that come here as well.
From the charming town of St-Savin, we drove up the D920 for roughly 30-40 minutes or so to the thermal spa town of Cauterets. From Cauterets, it’s another 15 minutes or so (without stops) up the slow and winding D920 road to get to its end at the Bridge of Spain car park.
For geographical context, the town of Cauterets was 14km (less than 30 minutes drive) south of St-Savin, 30km south of Lourdes, 205km (2.5 hours drive) southwest of Toulouse, and 735km (7 hours drive) southwest of Lyon.
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