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Alto Aragon: The Spanish Pyrenees

Alto Aragon: The Spanish Pyrenees

Trip Highlights

  • Off the Beaten Track in the Spanish Pyrenees
  • Walking in Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park
  • Trek Across the Aniscolo Gorge
  • Explore the Medieval Town of Ainsa

Trip Summary

This tour is a good choice for a summer hike, in a fascinating and generally quiet mountain region that is well off the beaten tracks of the higher Pyrenees. The route is truly spectacular in places, taking in some of the finest landscapes in Spain on the fringes of the Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park. You cross two passes of over 2000m, which are normally free of snow by mid-June. On the way are forests, plateaus, terraced hillsides, charming villages, deep canyons and broad valleys. There is plenty of historical interest, notably the well-preserved medieval town of Ainsa, which has an important place in the history of Spanish rechristianisation, and the overthrow of the Moors. Apart from in Bielsa and Ainsa, accommodations are fairly simple, but reflect something of the area we pass through. There are good opportunities for wildlife viewing: Chamois, Ibex and Lammergeyer Vultures are all present. Deer and Marmots are also much in evidence! Alpine flowers are also ubiquitous in the higher pastures. This is an ‘authentic’ part of Spain without the excesses of tourism that you sometimes see there. A knowledge of some Spanish or a good phrase book is useful for this very reason.

Suitability

Challenging (grade 5). Fitness: This challenging walk is designed to appeal to the fit and experienced walker/hiker. The first walking day is strenuous so you do need to be in good shape before you start the tour. You should be competent at map reading and compass work. Because of the remote and rugged terrain this self-guided tour is not available to solo travellers. Day stages: 10km to 26km (6-15 miles) per day with average altitude gains of 900m, but over 1000m on some days. Walking 5 to 8 hrs a day. The 4th walking day (from Nerin to Ainsa) can be shortened by using a car transfer (included in tour price) at the start of the day, starting at the village of Buerba. The seventh day can be shortened by starting at the village of Sin rather than Plan.

Itinerary

Depending on your time of arrival there should be an opportunity to explore the town. This is a charming mountain village, which lies at an altitude of 1024m and is surrounded by mountains, many of which reach 3000m. Situated at the confluence of the Barrosa and Cinca rivers, it is built upon glacial moraines at the entrance of the Pineta 'U' shaped valley. Bielsa was heavily bombed in the Spanish Civil War in 1938, as the Republican Army escaped up the valley into France. This explains why the town is a bit of a hotch-pot of building styles. Nevertheless there is an interesting square and a church, which amazingly survived the bombing. This small town has bars, several supermarkets, a pharmacy, and a tourist information office. Accommodation: Our 3 star hotel is a large modern building just below the old town. There is a great restaurant and bar, and the dinner is well prepared, presented and includes a local wine.

Meals:  D

Features of the day include fine views of the Valley of Pineta, forest tracks, open Alpine meadows, a mountain pass at 2060m called ‘El Portillo de Tella.’ Good bird viewing potential and maybe chamois. You then descend to the pretty village of Tella famous for its witches and an ancient dolmen (neolithic burial chamber). The day ends with a descent into the Cinca valley and your guesthouse at Hospital de Tella. Total Ascent 1200m, descent 1540m. Accommodation: Two nights are spent at a small family-run guesthouse and restaurant on the banks of the river Cinca at Hospital de Tella. There is a terrace and a bar with a vaulted ceiling. There are 4 twin-bedded rooms with en suite facilities and 2 rooms without private facilities. There are no other facilities nearby.

Meals:  B,D

The route follows the River Yaga, passing through the almost abandoned hamlet of Estamilla and into a very rich natural habitat with a wide variety of vegetation. The table topped mountain of Castillo Mayor commands the view to the south, while Monte Perdido and the Tres Marias are a short distance to the north. Escuain is a pretty village with a few people working on the land. There are some attractive old buildings and a little tourist information, which has details about the Lammergeyers who inhabit the area. You will be picked up at Escuain around 5.00 pm to return to Hospital. Total Ascent 750m, descent 300m.

