Most travelers visiting Lourdes are on pilgrimage – some praying for miracles, some cures and some just to soak up the atmosphere of this very special town in south-western France.
Lourdes’ origins date from 1858 with Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old peasant girl. That year, she experienced apparitions of a white-robed lady in a small grotto called Massabiele by the banks of the Gave de Pau. The lady told Bernadette to tell the village priest to build a chapel on the spot. Later, she revealed herself to be Mary. On the day of the 16th apparition, Bernadette, in a trance, dug in the ground until she discovered a small spring. Over the next few days this spring became a pool and is now known as the Baths of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, where pilgrims seek spiritual refreshment.
Up to six million pilgrims and tourists make their way to this little town in the foothills of the Pyrenees each season. After Paris, Lourdes has the most hotels in France. No po-faced town, there is plenty of nightlife. Night time too is when thousands process with flickering candles. The sight is beautiful, stirring and spiritual.
The peak season is between March and September when the weather is at its best and most tourists and pilgrims flock to Lourdes.
There is a network of public transport in Lourdes and the city buses will take you to most place and sanctuaries in town. Trains connect Lourdes to other French cities and are an easy way to explore the area. Many pilgrims arrive by coach on an organised tour so if that is what you are after, book well in advance with specialised tour companies. If you want to explore the Pyrenees, renting a bicycle might be the best option.