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Grande Cascade de Gavarnie (Gavarnie Falls)

Cirque de Gavarnie with waterfall
Cirque de Gavarnie with waterfall / Mathieu Legros, Flickr. CC BY 2.0

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 42.6934 N 0.0044 W
No:249        (list of all attractions)
Values:Geology, Visual
Address:Europe, France, Midi-Pyrénées, Hautes-Pyrénées department, in the Cirque de Gavarnie, Pyrenees National Park.
Alternate names:Gavarnie Falls
UNESCO World Heritage status:"Pyrénées – Mont Perdu", 1997, No.773
Tallest single drop:281
Width:15 m
Average annual flow:3 m3/s

The tallest waterfall in France is Grande Cascade de Gavarnie – Gavarnie Falls. This 422 m tall waterfall forms a magnificent backdrop of Cirque de Gavarnie – the most dramatic landscape in Pyrenees.

Glacial cirque

Cirque de Gavarnie is located in the tallest part of Pyrenees. This gargantuan rock amphitheatre has formed at the base of glacier over the last 20,000 years. This cirque is up to 800 m wide, enclosed by up to 1,676 m tall limestone walls. This magnificent site has preserved its pristine beauty, it is located in the Pyrenees National Park and togerther with surrounding landscape forms UNESCO World heritage monument "Pyrénées – Mont Perdu".

Gave du Pau

The water, which feeds the waterfall, is coming from the snowmelt and a small glacier, located in Spain. For most part it is seeping through the ground and appears exactly ar the rim of cliff as a waterfall. This is the beginning of Gave de Pau stream.

There are drastic changes in the amount of water throughout the year. In the summer, when snowmelt is most intense, the flow of waterfall might reach up to 200 m3/s. In this period Cirque de Gavarnie is adorned with many more spectacular waterfalls. In winter the falls get frozen and the flow may stop altogether. Average annual flow is 3 m3/s.

Cirque de Gavarnie with waterfall, France
Cirque de Gavarnie with waterfall / Jens Buurgaard Nielsen, Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0

Power of the falling water

Grande Cascade de Gavarnie has 2 or 3 drops – the stream makes 91 m long horizontal distance but falls 422 m.

The tallest single drop is 281 m tall – here the water turns into mist.

The force of waterfall brings down a cold air from above. Due to this at the base of falls in spring – early summer is located a snowfield. The stream goes under it, forming a snowbridge.


See Grande Cascade de Gavarnie on the map of Midi-Pyrénées!

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