Somport, known also as Aspe Pass and Canfranc Pass (el. 1632 m.) is a mountain pass in the central Pyrenees on the border of France and Spain. The pass, whose name is derived from the Latin Summus portus, was one of the most popular routes for crossing the mountains for soldiers, merchants, and St. James pilgrims taking the route from Arles from the city of Oloron-Sainte-Marie in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques département down into Aragon.
This was arguably the most popular Pyrenaic pass for pilgrims on the Way of St. James until the pacification of Navarran and Basque bandits in the 12th century made the relatively easier Roncesvalles road safer for pilgrims. There is little of interest at the pass, except for the modern Ermita del Pilar (1992) and of course the natural beauty of the mountains. From this point to Santiago de Compostela it is approximately 840 km.
A railway line linking Canfranc, Spain with Pau, France opened to traffic in 1928 but was closed due to a freight-train accident 27 March 1970. More recently the 8.6 km-long Somport Tunnel under the Pyrenees was opened on 7 February 2003 with a cost of nearly 160 million euros for the Spanish side and approximately 91.5 million euros for the French.The building of the tunnel was somewhat controversial, particularly in France, with those opposing it claiming that it would effectively destroy the natural beauty of the Aspe Valley (Vallée d'Aspe).
They wished instead for the reopening of the Pau-Canfranc rail line. A group of protesters permanently squatted at the abandoned railway station near Cette-Eygun, at the foot of the pass on the French side. Among them was the charismatic Eric Petitin, who had waged a protracted legal campaign against the authorities, causing delay in the tunnel's construction. By 1998 protesters were resorting to non-violent direct action, when construction was well under way. Their mascot was the rare Pyrenean Brown Bear, allegedly still to be found in the valley, but close to extinction, and further threatened by the tunnel project.
The last protesters were finally evicted in October 2005, some 20 years after campaigning against the tunnel had begun.French deputy Jean Lassalle made headlines on 3 June 2003 when he interrupted the French National Assembly by singing the "love song" Se Canto, protesting against Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy's announcement of the moving of 23 gendarmes guarding the Somport Tunnel to the town of Oloron-Sainte-Marie from neighbouring Urdos where their wives would probably be bored. Lassalle viewed this as offensive to the residents of Urdos.
There is a cross-country ski trail that goes 35 km around the pass, shared by Spain and France. Part of the route belongs to the Spanish ski resort of Candanchú.
Elevation: 1,632 m (5,354 ft)