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 inglobates 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.
Find out about the other incredible regions for hiking in Spain here.
This post is mostly about the Spanish Pyrenees (the mountain range that is across Aragon, Catalonya and Navarre in Spain) but I will also be mentioning some hikes in the French parts. 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. And, since I am an adventure junkie, I should add that hiking the Pyrenees is absolutely fantastic.
As it is quite easy to figure, the Pyrenees are a fantastic ski destination in the winter months. Just as well, hiking in Pyrenees is a wonderful experience throughout the rest of the year. 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’s also a few, shorter hikes that are just as nice.
In this post, I will mention all the best hikes in the Pyrenees. They will be divided based on their lenght. I will also provide some tips on how to make the most of this region.
How To Have An Amazing Time When Hiking In The Pyrenees
Multi-day hiking in Pyrenees
Portbou to Cadaquès
One of the nicest hiking 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 of the trail 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 (one of the nicest multi day hiking in the Pyrenees), it can be divided in various parts, which means stopping in some of the nicest villages along the way.
In the first section, the trail goes from Portbou to Colera, covering a distance of around 4.5 km. Throughout the walk, the of Cap de Creus are splendid – hiking the Pyrenees here is really lovely. First there is a steep ascent and then a descent to Colera. Further, there’s another 6.7 km from Colera to Llançà, on a path that goes throught 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-markes stone path that goes to Llançà. The views make it one of the best hikes in the Pyrenees.
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 hiking in the Pyrenees, as it is paved with no dramatic ascents or descents.
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 in the Pyrenees.
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, and to them it will be one of the best hikes in the Pyrenees just for this. I admit I am not a huge fan – the artist didn’t grow on me even after I visited his Capricho in Cantabria.
Chemin des Bonshommes
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 walj the entire trail, which is lovely thanks to the many beautiful romanesque churches, castles and shepherd’s huts.
One-day hiking in Pyrenees
Vall de Nuria
One of the nicest hiking 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, one of the best hikes in the Pyrenees. 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.
A guided hike saves a lot of the organizational hassle. You can book it here.
Camí dels Ganxos
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) that have to be used to hike up. I don’t recommend hiking this trail alone.
For more hikes in Garrotxa, check out my post “The Most Beautiful Hikes In Garrotxa: A One Week Itinerary.” Read why I never recommend hiking alone here.
The first section of the Camino de Santiago
I did mention in other posts that 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 of the route, takes a month and even more to complete. The good news is that it is possible to also walk just bits of it, like what I did. Some of the best hiking in the Pyrenees, follow the route to Santiago.
One of the most challenging hiking in the Pyrenees is the trail 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
Hiking the Pyrenees it is impossible not to think about the GR-11, a trail that runs across it 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 hiking in the Pyrenees, but the good news is that it is possible to access the trail in various points, so one 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. One starts in the 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. It’s a great hiking in the Pyrenees.
The best walk in the area (and one of the nicest hiking in the Pyrenees) is the Faja de Pelay, which 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.
It takes around 6 hours to walk the 11 km of the Faja Racon trail. This is one of the less walked hiking in the Pyrenees, but the views are truly rewarding: picture the beautiful contrast beween the bare rock of the cliffs of the canyon and the deep green of the woods.
Last, but not least, the Faja de las Flores trail deserves a mention among the best hikes in the Pyrenees. It is 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 for those 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 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 in the recommended hiking in the Pyrenees 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.
Self-guided multi-day hikes in the Pyrenees
If you are keen on going on a multi-day hike in the Pyrenees but can’t be bothered to make all the arrangements such as hotel bookings, downloading the maps, setting the entire route, you can count on an incredible, already set self-guided hiking itinerary. You can check it and book it here.
When to go hiking in the Pyrenees
Hiking the Pyrenees depends on the weather conditions, which 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
Spreading from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean, there’s many small cities (I am a lover of small cities and villages, like those of Asturias!) scattered along the mountain range which are perfect starting point for hiking the Pyrenees. Among the nicest ones, there’s Besalu, a medieval village which is 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.
The two biggest cities from where to access the Pyrenees are San Sebastian, in the Basque Country; and Girona, in Catalunia.
San Sebastian is 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 – so much so that it gets terribly crowded on hot, summer days. Ondarreta is another beach. Both are great places to chill at the end of a trip hiking in 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.
Girona is 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 hiking in the Pyrenees. One of the must dos when visiting Girona is walking along the Medieval walls, to take in the beautiful views of the city. Another place to visit is the Cathedral, located in the Old City and towering a flight of around 90 steps.
Girona is also home to the second largest medieval Jewish community in the region. There’s a great Museum of the History of the Jews. The Art Museum, lright next to the Cathedral, and the Romanesque Benedectine monastery of Saint Pere de Galligants, are other interesting attractions. Furthermore, there’s a beautiful basilica – the second biggest church in town; and the well preserved Arab baths.
Where to stay when hiking in the Pyrenees
San Sebastian and Girona have several good sleeping options for those who are thinking of hiking the Pyrenees. There’s good places to stay in the rest of the regions, too. Here’s some of the best accommodation options.
- Hotel Barcelo Costa Vasca, in San Sebastian: nice comfortable rooms and a spa. Click here for reviews and check the latest rates here.
- Hotel Museu LLegendes de Girona, in Girona: spacious cozy rooms, located in the Old City. Click here for reviews and check the latest rates here.
- Girona Magic Apartment: perfect for families. Click here for reviews and check the latest rates here.
- Hostal Totsompops, in Colera: great rooms and close to the beach. Click here for reviews and check the latest rates here.
- Hotel Grifeu, in Llançà: fabulous views of the Mediterranean. Click here for reviews and check the latest rates here.
- Boutique Hotel Spa Calma Blanqua, in Cadaques: the nicest place to relax after a few days of hiking in the Pyrenees. Click here for reviews and check the latest rates here.
- Cal Miquel de Ventolà, in Ventolà: close to Vall de Nuria and perfect for families. Click here for reviews and check the latest rates here.
- Casa Vispe, in Escalona: offers easy access to Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park. Click here for reviews and check the latest rates here.
- Leyenda del Pirineos, in Fiscal: it’s not far from Ordesa National Park. Click here for reviews and check the latest rates here.
Camping in the Pyrenees is allowed only in camping sites. This is a selection of some sites:
- Bassegoda Park, in Alta Garrotxa, at 25 km from Figueres. There’s bungalows and places to pitch tents, as well as a pool and a shop. Check the latest rates here.
- Camping Baliera, in Bonansa: there’s chalets and pitches, and laundry facilities. Click here for reviews and check the latest rates here.
- Camping Laspaules, close to Mount Aneto: it has pitches, bungalows and even wheelchair accessible bungalows. Click here for reviews and check the latest rates here.
Closest airports to access hiking in the Pyrenees
The easiest access for those who want to go hiking in the Pyrenees is from Girona airport, well connected to Europe and the rest of Spain via no frills airlines. San Sebastian airport, which is actually located in Hondarribia, is connected to both Madrid and Barcelona and has seasonal flights to London. Another option would be flying to Bilbao, which is offers more connections, and Biarritz, in France.
Other useful information about hiking in the Pyrenees
As I have already said, the Pyrenees mark the border between Spain and France, so some hiking in the Pyrennes 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?
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