In the high Pyrenees, and within the Parc National des Pyrenees, just below the French/Spanish border, the Cirque de Gavarnie is a spectacular, natural horseshoe shaped amphitheatre which boasts Europe`s tallest waterfall, at 422m (1,384 ft). Gouged out of the rocks of the Pyrenees by an ancient glacier, the 800-m (2,625-ft) base of the cirque is littered with terminal moraine and the floor of the valley carved out by the glacier and the river is strewn with larger rocks, some house sized, left high and dry as the glacier retreated. As you get nearer the waterfall the woodland gives way to allow you to gaze up at the towering cliffs above you. Eleven of the peaks around the cirque soar to over 3,000 m (10,000 ft) and lead uoto the sharp crests that seperate France and Spain.
Gavarnie used to be one of the pilgrimage routes from France to Santiago de Compostella, and there are several good walking and hiking trails, in and around the valley, offering spectacular vistas and glimpses of wildlife such as Isards (the Pyrenean version of chamoix), the comical whistling marmots and birds such as golden eagle, lammergeier, griffon vulture, honey buzzard, alpine accentor, water and rock pipits, alpine chough and raven. In the river valley, dippers and wallcreepers may be seen and little owl and black woodpecker heard. There are also spectacular butterflies in summer.
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