Six of the best active adventures in the Pyrenees of Catalonia, a step away from Barcelona

North of Barcelona lies the snow-topped mountains and green valleys of the Pyrenees. From river kayaking and mountain biking to yoga and walking, here are five ways to reconnect with nature in Catalonia.

The nature reserve of La Garrotxa features some 40 forest-covered, extinguished volcanoes.

Photograph by Arxiu PTCBG ©Vol de Coloms
By The Pyrenees of Catalonia Programme
Published 26 Jan 2022, 16:48 GMT

1. Enokayaking through rivers and vineyards in the Alt Empordà

Kayaking yes, but Enokayaking? As the name suggests, this is kayaking with a difference, incorporating wine tasting, too, in the lush vineyards of the Alt Empordà, around two hours north of Barcelona. Start your trip with a paddle through tranquil rivers as you float through the tangles of wilderness in the Aiguamolls Natural Park, not far from the French border. Then stroll through a forest before sipping organic wines and olive oils at Mas Vida, a small, family-run, organic winery.

The La Garrotxa region is home to walking and cycling routes that take you through rocky valleys, waterfalls, clifftop villages and Romanesque churches.

Photograph by Trescàlia

2. Walking amid volcanoes in the La Garrotxa region

When it comes to dramatic, volcanic landscapes, Catalonia may not be the first place that springs to mind, but less than an hour’s drive from Girona and under two hours from Barcelona lies the rather wonderful nature reserve of La Garrotxa, featuring some 40 forest-covered, extinguished volcanoes. Walking and cycling routes follow old railway tracks along the terracotta-toned, earth paths taking you through rocky valleys, waterfalls, clifftop villages and Romanesque churches. Trescàlia organises tailor-made walking and wildlife package tours. The local ‘volcanic’ dishes are also a wonderfully idiosyncratic take on traditional Catalan cuisine.

3. Snowshoeing in the peaks of the Pyrenees

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned professional at snowshoeing — the calorie-burning walking technique featuring overshoes that allow you to ‘float’ across thick snow — there are few places better to explore a snowclad wonderland than the Capçaleres del Ter and Freser National Park, situated just two-hours from Barcelona. On one of the most northerly points of the Catalan/French border, just by the Vallter ski resort, guided routes take you along a historic smuggling path known as Portella de Mentet, before leading out onto a spectacular open plateau. Keep those cameras handy for Instagrammable views of the Conflent and Canigó mountains.

The eco-friendly and vegan Casa Albets Hotel, set in a restored 11th-century farmhouse, is the perfect place to relax and unwind.

Photograph by Casa Albets Hotel

4. Yoga with fields and forests

Gentle yoga with bucolic views takes a bit of beating. No more so than in the Solsonès region in the heart of Catalonia. With the majestic Pyrenees forming an undulating curtain to the north and rolling fields to the south, the eco-friendly and vegan Casa Albets Hotel, set in a restored 11th-century farmhouse, organises outdoor yoga sessions amid fields and forests as far as the eye can see. If you’re feeling more active, bike rental can be arranged for you to explore the Romanesque, gothic and baroque architecture of the surrounding villages. 

The valleys of the Pyrenees and Berguedà County make for some of the best rural walking in Europe. Embark on a three-day ‘5 Senses’ camp where you can get up close and personal with nature through sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing. 

 

Photograph by Guies D'Arrel

5. Walking routes with a difference

With medieval villages and meadows full of grazing cows, ruined castles, ancient farmhouses and woodlands, the valleys of the Pyrenees and Berguedà County in particular, just an hour and a half’s drive north of Barcelona, make for some of the best rural walking in Europe. With more than 600 miles of trails to explore, Guies d’Arrel organise treks with local guides and what they don’t know about the area isn’t worth knowing. There are also three-day ‘5 Senses’ camps where you can get up close and personal with nature, experiencing the local landscape, flora and fauna through sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing. 

The Cerdanya Valley lures cyclists of all levels with its scenic Alpine meadows, flora-filled plains and dramatic countryside.

Photograph by Intrêpid Hotel

6. Cycling in the Cerdanya Valley

Catalonia has long been an open secret in the world of cycling, with riders of all levels lured by the region’s scenic Alpine meadows, flora-filled plains and dramatic countryside. So much so that the family behind the Hotel Intrêpid in the Cerdanya valley, less than two hours’ drive north of Barcelona, had the idea to create a ‘Bed and Bike’ hotel where cyclists could stay somewhere stylish while benefitting from specialist bike services. Whether you need advice on mountain and road bike routes, mechanical support, bike washing, physiotherapy or e-bike rental, the hotel can help. It also provides healthy breakfasts and locally sourced food.

For more information, head to visitpirineus.com

Read more about what to see and do in the Pyrenees of Catalonia. 

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