Spanish Pyrenees Walking Holiday – Discoverer level
Discoverer – Spanish Pyrenees walking holiday
This Discoverer level Spanish pyrenees walking holiday gives you time to exploring the lower reaches of the Spanish National Parks of “Monte Perdido” and the “Sierra y Canyons de Guara”. Most of your time will be in the Ainsa valley, a European Geology Park, with an amazing variety of landscapes including badlands, glaciated mountain, limestone karst and strange puddingstone. Although equally spectacular, the scenery is different to our other mountain walking holidays in the French Pyrenees.
This week, you will follow routes through Mediterranean gorges with ancient hermitages, and drovers’ paths across high plateaus with their deserted villages and spectacular minor summits. The area is rich in wildlife, particularly birds such as vultures, lammergeier, eagles and bee-eaters, and both Pyrenean and Mediterranean flowers, including Ramondia, wild tulips, gladioli and orchids.
Accommodation for this trip is based in comfortable 3* and 2* hotels in the historic villages of Ainsa and Alquezar, with 3 nights spent in each (1h20 transfer between areas on day 4).
The first three nights are based in a 3-star hotel in the historic centre of Ainsa, close to the central plaza with its arcades, church, castle and bars. A generous continental breakfast is provided at the hotel, and we take evening meals in one of the local restaurants serving good down-to-earth Aragonese cooking and a selection of excellent Spanish wines.
The second half of the trip is based at a 2-star hotel in the historic centre of the fortified village of Alquezar. Again the hotel is close to central plaza with its bar terraces, church and castle. Continental breakfasts are served at the hotel, and in the evenings we eat out at local restaurants serving specialities of the region.
Both hotels are run by local families and you’ll receive a warm welcome, with tasteful furnishings and local crafts on display at Alquezar.
Note: accommodation is not provided on Saturday night, so you have a choice of hotels for you last night in Toulouse. We’re happy to help out with booking your choice of accommodation.
What the price includes
The price shown for a Discoverer level spanish pyrenees walking holiday includes:
- 6 nights half-board hotel accommodation in a high end 2 star and 3-star village hotel
- 5 picnic lunches
- A qualified and experienced International Mountain Leader, guiding all your walks
- local minibus transport and transfers between France and Spain at the beginning and end of the trip.
Spring time and autumn are the perfect seasons to visit the Northern Spanish mountains, when the climate is very mild and away from the villages and main gorges we’re likely to be the only ones on most of the trails. After peaceful warm days, with options for refreshing river walks and swimming, a cool drink awaits us in the lively village plazas in the evening. Naturally, mountains are changeable so we advise that you bring layers of clothes, that can easily be taken on and off when you need to.
Please read our Kit List for more information on what we’d advise you bring with you.
A typical week’s itinerary: Spanish Pyrenees guided walking holiday
Sunday – Ordesa, Monte Perdido National Park
We will pick you up at Lourdes SNCF station at 9.30 in the morning, then transfer to Ainsa, with an introductory walk enroute at the Eastern edge of Monte Perdido National Park.
The three hour drive will be broken up with this easy, but spectacular, 2 hour warmup hike at the Eastern entrance to Monte Perdido National Park. Depending on conditions, you will visit either the glacial valley of Pineta and the hanging valley of Larri, return via a magnificent series of waterfalls; or the mountaintop village of Tella, with its pilgrimage circuit of ancient hermitages. In both cases there are superb views of the Monte Perdido massif and a very good chance of spotting lammergaier , vulture and more.
Total Climb : 200m.
We then hop back in the minibus and head to our destination in Ainsa (Alto Aragon) late afternoon, with time to visit the church and old town, before enjoying drinks in the historic plaza.
Monday – Añisclo Canyon
Today we’ll do a 6 hour circular walk in the Ordesa / Monte Perdido National Park. We’ll have a look at the lower reaches of Añisclo Canyon before walking to the lofty summit of Mondoto mountain, an unforgettable viewpoint over the canyon, often quoted as a hikers’ favourite spot. The canyon of Añisclo is a 10 mile gash running down the southern side of Monte Perdido, below Sestrales mountain. This mountain rises 4000ft above you in great tiers of folded limestone – an open geology book. We walk from the old stone village of Nerin at 1281m, and up a rocky drovers’ path to the high pastures and to our summit at 1957m. With a 1 km drop below us, there are truly memorable views of Perdido, the canyon and the constant play of the vultures in the wind below us.
