The Luchon Valley from the Cable Car

Coat of arms

Coordinates: 42°47′30″N 0°35′41″E / 42.7917°N 0.5947°E / 42.7917; 0.5947Coordinates: 42°47′30″N 0°35′41″E / 42.7917°N 0.5947°E / 42.7917; 0.5947
Country France
Region Occitanie
Department Haute-Garonne
Arrondissement Saint-Gaudens
Canton Bagnères-de-Luchon
  Mayor (2008–2020) Louis Ferré
Area1 52.80 km2 (20.39 sq mi)
Population (2012)2 2,574
  Density 49/km2 (130/sq mi)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
INSEE/Postal code 31042 / 31110
Elevation 611–2,737 m (2,005–8,980 ft)
(avg. 630 m or 2,070 ft)

1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Bagnères-de-Luchon (pronounced: [baɲɛːʁ də lyʃɔ̃]) (Occitan: Banhèras de Luishon), also referred to as Luchon, is a French commune and spa town in the Haute-Garonne department in the Occitanie region of south-western France.

The inhabitants of the commune are known as Luchonnais or Luchonnaises.[1]

The commune has been awarded three flowers by the National Council of Towns and Villages in Bloom in the Competition of cities and villages in Bloom.[2]


Bagnères-de-Luchon is located on the Spanish border some 50 km south-west of Saint-Gaudens and 40 km south of Montréjeau at the end of a branch line of the Southern railway at the foot of the central Pyrenees. To the south the Luchonnais Mountains form a natural barrier and there is no crossing point into Spain. Access to the commune is by the D125 road from Salles-et-Pratviel in the north which passes through the town and continues south through the commune to its termination in the mountains. The D618A branches off the D125 south of the town and goes east to Saint-Mamet continuing through the Val d'Aran and the Col du Portillon to the Spanish border. The D618 goes west from the town to Saint-Aventin. The D46 goes north-east to Sode. The D125C goes north by north-west to Moustajon.[3]

The town is located in a valley at the confluence of the L'One river from the west and the Pique river from the south. Numerous streams flow into these rivers including the Ruisseau de Sahage into L'One, the Ruisseau de Bagnartigue, the Ruisseau de Jean, the Lys, the Ruisseau des Barguieres, the Ruisseau de Laus d'Esbas, the Ruisseau de Garante, the Ruisseau de Sajust, the Ruisseau de Layrous, the Ruisseau de Roumingau, and the Ruisseau du Port de Venasque all flowing into the Pique. The Ruisseau de Bouneu forms much of the western border of the commune as it flows north to join the Lys. There are several high mountain lakes in the south of the commune which feed the Pique including the Boums de Port and the Etang de la Freche.[3]


The railway station

The Gare de Luchon railway station is the SNCF terminal station for the Montréjeau to Gourdan-Polignan and Luchon line that also connects to Toulouse via Montréjeau. On weekends (daily in summer), a night train connects Bagneres-de-Luchon directly to Paris.

A Gondola lift since 1993 has connected Bagneres-de-Luchon to Superbagnères. It replaced the Chemin de fer de Luchon à Superbagnères (Luchon to Superbagnères railway) rack railway (Strub system) which operated from 1912 to 1966.

There is also a small public aerodrome in the commune just east of the town where the Aeroclub de Luchon is based.


The commune is located on a slope that ensures a dry climate. Winter temperatures range from −10 to 10 degrees Celsius and summer temperatures range from 10 to 35 degrees Celsius. The northerly wind brings more anticyclonic conditions and south-west or north-west winds are very often a harbinger of a disturbance (rain or snow). Sometimes the north and south winds are reversed causing storms on the valley which are sometimes strong with hail due to the moist air in the south and dry air in the north.

Neighbouring communes and villages[4]


The name Bagneres-de-Luchon comes in part from its hydrotherapy (bagnères = baths) and the other part from a local god (Lixon or Illixon).

After some confusion the Académie Julien Sacaze confirmed that Lixon is the correct Roman name for Luchon and not Ilixon.


Plan of Luchon in 1914
View of Luchon in 1908 (Eugène Trutat)

The town has existed for more than 2,000 years. The presence of a population has been attested since Neolithic times at least in the Saint-Mamet Cave. The presence of Stone circles also attests to an ancient occupation.[5]

In 76 BC Pompey, returning from a policing expedition in Spain (where he founded the city of Pamplona named after him), stopped in the area and founded the new city of Lugdunum Convenarum where he brought together the scattered Convènes tribe: this was the future Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges.

