On September 2004 I went to the central Pyrenees (Spain) with my wife. We don't like arranged travels and we
prefer to travel on our own, because we think is the only way you can get in touch with
the real country and its people. This way of travelling is harder and more expensive than
others, but also more pleasant, relaxing and, that's the best, gives you a different point
of view on the culture and way of life.
After my experience here you have my advice if you
plan to travel on your own to the central Pyrenees. You have to understand that
this is MY PERSONAL POINT OF VIEW and that it is not my intention to
criticize the people or culture of the mentioned places. You also must take into
account that these observations are from year 2004. Things might have
changed (either in the right or in the wrong way) since then.
Click on the links on the map to see some
photos of the area in my photo album.
This was a round trip to the central area of the Pyrenees, starting
and ending at the city of Barcelona ,
because we have taken our car with us with the ferry from Mallorca .
Although it would have been possible to get to the Aran valley, our first
destination, in only one day, I preferred to split the way in two journeys
and so start the holidays in a more relaxed way.
So, the first day we just moved from Barcelona to Cardona,
a small village where the most interesting things are the impressive and
well preserved castle on top of a hill, the ruins of a roman bridge and the
salt mine. We have booked a room in the castle
(Well, I should say that the castle now holds the excellent Parador
Nacional de Turismo de Cardona )
and after a restful night we went to the old salt mine, with its curious and
unique salt mountain .
This mine is no longer in production and some of the corridors of the higher
levels can be visited in a very interesting guided tour. I certainly recommend
you this visit if you pass by Cardona.
From there we drove towards Solsona and then, by the C 14 road towards La
Seu d'Urgell and Andorra. However a few km. before La Seu d'Urgell, at
Adrall, we took the N 260 towards Sort
where we stopped for a late lunch. Then, following the C 13 we drove up to
the Port de la Bonaigua (2072 m) where you enter the Aran valley .
A little after we arrived to Vielha (Viella), the capital city of the
valley, and went directly to the Parador Nacional de Turismo de Viella ,
where we had booked a room for the following nights.
As I had already been in the Aran valley in the past, this time my main
intention was not to visit the valley itself, but make some radial
excursions. So, the following day we decided to go to the National Park
for a short walk by the surroundings of the "estany" (lake) of San
We went with our car till Espot, where we had to park it because you can't
drive inside the park. However in Espot there is a regular service of 4x4
"Taxis" that for a reasonable price take you by the trails inside
the park. In our case the Taxi left us near the Estany de Ratera (a small
lake a few hundred meters above the Estany de Sant Maurici) and we went by
foot till a close viewpoint
where you can enjoy an incredible panoramic of the lake and the
surrounding mountains. From there we walked down to the lake, by a narrow
track that passes by the waterfall of Ratera, and finally bordering the lake
leads to the Taxi's stop, where we took the next Taxi down to Espot.
The next day we left Viella again and went south by the tunnel towards the
Vall de Boi (Boi valley),
famous for the many Romanesque churches, most of them well preserved. Apart
from the architectonic beauty of the small villages of this valley, its
natural environment is also exceptional, and if you like open landscapes I
can recommend you take the road that goes up to Ta?l and the sky resort of
Boi-Ta?l, from where you will enjoy beautiful views of the valley.
We possibly planned a too short visit to the Boi valley (I hope to return
there sometime and spend some days at least), but as we already had some
hours left we drove by the N 260, passing by some semi-abandoned villages ,
and went to the close valley of La Vall Fosca.
We had already been there some years before, so it just was a short visit in
order to enjoy again the natural views that this valley offers.
The following day we had arranged a meeting in the town of Viella
with a cousin of my wife, that by casualty was spending his holidays in Vall
de Boi, together with his wife and their daughter. We spent the day visiting
the town of Viella ,
doing some shopping and having lunch together.
Well, it was time to say goodbye to the Aran valley and move to our next
destination, so we left Viella by the N 230 southwards and some km before
Pont de Suert we took the N 260 towards the National Park of Ordesa. Near
Castej? de Sos we made a short visit to the Benasque valley .
In a few hours we drove by the road that follows the valley and got a first
(and very positive) impression of what this valley was. It's certainly in my
list for some future, longer visit. Continuing our way by the N 260 we got
to Ainsa and took the A 138 that leads to Bielsa by the banks of the Cinca
where we took a narrow road that goes along the Pineta valley,
at which end the Parador Nacional de Turismo of Bielsa
is located. This is the most incredible place where a hotel can be, amongst
the mountains, at the foot of the Monte Perdido and in the middle of one of
the most beautiful corners of the Pyrenees, with no other buildings in
dozens of km around. Some years before I had made a quick visit to the
Pineta valley and I was very impressed, and now my dream of returning there
for a longer stay in the Parador Nacional had come true!
The Pineta valley is at the east of the National Park of Ordesa ,
so the day after we decided to go to Torla ,
the natural entry of the park, and made some excursion by car by the
surroundings (you can't drive inside the park). When you get to Torla there
is an incredible view of the town, up in a small hill, and the huge
mountains of Monte Perdido in the background. The village of Torla
itself is worth a visit, and the surroundings of the church are
specially interesting, offering breathtaking views of the mountains.
From Torla we drove towards Bujaruelo ,
by a ground trail, along the Bujaruelo valley. This is a nice excursion
either if you do it by car or by foot. From the trail you have
excellent views of the mountains and the many water streams going down the
slopes. Bujaruelo is actually nothing else than a mountain refugee beside a
beautiful and well preserved roman bridge, but the environment is a dream.
When I had been in Ordesa, some years before, I made a nice excursion
by foot, from Torla, along the ordesa valley, till the "Cola de
Caballo", a waterfall at the end of the valley from where one of the
routes to climb Monte Perdido begins. This is a quite easy walk that I can
certainly recommend you. The only drawback is the that you will meet hundreds
of persons along the track...it's not exactly what I would call a solitaire
The following day we had planned a excursion by foot by the A?sclo
This is a marvellous gorge carved by the Vellos river. There is a good
track that goes up following the river towards the heart of the National
Park, offering the spectacle of a virgin nature at its best. I have no words
to describe this place...you will have to discover it yourself...
With the pictures of the A?sclo gorge still in our minds, the day after
we had no other choice that leaving the marvellous central Pyrenees and drive
towards Barcelona, however we still had time for a short excursion by a
narrow, but good, road that goes up toward to the village of Plan .
In Barcelona we took the ferry back home and back to everyday
routine....but fortunately the Pyrenees are so close that I'm sure it was
not the last time we spend our holidays there....