Mountains and Spain. A romantic notion, and most often conjured up when one thinks of the Sierra Nevada, the backdrop for the Alhambra Palace of Granada, and the frame of that picture perfect part of Andalucía. In France perhaps the first thought is of the Pyrenees, but remember that they have a Spanish side too! Gentler and less rugged than their French cousins, they make a popular hotspot – or rather cooler spot -  for overheated Madrileños in Summer, and are a number one destination for the ski set in Winter. Whether you’re a two holiday a year person or not, take a second look at the Pyrenees, for a lofty holiday at any time of the year

Climbing and Skiing

Three into one will go

Spain divides and splits the Pyrenees on it’s side into three distinct regions, you can choose one or all to visit, but the Catalan peaks are the easiest to access, and there’s plenty to see and do.

The three regions are as follows

  • Aragonese
  • Navaresse
  • Catalan

What’ s up there?

Skiing – some of the best that Spain has to offer, National parkland with extensive flora and fauna, tiny and remote villages folded away into the patchwork quilt of the stunning mountain scenery.  All of this and just a short climb away from civilization!  You may never want to leave!

Starting young

Start with Ski

Let’s begin with a look at the ski runs, just east of Andorra, and patronized by the elite and the famous at this time of year – they give the likes of the slopes at Aspen a run for their money, and let’s face it – Spain is just so accessible.

What are the main runs?

  • Núria – 10 pistes, different levels, 2 teleskis.
  • La Molina – 31 pistes, 20 lifts, 5 jump ramps, a ong and challenging cross country course.
  • Vallter 2000 – Close to the French border – 12 pistes, 7 lifts, a slalom course too.
  • Rasos de Peguera – Near Berga and the hotspot for Barcelona residents, just over 100 to drive from the city means this is a popular weekend break. 14 pistes, 5 lifts, a couple of cross country trils.
  • Masella – 37 pistes, including 6 black for the serious skiers – this is a really popular resort and it’s said the runs here are the best.
  • Port del Comte – 34 pistes, 4 man made slopes – in Summer you can grass ski, 1 slalom.

What’s left?  Pack those skis of course – get a move on!

Cardona

Choose Summer or Winter, choose sun or snow, choose somewhere to stay and have a look for a country house or villa in Cardona in which to relax or rejuvenate.

Spain Holiday have both, and all are large enough to accommodate the whole family.

Cardona in the Catalan Pyrenees is set slap bang between Barcelona and Andorra – about 90 kms equidistant -  and it’s another capital of sorts. Cardona contains a mountain of pure salt, known locally as simply Salí – or the Capital of Salt.  There’s a Romanesque church and a Gothic church, and  a Medieval castle to pour over, plenty of local bars and restaurants, and excellent hiking and walking on the doorstep.  The first Sunday of February sees the first festival and market too – book up and join in – it’s called the Mercat de la Ganga.

The movie made, directed and starring Orson Welles, Chimes at Midnight, from the mid 1960′s, was filmed here at the Castle…

How about your own castle for your holiday stay? I’m not kidding – have a look at property number 6908 in Cardona – you could be a knight in shining armour and treat your fair maiden to this one…

 

Your own castle?

Breakfast here? Fit for a King!

Vic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vic

Sounds like a favourite Uncle – but Vic is also somewhere special to stay in the Catalan Pyrenees. Nestled down in the foothills, this is both an historic and important town with plenty of sights.   Apartments, Country houses, Villas, all compete for your choice here at Spain Holiday.

A villa that sleeps 25?  I guess that’s a  price that could be divided by 25 too – makes it all seem suddenly more attractive! The biggest family gathering can be held here, with plenty of space for everyone!  A Spa room on the second floor and a kitchen to die for – whip up your own Catalan delights in property number 13870. Have a look at these pictures and feel sorely tempted!

I call this a kitchen!

Some down time at the built in Spa – yes, please.

Goldilocks AND the 3 bears could sleep here

 

 

What’s to see here?

  • A Neoclassical Cathedral – with more Golden Murals than you can shake a paint brush at. The original Romanesque Cathedral was knocked down in 1781 (?!)
  • The Episcopal Museum – more Medieval artwork to gaze at.
  • The Cella of a Roman Temple from the 2nd Century
  • The 10th Century Plaça del Mercadal – the perfect place to sit and sip a coffee or a cold beer.  Every Tuesday and Saturday you can catch the market and stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and fish.
  • Stunning surrounding countryside for walking it all off afterwards!

That surrounding countryside will bring you Medieval towns and gems of villages hidden away within the mountains. Explore the likes of Llivia, Puigcerdá, Núria, Sant Joan de la Abadesses, Santa Mar’ia de Ripoll.  A funny fact – The latter was founded by Count Wilfrid the Hairy in 888!

Find Gothic cloisters, Roman ruins, an abundance of religious art, and quiet sanctuaries.  In Llivia, visit the oldest Pharmacy in Europe, it dates from 1415 – and is part of the museum.  Boat on the lake at Puigcerdá, with just the swans for company. In Winter, this is the capital of Spanish Ice Hockey, and is awash with the Ski crowd.

A legendary sort of place!

Travel just over some 30 kilometres South and make a date with the tiny township of  Bagá. Look out for the statue in the centre of town, it’s a likeness of a Knight – Calcerán de Pinos.  He was jailed down in Almería in the far South, in a Moorish prison, and left to rot away for the rest of his life, but was rescued – miraculously of course – by his Byzantine silver Cross…you can see the cross today in the 14th century church of Sant Esteban here in Bagá.

The Catalan Pyrenees – worth a trip from Barcelona, once visited, you’ll be back to explore more, guaranteed!

Carol Byrne
Posted by Carol Byrne
Originally from Dublin, Carol has also lived in London and Wales before settling in Spain with her husband and family in 2006. She and her family run a rural retreat high in the Alpujarras mountains of Granada, which you can find here as property number 17043. She blogs about traditional village life, sparked by a passion for the culture and history of Spain, and teaches English locally..