As keen walkers of average fitness my husband and I love being amongst lakes and mountains but never relish the climbing involved to get to a decent height at the start. So we were overjoyed to find two beautiful areas in the heart of the Spanish Pyrenees that fit the bill perfectly.
Our first stop was the Vall de Nuria, This stunning area is easily and enjoyably accessed by a rack railway, from the small town of Ribes de Freser.
The journey is a treat in itself, as the little train slowly climbs higher and higher out of the valley and the views get better and better. Suddenly you emerge from a tunnel into the sunlight and the beauty of the Vall de Nuria is spread out in front of you.
Primarily a ski resort, the area also has a lot to offer during the summer months. Surrounded by mountain peaks, the valley is 2000 meters above sea level with a glistening lake, and a choice of walks and long distance hikes. A modern day monastery/hotel dominates the valley and offers accommodation, a restaurant and information centre.
We walked along a headland and enjoyed a picnic lunch while watching some comical marmots playing just a few feet away. As the afternoon wore on low cloud drifted up the valley creating an eerie atmosphere and a stern reminder of how the weather can turn so suddenly. Luckily for us it soon blew through and the sunshine returned.
Our second base was the tiny village of Espot about 2 hours east of Ribes de Freser. Here the villagers have organized a fleet of 4×4 jeeps so that walkers can be easily transported into the Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes and the Lake of Sant Maurici.
The jeep taxis cost about €10 round trip and drop you at the lake. From here you can walk to a second or even third lake in about a day. The air is clean, quiet and crystal clear and once you leave the majority of walkers behind it is a haven of peace.
On the descent back to our pick up point we called into a rustic refuge hidden among the trees. Built as somewhere for long distance hikers to spend the night, conditions are basic, but just the place for a cold beer and a short rest.
Our hotel in Espot was a gem of a find. Popular websites state that the Hotel Roca Blanca in Espot is no.3 out of 1,854 hotels in Catalonia and no.1 in Girona Province – so I felt worth checking out.
Arriving to bright blue skies and warm sunshine I was immediately put at ease by the friendly welcome of our hosts. Our room was not quite ready as we were early, so he made us coffee and led us into his pretty garden to sit and relax and admire the views. We made friends with Homer, the resident St Bernard, who watches guests come and go as he lazes in the sun.
Our room was clean, modern and spacious. Of course, being in the mountains we had amazing views from our little balcony, which was bedecked with geraniums. The bed was comfortable, the shower hot and the breakfast buffet was amazing – what more could you ask for when paying just €75 per night.
Espot is now a firm favourite, and at just 3 hours drive from Barcelona, becomes a possibility for a short break away from the hurly burly of life.
Our partner, Ramblers Worldwide Holidays, feature walking holidays to this inspiring area.