XPE PYRENEES EXPLORER TOUR

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Day Hiking in Spain, France & Andorra

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Barcelona & Montserrat sightseeing; Spectacular day hikes in the Catalan & French Pyrenees; Coastal walking in Cap de Creus Natural Park; Andorra city touring; Interesting local cuisines & wines

  • DATES & PRICES
  • FULL ITINERARY
  • MAP & HOTELS
  • TRIP INFORMATION

Dates & Prices

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before taxes (see note below, if applicable) - All pricing reflects twin-sharing, per-person pricing for the TOUR AND INTERNAL FLIGHTS ONLY; however, we can book flights from your home airport to join the tour for an added cost. Contact us for a no obligation quote.


Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Sun 09 Sep 2018Fri 21 Sep 2018 $3890 USD
Sun 08 Sep 2019Fri 20 Sep 2019 $3890 USD

Optional Single Supplement: $780 USD (number of singles limited).


Tour Overview


There are many reasons to visit the Pyrenees--skiing, food, art and architecture--but hiking is one of the best ways to drink in the stunning landscape. No matter how spectacular the mountains seem from paved roads, they are exponentially more dazzling from upper hiking trails that are accessible only on foot.

Wilder than the Alps, the grand, sculpted mountains of the Pyrenees form the natural border between France and Spain. Splendid trails lead to the magnificent cirques, lake-spangled basins, and knife-edged summits. In 1997, the United Nations inscribed a portion of the French and Spanish Pyrenees on its list of World Heritage Sites. Here, nature over the eons has carved stupendous glacial cirques and a 3,000 foot deep canyon called Ordesa--Spain's "Grand Canyon."

While our hikes form the nexus of our activities, variety is the name of the game here, including walks and exploration on the coast, in both the Spanish and French Pyrenees, as well as the tiny independent state of Andorra. Through it all we learn of the region's unique and proud culture, languages, cuisines, and traditions. Join us on this spectacular foray into one of one of Europe's most fascinating, complicated, and visually stunning regions!

Regions visited: Western Europe
Countries visited: Spain and Andorra


Full Itinerary

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Day 1 Arrival in Barcelona
Welcome to Catalonia!

Barcelona, located at the Mediterranean Sea in the very north of the Spanish coast, is certainly the most cosmopolitan and economically active city in this country. Of course, Barcelona has an old history, and there are monuments of Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance periods or still before, but most characteristic is what has been built during the last 100 years. As the capital of Catalonia, the people are fiercely proud of their unique culture, language, and distinctive regional gastronomy.

Overnight in Barcelona.

Included Meal(s): Dinner

Day 2 Barcelona: City Touring
After breakfast we'll have a full-day guided visit of Barcelona.

Barcelona is a Mediterranean and cosmopolitan city with Roman remains, medieval quarters, and the most beautiful examples of 20th century Modernism and avant-garde. It is no surprise that emblematic constructions by the Catalan architects Antoni Gaudi and Lluis Domenech i Montaner have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

Tradition and modernity can also be seen in its innovative and imaginative gastronomy, based on fresh garden produce, fresh fish, a wide variety of sausages, and olive oil. Traditional handmade cakes and pastries and sparkling wines are some of the other highlights in this brief overview of Barcelona's gastronomic culture.

We'll visit the "Sagrada Familia." Though incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which, in November 2010, was consecrated and proclaimed a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI. Though construction of Sagrada Familia commenced in 1882, Gaudi took over in 1883, transforming the project with his architectural and engineering style — combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms with ambitious structural columns and arches.

We'll also visit "Park Guell", considered to be one of the most important Modernist works in the world, displaying Gaudi's full artistic powers as he turned his genius for architecture towards putting into practice many of his innovative ideas in construction. It was built on the Montana Pelada, a concave terrain shaped like an amphitheatre, with views of Barcelona and the sea. Only two of the houses originally planned for the estate were built. One of these is now the Gaudi House and Museum, and the other is Casa Trias house.

Evening at leisure for strolling around in Las Ramblas. This evening we enjoy a dinner featuring local specialties.

Overnight in Barcelona.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 3 Barcelona & Montserrat
Today we'll have a half-day guided excursion to Montserrat, a Nature Reserve where the patron saint of Catalonia is venerated.