One of his soldiers who suffered from a skin disease immersed himself in the thermal waters of Luchon and its "Onésiens" baths where he discovered their thermal properties. After 21 days (the traditional and still current duration of a cure) he came out completely healed.

In 25 BC Tiberius Claude dug three pools and developed thermal baths. The baths had a modest motto: "Balneum Lixonense post Neapolitense primum" (the Luchon baths are the best after those of Naples) which is still today the motto of the town. Julius Caesar spoke of the region his "Commentaries".

The invasions of the Goths and Visigoths passed through the region as well as the incursions of the Moors. People took refuge in the high valleys of Larboust or Oueil. Traces of these invasions remain in some local myths and legends.

Charlemagne and Gaston Phoebus gave the area a special status of a border March with a certain amount of autonomy between France and Spain.

The area was relatively untouched by the Hundred Years War and the wars of religion of Cathars and the Protestant Reformation. People remained loyal to an "adapted" Catholicism which was unorthodox and the bishops of Saint-Béat spent centuries to regain control: priests lived in communities, sometimes armed and married, and were poorly educated and poorly trained. They extorted payment for funeral Masses in the form of well-watered meals and they were loyal to the interests of their House of origin (their family, their Pyrenees House) rather than Rome.

In 987 the village of "Banières" and its thermal baths around its church was described as quite successful. At Toussaint there was a major fair which did not have, however, the fame of that of Saint-Béat, which benefited more from trade with Spain.

Around 1200 the hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem installed a commandery at Frontés, between Montauban and Juzet-de-Luchon. The goal was to control the passage to the mountain, which was a secondary road on the Camino de Santiago, and to organize hospices for pilgrims and merchants who risked their lives in winter. The building of the Hospice de France dates from this period and is the only trace remaining of the Knights Hospitaller. The opening of the Port de Venasque Pass followed later.

Then commenced a continuous struggle for centuries between the Knights hospitaller and the people who were guided by their priests. The objective quickly became more economic than religious and it was not a question of sharing taxes. Finally the order abandoned the region.

There have always been very few nobles in the region where the peasantry has always fought for their survival. The old treaties of Lies et passeries[6] gave the people of both sides of the mountain free movement and free trade even if the kingdoms were at war. Any boycott would have little support as it would easily decimate the population. These treaties were systematically renewed and imposed on kings and bishops. A popular form of elected representation existed: the consuls. It was thus possible to speak of Pyrenean republics.

The kings of France sought to put an end to this situation which seemed to them abnormal.

In 1759 Baron Antoine Mégret d'Etigny, intendant of Gascony, was sent to Luchon. He began by creating a passable road using collective labour and expropriations. He was forced to appeal to a company of dragoons to hold the population in check as they were unaccustomed to such authoritarian treatment. In 1761 he reorganized the baths and gave them a foundation for their future development. In 1763 Marshal Duke of Richelieu came to take the waters and he returned in 1769 with much of the Court. The spa was launched. The Baron also developed forestry to provide timber for the navy and charcoal for forges. He died in 1767 at the age of 47, ruined and disgraced.

His successor gave his name to the Alleys of Étigny, the main artery of the town, and in 1889 a statue in his likeness was still displayed in front of the baths.

The French Revolution and the French empires had little impact in Luchon.

Many famous visitors came to Luchon, attracted by the popularity of the thermal waters which was launched by the Empress Eugenie or by the beginnings of "Pyreneism" by Count Russell-Killough. Lamartine, José-Maria de Heredia (who also lived in Marignac, a village near Luchon where he was inspired by the Pic du Gar for his collection of poems Les Trophées), Prince Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, the Prince Imperial (son of Louis Napoléon Bonaparte) Edmond Rostand, Gustave Flaubert, Guy de Maupassant, Octave Mirbeau, and Stephen Liégeard. His Majesty Moulay Mohammed (the future Mohammed V of Morocco), His Majesty Alfonso XIII of Spain, Sacha Guitry, Francis Carco, and François Mauriac were some of the more illustrious guests.

The arrival of the railway in 1873 and the construction of the casino in 1880 further developed the popularity of the town where upscale and cosmopolitan tourists were not long in coming until the Roaring Twenties. Social benefits such as paid leave and social security then democratized the tourist population.

