Tourist trails mark migratory journeys across the Pyrenees

Migration is a story of struggle and hope — one that deserves to be told. Whether Spanish refugees fleeing the Civil war, or the thousands escaping the ravages of the Second World War, the Pyrenees have been a corridor to safety throughout the 20th century. An EU project is making sure these stories are remembered through marked trails, story panels, apps, maps and more.


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Historical marker along one of the trails created by RECURUT which follow in the footsteps of migrants crossing the Pyrenees mountain border. © Diego Gaspar Celaya, Universidad de Zaragoza Historical marker along one of the trails created by RECURUT which follow in the footsteps of migrants crossing the Pyrenees mountain border. © Diego Gaspar Celaya, Universidad de Zaragoza

" RECURUT honours the memory of the Pyrenees men, women and children who crossed this formidable border between 1930 and 1970 in search of a better life, by creating a tourism product for Pyrenees city councils to promote and develop. Seven routes were created with 50 different signs/panels along with an app, website and various training courses. "

José A. López, R&D Department, Polígono Industrial Empresarium, AITIIP

With the backdrop of today’s refugee crisis, the RECURUT project presents a timely and telling historical account of European migration, the nature of internal (and external) borders, and the desperation, hardship and bravery of those who undertake dangerous journeys across formidable terrain. 

Combining new technology and modern information sourcing, sharing and story-telling, this research and dissemination project sought to build an accurate and very human picture of the trans-Pyrenean migratory routes between 1930 and 1970.

The great escape

During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the decades under Franco rule, thousands of Spanish risked their lives to cross the Pyrenees mountains into France and Andorra. In the Second World War, the flow reversed as downed airmen, allied troops and persecuted Jewish families escaped German-occupied France to neutral Spain in the hope of reaching safe havens. The Pyrenees also marked the starting point for many Spanish economic emigrants.  

As history has a tendency to repeat itself, explain the project partners, it is important that these journeys — such as the routes, milestones, guides, transport, things they carried with them, and the smugglers — are remembered. 

Living testimonies

The multidisciplinary RECURUT project has developed a mobile phone application and website in French and Spanish for education and general interest users to learn about the six main Pyrenean migration routes, including the historical context, landscape, maps and experiences both en-route and upon arrival at their destination.

Through panels and signposting along the trails, significant attention is given to the testimonies of those who endured the journey, their backgrounds and the lives they forged in exile or as immigrants. These poignant stories endure and resonate today, according to the project team. 

RECURUT also trained local tourism agents on how to best use the materials and knowledge generated through the project. Meanwhile, the app is available on Google Play and downloads are steadily increasing, which is no surprise to the consortium partners given the historical interest in this important topic. Researchers involved in the project are also participating in conferences and workshops to raise more awareness of their work.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Historical recovery of trans-Pyrenean migratory routes (1930-1970)” is EUR 310 753, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing       EUR 201 989 through the “France - Spain - Andorra” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.


Draft date