A region filled with mountain villages, snowy peaks, and dormant volcanoes is bound to be full of adventure. Whether it’s soft adventure, cultural adventure, or heart pounding adventure, there are plenty of things to do in the Pyrenees. In fact, the Spanish Pyrenees has something for everyone!
Biking in the Pyrenees
Experiencing the rural cultures and day-to-day life on two wheels, is a super way to get deeper into an area. I biked through the dirt roads and forest trails in the Les Preses area with Bicicarill. We started in town but soon wound our way down farm roads and into the forests where we were greeted with a series of paths and trails to choose from. And don’t be surprised when you come across an old church tucked away deep in the forest. It made it all seem like a fairy tale as if a little gnome was going to walk out and greet us.
If you would like a little help on the hills, the try out the electric bike options around the Pyrenees. I rode with www.cercleaventura.com through the backroads and fields near Bolvir, along the Sant Jaume road. They offered electric bikes, which were perfect for cruising and providing just a little boost to get you up and down the hilly terrain.
Hiking in the Pyrenees
There’s plenty of hiking options in the Pyrenees. In fact, there is an extensive, long distance trail system (550+ miles) traversing the length of the Pyrenees that I now have my eye on called GR 11, also known as the ruta Transpirenaica in Spain. But if you are looking for something a little shorter, then try hiking around Vall de Nuria. A magical little valley and winter ski area nestled among the peaks. You can take the train up to Vall de Nuria and hike the 3 ½ hours back down on a stunning trail, or you can hike up and down and skip the train. My friend Pete and I chose to train up and hike down to get a little exercise after eating like royalty for the last few days in Garoxtta. We were able to see the waterfalls up close, cross little bridges and get a feel for just how challenging it was to build the railway on the steep, rocky cliff.
If you want to go higher up in Pyrenees and even stay overnight, then head to Lake Malniu near Meranges. We had a personal guide and a well known ‘personality’ in the area, Eduard Jornet. Eduard is father to phenom ultra runnerKilian Jornet as well as the founder of one of the most grueling ultra races in the world – the Volta Cerdanya Ultra. As we hiked with Eduard through the last remaining snowpack from winter, we traversed Malniu Lake finishing at theMalniu Refuge where Eduard managed, lived at, and raised his family for years. You can rent rooms there and enjoy the mountain air as well as a number of hikes in the area.
Pyrenees by Horseback
Giddy-up through the Pyrenees with Mas Rodonell and traverse the hills via horseback in the little enclave region of Llivia. The horses took us through farmland, rivers, and up some rather steep hills to see the best view in Llivia at the remnants of the old fort.
Balloon Rides in the Pyrenees
Get a new perspective on the Pyrenees from above. Float above the mountaintops and medieval villages while sipping Cava. Check out my detailed article and get the complete view of Vol de Coloms morning hot air balloon rides.
Stay in a Farmhouse
Get a feel for the rural life in the Pyrenees by staying at Mas Garganta near Olat in the Vall d’en Bas. Sit on the patio, lie on the grass, take a swim, sit by the fireplace, walk in the woods, pick vegetables from the garden, gather eggs; this is your place to relax, and unwind in a rural setting. The farm house is filled with antiques and simple details that express the warmth and history of the home. Each room is unique and the food is hearty, comforting, and sourced from their own farm.
Visit a Medieval Village
Tucked into the mountains only reached on winding, narrow, nail biting roads you’ll reach Beget, one of the most special villages in the region. I loved Beget for it’s remote location and because it was a functioning village with more real life than manufactured tourism. Visit the Romanesque church of St. Cristòfol de Beget, a historical and artistic heritage site. Then wander through the cobblestone streets where time has elapsed. Cars can’t enter the village and its streets and houses are the typical stone ones of a medieval village. Head to the town square for the chance to hear some musicians and learn the history of the local music man. If you are lucky you may even hear some music by local singer songwriter, Monik Bargalle, who puts poetry to music singing Catalan poetry.
Enter an Ancient Portal
The town of Ripoll is home to the Santa Maria de Ripoll, a monastery created in 9th Century and the 1st monastery of Catalonia. Today you can see remnants of the old building and portal. The portal, although damaged by fires and restored in modern times, is an example of Catalan Romanesque sculpture. The frontal section features a relief from the mid-13th century divided in seven horizontal bands. It’s the type of relief where you can sit and stare for hours and still see something new pop out at you. Also take a moment to pop into the cloisters which contains more of the original monastery structure than the church itself.
Watch Giants Dance
Gigantes y cabezudos, roughly translated “Giants and Big-Heads”, or, in Catalan, gegants i capgrossos are cultural staple in the region. Each town has it’s own giants that represent some overarching theme of the town. Much like a town mascot, they are seen dancing at festivals and town events. The giants are hollow figures several feet tall, with a painted paper maché head and arms. Sometimes they all gather for Giant festivals and luckily we ran into one such festival in Puigcerdà.
Sherry Ott is a refugee from corporate IT who is now a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer. She’s a co-founder of Briefcasetobackpack.com, a website offering career break travel inspiration and advice.
Additionally, she runs an around the world travel blog writing about her travel and expat adventures at Ottsworld.com.com.