Walking Holidays in the Spanish Pyrenees – Explorer
Walking Holidays Spanish Pyrenees in Alto Aragon – Explorer level
This Explorer level guided Spanish Pyrenees walking holiday is based in the lower reaches of two contrasting Spanish National Parks – “Monte Perdido” and the “Sierra y Canyons de Guara”. The Ainsa valley is 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 from that of 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 an Explorer guided mountain walking week includes:
- Six 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
- Pick up from Lourdes or Toulouse SNCF on arrival Sunday morning (to be confirmed at time of booking), and drop off in Toulouse Saturday afternoon
- 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 – Walking holidays Spanish Pyrenees
Sunday – Ordesa-Monte Perdido National Park
We’ll pick you up from Lourdes SNCF station at 9.30 in the morning, then do a 3 hour transfer to Ainsa, with an introductory walk en-route at the Eastern edge of Monte Perdido National Park.
After meeting you at Lourdes, we’ll begin the 3 hour drive to Ainsa, stop off en-route for an easy, but spectacular, 2 hour warm-up hike at the Eastern entrance to Monte Perdido National Park. You’ll visit the valley of Pineta or Tella, depending on conditions, and after a 400m climb you’ll have superb views of either the Monte Perdido massif or the wild gorges of Escuain.
We’ll then arrive in Ainsa late afternoon, with time to visit the church and old town, before enjoying drinks in the historic plaza.
Monday – Añisclo Canyon, Ordesa-Monte Perdido National Park
Today we’ll do a leisurely 4 hour circular walk in the Ordesa / Monte Perdido National Park. We’ll take in the Añisclo Canyon before walking to the village of Nerin or Mondoto mountain.
The canyon of Añisclo is a 10-mile gash running down the southern side of Monte Perdido. We start our walk at its entry point, Sestrales mountain. This mountain rises 4000ft above you in great tiers of folded limestone – an open geology book. We walk up the lower reaches of the canyon, and up through beech forest then holm oak maquis to the stone village of Nerin at 1281m, where great views await us, after our total ascent of 400m.
Tuesday – Peña Montanesa mountain area, Ordesa-Monte Perdido National Park
Today we’ll go to the foot of Peña Montanesa, and visit the ruins of historic Monastery of San Vitorian and troglodyte hermitage of Espelunca. These are in a dramatic setting of great cliffs and eroded badland countryside. If you prefer, you can choose to summit of Peña Montañesa.
Today’s walk is a 4hr 30 mins walk in the Peña Montanesa area. La Peña Montañesa (2220m) is the focal point for the Sobrarbe region, rising like a huge stranded vessel above the eroded foothills. The old monastery of San Vitorian was founded in the dark ages, at the foot of these immense cliffs. San Vitorian himself had spent years in the nearby cave of Espelunca, which we reach via a rocky path through eroded semi-desert then boulder-strewn oak wood.
The ruined hermitage at 1350m is a magic place, steeped in atmosphere where the only sounds are the wingbeats of choughs and passing vultures. We then return to monastery, taking quiet country roads and old lanes below the great “Peña” to return to our vehicle.
Wednesday – Upper Vero Canyon and transfer to Alquezar
We’ll begin the day with a relaxing 2 hour walk around the unique Upper Vero Canyon, spotting vultures and eagles, before doing a 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 be enjoying it on foot, leaving the village of Lecina to skirt the edges of the canyon, and possibly enjoying a splash in shallow waters if the mood takes us.
We’ll also enjoy one of Europe’s greatest concentrations of Griffon vultures and perhaps spotting Lammergeier 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 red-tiled rooves and the canyons of grey limestone and orange puddingstone. 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.
Thursday – Sierra de Guara National Park
Today we leave our hotel to explore the the landscapes of grey and orange limestone against weird rounded puddingstone conglomerate in the lower gorges of Rio Vero, perhaps doing some river walking.
We walk from our hotel down the old path to the Rio Vero: from the start the landscapes of grey and orange limestone against weird rounded puddingstone conglomerate are breathtaking. In our experience this 4 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 Peña de Vilacomtal, then return via the puddingstone gorges. Our afternoon is one of the week’s highlights: the river walk down the Rio Vero, fording shallow water many times (old trainers supplied as necessary), before the final stretch on hanging walkways above the rio.
Friday – Canyon of Mascun, Guara Nature Park
We have a slightly longer, 5 hours, but unmissable 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 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 easy 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 dry-stone architecture, now crumbling and disappearing.
Our return trail is the wide but unforgettable canyonside path back to Rodellar. We’ll stop to marvel at the strange natural sculptures and watch the flight of the vultures, ravens and choughs.
Saturday – Return to France
Today we’ll head back to Toulouse stopping en-route to visit one of the many charming villages in the Pyrenees and for a picnic lunch.
You’ll be back in Toulouse from 16.00
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|