In the heart of Catalonia there is a mountain with an unusual shape and huge slabs of grey rock, a spectacular massif on which we find a statue of the Virgen de Monserrat, Patron Saint of Catalonia. This nature reserve is covered with pine and holm-oak woods and is home to squirrels, boars and genets, amongst others. At the peak is the majestic sanctuary dedicated to "La Morenata", the 12th century Romanesque style statue of the Virgin Mary. The site is made up of various different squares and areas, along with the basilica that was originally built in the 16th century and then rebuilt in the 19th. There you will find a hostel for pilgrims and visitors. Close by is the Benedictine Monastery, with its beautiful chapterhouse, and neo-Romanesque cloister and refectory, refubished in 1925 by the architect Puig i Cadafalch.

This is our first opportunity to stretch our legs a bit with some easy walking in the vicinity. We'll have a nice gradual walk that offers views of the Llobregat Valley and the River Llobregat and take the funicular to Sant Joan. From the upper station of the funicular we'll take the wide path on our left that goes upwards and towards the southeast at a point where we are facing a peak. From here we'll descent towards the Flat of Saint Miquel (this will take about 20 minutes). Here you will find the path of Les Bateries and we'll take the path that borders the mountain to the south.

About 35 minutes later, the path abruptly turns north; from this point you can gain a panoramic view of the River Llobregat and the mountains of Sant Salvador, Puigventos, Sant Llorenc, and Montseny. In about 45 minutes we'll arrive at a small mountain called La Fita. Where we'll join the Path of Forat to arrive at the Holy Cave (this will take us about an hour). We then return to the Monastery.

5.20 km/1 hour 30 minutes (approximately); difficulty: easy, apart from steep part at the end.

Return to Barcelona with the balance of the day at leisure.

Overnight in Barcelona.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 4 Barcelona - Cadaques: Cap de Creus Natural Park
Today we leave Barcelona behind and travel by road to Cadaques (+/- 3 hours), a charming coastal town in the northern region of Catalonia along the Costa Brava. Its implausibly azure-blue waters and piercing sunlight famously drew painters such as Magritte, Matisse and Picasso; the peninsula's best-known adopted son is Salvador Dali, who for decades kept a home studio nearby. We'll (possibly) check in to our hotel and enjoy a break for lunch before our afternoon easy guided hike in Cap de Creus Natural Park.

You won’t forget the views of the wild coastline with its vertiginous cliffs and hidden coves, and with islets scattered all along it. Neither will you forget the capriciously shaped rocks, sculpted by the wind and the erosion of the sea; with a little imagination you'll be seeing lions, dragons, camels, eagles, and other figures.

Our route follows the old path that goes from Cadaques to the Cala Nans Lighthouse, or Far de Cala Nans in Catalan. During the first section of the itinerary, we walk along roads, but once we get to Portlligat, the charm truly begins: the beaches of Sant Lluis and la Guillola, expansive lands featuring abandoned vines and, finally, the famous local lighthouse. In Portlligat we can visit the Dali Museum, or Portlligat House Museum. Salvador Dali, who was born in nearby Figueres, chose Cadaques as his home and lived there for about 50 years with his wife, Gala. Dali picked an ideal location for his home and art studio, which overlooks the small, protected Portlligat Bay.

This evening we can sample some Catalan culinary treats typical of the coastal region.

6 km/3.7 mi
2 hours (approximately)
difficulty of walk: easy

Overnight in Cadaques.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 5 Cadaques - Rebes de Freser, Spain - Vall de Núria Rack Railway - Andorra
This morning we transfer to Rebes de Fraser where we connect with a local guide and the Vall de Nuria Rack Railway to Vall de Nuria in Ripolles, Girona. As Queralbs is the highest point in the valley reachable by road, the rack railway is – along with the old footpath / mule track – the only way to reach the shrine and ski resort at Nuria. The valley is situated in the eastern Pyrenees at 2000m/6,560 ft above sea level, surrounded by peaks close to 3000m/9,840 ft that form the stunning backdrop of a huge natural amphitheatre.

Our destination is the independent country of Andorra, located high in the eastern Pyrenees, known not only for its mountain setting, but also its easy-going banking, duty-free shopping and low low taxes! The main city in Andorra is the capital, Andorra la Vella: it's the country's largest town, and even though much of its history has been submerged behind smart hotels and swanky department stores, there are still old cobbled streets, a 16th century parliament house, and lots of churches to be seen.

Overnight in Andorra la Vella.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 6 Andorra Touring
Today we'll have a guided visit of Andorra, a Microstate in the heart of the Pyrenees.

The principal industry here is tourism, though the country also earns foreign income from being a tax-haven. Andorra la Vella is located in the southwest of Andorra, at the confluence of two mountain streams, the Valira del Nord and the Valira del Orient, which join to form the Gran Valira. Being at an elevation of 1023 metres (3,356 ft) it is the highest capital city in Europe and a popular ski resort.

