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Beautiful landscapes, delicious food and premium small hotels mark this self-guided road journey along the Pyrenees from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, from Catalonia to the Basque Country. Walking trails lead through beech forests to hidden waterfalls, up forested volcanic cones to panoramic viewpoints and into some of Spain's most striking mountain scenery.
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Fly or take the train to Barcelona or Girona where you pick up a rental car for your journey. Your pre-programmed sat-nav will lead you to the beautiful small town of Cadaques - the point where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean sea. It was always a place favoured by artists, most famously Salvador Dalí. Staying in the heart of the old village lets you wander out to explore this afternoon.
Take an electric taxi from your hotel out into the nearby Cap de Creus natural park. From the lighthouse at the cape, follow a wonderful path which takes you along a series of coves, over headlands past olive groves to Dalí’s house at Port Lligat. There are various places along the way for you to enjoy a dip in the sea if the water is inviting.
The monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes is a beautiful medieval ruin perched dramatically on the high mountains looking out to sea. The walk down from the monastery is a beautiful one, taking you through pretty villages, past small vineyards and orchards before you emerge on the coastal promenade to Port de la Selva.
Travel from the coast to the high forested slopes of La Garrotxa natural park, stopping off en route to make the most of the journey. Perhaps with a stop at a winery or at the amazing Greco-Roman ruins of Empuries. Heading inland brings you to the beautifully preserved medieval town of Besalú, one of the most powerful and important outposts in Catalonia and a perfect place for an afternoon stroll.
After a hearty Catalan breakfast, set off walking a one-way route through the Garrotxa park leading back to your hotel. The path leads you through beautiful beech forests as you loop around dormant volcanoes over the course of the day. It is well worth taking a detour to see the stone chapel built inside a volcanic cone before stopping for lunch under medieval arches in the village of Santa Pau.
A long day of walking starts with a warm up for your legs as you follow the relative flat of the valley floor. The path then takes you over the Guixeres range. Enjoy your picnic lunch in the heart of the dense pine forests of the hills before walking down towards the pretty lake of Banyoles.
Today’s drive takes you from the low, pre-Pyrenees, into the very heart of the highest mountains. Depending on how early you set off, you might like to head straight into the Ordesa National Park, one of the most striking in Spain. Your hotel sits in glorious isolation in the Ara Valley some 6km up a dirt road.
Today’s circular walk leads you to some of the abandoned villages of La Solana with its beautiful architecture with slate roofs. Being the southern slopes of the Pyrenees you will be walking through thick Mediterranean forests along some sections of the historical path system as well as on wider tracks.
Meet up with your local guide today as they introduce you to the Ordesa National Park and some of the finest walking in the country. Being a private day of guiding, they will adapt the route to your energy levels, your interests and the weather. At the end of the day return to your hotel to relax with a drink and a book looking out over the valley.
The journey to your next hotel, in a village not far from Pamplona, takes around two hours, or three if you detour to enjoy a walk in the spectacular Arbayún gorge. Hidden in a landscape of oak woodland and wide valleys are the two deep ravines of Arbayún, a small yet dramatic corner of cliffs and forest which is incredibly rich in birdlife. Also along the way is the striking Loarre Castle.
The city of Pamplona is just 20 minutes away if you want culture and history. South of the city is the dramatic castle of Olite, surrounded by wineries. Heading back up into the mountains, you can visit the village of Roncesvalles, traditionally the start point of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage within Spain. Slightly further east are the beautiful beech forests of Irati.
The journey to your last hotel takes just over two hours. Along the way, stop off to visit a shepherd who makes the famous Idiazabal cheese. Visit Patxi’s farm to learn how he makes this Basque speciality. This is a great fun, hands-on experience, where you can help milk the sheep, and of course taste the delicious cheese. Continue to your hotel, a converted Napoleonic castle near the town of Gernika.