Return via the pass of Cuello Arenas over the undulating high plateaux at 1900m.
Total Climb : 850m.
Tuesday – Peña Montanesa mountain area
Today we’ll climb one the imposing limestone outer summits which abound in Alto Aragon. Castillo Mayor,the Great Castle is one of those fairly easy but highly memorable «little» peaks which gives great «value for effort» in the Spring/Autumn, before/after the heat kicks in. Nevertheless, despite its modest 2014m, it has the traits of a great hike: bleak limestone karst leading to a hidden high pasture, and above that some imposing limestone pavement which climbs to a slightly overhanging clifftop, and again, vast views, raptors, and perhaps Pyrennean chamois, plus unique wild flowers when in season.
Total Climb: 750m.
If you prefer, if conditions allow and you’re feeling fit, you can choose the summit of Peña Montañesa. This classic tougher hike is a 6hr hike through eroded limestone country to one of the most emblematic summits of Alto Aragon. La Peña Montañesa (2220m) is the focal point for the Sobrarbe region, rising like a huge stranded vessel above the eroded foothills, and views of half of the Pyrenean range.
Total Climb : 1100m.
Wednesday – Upper Vero Canyon and transfer to Alquezar
We begin the day with an extremely photogenic 4 hour hike around the unique Upper Vero Canyon, spotting vultures and eagles, before finishing our 1 hour 30 minute vehicle transfer South to the historic village of Alquezar. Our accommodation for the next 3 nights is in this old Spanish mountain village.
With its strange landscapes of “beehive” limestone, the upper reaches of El Rio Vero are one of the gateways to the Guara Nature Park. Famous for its canyoning, we’ll complete a very scenic circuit on foot, leaving the picturesque village of Lecina to skirt the edges of the canyon, and enjoying some river crossings in shallow waters if conditions allow. We then climb through the woods to visit the caves at the very top of the cliffs, with their enigmatic cave paintings and wonderful views.
We also have the chance to enjoy one of Europe’s greatest concentrations of Griffon vultures perhaps spotting Lammergaier and Egyptian vultures too. Flora (tulips, daffodils and orchids) and fossils are on the agenda too.
After our walk, we continue our drive to the ancient village of Alquezar at 680m, where the old castle church stands high over the redtiled roofs and the canyons of grey limestone and orange pudding stone. Our hotel for 3 nights is in the heart of the old quarter, yet just a short stroll from a very pleasant plaza with bars and lovely views.
Total Climb : 400m.
Thursday – Sierra de Guara National Park
Today we leave our hotel on foot for our 5 hr walk, to explore the rocky landscapes of the lower gorges of the Rio Vero. This gives us an excellent opportunity to do some river walking. We walk from our hotel down the old path to the Rio Vero. Right from the start the landscapes of grey and orange limestone against weird rounded puddingstone conglomerate is a breathtaking site. In our experience this 5 hour walk always takes longer, as you just want to stop, look and take photos!
From the old bridge we go up to the modest, but sublimely spectacular and rather rough Peña de Vilacomtal, then return to complete a loop via the pudding stone gorges. Our afternoon is one of the week’s highlights: the river walk down the Rio Vero, fording shallow water many times (old trainers with covered toes are necessary: supplied if needed), before the final stretch on hanging walkways above the rio.Then back up to Alquezar for well deserved refreshments!
Total Climb: 400m
Friday – Canyon of Mascun, Guara Nature Park
We have a slightly longer, 6 hour 30 mins, but unmissable classic circuit today in the heart of Guara Nature Park. We go from the village of Rodellar to the deserted village of Otin and the incredible natural sculptures of the imposing Mascun canyon.
The Canyon of Mascun, to the West of Alquezar, is rightly famous for its fantastic landscapes of towers, needles and arches, as well as the top level climbing it offers.
