Col du Tourmalet is the most iconic climb of the Tour de France cycling race. It is also one of the most challenging in the country. Being the highest paved mountain pass in the French Pyrenees, it has an elevation of 2,115 m (6,939 ft). The eastern side of the pass features a La Mongie ski station, while the western side—the village of Barèges. The road to the pass (D918) is open during summer and early autumn roughly from late May through October, weather permitting of course. For the road closure updates, please check the Pyrenees traffic webpage.
If you ascend the pass from the western side, the climb runs for 19-km (12 mi) starting from Luz-Saint-Sauveur, with an elevation gain of 1,404 m (4,606 ft) and an average 7.4% gradient. When you go from Sainte-Marie-de-Campan, it is a 17.2-km (10.7 mi) climb, with 1,268 m (4,160 ft) of elevation gain and 7.4% gradient. The steepest sections are close to the top with 10-12%.
Tourmalet is famous for its sheep milk cheese produced in the area. The summit of Col du Tourmalet features a memorial to Jacques Goddet, director of the Tour de France from 1936 to 1986, and a statue of cyclist Octave Lapize. There are also plenty of hiking trails. A short trek leads to the Pic du Midi de Bigorre observatory. Visitors can get inside the observatory and take the funicular down to La Mongie.