Hiking in the Pyrenees is a must for adventure lovers who visit Spain: this is one of the best regions for hiking in Spain. The mountain range marks the border between France and Spain, and includes the small State of Andorra. It goes from the Western Cap Higuer in the Bay of Biscay to the Eastern Cap de Creus in the Mediterranean Sea. The highest peak is the Aneto, which reaches a height of 3404 meters.
One peculiarity of the Pyrenees is that, contrary to other mountain ranges in the world, there are no mountain lakes here, and only a few usable mountain passes. What’s plentiful, on the other hand, is mountain rivers and beautiful waterfalls such as the Gavarnie, with its jump of 462 meters.
The Pyrenees are also a fantastic ski destination in the winter months.
This post is mostly about the Spanish Pyrenees (the mountain range that is across Aragon, Catalonia and Navarre in Spain) but I will also be mentioning some hikes in the French parts. Some of the trails in this part of Spain among the best in the country, not to mention they are some of the most challenging multi-day hikes in the world – such as the GR-10, GR-11 and HR. But there are also a few, shorter hikes that are just as nice.
Continue reading to discover the best hikes in the Pyrenees.
Hiking In The Pyrenees: The Best Trails
Multi-day hikes in the Pyrenees
Portbou to Cadaquès
LENGHT – 41.5 KM
One of the nicest multi-day trails in the Pyrenees is that from Portbou to Cadaquès. This is part of the GR-92 trail, which runs along the Costa Brava region of Catalonia. The starting point is in Portbou, a small city at the border with France. The trail then goes along the coast to eventually reach Cadaquès, one of the most picturesque medieval villages in Costa Brava.
Though the entire trail is around 41.5 km long and can be divided in various parts, which means stopping in some of the nicest villages along the way. Here is a rough breakdown of the stages.
STAGE ONE – TOTAL WALKING DISTANCE 11.2 KM
In the first section, the trail goes from Portbou to Colera, covering a distance of around 4.5 km. First there is a steep ascent and then a descent to Colera. Throughout the walk, the views of Cap de Creus are splendid. After you pass Colera, there’s another 6.7 km to Llançà, on a path that goes through several small coves.
It may be necessary to cross a bunch of tide pools, which is fun on a calm day, but not so much when the water is higher and harder to walk through. There’s no trail to follow, but it is not hard to go along the rocky coast without getting lost.
The final part of this trail, after Cap Ras, is way easier as it is on a well-marked stone path that goes to Llançà. The views make it one of the best hikes in the Pyrenees.
STAGE TWO – TOTAL WALKING DISTANCE 8.2 KM
The trail from Llançà to Punta de la Selva is 8.2 km and goes via some lovely coves with the pristine waters. This part of the trail is easy, compared to other hikes in the Pyrenees, as it is paved and with no dramatic ascents or descents.
STAGE THREE – TOTAL WALKING DISTANCE 14.8 KM
The hardest part of the trail is the 14.8 km that link Port de la Selva to Cap de Creus. 80% of this stretch is inland, going along the GR-11 through cattle land, by old abandoned farm houses and finally getting to the lighthouse of Cap de Creus. The biggest challenge is the lack of shade, which makes it one of the most difficult hiking trails in the Pyrenees.
STAGE FOUR – TOTAL WALKING DISTANCE 7.3 KM
The final stretch goes from Cap de Creus to Cadaques, on a trail of about 7.3 km, and which stops by the Hermitage of Sant Baldiri and Portligat, where there’s Salvador Dalí House and Museum. There’s a lot of ups and downs, so it may be challenging. Most art lover will find Salvador Dalí House and Museum a real treat.
Chemin des Bonshommes
LENGHT – 222 KM
I did say this post would be about hiking in the Pyrenees, the Spanish bit. But I want to mention this trail anyways, as it follows the footsteps of the Cathars who went all the way from Foix to the Berga Sanctuary. The starting point of this hike is in Ariège Pyrenees, in France. The final point is in Queralt in Catalonia, Spain. It takes 10 to 12 days to walk the entire trail, which is lovely thanks to the many beautiful romanesque churches, castles and shepherd’s huts.