A hydroelectric power plant was in place as early as 1890 by the La Luchonnaise company.

The Tour de France made the town one of its obligatory stages since its inception.

The opening of the mountain hotel of Superbagnères (finished work in 1922), then connected by a rack railway and today by gondola, completed the spa town with a winter sports resort. In the 1968 Winter Olympics, Ingrid Lafforgue defended the colours of the resort. Her twin sister Britt Lafforgue has an equally impressive record at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.

The commune was mentioned with the nickname "Queen of the Pyrenees" by Vincent de Chausenque in 1834 in his book Les Pyrénées ou voyages pédestres (The Pyrenees or Hiking journeys).

Luchon mineral water has been marketed in recent years throughout France.

Excavations have uncovered traces of three large pools lined with marble with circulating hot air and steam.

Cyclone Xynthia at the end of February 2010 caused the death of 50 people in France and hit Luchon and its region. The winds blew at 200 km/h on the peaks which caused substantial damage.



Or, a mountain Sable mouvant from dexter where a jet of water spurts into a bath Azure the whole on a terrace in base Sable; in chief parti per pale, 1 of Gules charged with 4 otelles Argent, 2 of Azure with a votive altar the same with the inscription ILIXIONI DEO V.S.L.M. in roman capital letters of Sable.


List of successive mayors[7]

The Town Hall
Mayors from 1919
From To Name Party Position
1919 1944 Guillaume Germes
1944 1944 Rémy Comet
1946 1947 Alain Bochet
1947 1971 Alfred Coste Fleuret
1971 1974 Albert Castaigne
1974 1995 Jean Peyrafitte
1995 2008 René Rettig
2008 2020 Louis Ferré

(Not all data is known)


Bagnères-de-Luchon has twinning associations with:[8]


In 2010 the commune had 2,593 inhabitants. The evolution of the number of inhabitants is known from the population censuses conducted in the commune since 1793. From the 21st century, a census of communes with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants is held every five years, unlike larger communes that have a sample survey every year.[Note 1]

Population Change (See database)
1793 1800 1806 1821 1831 1836 1841 1846 1851
1,164 1,080 1,396 1,683 2,077 2,385 2,629 2,770 2,770
1856 1861 1866 1872 1876 1881 1886 1891 1896
3,016 3,294 3,921 3,829 4,012 4,256 3,729 3,528 3,720
1901 1906 1911 1921 1926 1931 1936 1946 1954
3,260 3,465 3,415 3,635 3,820 3,884 3,591 4,105 3,666
1962 1968 1975 1982 1990 1999 2006 2010 -
3,888 4,123 3,484 3,498 3,094 2,900 2,619 2,593 -

Sources : Ldh/EHESS/Cassini until 1962, INSEE database from 1968 (population without double counting and municipal population from 2006)

The War Memorial


Culture and heritage

Civil heritage

The commune has a number of buildings and sites that are registered as historical monuments:

Other sites of interest
Civil heritage Photo Gallery

Religious heritage

The commune has several religious buildings and structures that are registered as historical monuments:

Religious heritage picture gallery

Thermal springs

Bagnères-de-Luchon is celebrated for its thermal springs. There are 48 springs which vary in composition but are chiefly impregnated with sodium sulphate, and range in temperature from 17 °C to 65 °C. The discovery of numerous Roman remains attests to the antiquity of the baths which are identified with the Onesiorum Thermae of Strabo. Their revival in modern times dates from the latter half of the 18th century, and was due to Antoine Mégret d'Étigny, intendant of Auch.[27]

There is a more modern entrance to the baths next to the older buildings. The bathing experience consists of repeated spells within a hot sulphurous atmosphere in caves that run approximately 100 metres inside the Superbagnères mountain in a cool swimming pool within the entrance building. It was these sulphur springs that led to a twinning of the settlement with Harrogate in 1952.

Bagnères-de-Luchon is celebrated as a fashionable resort. Of the promenades, the finest and most frequented are the Allées d'Étigny, an avenue planted with lime-trees, at the southern extremity of which is the Thermes, or hot baths. The road is lined with bars and restaurants.

Thermal Baths Picture Gallery

Cultural events and festivities

Poster by Jules Chéret for the Festival of Flowers for 10 August 1890.

