Exuberant nature – hiking Valhalla Aigüestortes, Pyrenees

by Deborah Cater

VIELHA – Abundant greenery, lush flowers and forests laced with rivers and waterfalls against a backdrop of rugged mountain peaks and steel blue sky. That is the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park in the Pyrenees.

This beautiful nature reserve is located in the Catalan Pyrenees in the province of Lerida. It is an ideal hiking area with many possibilities, for beginners, professionals and everything in between. The reserve is particularly popular among mountain hikers who love hut tours. Thanks to the ring of mountain peaks of around 3,000 metres high that form the park, there are also quite challenging routes to walk. Four mountains are higher than 3,000 meters and a dozen reach above 2,800 meters. If you walk the GR-11 through the Pyrenees from coast to coast, you will pass through this protected natural area of ​​14,000 hectares.

There are two main entrances to the park. The first is via Espot in the east and the other from Vall de Boi in the west. Here are numerous taxi services that will bring you – with a guide if desired – to the park. You are not allowed in with your car on your own. You don’t have to make a cabin trek, of course. One day is also sufficient to get a good impression of the natural beauty. Then you follow one of the relatively easy walks, such as the one from Espot to the largest lake from which the park takes its name: Estany de Sant Maurici. Along the way you pass waterfalls, have a view of the impressive mountain peaks of Els Encantats and can marvel at beautiful flowers and breath taking views.

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Carros de Foc

waterfall in Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park

The most famous hiking route for real alpine die-hards is that of Carros de Foc. This 55-kilometer route takes you past 9 mountain huts and circles the entire national park. The highest point on this route is the 2,475 meter high mountain pass Contraig. This classic among the hiking trails can be walked in 5 to 7 days. It is wise to make a reservation for the cabins, especially now in corona time. The best hiking months are from May to September. If you do not go higher than 2000 meters, October is also still doable because of the snow.

Thanks to the abundant water in the area in the form of waterfalls, streams, rivers and mountain lakes, it is always green and there is a high biodiversity with special flowers and trees such as the Fleur de lis lily or the Pino negro pine. In winter you can ski nearby in various ski resorts such as Espot and the highest ski resort in the Pyrenees Boi Taüll. In spring and summer there are lots of outdoor activities in and around Vall d’Aran.

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