The city's old town is characterized by old stone streets and houses; the central Esglesia de Sant Esteve (Saint Stephen) church is part of the area that guidebooks often label as a picturesque part of the city. The old town also includes the country's historic parliament building. Probably the oldest building in the city is another church, of Santa Coloma, dating from the ninth century.

The city is the country's cultural centre, with the Government Exhibition Hall acting as a main theatre and museum. The piazza outside the parliament building is also the location of a number of events, and the town hosts a music festival every winter.

After our formal visit about town, you'll have time for independent exploration.

Overnight in Andorra la Vella.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 7 Andorra - Espot, Spain & Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park
Today we return to Spain, destination Espot, heart of the Catalan Pyrenees!

The municipality of Espot (El Pallars Sobira), formed by the twin nuclei of Espot and Estais, lies in the valley of the River Escrita, which divides the village into two parts. Thanks to its ready accessibility, it is easy for visitors to reach this magnificent and very typical Pyrenean village. This settlement is different from others in the area in that it is not only famous for having one of the most important ski stations in the Pyrenees, Espot Esqui, and its own local gastronomy, but also because it offers access to the only National Park in Catalonia Aiguestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici. Espot has become a point of reference for everyone interested in exploring the seemingly infinite number of walking routes that cross this paradise of mountains, rivers and lakes and that invite walkers to discover the peace and quite of this exceptional natural setting.

For today's guided walk, we have chosen Aiguestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park, a cluster of 3000m granite peaks on the Spanish side of the range. It harbours more than 400 lakes and is carpeted with luxuriant, boulder-studded meadows nurtured by "aiguestortes" -- the "twisted waters" of the namesake streams and cascades.

We'll travel by 4x4 taxi from Espot to our starting point, a viewpoint over Ratera Lake. From here we walk to Sant Maurici Lake and back the same way. This is one of the prettier walks in the region and a perfect introduction to the part of the Pyrenees.

5 km/3 mi
Elevation gain/loss 300m/980 ft
4 hours (approximately) - difficulty of walk: easy

Overnight in Espot.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 8 Parc Natural de l'Alt Pirineu Hike
Today we visit Alt Pirineu Natural Park, the largest in Catalonia. Here we'll be able to admire some of the highest mountains in the Pyrenees, such as the Pica d'Estats (3143m/10,300 ft), known as the 'Ceiling of Catalonia.' During our visit we'll follow paths through alpine landscapes with high-altitude cols -- lakes in valleys carved by ancient glaciers -- and year-round snowcaps.
 
Our guided walk starts in the village of Boren, from where we begin the ascent passing through an abandoned village. We continue climbing up to a group of livestock constructions where we have an incredible view of the park. At this point we begin our descent, circular, passing through a Romanesque hermitage located in a privileged spot. We circle around to arrive back at Boren. As is typical of hiking regions in Europe, we'll like be able to source lunch and refreshments at huts along our route. If this is not an option on one of our full days, your leader/guide will advise and we can make arrangements for provisions we can bring with us.

3.8km/2.4 mil
Elevation gain/loss 300m/980 ft
4 hours actual walking (approximately; more counting time for breaks and enjoying the scenery - this is a full day out)
Difficulty of walk: easy

Overnight in Espot.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 9 Espot - Pirineos Winery - Ordesa
Today we leave Catalonia and enjoy a winery visit en route to Ordesa.

We also stop at the Vall de Boi, where we find an especially pure and consistent example of Romanesque art in a virtually untouched rural setting. The group of churches is a remarkable example of an important constructional style in human history; the churches that were built in the Middle Ages at the instigation of a single family symbolize the affirmation and geographical settlement at the time historical Catalonia was created. The valley is screened by the high peaks of the Beciberri/Punta Alta massif; its scenery is one of woodland and meadows, adjoining and surrounding the small villages.

Our next stop is Pirineos Winery, the founding winery of the region. Together with the backing of a major wine company and the finest wine professionals in Somontano, Pirineos boasts historic, unirrigated vineyards beautifully adapted to the rural environment. Our visit includes instruction on tasting techniques, evaluation of different wine types, and a guided wine tasting with the Montesierra and Pirineos Seleccion brands.

We'll stop for a lunch break in Ainsa, the capital of the old Kingdom of Sobrarbe, later incorporated into the Kingdom of Aragon in the 11th century. Ainsa constitutes a magnificent example of medieval urban development.

We continue to Ordesa.

