Pyrenees / Vall de Nuria
While everyone is aware of the attractions of the Pyrenees region during the winter months, whether for skiing, snowboarding or just admiring the snow-capped mountains, come the summer time, we tend to forget that this area has a huge amount to offer all year round. It is not just for winter sports that the Pyrenees are good, but also for walking, climbing, bird watching, wildlife-spotting or generally enjoying the spectacular scenery as it changes with the seasons.
The route from Barcelona to the Pyrenees is full of beautiful landscapes and rich in history. One way up to the Pyrenees takes you past Berga, known as the Gateway to the Pyrenees. It was here that the sport of skiing was first introduced to Catalonia.
From Berga and beyond, there are a number of lovely small villages, each with its own heritage and charms. For example, the small town of Vilada, not far beyond Berga, offers spectacular views of the Serra Pic an Cel, a jagged mountain range formed by the overlapping of moving tectonic plates millions of years ago. This tiny former spa village offers a number of different walks in the nearby countryside and mountains, and is reached by a lovely winding road with great, constantly changing views.
To really reach the Pyrenees, though, it is necessary to travel north of Ripoll. Ripoll is another town rich in history, and is home to a monastery founded by the evocatively-named Wilfred the Hairy. The next stop on the way into the Pyrenees is Ribes de Freser. This is a lovely picturesque mountain village that is nestled into the protecting mountains.
The next step on from Ribes de Freser is the lovely village of Queralbs, the last vehicle-accessible village heading up into the Val de Ribes, towards the Vall de Nuria.
All of the villages here have been shaped by the transhumance method of shepherding, whereby flocks were brought off the mountains in the depth of winter, and in Spring and Summer, shepherds gradually climbed up the mountain with their flocks to new grazing. Today, however, a different type of transhumance affects Queralbs – a large number of the houses are owned as second homes, so in winter and during the week, they lie empty. This does not take away any of the village’s charm, however. Its stone-built, slate-roofed houses balancing precariously on the hillside under the watchful eye of the 10th-century church are a far cry from the bustling streets and apartment blocks of Barcelona! The area around Queralbs is known for the “enchanted” caves, famous for their impressive array of stalactites. The other thing that Queralbs has to offer is the impressive rack railway that runs up into the Vall de Nuria.
This train is run specifically to take people up into the Sanctuary of Vall de Nuria. The Vall de Nuria has a long history of use as a religious sanctuary and a shelter for shepherds. It is the highest point of the Ribes valley, and can only be reached by the rack railway or on foot from Queralbs, a spectacular 3-hour walk that follows a similar route to the rack railway. At this time of year, you can see all sorts of different flora and fauna in the Valley, which serves as a ski station in winter. This does not mean, however, that it falls out of use in the summer. Summer brings a very different sort of weather to the Vall de Nuria from the deep snows of the winter. For both the experienced climber and the weekend walker, there is a great deal to see and do in the Vall de Nuria. The informative leaflets available from the visitor’s centre outline a number of different routes, giving the time and difficulty of each, while a more in-depth book like the type available in the shop will offer even more range.
Those less inclined to go walking in the hills can go for a leisurely stroll around the lake, or even hire a boat and drift in the sunshine. There is also an impressive visitor’s centre, with very interesting poster displays about the wildlife, history and religious elements of the Valley. Another option is the short cable car ride up to the youth hostel, which offers stunning views of the valley. The scenery is extremely impressive, with flowing streams and green hillside contrasting sharply with stark black rocks. Then, having exhausted either yourself or the possibilities of the Vall de Nuria (and the former is far more likely!) it is just a short rack railway ride back down to civilisation!
How to get there:
By car: Take C16 via Manresa and Berga, then C26 to Vilada. From there, the NI152 and the GIV 5217 take you to Queralbs, where you can catch the Rack Railway up to the Vall de Nuria. To pass Ripoll, the journey back would be on the NI52, then the C17.
By train: Vilada and Berga are not accessible by train, but there is a regular Cercanías train service from Barcelona to Ribes de Freser, passing through Ripoll, and from there you can take the Rack Railway to Queralbs and on into the Vall de Nuria.
By bus: A number of different companies travel up different parts of the route, e.g. Alsina Graells travel to Berga, while Planas travels from Vic to Berga. There does not seem to be a direct service to Ribes de Freser or Queralbs.
Rabbie’s Trails: This small-group tour company offers a Pyrenees day trip leaving 5 days a week from Plaça Catalunya, priced at €59 (including rack railway). The tour goes to Vilada and then Queralbs, taking the Rack Railway from there into the beautiful Vall de Nuria. The price includes the services of an English-speaking guide. Find them at www.rabbies.eu.com or +34 93 211 9566 OFFER: with this issue of Barcelona Connect, Rabbie’s are offering a special price of 2 for the price of 1 on any tour for the month of July.