One-day hikes in the Pyrenees
Vall de Nuria
LENGHT – 7.7 KM
One of the nicest trails in the Pyrenees is in Vall de Nuria, a lovely small valley, most popular for skiing in the winter months. It is located in the region of Garrotxa, part of Catalunia. Though there is a train that goes all the way to Vall de Nuria, I recommend hiking.
It takes about 3 and a half hours to walk down along a stunning trail. The views of the waterfalls and of several small bridges are just splendid. Needless to say, it is also possible to hike the way up and take the train on the way back; or – even better – just hike all the way.
TIP: A guided hike saves a lot of the organizational hassle. You can book it here.
Camí dels Ganxos
LENGHT – 13.4 KM
The Camí dels Ganxos is one of the most challenging hikes in the Pyrenees. The starting point of this circular hike is Joanetes, in Alta Garrotxa. Along the trail the views of the Puigsacalm are absolutely stunning, and once at the top there is a lovely small hermitage – Santa Magdalena.
This is tough hike that requires around 7 hours. The terrain is good, but there are some parts that are virtually vertical. The toughest bit is the Canal Fosca, where there are the “ganxos” (hooks) where you need to lift yourself up and are not ideal for short people or anybody not accustomed to climbing. I don’t recommend hiking this trail alone.
Read why I never recommend hiking alone here.
The first section of the Camino de Santiago
LENGHT – 24 KM
There’s not just one, but many routes which, from different parts of Spain, France and Portugal go all the way to Santiago de Compostela. I walked the Camino del Norte. The entire Camino, no matter the route, takes more than month to complete. The good news is that it you can also walk just bits of it, like I did.
One of the most challenging trails is the one that starts in Saint Jean Pied de Port, in France, and takes all the way to Roncesvalles in Spain. The walk is around 24 km, which takes 6 hours or more to complete, and goes by some of the peaks of the Pyrenees.
The various trails in the Ordesa Canyon, Senda Pirenaica
The GR-11 is a trail that runs across the Pyrenees and links the Bay of Biscay to Cap de Creus in the Mediterranean Sea. It is an 840 km path, which can be walked East to West, or West to East. It is one of the most challenging hikes in the Pyrenees, but the good news is that you can access the trail in various points, so you can just walk bits of it.
One of the nicest parts is the Ordesa Canyon, in the Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park which, together with the Viñamala Hunting Reserve, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Ordesa Canyon actually has a bunch of trails.
FROM PRADER TO REFUGIO DE GORIZ – The trail starts in Prader parking lot and goes on for 8 km all the way to the canyon. From there, the walk continues for 2 steep km to get to the Refugio de Goriz.
FAJA DE PELAY – The best walk in the area it goes to the upper part of the canyon for around 8 km. There’s an incredible viewpoint from where there’s a breathtaking panorama over the canyon.
FAJA RACON TRAIL – It takes around 6 hours to walk the 11 km of this trail, which is one of the less walked trails, but the views are truly rewarding: picture the beautiful contrast between the bare rock of the cliffs of the canyon and the deep green of the woods.
FAJA DE LAS FLORES – A 16 km long trail which can be walked in around 10 hours. The path follows the northern cliffs, to ascend for more than 1000 meters. The trail is only a meter wide in some sections, which combined with a 400 meters drop on the right for most of the time indicates that this is not an easy trail and definitely one not suitable if you are afraid of heights.
Col de Tentes to Cirque de Gavarnie
In the Pyrenees National Park, along the French – Spanish border (though actually in France), there’s Cirque de Gavarnie, called the “colosseum of nature” by Victor Hugo in his poem “Dieu.” This is a large valley, which is framed by a massive rock with the shape of a face. The reason I include it among the recommended trails is that it is home to Gavarnie waterfalls, one of the highest in Europe.
There’s many hiking trails in the region. One of the best goes from Col de Tentes to Cirque de Gavarnie, and it takes around 2 and a half hour to hike it. The hike can also be started in Gavarnie village, from where it is just one and a half hour to reach the waterfalls.
