Do you like an adrenaline boost? Then go on an outdoor adventure in the Catalan Pyrenees. In intense green nature, among frayed mountain peaks, lovely meadows and water in all possible forms, you can go wild!
Active tourism in the Pyrenees is much more than skiing and snowboarding in winter sports meccas such as Baqueira-Beret, Boí Taüll and Port Ainé. The fun doesn’t end as soon as the spring dispels the snow. On the contrary. You can go hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking and canyoning and rafting. And much more. And all this in a setting of the beautiful high mountains where peaks of more than 3,000 meters are no exception.
Culturally, there is also plenty to see in this area in Northern Spain. You will find beautiful Romanesque churches in countless remote, often medieval hamlets on the timeless-looking village squares. Not to mention the local gastronomy. We regularly lick our fingers, despite the basic nature of the dishes. We tasted different kinds of snails in sauce. Wild boar, venison and poultry are often used in aromatic stews, but also black rice, mushrooms and the typical local soup ólha Aranesa and the homemade herbal liqueurs. The most typical dish is òlha Aranesa. A powerful stock made from chicken, beef and pork, to which rice, noodles and pieces of bread are added.
Hiking and horse riding in Vall d’Aran
Vall d’Aran is a great base for exploring the area. Capital Vielha is a 3.5 hour drive from Barcelona in the middle of the Spanish Pyrenees and bordering France. The city is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and therefore offers all facilities such as bicycle rental and companies that organise all kinds of activities in nature. There we get to know the valley in which the city is beautifully situated by bicycle and on horseback.
We enjoy the rugged mountain peaks that surround us. Unfortunately, the architecture in Vielha has lost out compared to the flourishing tourism. Monotonous chalets surround the rather nice old centre. Fortunately, we did not travel to this remote valley for the architecture. Time for action! We find it after the beautiful, and due to height differences, also quite tough bike ride and the exciting route on horseback, in a steeply descending mountain river.
Canyoning near Bausen
Just over half an hour’s drive from Vielha we arrive in the Bausen canyon near the town of Les. That is the last village before you reach France. There, dressed in our diving suits provided by the outdoor company, we bump up a mountain slope with a Landrover. We get out somewhere halfway through the overgrown canyon. Then we immediately set off on the wet descent, slipping between ferns and over large, moss-covered stones behind guide Joan.
It’s raining, but we don’t notice it. We are already wet from the river. Above our heads and along the water it is so dense that we barely see the sky. We don’t often see so many shades of green together in Spain. The descent we do is an introduction. According to Joan, it is in principle suitable for everyone from the age of 5, including families. That seems a bit young to us, because we already feel quite heroic during a few jumps from waterfalls and slides over worn rocks.
South of the Vall d’Aran you can visit the beautiful national park Aigüestortes y Estany de San Maurici.