As you can see, there is plenty to keep you occupied on the LLobregat route. If you want to fully disconnect from the stress of the city it is recommended to spend a couple of days in the area. It is also a lot easier if you take a car although, as indicated, it is possible to arrive using public transport. For more information about the area, check out the web site www.altbergueda.com/eng/interes.html. So what are you waiting for! Pack your bags and GO!
drudge it becomes closer to Barcelona, begging the inevitable comparison. A single file walkway leads you up to a series of rocks where water sprays mysteriously out of the mountain face, creating waterfalls. For the adventurous, there is a walk that carries on up the mountain but only attempt it if you have a good set of comfy shoes. Spectacular views all round, this is a must!
Ten minutes drive from Lillet, or one hour’s walk, is the source of the Llobregat River. A small forest path takes you up though breathtaking scenery accompanied with the sounds of rapid water. Looking at the river here is very different from the brown
The Source of the LLobregat River
A small distance from the source of the Llobregat River is the mountain top town of Castellar d`en Hug. This used to be a sheep farming region whose livelihood centred around the resident shepards’ annual trip to Barcelona on foot for the purpose of selling livestock. Nowadays the town survives on tourism and lays claim to the most enormous Croissants this side of the Pyrenees. You will be sure to find a hotel here at a reasonable price, although it is recommended to book in advance. For a romantic weekend away, or simply to marvel at the astounding landscape, Castellar de N’hug should be high up on the agenda.
Castellar de N’hug
Set further up the road from the Gaudi gardens in the direction of Castellar den N’hug, the cement museum is a medieval cement factory constructed in the 14th century and closed in 1975 due to increased costs in the cement manufacturing process. The building work is practically in ruins but its unique architectural style set against the mountainous backdrop makes the site an interesting exploration ground. Inside the museum there are exhibitions about the cement manufacturing process and the history of the company. (Portland Cement Museum: Paratge del Clot del Moro, Castellar de N’hug. Opening Hours: Now until September 15th: 10h -14h /16h-19h)
Portland Cement Museum
Created in 1991, this museum has the most extensive collection of antique vehicles in Europe. Displaying over 170 different forms of transport, the museum is situated opposite the carriage port for the old tram line between Lillet and the next town further up the mountain, Castellar de N’ug. The county council is currently working on a project to re-open the highest part of the tram line, converting it into a tourist train. The collection of antique vehicles includes those used in Barcelona centre, ranging from the electric tram line cars, used in Barcelona in 1898, and double decker buses common in Barcelona between 1940 and 1970. (Transport Museum: Estació del Ferrocarril 1, Lillet, Opening hours: Sundays and holidays 11h -14h/ weekdays –school parties and group tours, Tel. 93 825 71 13, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Built at the side of a Textiles factory for worker respite, the Antiga gardens were commissioned by Mr. Antiga in 1939. Legend has it that Gaudi did some rough sketches for the garden design when he stayed in Lillet in 1905. Later, some of the workers involved in the construction of Park Guell were sent to Lillet to supervise the creation of the Antiga Gardens. Set either side of the River LLobregat, these gardens are reminiscent of Park Guell, using Tolkienesque architecture in a magical landscape of water and vegetation. Following a dusty pathway along a disused railway line, the Artiga Gardens are hidden in an unlikely mountain nook about five minutes walk from Lillet.
Artiga Gaudi Gardens
First stop on the agenda is the town of Lillet. A pretty, rambling village set in the Pyrenees, Lillet stands alongside the River LLobregat. Apart from the stunning medieval churches and bridges, Lillet is interesting due to the strong mountain fishing tradition. Sporting thigh high wellies and standing in the middle of the LLobregat River, locals participate in upstream trout fishing. Another unique point of interest in the town is the local supermarket. On first appearances it seems like a normal everyday shop but located at the furthest point of the building, behind the shelves, is a secret, traditional town bar complete with wooden tables made from barrels. Here you can order Burmouth, ham and cheese – a typical Catalan aperitif. (By car from Barcelona take the C16 passing through Manressa until you reach Berga. From here you can tour the whole area. By bus from Barcelona take the Ripoll line with the bus company Mir that passes though Lillet, Tel. 972 703 012)
El Poble de Lillet
Hustle, bustle, toil and trouble? Too many car horns, petrol fumes, stressed sighs? Want to get away, off the beaten track and back to basics? Let us take you on an alternative route, where you can let your hair down and finally breathe some fresh air. This is an idyllic trip that leads you through the Pyrenees to the source of the Llobregat River, stopping off at a number of secret treats on the way.
Secret treats in the Pyrenees