After your time in the mountains, you may well want to take it easy on your first day here though there's plenty to keep you busy if you'd rather get active. Just up the road from your hotel is a water sports centre which offers kayaking in the estuary, a biosphere reserve with particularly good birdlife.
If it's a Monday, visit the lively market at Gernika. You can also have great fun meeting farmers and craft food producers whose passion for locally produced regional food underpins the very essence of this regional culture. If today isn’t a Monday, you might like to drive into Bilbao to visit the city, including the fantastic Guggenheim museum.
Time to head home today as you steer the final few miles to Bilbao airport. Hopefully this itinerary has whetted your apetite for a trip to the Pyrenees. What you have read here is a sample itinerary which can be booked as is, or tailored to suit you and your interests and timeframes. There are some ideas below about how we can tailor it, but ultimately it's best to share your plans and see what we can do.
The sample itinerary described above assumes that you enjoy walking and being outdoors, but the level of exertion is ultimately up to you. The way it works on the ground is that we provide you with maps and walking routes for a variety of walks in each place. In Ordesa you have a full day with a private local guide in order to help you discover parts of the park you would otherwise find hard to get to. Overall though, you have complete control over how much or how little you do on any given day. We do assume that you will want to enjoy spending time in the outdoors, whether walking through medieval villages, or alongside the clear streams in the high mountains.
Although we focus on walking, there are lots of opportunities for other, more adventurous activities during this holiday; eBiking, mountain biking, canyoning, white water rafting, SUP and kayaking. We give you details of our trusted partners on the ground or we can book these activities for you and include them as part of your trip. The range of activities on offer does vary depending on the time of year.
There are many variations of this trip which are possible, not least switching the order to start on the Basque coast or adding in more time in specific places. If you don’t have two weeks, that’s no problem; we can work this trip down into something to suit you. The best starting point is to let us know what time you’ll likely have, the sorts of activities you like doing or if there’s anything that particularly interests you that you’d like us to consider. Ultimately this is your holiday, it need not be the same as anyone else’s.
Spring and early summer are some of the best months for this trip, with temperatures averaging in the mid-20°s during the day. May and June are beautifully green, the weather very good in the main and the water levels in the rivers at their best. September can be a month of storms in the high Pyrenees but they tend to involve a heavy downpour on one or two days of the month rather than being constant. In late July and August it can get uncomfortably hot, so we tend to advise against these months for travel on this trip. It can also be hard to find space at these small hotels in the peak summer months.
The price is per person based on two sharing and includes:
First-class accommodation with breakfast and some lunches and dinners
Mid-size vehicle hire
Guided excursion in Ordesa National Park
Pyrenees Holiday Guide with personal recommendations
Spain driving guide
Detailed walking notes where appropriate
Pura’s expertise, local contacts, support and advice throughout
International flights are quoted separately for this holiday. Best routings are into Barcelona (BCN) or Girona (GRO) and out of Bilbao (BIO).
The accommodation on this journey is first class. For details of accommodation used, please see the summary section of the detailed itinerary which we can send you on request. The hotel in Cadaques is the simplest but the welcome is very friendly and the location in the heart of the village unbeatable. The hotels from then on are all in historic buildings of different shapes and sizes but all of which are restored to a high standard, culminating in your stay in a Relais Chateaux castle. Suffice to say that days in the great outdoors are balanced by very, very comfortable nights throughout this trip.
For more details, please get in touch to request a detailed PDF itinerary.
Pura co-founder Diego Martín was brought up in and still lives in the mountains of Northern Spain. His first-hand knowledge and understanding of the history and culture of the Pyrenees has been instrumental in designing a tour which not only showcases and protects its natural beauty, but also financially benefits the hoteliers, drivers, guides and restaurateurs that make their home here. Working directly with them ensures they receive maximum benefit.
Diego has also worked extensively with an organisation dedicated to the protection of bearded vultures, which you can visit as part of your Pyrenees tour. The cultural aspect of this holiday is a very significant part of its appeal and is the reason why we are sure to include time with our local guides at key moments in the journey.
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