Free maps of the Pyrenees

Free GPS map
Free GPS map (Topo Pirineos 6.1) with projected walk on a path shown in purple

Print free trekking maps of the Pyrenees

Go to Open Street Map, navigate to the sector, choose “Map for cyclists” and print.
If you want to plan your walk on your computer in more detail download

Install free trekking maps of the Pyrenees for your GPS

Again, download and install the files listed above. Try these out first and if you need “routing” (see below) download

Everything you always wanted to know about maps but were afraid to ask

What is important for GPS maps of the Pyrenees?

Some years ago I paid a total of about 400€ for Garmin GPS vector maps covering the whole of France and Spain and I have been looking for a cheaper solution so I can update them.

The good news is that free high-quality GPS maps of the Pyrenees are available to be downloaded from the internet. The bad news is that – for the moment – no single map reproduces all the features of the Garmin maps.

Essential features:

  • Vector maps so that the lines are always sharp however much you zoom

And preferably:

  • A single map which covers all the Pyrenees
  • Routing. Click on two points on a path and the software will fill in the gap, including all the bends and junctions.

None of the vector maps of the Pyrenees currently available offers all these features

Version tested Garmin Topo France v3 Garmin Topo Espagne v3.0 Open Street Map Europe Topo Pireneos 6.1
Latest version Garmin Topo France v4 Topo Espagne v5 OSM Europe (weekly updates) Topo Pireneos 6.1 (2014)
Cost 199€ 129€ 0€–18€ 0€
Coverage France Spain and Andorra Europe Pyrenees
Routing yes yes yes no
Readability 5/5 5/5 2/5 4/5
Space needed 0.2GB 0.4GB Up to 10 GB* 0.4GB
Density of paths lowest lowest moderate highest
Calculation of climbing yes yes sometimes sometimes

*to install the OSM map you need 20GB of free space. Once installed it is possible to eliminate the installation files (8GB) and areas of Europe not needed (9GB)

Comparison of Pyrenees ramblers’ maps

Topo Espagne map of Zugarramurd
For reference: Garmin Topo Espagne map of Zugarramurdi, not based on OSM

Open Street Map Project: source of the free maps

OSM is a Wikipedia-like collaborative project which aims to chart the world and make the results available for free on the Internet. It is the source of most of the data available on the free Pyrenean maps, some of which display different elements better than others.

The best way to appreciate how OSM works and the potential quality of the free maps is to connect to the OSM site. I have used the Basque village of Zugarramurdi as an example.

OSM standard map
OSM standard map
OSM map for cyclists
OSM map for cyclists (with contours)

This is the beauty of OpenSteetMap. Cartographers can choose which elements they wish to show and how to display them. My favourite free map is Topo Pirineos 6.1 [Spanish]

Topo Pirineos map based on OSM
Topo Pirineos map based on OSM

Not only does the map show buildings and shading to highlight the relief but also it has extra features such as the routes of classic GR11 (Senda Pirenaica), GR10 (Pyrenean Way) and HRP (Haute Route Pyrénéenne). Beware, however, some of the ‘paths’ marked have been taken from sites such as Wikiloc and may be one person’s idea of the best way from A to B rather than an established path.

But why look any further? Well, unfortunately the Topo Pirineos map doesn’t have routing; you get straight lines. So I investigated further and discovered another open-source map based on OpenStreetMaps, created by the Spanish Alternativas Libres. (The website is in both Spanish and English.)

Alternativas Libres map
Alternativas Libres map based on OSM, rather ugly but…

Routing for GPS maps of the Pyrenees

The Alternativas rendering is not as good as Topo Pirineos’ and buildings are not visible! But routing does work.

Route created in Alternativas Libres
Route created in Alternativas Libres
Same route created in Topo Pirineos
Same route created in Topo Pirineos
Route created in Alternativas Libres shown on Topo Pirineos base map
Route created in Alternativas Libres route shown on Topo Pirineos base map

So the trick is to use the Alternativas Libres map for creating the route/track you are going to walk and then transfer it to the Topo Pirineos base map without recalculating.

 

4 thoughts on “Free maps of the Pyrenees”

  1. I am planning to walk part of the Chemin de Cathars in May starting in Foix and walking for five days via Mont Segur.
    I am a novice at internet but very glad to see so much available.Can you please advise?

    1. Hello James

      The simplest thing to do is to go to openstreetmap.org and put Foix into the search box (top left). You can then click on Print (in File menu) and print out the map. Use the + sign at the top right to enlarge if necessary. Then drag the map to show the next section which interests you. Let me know if you have any problems.

      I walked the Chemin des Cathares from Foix a few years ago. It is magnificent.

  2. Hi I am planning to walk from Lourdes France to St Jean Pierre du Port in September on my way to walk the Camino. I welcome any guidance you may have to offer. Do I need a GPS or will my phone GPS work for this route. I am told that the route is well marked but I am having my doubts. Thank you. Bill

    1. Hello Bill
      From Lourdes to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port you should have no problems using the GPS on your phone (as long as it is recent) but make sure to download the maps beforehand or data charges could be expensive. I am currently experimenting with the Wikiloc maps on my phone and they seem pretty good.
      Buen camino
      Steve

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