Practical Information To Organize Your Pyrenees Hiking Trip
When to go hiking in the Pyrenees
The weather conditions in the Pyrenees can vary a lot: the West, close to the Bay of Biscay, gets significantly more rain than the East and it is where glaciers are located. The late spring and summer months, when there’s less chances of rain, are perfect for hiking the western Pyrenees. Spring and fall are the best months to hike the eastern bits.
Best starting point for hiking the Pyrenees
The two biggest cities from where to access the Pyrenees are San Sebastian, in the Basque Country; and Girona, in Catalonia. Both are served by international airports operating budget flights to various destinations in Spain and Europe. If you want to access the Northern Pyrenees, you can also fly to Bilbao, also in the Basque Country, or Biarritz, in France.
A lovely coastal town, famous for its gorgeous beaches and for being a perfect surfing location. La Concha is the most famous beach in the city. Ondarreta is another beach. Both are great places to chill at the end of a hiking trip across the Pyrenees. I also recommend visiting the Old City of San Sebastian, a bunch of narrow alleys and beautiful squares. It is also where to try the famous “pinxtos”– the northern equivalent of tapas.
STAY – HOTEL BARCELO COSTA VASCA – It has nice comfortable rooms and a spa.
A pretty, colorful city that attracts an increasing number of tourists every year, and provides a good place to stay at the beginning or at the end of your hiking expedition. One of the must dos there is walking along the Medieval walls for beautiful views of the city. Another place to visit is the Cathedral, towering a flight of around 90 steps. Girona is also home to the second largest medieval Jewish community in the region, so you will find a Museum of the History of the Jews. You’ll also find well preserved Arab baths.
For more about Girona, make sure to read my post The Best Guide To The Things To Do In Girona.
Scattered along the Pyrenees you will find several other small towns that are perfect starting points for hiking the Pyrenees. Among the nicest ones there’s Besalu, a medieval village accessed via an impressive bridge and castle-like entrance. Portbou is located at the foothills of the Pyrenees while also being right on the shores of the Mediterranean. Barruera has the peculiarity of being surrounded by snowy peaks; and Casteller de N’hug of being built in stone.
BOUTIQUE HOTEL SPA CALMA BLANQUA – In Cadaques, itìs a great place to relax after a few days of hiking in the Pyrenees.
LEYENDA DEL PIRINEOS – In Fiscal: it’s not far from Ordesa National Park
BASSEGOTA PARK, in Alta Garrotxa, at 25 km from Figueres. There ARE bungalows and places to pitch tents, as well as a pool and a shop.
CASA VISPE – In Escalona, it offers easy access to Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park.
Guided tours of the Pyrenees
There are several guided tours of the Pyrenees starting from a variety of places. Some are more active and include hiking, others are simply scenic tours perfect for sightseeing. I have selected the best for you:
- Pyrenees Mountains and villages small group tour from Barcelona – a great, easy and comfortable option, it’s highly reviewed.
- Medieval Village hike from Barcelona – a very good compromise for hiking and sightseeing at the same time.
Other useful information about hiking in the Pyrenees
The Pyrenees mark the border between Spain and France, so some hikes may start or finish in France. Several companies offer multi-day guided and even self guided hiking in the Pyrenees, and other active holidays in the region.
Remember to always get a good travel insurance for your hiking trips. You can find a good one here.
Have you ever been hiking in the Pyrenees?
Are you planning a trip to Spain? Make sure to read my other posts:
- The Best Places To Visit In Northern Spain
- 7 Great Reasons To Visit The Basque Country
- 11 Reasons To Visit Galicia
- 11 Gorgeous Places To Visit In Asturias, Spain
- What To See And Do In Cantabria, Spain
- 31 Awesome Things To Do In Madrid
- Where To Find The Most Amazing Hikes In Spain
- The Most Beautiful Hikes In Garrotxa: A One Week Itinerary
- 10 Fabulous Places To Go Hiking In Malaga And Its Province
- Hiking In Sierra Nevada: The Best Trails
- Hiking The Picos De Europa: The Best Trails