Exploring the Pyrenees of Catalonia has been a dream of mine for a long while. Last week it finally came true. Let´s dive into all the stunning landscapes and unique experiences from my adventurous weekend in the Catalan Pyrenees.
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Visiting the Spanish Pyrenees
My ongoing travels to the Pyrenees
My travel life has been extremely inspiring during the last few weeks since I got to visit my favorite Spanish Pyrenees for an adventurous weekend once again. What an experience…
Last time in the mountains, together with my husband in kids, we planned an epic road trip across the Spanish Pyrenees of Aragon. The year after, we returned to the Aragon region in order to experience some of the most epic Spanish hikes.
This year, together with my parents, we went exploring the Pyrenees of Catalonia to explore all that this wonderful region has to offer. Once again, the Pyrenees have completely exceeded my initial expectations. Even though years ago I enjoyed a skiing trip to Baqueira in the Catalan Pyrenees, the hiking and sightseeing side of the region was completely new to me, before this adventurous weekend in the mountains.
What you need to know
In the current post, I will share my adventure exploring the Pyrenees of Catalonia only. For the Pyrenees of Aragon read here to my other travel story.
Two main Catalan provinces with mountain landscapes are Lleida and Girona. Since I visited most of Girona on my Catalonia road trip, this adventurous weekend was entirely focused on Lleida (especially the Val d Aran region).
Need a longer itinerary?
Unless you have a few holiday weeks in your pocket, the best option is to build your Pyrenees trip around one of the 3 regions(e.g. Aragon, Catalonia, or Navarre). The roads are fine, but these are mountain roads – so, traveling between places takes twice as long.
To get a quick glimpse of my trips to the Spanish Pyrenees – check these Highlights on IG.
If you have more days for this Pyrenees adventure – feel free to steal my Aragon road trip itinerary or Northern Spain Road Trip Itinerary – both can be easily combined with exploring the Pyrenees of Catalonia.
Favorite hotels to stay
For this weekend we have chosen a budget-friendly Apartamentos Chuandervera in the small town of Laspaules.
During my first visit to the Pyrenees, we stayed at Barceló Monasterio de Boltaña. It´s one of the best hotels with SPA in the Pyrenees, with spacious rooms and quite decent prices (considering the quality of the services).
You can find a few cute boutique hotels in Ainsa, one of the most beautiful medieval towns in Spain, like Alojamientos Ainsa Sanchez and Los Siete Reyes. I also really like these hotels: Hotel Boutique Mediodía & Apartments, Casa Lascorz, and Casa de San Martín.
Books about the Pyrenees
If you are looking for more visual inspiration or historical/practical data on the Pyrenees region, there are a few books you might find handy – Shorter Treks in the Pyrenees, Explore Pyrenees Like A Local or Walks and Climbs in the Pyrenees (focused on the French Pyrenees). Planning to read something about the Pyrenees on the road? – Check Footprints on the mountains, Boundaries, The Savage Frontier, Cruel Crossing, and If you only walk long enough.
If you know Spanish, check: Pirineos. Mas allá de las montañas, Los Pirineos, Leyendas de brujas en el Pirineo fantástico, Pirineos: 50 joyas del arte románico, Pirineos : montaña sublime, and 101 Lugares de los Pirineos sorprendentes.
Unique experiences to book in the Pyrenees
There are a few unique experiences you can book in the Spanish Pyrenees in advance: Via Ferrata K3. Climbing Experience, Pyrenees Paragliding Experience, Ordesa National Park Guided Snowshoeing Tour, and Hot Air Balloon Ride and Breakfast over the Volcanoes of la Garrotxa.
Weekend in the mountains: Exploring the Pyrenees of Catalonia
Day 1 Aiguestortes National Park + Vall de Boi
Hiking Ruta del Planell de Aiguestortes y Estany Llong
Exploring the Pyrenees of Catalonia always involves a visit to the regional natural gem – Aiguestortes National Park (the full name in Catalan is Aiguestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici).
The main hiking itineraries of the park are ruta de la ribera de Sant Nicolau, ruta de la Marmota, ruta hacia las Agulles d Amitges, ruta del circ de Colomers, ruta de los estanys de la Vall Fosca. To get all the information and a free map, you can drop by one of the Visitor Centers in Boi, Espot, LLessui, Estany Gento, and Senet.
The trail I was most excited to check out this weekend in the mountains was Ruta del Planell de Aiguestortes y Estany Llong (it is the famous part of the already-mentioned itinerary Ruta de la Ribera de Sant Nicolau).
First thing in the morning we got to the small village of Boi in order to take an official transfer to the Aiguestortes National Park (it costs around 11 euros both ways / per person). Local authorities limit access to private vehicles, so the only alternative to their transfer is to walk an extra 12 km-long trail one way towards the national park from Parking de la Molina (this route is called Ruta de la Nutria).
In our case, we decided to make a 9,5km hike (with the transfer), instead of the full 22km-long trail (which would consist of both Ruta de la Nutria and Ruta del Planell de Aiguestortes y Estany Llong).
The natural setting of Aiguestortes National Park is definitely one of the most beautiful landscapes in Spain.
Since we were exploring the Pyrenees of Catalonia in October the trail was not crowded (not even close to some hikes near Valencia, like the famous Route of the Hanging Bridges). The route ended with the crystal-clear lake Estany Llong. (At this point, you can return, or walk further towards Portarro d Espot, Estany de Ratera, or Estany de Sant Maurici – there are a few nice lookouts on these extra trails).