Meals:  B,L,D

Today you will need to pack what you need for one night/two days as your bags are transferred to Ainsa, tomorrow nights stop. Start the day with a transfer to Bestue (1220 metres). This is another old village, which is slowly being done up and relived in for at least part of the year. This is a day of ups and downs until you reach Nerin, as you go crossing the fantastic Anisclo Canyon, which has a long spanned medieval parabolic stone bridge. On this walk at certain points you may look down upon Lammergeyers, Griffon Vultures or Peregrines flying below you. The last part of the day is the ascent to Nerin (1281m) and from the village looking back down the valley you can get nice alpenglow views of Castillo Mayor. Total ascent 1120m, descent 1105m. Accommodation: The rooms in this very comfortable 2* hotel all have ensuite facilities.There is a bar, and the restaurant serves good food.

Meals:  B,L,D

We provide a car transfer from Nerin to Buerba (8 km/5 miles). We do recommend that you consider taking a taxi from the small town of Boltana to reduce the walk and give you more time in Ainsa. Before you start today's walk, you may wish to visit the interesting church in Buerba. You cross a remote mountain region, which has many signs of rural depopulation, such as abandoned terraces, chapels and hamlets. The walk is mostly descent, but with a quite steep uphill walk to the pass called ‘El Portillo de los Valles’ and then on a broad forest track descending to Boltana (643m), which has a precarious ruined castle. There are alternative paths along the valley for the last 8 km/5 miles to Ainsa (589m), should you wish to continue the walk that is reasonably pleasant alongside the river Ara. Ainsa is a major small town with a number of services and tourist shops. The main attraction is the old upper town, which is walled and has a main square and a few old streets leading off it. There are many restaurants on the square to try different dishes. Beyond this there is an old fortress, which has a wall walkway from where if it is clear you can see a panorama stretching back to Monte Perdido and the French border. Listen out for Nightingales and Warblers in June! Another good viewpoint is that from the other side of the River Cinca where if you cross the bridge, you will get a good view back to the upper town. Total ascent 535m, descent 1030m. Accommodation: We stay in a 3 star hotel of traditional aragonesque style, located in a small cobbled street in the old town up on the hill. Accommodation is on room-only basis. All you need to do is pop out to a nearby café for your breakfast.

Meals:  B,L

A day following the Cinca valley, passing through several villages and along forested slopes above the river. The towering walls of Pena Montanesa provide an impressive backdrop as you go. The final 10 km/6.2 miles you follow the Cinca bankside path until you reach the hydroelectric village of Lafortunada, a sleepy place, but there is a hamlet called Badain across the river, which has an interesting church you can ascend to. Total ascent 780m, descent 600m. Accommodation: We use a 1 star hotel with its own restaurant. The rooms have ensuite facilities.

Meals:  D

This day is the longest and perhaps hardest of all: road transfer from Lafortunada to Plan (1120m), then walk over the mountains to Bielsa. A shorter option is possible via Sin, saving about 2 hours from the start of the walk. The walk takes you along terrace margins and through little villages before climbing through the pastures, which get progressively alpine with good groups of flower including narcissi, columbines and primulas / cowslips. You cross a mountain pass at 2116m called ‘Cruz de la Guardia’ and then descend exploring wild forests and hidden valleys, until you turn out of the valley and there is Bielsa in the distance. Reach the hotel and you have completed the circuit! Total ascent 1300m/descent 1400m.

Meals:  B,L,D

After breakfast depart Bielsa for your onward journey.

Meals:  B

What's Included

  • 6 breakfasts, 4 pack lunches, 6 dinners
  • 5 nights accommodation in hotels, 2 nights in a guesthouse. Twin share basis, with ensuite facilities available most nights.
  • Transfers from St Lary to Bielsa (and back)
  • Luggage transfer, except to Nerin.
  • Information pack including route notes & maps
  • Emergency hotline

What's Not Included

  • Meals not specified
  • Entrance fees
  • Travel insurance
  • Return travel to St Lary
  • Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
  • Unscheduled transfers required during the trip

Upcoming Travel Dates

AT A GLANCE

Duration:8 Days
Countries:Spain
Starting Point:Bielsa
Finishing Point:Bielsa
Activities:Self-Guided Walking
Grade:Challenging  Click for more information
Trip Code:JAR
Prices From:GBP£810 Per Person
single supplement:GBP£90  Click for more information