The autumn colours of the Pyrenees are spectacular, and October is the perfect month to enjoy low-season tranquility once the summer activities finish and before hordes of skiers arrive. Feel the anticipation of snow in a gust of chilly wind, listen as the cry of a hawk pierces the silence, and marvel that just two hours ago you were surrounded by the busy city of Barcelona.
Discover Vall de Núria
Vall de Núria is a high mountain valley located at 2000m, in the municipality of Queralbs, a small village with a population of just 200 inhabitants in the province of Girona. Crowned by mountain peaks that reach over 3000m, the valley is home to the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Núria, which also includes an important ski resort and a hotel with excellent facilities for skiers, hikers and families.
Vall de Núria entered recent history when the First Statue of Autonomy for Catalunya was drafted here in 1931 ,in the hotel room 202. The Virgin of Nuria is known as the patron saint of fertility, and many woman still make a special pilgrimage to receive her blessing in the sanctuary. Apparently it works.
A Historic Sanctuary
The earliest records of this sanctuary date back to Saint Giles in 700AD. He was a pilgrim who carved an icon of the Virgin Mary, which he hid when he fled Roman persecution. The first chapel was built here in 1072, and a shelter for shepherds was added in 1162. It has been rebuilt andenlarged many times, most recently in 1911.
There are some spectacular trails to be enjoyed here! Mountain paths wind through the woods and beyond the treeline towards the high and rocky mountain peaks. Popular routes include Pic de l’Àliga (2476 m, 1hr15), Pic de la Fossa del Gegant (2801m, 3hrs) and Coma de Vaca (2.020 m, 1hr15). Download a map from valldenuria.cat.
Getting to Vall de Nuria
The only way to reach Vall de Núria – apart from a hearty hike up the steep mountain path – is with this rack railway, which was built in 1931. Your ears might pop as it climbs smoothly up through the steep gorge, from Ribes de Freser (905m) to Queralbs (1030m) and Vall de Núria. (1964m)
1. Travel back in time with historic art, and look out for the Romanic icon of the Virgin Mary, from the 12th or 13th century, and other historic paintings.
2. Experience the mountain flora and fauna.Keep your eyes and ears open; marmots call out with a shrill squeak, birds of prey glide and swoop, and succulent plants with bright flowers fill the natural rockeries.
3. If you’ve got a sweet tooth make sure it tastes some of the local honey. Another treat is the “daines” pastry, with carefully selected aromatic herbs from Vall de Núria.
4. Walk the Via Crucis, which was completed in 1963, and is a route of artistic representations of Christ carrying the Cross to his crucifixion. The sculptures were created in very different styles.
5. Enjoy the local gastronomy; stop off in Ribes de Freser and for a traditional meal in one of the “Els Fogons de la Vall de Ribes” restaurants.
Vall de Nuria is also a popular ski resort in the winter – more info www.valldenuria.cat