Bernadette Soubirous was 14 years old when the Virgin Mary first started appearing to her in 1858. It happened a total of 18 times; Bernadette became a saint, and the apparition came to be called Our Lady of Lourdes, named after the small town where all this went down. Today, millions of visitors make the pilgrimage each year to this village in the Pyrénées mountains, in southwest France, to pay homage and pray to Our Lady of Lourdes.
There are many religious-themed tours that can take you there, but it’s quite simple to get to on your own – and it’s in a gorgeous part of France that otherwise is not frequented by tourists. Here’s how you do it.
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Getting to Lourdes by Train
There are several trains per day to and from Paris. The trick, though, is choosing the right one. The TGV (super-fast rail network) will get you there in about 5.5 hours, while the slower Lunea line takes well over eight hours. And often, the TGV is cheaper. Do your homework, and get the faster train for less money. That’s pretty much a no-brainer.
Getting to Lourdes by Plane
The Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénées Airport is the closest, and a majority of their arrivals are Catholics coming to visit Lourdes. You can fly Ryanair from London-Stansted and Milan-Bergamo, Air France from Paris-Orly and Lyon, TNT Airways from Brussels and Meridiana Fly from Rome-Fiumicino.
The other airport is the Pau Pyrénées Airport, with Air France flights from Paris-Orly and and Paris-Charles de Gaulle, as well as CityJet seasonal flights from Amsterdam and Dublin and Flybe seasonal flights from Southampton, UK.
Getting to Lourdes by Car
I’ve said it a million times on this site, and I’ll say it again – take the train. But if you want to rent a car in France and check out other locations as well – or if you’re just a fan of winding mountainous roads – then by all means, drive to your heart’s content. From Paris you want to take L’Autoroute du Soleil out of Paris (A6b/A10/Bordeaux/Nantes/Lyon/Evry) onto the A10/E05/E50 toward Orléans/Nantes/Bordeaux/Palaiseau, then the A20/E09 toward Toulouse/Limoges/Chãteauroux/Vierzon-Centre, then the A62/E72/Toulouse/Agen/Bordeaux, then the A64/E09 toward Foix/Tarbes/Lourdes/Saint-Sébastien, and finally the N21 heading to Lourdes/Juillan. In other words: take the train.