The Rencontres lyriques de Luchon (Music Festival of Luchon)

In literature

Bagnères-de-Luchon is mentioned briefly in the short ghost Story, "Cannon Alberic's Scrap-Book" by M.R. James published in Ghost Stories of an Antiquary in 1904

It is also the setting for an early scene in François Mauriac's novel Le Noeud de Vipères, published in 1932.


9th green, Luchon golf course

Superbagnères is a ski resort located on the territory of Saint-Aventin commune to the south-west of the town only accessible from Bagnères-de-Luchon. Historically it was connected to the town by a railway being the second resort in France to install a rack railway but today it is connected with a gondola lift. Each cabin holds up to four people and takes about ten minutes to reach the summit, running in summer as well as winter. It is not possible to ski back down to Luchon, except in times of exceptional snow for talented locals who know the woods.

Cycling is a popular sport in the region in the summer. The climbs of Superbagnères, Col de Peyresourde, Port de Balès, Col de Menté, Col du Portillon and the Col de Portet d'Aspet are all nearby.

Bagnères-de-Luchon has been a permanent stage on the Tour de France since its inception in 1910.

In addition to the Tour de France the pro series race Route du Sud also passes through Luchon with a stage finishing in Superbagnères in 2008 and Luchon in 2009.

Luchon is also a mountain biking destination. Its position at the confluence of two valleys gives a wide variety of routes up into the mountains – although most of them start with a large climb (the gondola can carry mountain bikes). There is one mountain biking guide organisation based in Luchon itself and another further down the valley. (See external links).

Luchon also offers a golf course, tandem paragliding (from Superbagnères), tennis courts, and an aerodrome with gliding.

Luchon has a nine-hole golf course close to the town centre. It dates to the early 1900s, making it one of the oldest golf courses in the department. In 2008 the "Club de Golf Luchon" celebrated its 100-year anniversary.

Notable people linked to the commune

The Statue of Étigny
Edmond Rostand.


Bagnères-de-Luchon is a location mentioned in the M.R. James ghost story Canon Alberic's Scrap-Book published in Ghost Stories of an Antiquary in 1904

See also


External links


  1. At the beginning of the 21st century, the methods of identification have been modified by Law No. 2002-276 of 27 February 2002, the so-called "law of local democracy" and in particular Title V "census operations" allows, after a transitional period running from 2004 to 2008, the annual publication of the legal population of the different French administrative districts. For communes with a population greater than 10,000 inhabitants, a sample survey is conducted annually, the entire territory of these communes is taken into account at the end of the period of five years. The first "legal population" after 1999 under this new law came into force on 1 January 2009 and was based on the census of 2006.


  1. Inhabitants of Haute-Garonne (French)
  2. Bagnères-de-Luchon in the Competition for Towns and Villages in Bloom Archived 10 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine. (French)
  3. 1 2 Google Maps
  4. Géoportail, IGN (French)
  5. Bagnères-de-Luchon official website (French)
  6. Agreements between rural communities in the Spanish and French valleys in the Pyrenees
  7. List of mayors of France (French)
  8. National Commission for Decentralised cooperation (French)
  9. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA31000061 Villa Pyrène at 13 Allée des Bains (French)
  10. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA31000091 Villa Luisa at Boulevard Charles-Tron (French)
  11. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA31000060 Villa Edouard at 2 Boulevard Edmond-Rostand (French)
  12. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00094277 Château Lafont at Allées d'Etigny (French)
  13. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00125564 Chalets Spont at 56 Allées d'Etigny (French)
  14. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00094280 Charles Tron Residence at 1 Avenue Galliéni (French)
  15. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA31000077 Villa Santa Maria at 14 Boulevard Henri-de-Gorsse (French)
  16. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00094281 Chambert Thermal Baths at Cours de Quinconces (French)
  17. Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM31001124 Sarcophagus (French)
  18. Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM31000334 Altar and Sarcophagus (French)
  19. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA31000035 Casino (French)
  20. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00094278 Stone circle (French)
  21. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00094275 Stone row (French)
  22. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00094276 Chapel of Saint Etienne Portal at Quartier de Barcugnas (French)
  23. Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM31000333 Statuette: Virgin and child (French)
  24. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00094279 Church of Our Lady of the Assumption (French)
  25. Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM31000332 Chalice (French)
  26. Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM31000032 Abraham Bronze Bell (French)
  27.  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bagnères-de-Luchon". Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 202.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bagnères-de-Luchon.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/13/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.