The full itinerary of Ruta del Planell de Aiguestortes y Estany Llong took us around 3 -3.5 hours, and mostly it was a pleasant walk ( we could have easily taken kids with us and explored the Pyrenees with them).
The Catalan Cuisine
After our active morning, we headed for lunch to a local restaurant El Caliu in the small town of Taull.
You know how much I love trying local food in the Spanish villages. This time, we enjoyed two gems of Catalan Cuisine – vianda ( also called escudella in Spanish, which is a traditional meat and vegetable stew and soup) and mel i mato (a Catalan dessert made of cottage cheese and honey).
Romanesque Churches of Vall de Boi
After lunch, I finally got to visit the famous Romanesque Churches of Vall de Boi, an absolute must-stop while exploring the Pyrenees of Catalonia (it´s been on my Spain Bucket List for years).
In the area of Vall de Boi, you will find 9 unique churches from the XIth century, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Some of them are not open all year round, but all have something absolutely unique worth seeing.
The best way to make the most of your visit to Vall de Boi Valley is to get a combined ticket inside one of the churches (or online): you can book either 3 churches for 7 euros or 5 churches for 10 euros (per person). We picked the first option. Since the general entrance for each Romanesque church was 2 euros (and for the Taull church with its unique video show – 4 euros) – the combined ticket was worth it.
The first stop was Sant Climent de Taull, where we fell in love with the unique video (its daily hours:: 10.15, 11.00, 12.00, 12.45, 13.30, 16.15, 17.00, 17.45, 18.30.). Afterward, we made a quick stop at another church nearby, Santa Maria de Taull (the only one of the Romanesque churches with a free entrance).
Next, we went back to Sant Joan de Boi (in the village of Boi) to see its unique mural paintings, and then to Santa Eulalia d Erill la Vall, in order to walk all the way up to its best bell tower of the valley. Inside the Santa Eulalia, I was impressed by the copy of the wooden sculptural ensemble of the Descent from the Cross (the originals were divided between the National Museum of Art of Catalonia and the Episcopal Museum in Vic).
Day 2 Bausen + Uelhs deth joeu + Vielha
Bosque de Carlac
On the second day of our Pyrenees weekend, I planned to add a new location to my list of magical forests in Spain – the enchanted Bosque de Carlac.
So, we tested another hiking trail Ruta del Bosque de Carlac in the tiny village of Bausen. For some reason, I read on the Spanish websites that it was an easy walk. But in my opinion, it was not. My parents also gave me the looks as we walked upwards on the slippery rocks for a while. Essentially, Bosque de Carlac is an intermediate-level 6.5-km-long hiking trail with an elevation level of +275. While it is a circular trail, we have done it clockwise (unlike all of the other travelers we met on the road).
Visiting both Bausen and Bosque de Carlac was such a unique experience: it all looked stuck in time, from the abandoned local houses to the ancient giant trees. This lesser-known hike is definitely making its way to my list of favorite hikes in Spain.
The mysterious legend in Bausen
Additionally, the tiny village of Bausen will be a great match for the fans of Spanish legends and mysterious places in Spain, since it has its very own strange local tale from the beginning of the XXth century.
Rumor has it that two locals Francisco and Teresa were deeply in love and wanted to get married, but the local priest requested lots of money to approve their marriage (based on the fact that they were cousins, which the church could not approve of, unless they´d pay the necessary amount). The two lovebirds had no money but got to live together anyway. They had two kids and moved out of Bausen. However, Teresa got sick and died at the age of 33, but the church did not give her partner permission to bury her in Bausen. Nevertheless, the locals helped him to dig up the grave anyway. Teresa was buried against the Church´s word, which was so uncommon for the small-town life of the XXth century.
Lunch on the road
After hiking in Bausen, we made a stop for lunch at Boixetes de Cal Manel, where we enjoyed two local dishes – olla aranesa (a local meat soup) and arroz de montaña (similar to the rice meal I had in la borda of Andorra last winter).
Uelhs deth Joeu
After the lunch break, we headed to Uelhs deth Joeu waterfall, another must-stop while exploring the Pyrenees of Catalonia.
This place has easy access since you park nearby. However, I read on the Spanish sites that in summer the area is usually closed for private vehicles and they set a tourist train (please, double-check this, in case you plan to visit during the peak season).
From the waterfall, we walked 15 min up the stairs towards Refugi Plan de L´Artiga de Lin. Suddenly the woods transformed into a beautiful valley, surrounded by the Pyrenees on three sides. This surprising discovery was definitely one of the most stunning landscapes I have seen in the Pyrenees so far. So, if you do not mind walking a bit – I really recommend going beyond the Uelhs deth Joeu waterfall.
At this point, we ran out of daytime and went to have dinner in Vielha (also bought a few souvenirs for the family there). Then, returned to the hotel. If we had more time, I would have also visited Termas Baronia de Les – an off-the-beaten-path SPA, which was in use from the Roman times on the Iberian Peninsula.
To sum up
This weekend of exploring the Pyrenees of Catalonia will definitely end up on my list of favorite experiences in Spain of 2023, very much like the previous Pyrenees road trip was one of the highlights of 2022. But you know what? – If I get a chance to open the upcoming 2024 with another adventurous weekend in the Pyrenees? – I am ready to pack my bags right now.
What about you? Have you ever visited the Pyrenees of Catalonia?
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