We leave the village of Rodellar to take in the lower reaches of the canyon, crossing the high plateau via the Dolmen of Losa Mora with its legends, to the abandoned village of Otin. Otin’s atmosphere of desolation and peace is unforgettable. Looking carefully you can see more ruined villages and farms, for the entire area saw its last inhabitants leave in the 1970s, abandoned by the Franco administration and drawn to local towns or to France. They left a legacy of rugged drystone architecture, now crumbling and disappearing.
Our return trail is the wide but unforgettable canyonside path back to Rodellar. We’ll stop to detour to the canyon top and marvel at the strange natural sculptures and watch the flight of the vultures, ravens and choughs.
Total Climb : 600m.
Saturday – return to France
Today we’ll head back to Lourdes or other leaving point stopping enroute to visit one of the many charming villages in the Pyrenees for a picnic lunch.
Please check individual holiday descriptions to find out what the price includes. In some cases discounts are available for groups or family rooms. For some holidays accommodation is provided in mountain refuges, or by 3rd party suppliers – please see individual holiday descriptions for details.
|3rd – 10th||Walking – Spanish Pyrenees Kingdom of Aragon hike.||£810|
|10th-17th||Walking – Cathar country Explorer The Cathar Trail, castles, views and history of the Albigensian crusade.||£895|
|23rd-30th||Walking – Valleys & views Taster Sight seeing and walking||£810|
|30th-6th||Walking – Valleys, villages & cirques Explorer Gentle guided walking||£790|
|6th-13th||Walking – Lakes, cirques & summits Discoverer Intermediate guided walking||£790|
|13th-20th||Walking – Valleys, villages & cirques Explorer Gentle guided walking||£790|
|20th-27th||Walking – Lakes, cirques & summits Discoverer Intermediate guided walking||£790|
|20th-27th||Walking – Neouvielle Lakes – Discoverer walking (2 nights at manned refuges) – Pyrenees Lake District||£810|
|27th-4th||Hiking – Peaks, ridges & refuges Adventurer Unlimited trekking to the guides favourite spots, 1 night in catered refuge.||£810|
|27th-4th||Walking – Valleys & views Taster Sight seeing and walking||£810|
|4th-11th||Walking – Valleys, villages & cirques Explorer Gentle guided walking||£790|
|18th-25th||Trekking – HRP Stage 1 The Pyrenees Haute Route Trek (Coast to Coast long distance hike)||£890|
|18th-25th||Walking – Gavarnie & Ordesa Discoverer France and Spain inc. 2 night mini-trek in catered refuges||£810|
|18th-25th||Catered Accommodation for independent activities/hiking||£450|
|25th-1st||Trekking – HRP Stage 2 The Pyrenees Haute Route Trek (Coast to Coast long distance hike)||£890|
|25th-1st||Catered Accommodation for independent activities with afternoon tea||£450|
|CLOSED in 2020|
|5th-12th||Walking – Gavarnie & Ordesa Discoverer France and Spain inc. 2 night mini-trek in catered refuges||£810|
|5th-12th||Trekking – HRP Stage 1 The Pyrenees Haute Route Trek (Coast to Coast long distance hike)||£890|
|5th-12th||Catered Accommodation 4 nights Half board with afternoon tea and 3 nights B&B||£400|
|12th-19th||Walking – Valleys, villages & cirques Explorer Gentle guided walking||£790|
|12th-19th||Trekking – HRP Stage 2 The Pyrenees Haute Route Trek (Coast to Coast long distance hike)||£890|
|12th-19th||Bespoke guided walking/trekking/climbing/activity week Your choice! contact us||—|
|19th-26th||Trekking – HRP Stage 3 The Pyrenees Haute Route Trek (The Aneto -3404m, ascent stage)||£990|
|19th-26th||Walking – Lakes, cirques & summits Discoverer Intermediate guided walking||£790|
|26th-3rd||Walking – Gavarnie & Ordesa Discoverer France and Spain inc. 2 night mini-trek in catered refuges||£810|
|26th-3rd||Bespoke guided walking/trekking/climbing/activity week Your choice! contact us||—|
|4th-11th||Walking – Cathar country The Cathar Trail, castles, views and history of the Albigensian crusade.||£895|
|11th-18th||Walking – Spanish Pyrenees Kingdom of Aragon hike.||£810|