Overnight in Ordesa.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 10 Ordesa: Monte Perdido National Park & the Aragona Pyrenees
Today's guided hike is possibly the most spectacular of the trip and certainly the longest. Our choice is the Cola de Caballo Trail through the Ordesa Valley, one of the most beautiful and unique valleys in Europe, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The valley consists of a number of small valleys and peaks reaching up to more than 3000m/9,840 ft.

This is an incredibly beautiful place with a landscape of towering summits. It has a wide variety of ecosystems with both an Atlantic and Mediterranean influence, which is what gives it such a rich and diverse flora and fauna. The scenery is dominated by the great massif of Monte Perdido (3355m/11,000 ft), with the peaks of the Tres Sorores branching out into the neighbouring valleys.

The Cola de Caballo ("Horse's Tail") trail is perhaps the quintessential Spanish Pyrenees experience. Indeed, this full-day excursion has it all -- a picturesque valley, dramatic mountains, waterfalls, and a beautiful glacial cirque, a signature feature typical of the Pyrenees range.

The terrain of our walk is considered "easy"; the challenging aspect of our route is the distance, which we'll approach at a leisurely place with plenty of stops.

Slope: 550m/1,800 ft (mostly gradual downhill)
Length of walk: 18km/11 mi
Duration of walk: 7-8 hours (approximately, with plenty of breaks)
Difficulty of walk: easy

Overnight in Ordesa.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 11 The French Pyrenees: Ayous Lake & Pic du Midi d'Ossau
Today we'll enjoy a guided hike on the French side of the Pyrenees. Given the duration of yesterday's excursion, this one will be a bit on the lighter side, but with enough "WOW" factor to leave us reluctant to leave this magical place.

Here the often snow-dusted Pyrenees offer a glimpse of France's wilder side. This serrated chain of peaks contains some of the country's most pristine landscapes and rarest wildlife. No matter how spectacular the mountains seem from paved roads, they are exponentially more dazzling from upper hiking trails that are accessible only on foot.

This is a tremendous day of walking in the high Pyrenees. We'll climb quickly up to a series of glacial lakes surrounding the Refuge d'Ayous on Lac Gentau. We reach the highest lake, Lac Bersau, before dropping again over a series of airy descents and around more lakes to the valley floor. The views throughout are fabulous, dominated by the spectacular Pic du Midi d'Ossau; the combination of blue sky (hopefully!) and lakes, dramatic mountains, and soaring birds makes this an unforgettable experience and the perfect way to wrap up the hiking portion of our trip.

Slope: 650m/2,130 (mostly downhill)
Length of walk: 8km/5 mi
Duration of walk: 5 hours (approximately)
Difficulty of walk: Easy

We return to Spain for our last night in the Pyrenees.

Overnight in Ordesa.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 12 Ordesa - Barcelona
We can enjoy a more leisurely morning before beginning our road jouney back to Barcelona with a stop for lunch along the way or in Barcelona if we make good time. The afternoon is yours to enjoy some last minute exploring and shopping in the city before our farewell dinner.

Overnight in Barcelona.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 13 Departure
Departure from Barcelona.

BUEN VIAJE!

Included Meal(s): Breakfast

Tour Map

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*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.


Hotel List


The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.


Hotel Catalonia Placa Catalunya

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Barcelona
Country: Spain

A 2-minute walk from a metro station, this chic hotel in a modernist building dating from 1899 is 3 minutes
... foot from both the sculpture-filled Plaça de Catalunya and Las Ramblas.

Read More.

Hotel Sol Ixent

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Cadaques
Country: Spain

Place yourself in the most privileged point of the Costa Brava, the Punta des Bou Marí. Ahead of you, spectacular
... of the vastness and beauty of the Mediterranean Sea. Nearby, you are surrounded by the purest nature, with the Natural Park of Cap de Creus, and by the tradition of a fishing town, the village of Cadaqués
Read More.

Hesperia Andorra la Vella

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Andorra La Vella
Country: Andorra

NH Hotel Group is one of the top 25 chains in the world and one of the main ones in
... NH Hoteles operates almost 400 hotels with around 60,000 rooms in 28 countries across Europe, America and Africa.

The Company stands out in quality both as regards to services and facilities, with carefully thought out decoration, intended to please all tastes and making the guest feel comfortable. NH Hotel Group establishments are equipped with the most advanced technology to facilitate communication, work and entertainment for its clients.

The gastronomy is another priority for hotels in the Chain, offering guest first-rate cuisine. NH Hoteles and well-known chefs such as Paco Roncero have created pioneer spaces within the hotel sector, such as “Estado Puro”.

