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New for 2020, follow the Spanish Pyrenees, on foot and from behind the wheel, independently and with your Pura guide, as they rise amid the atmospheric forests of Navarre, reach their most dramatic in Aragón and then sink into the sea on the rugged Catalan coast. It's a journey for mountain lovers, for walkers, for wildlife-watchers and for anyone who just loves the idea of being outside and active in the great outdoors.
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From Bilbao it's a 90-minute drive southeast to the iconic city of Pamplona, that of Hemingway fame and of the world famous Running of the Bulls. Pamplona is much more than the sum of these more obvious connections though. Meet your Pura guide for a walk around the old town and a lunch to remember as you bounce between pintxos bars. Following a welcome briefing make your way to your first hotel, overlooking the trees of the Caparreta Nature Reserve.
Walking boots on for a day of marked contrasts as you move between two striking environments. First, Irati Forest - Europe’s second largest expanse of beech and fir forest and an absolutely beautiful place to go walking. After perhaps stopping for a traditional Basque 'cider barn' lunch, explore the two deep ravines of Arbayún, a small yet dramatic corner of cliffs and forest which is incredibly rich in birdlife.
Move into Aragón today, via a memorable detour to the Mallos de Riglos - a destinctive group of red rock towers surrounded by Mediterranean orchards, explored on a popular walk known as Heaven's Path. There are also watersport options nearby and not far from Riglos is the medieval Loarre Castle, one of the best preserved in Europe, with stunning views over the plains of Huesca. Finish up at your next base, with truly comfortable rooms, great food and memorable views.
You started in atmospheric forest, moved on to a limestone canyon and spent yesterday below big red towers above the plains. Now it's time for the high Pyrenees. The Tena valley is a great place to start, with a choice of hikes of different difficulties. Walk through the Betato beech forest, up to Piedrafita Lake or follow a spectacular trail up to Respomuso hut.
Now that you're warmed up, tackle one of our favourite hikes in all of Spain; follow the Arazas Valley past beautiful waterfalls and through beech forests into a dramatically steep-sided valley, dominated by the summit of Monte Perdido. As you approach Monte Perdido the path flattens to reach the famous Cola de Caballo (Horse's Tail) waterfall. Continue on to the medeival town of Ainsa at the foothill of the Monte Perdido massif. You stay right on the square in the heart of the old town and have a a well deserved treat to look forward to, with a tasting menu based on local produce.
Today is spent in the company of your Pura guide, who will come to meet you at your hotel this morning and spend the day with you. The exact activity will vary depending on your main interests and the weather forecast, but you can choose from full day hiking routes to easier trails focusing more on the culture or wildlife of the area.
Today is yours to get your boots back on or try something a bit different. Ainsa is an adventure sports haven, with water sports top of many people's list. There's canyoning, for example - this can include abseiling down a waterfall, jumping into pools, sliding down slippery rocks and swimming. Another option we highly recommend is to try out eBiking in the Pineta Valley. The bikes are easy to use, working pretty much in the same way as a normal bike, but with varying levels of support propelling you along.
Continue ever eastwards today as you leave behind your third base and cross from valley to valley, from Aragón to Catalonia. Today you're walking to the spectacular Forau de Aigualluts, where the melting waters of the largest glacier remaining in the Pyrenees forms a spectacular waterfall, before sinking in the rocks to travel underground towards the French watershed. Settle into your recently-renovated rustic hotel, hopefully in time for a beautiful sunset.
Another day brings another memorable hike, as you walk through the beautiful alpine scenery of the Aigüestortes National Park. The name means ‘twisted waters’ and the park is full of lakes, streams and waterfalls as well as high peaks and wide valleys. Later on you'll have time to properly explore the Romanesque churches of the Boi Valley, extending the interest from the natural beauty to its rural architecture and tales of a fascinating past.
Travel from the high mountains to the lower volcanic region of La Garrotxa, stopping for a stretch of the legs en route. Our favourite walk in the Cadí Moixeró natural park is a 7.5km circular trail which leads through pine forests filled with birdsong, out into a peaceful high pasture and along paths which provide glorious views across the mountains and a stone village perched on the hillside. Your home for the next two nights is a delightfully quirky country house. Enjoy a homemade dinner based on local and organic products.
For today we recommend you walk our stunning 16km bespoke hike, plucked straight out of our Catalonia Inn to Inn trip. The path leads you through beautiful beech forests as you loop around dormant volcanoes through 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 the medieval arches of Santa Pau. If your feet are not up for more walking today, you can lunch in Santa Pau, visit the modernist houses of the nearby town of Olot and take it easy round the pool.
Having put a good few miles on the clocks of your walking boots over the past week or so, the next couple of days are more gentle in nature, with the car largely taking the strain. Today you'll wake up in the forests of La Garrotxa and see out the day overlooking the Mediterranean. En route you can explore the stone villages of Castelfollit and Besalú and in Figueres you have the wonderfully irreverant Dali Museum, a fitting ode to Catalonia's famous son. Later settle into your hotel overlooking the harbour and enjoy an introductory tour of Cadaqués with our local guide.
The monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes is a medieval ruin perched dramatically on the high mountains looking out to sea. From here walk back down to the coastal promenade to Port de la Selva, the perfect place for lunch by the sea. It's a short drive to your private tour of a wonderful little family-run organic winery. The scenery is something else, with the old vines nestled in amid the mountains and co-owner Núria does a great job telling the story of the vineyard.
Today is best dedicated to the Costa Brava and, in particular, the Cap de Creus natural park. The rough landscape of wind-carved rocks is actually the point where the Pyrenees submerge into the Mediterranean, mainland Spain’s most easterly point. Follow a path along a series of coves, over headlands and past olive groves to Dalí’s house at Port Lligat. This evening you have two more highlights to look forward to; a memorable sunset boat ride around the bay and a special tasting menu (included) at the renowned Compartir restaurant.
You have a drive of roughly 85kms to Girona or 175kms to Barcelona. So what you can do today depends largely on what time your flight leaves. Let's be optimistic and assume that you have time to stop on the way. Options include the proudly Catalan historic city of Girona, the Greco-Roman coastal ruins of Empúries and the wildlife-rich wetlands of Aiguamolls. Should you want more time, ask us about including a couple of nights in Girona or Barcelona. Drop off your car and head for home. Once again, international flights are quoted separately.
In many ways, this is a walking holiday wrapped up in the cloak of a self-drive adventure. So being walking fit, and having a trusty pair of boots, is important to get the most out of it.
A major advantage of having your own car is that the walks can be adapted to your needs completely and overall you have complete control over how much or how little you do on any given day.
Although we focus on walking, there are lots of opportunities for other, more adventurous activities during this holiday, including canoeing, canyoning and eBiking.
There are many variations of this trip which are possible, not least adding in time in Bilbao, Girona or Barcelona. If you don’t have two weeks, that’s no problem; we can work this trip down into something to suit you. If you have more time, we can do more. 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, early summer and autumn are some of the best months for this trip, where temperatures, in the mid-20°s during the day on average, cooler at night up in the mountains of course.
May and June are beautifully green, the weather very good in the main and the water levels in the rivers at their best. In October and early November, the autumnal colours are a true sight to behold in the forests of the Pyrenees.
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 excursions as described
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 Bilbao (BIO) and out of Barcelona (BCN) or Girona (GRO).
The hotels on this trip tend towards the premium end of the scale, which is to say that they are the perfect places to rest up and relax on what is an active holiday with a strong focus on walking.
Throughout you should expect small rural guesthouses, with a warm welcome, characterful and comfortable rooms and often a delicious homecooked meal made with local ingredients.
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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