Grande Cascade de Gavarnie (Gavarnie Falls)

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

Gavarnie Cirque and falls, France
Gavarnie Cirque and falls / J.C.Benoist, Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 3.0

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.

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Grande Cascade de Gavarnie (Gavarnie Falls) 42.693426, -0.004423 Grande Cascade de Gavarnie (Gavarnie Falls)
Coordinates: 42.6934 N 0.0044 W
Categories: Waterfalls
Values: Geology, Visual
Rating: (4 / 5)
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
Height: 422
Drops: 2-3
Tallest single drop: 281
Width: 15 m
Average annual flow: 3 m3/s

Landmarks of Midi-Pyrénées

Rocamadour, France
Rocamadour / dynamosquito, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Midi-Pyrénées is very rich with diverse outstanding natural and man made landmarks. Highlights of this region are the magnificent natural landmarks in Pyrenees, medieval villages, caves and medieval churches in the small villages.

Waterfalls and rapids

Virginia Falls, Canada
Virginia Falls / Paul Gierszewski, / public domain
Some of the most fascinating and awe inspiring natural monuments are waterfalls, or locations where a river abruptly changes its elevation.

Recommended books

Wildlife of Val de Gavarnie, Pyrenees


This Nature Travel Guide has the information and inspiration to guide your whole vacation/holiday or simply lead you on a memorable day’s nature watching.

The Making of Europe: A geological history


The continent of Europe, as a recognisable geographic entity, attained roughly its present shape around 20 million years ago. Even since then, the European coastline has undergone significant changes, due mainly to sea-level movements, to form the outline of the continent that we are familiar with from maps and the photographs of Europe from space that we view today.

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