As a patron of the arts, NH Hotel Group feels especially honored to count on the support of Mario Vargas Llosa, recent winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, in the short story contest named after him.

NH Hotel Group is a responsible company in the Tourism industry. The Chain offer hotel services which anticipate present and future needs of both our internal and external stakeholders (Employees, Clients, Shareholders, Suppliers, Environment, etc.), the communities where we operate and future generations with maximum attention to detail and efficient and sustainable solutions.

The Company is listed on the Stock Exchange of Madrid.

Read More.

Hotel Saurat

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Espot
Country: Spain

Mountain country hotel, family-owned (fifth generation), located in the town centre of Espot, 3km from the Aigüestortes National Park. It
... 40 rooms with fully-equipped bathrooms, hair dryer, hot towel rail, telephone, safe and TV. This year, a complete renovation of the (now 3-star) hotel has been carried out, giving it the maximum level of comfort.
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Hotel Silken Ordesa

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Ordesa
Country: Spain

Nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees, this A-frame-style hotel with wood and stone accents is 1.5 km from the
... of Torla and 1.9 km from the Ordesa Valley. The casual rooms (some with balconies) feature wood floors and sweeping mountain views, plus free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs and minibars.
Read More.


Trip Information

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Inclusions

Breakfast & dinners daily, one lunch (as per tour itinerary). All transport, twin-share accommodation, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, porters.

Airport transfers for land & air customers and for early arriving/late departing land & air customers who book their extra hotel nights through us.

Exclusions

International airfare (ask us for a quote), Tour Leader gratuities, most lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), travel insurance, international air taxes (if applicable), and any excursions referenced as 'optional'. Single supplement for those who prefer their own room. Airport transfers for Land Only customers.

Seasonality and Weather

Our late summer timing means that we will likely experience warm-hot temperatures in Barcelona and near the coast, but it will cool off nicely once we climb into the mountains. The cooler, unsettled weather of autumn comes early and suddenly to the Pyrenees; our timing should ensure favourable weather before the season changes. That said, we must be prepared for mountain conditions that can change suddenly. Rain is still unlikely, but sudden showers and cool weather can occur at any time, as can cool mornings/evenings.

As July/August are high season for Europeans on hiking holidays, we hope that the trails will be a bit quieter for our visit. Barcelona is a busy place, though, at the best of times, but we'll leave the hectic pace behind once we head out of town on Day 4.

This is also harvest time in the valleys and lowlands, which means bountiful seasonal local fruits and vegetables featuring on local menus and harvest season in the vineyards.

Transport and Travel Conditions

Most transport is by private air-conditioned vehicle, +/- 24 seats depending on ultimate group size (see 'group size'). Due to the winding roads and lack of accessibility on narrow streets in small towns and villages, we will avoid the large motor-coaches more typical of large group touring. We will also use taxis in some locales to get us to our trail-heads. One of the delights of exploring this compact region is the lack of long road journeys, allowing us to maximize our time doing, seeing, smelling, tasting, experiencing, and soaking it all in.

Our "level 3" difficulty rating refers to the walks/hikes throughout our program. This activity does not occur every day but, as per our tour itinerary, even when not on a "hike," we will be on foot quite a lot with town walking tours with plenty of places with uneven surfaces and stairs.

As some of these routes are new to us, and because some of them can/may be adjusted at the discretion of your Tour Leader, the final distances/durations of our hikes as indicated in our itinerary should be taken as guidance only. In the meantime, however, we can advise that, generally-speaking, our walks are leisurely on well-trodden pathways over undulating terrain (some walks are downhill), 4-7 hours in overall duration with plenty of breaks for refreshment, photos, and taking it all in.

While our hikes are not strenuous and locally rated as "easy," you still need to be in good shape in order to fully enjoy the highlights of this itinerary. As such, we require a medical questionnaire from all passengers to ensure your suitability for this journey.

This program also has a strong gastronomic element, well-suited to "foodies," expert or novice, and those who enjoy savouring and lingering over a meal and sampling new things.

Accommodation

Most hotels used on this tour are modern, well-located 3-4 star properties full of ambiance and character. All hotels have en-suite toilet and bath, though some will have shower only (no tub). Though porters should be available, you should be prepared to manage your own luggage to and from your hotel room.

Please click on the Map & Hotels tab on this page for more information.

Staff and Support

Tour Leader, driver/s, local guides for town/city tours and our hikes (as noted in the itinerary).

Group Size

Maximum 16 plus Tour Leader