The Aragonese Pyrenees offers spectacular hiking, with dramatic landscapes characterized by plunging canyons, steep wooded hillsides and glassy rivers. This summer, Rough Guides writer and photographer Marta Bescos spent a weeklong trip traversing the Ordesa Valley. Here, she chronicles her route, with all the details so you can follow in her footsteps. Being out and about in the great outdoors is the perfect way to escape city life post-lockdown, where social distancing couldn’t be easier.
My family and I decided on a trip hiking around the Ordesa Valley – one of the most beautiful corners of Northern Spain. This incredible spot in the Aragonese Pyrenees tempts hikers and outdoor lovers alike, with demanding treks that venture into the Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park, the second oldest in Spain. It has been inscribed variously as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, a Special Protection Area for Birds, a Site of Community Importance, and a Biosphere Reserve.
Which routes you take in the park will be dictated by your physical ability and hunger for summiting the highest peaks. The three main valleys of Ordesa are formed by the Ara, Arazas and Bellos rivers, which herald the most unique landscapes in the national park. Discovering caves and waterfalls or scrambling over rocks is every hiker’s paradise!
Before our hike we met at Broto – the perfect starting point, and our home for the week. Broto is a beautiful village known for its massive waterfall, Cascada de Sorrosal, that gushes down the canyon behind it. To the left of the waterfall, a via ferrata (climbing route) winds its way up. The noise of the water is the soundtrack to the 600m climb – marking a 200m difference in altitude. The centre of Broto is maze-like, with the striking Iglesia de San Pedro in the middle.
Tip: Remember to bring plenty of water with you, as well as mountain boots, adequate clothing, a sleeping bag, trekking poles, sunscreen, sunglasses and a windbreaker/raincoat.
For the first day of the trip, we hiked along one of the most emblematic trails in the park, the Turieto Bajo route, which runs from Pradera de Ordesa to Torla. We enjoyed seeing the tumbling waterfalls of Tamborrotera and Moncieto, as well as beautiful beech and fir trees.
In the afternoon, we visited the historic, hilltop village of Ainsa, which frequently tops lists of the most beautiful towns in Spain. The village is located between the Cinca and Ara rivers, and its old town, with a clear medieval layout, was declared a Historic-Artistic Site back in 1965. A pleasant walk through its streets took us to the Castle (11th–17th century), where the Torre del Tenente stands out with a pentagonal floor plan, today transformed into an Eco Museum. The tower of the church of Santa María (11th–13th century) is styled in the Aragonese Romanesque, while arcades surround the Plaza Mayor, home to the town hall building. Also unmissable are the Casa de Bielsa and Casa Arnal, built in the 16th century.
We started the route at the San Úrbez car park (Ereta de Biés), descending to the vertiginous San Úrbez bridge (980m). Nearby is the Ermita de San Úrbez; saints and shepherds inhabited this cave way back in the 8th century. After a tough stretch hiking under the sun, we crossed the Bellós river over the Sangons bridge. We walked into the canyon, passing countless sparkling pools and waterfalls shaded by holm oaks, gall oaks and boxwoods. As the path climbs higher, a forest of beech, fir, lime, ash, birch, yew, maple, rowan, mostajo and hazelnut rises around you. There’s an enormous diversity of flora carpeting the slopes of this exceptional canyon. The trek continues until it reaches the Espluquetas ravine, 6.5km from the start, where the trail departs from the river and begins a steep ascent to reach the so-called Selva Plana. This section should only be attempted by experienced hikers; we therefore began our descent to complete this unforgettable 13km journey.
Having walked through the most beautiful trekking circuits in the region, I came away feeling rewarded and fortunate. I was lucky enough to enjoy local products and meet warm and friendly people. It has been an unforgettable trip under the gaze of Monte Perdido – one that I highly recommend to everyone! If you're looking for more beautiful places to hike try an adventure in Saxony – step into the best hiking in Germany.
In the nearby village of Sarvisé, you’ll find the cosy family hotel of Viña Olivan, where we spent our last night. The hotel’s excellent location means you can enjoy gorgeous mountain views from its balcony. If you value your privacy – or feel safer this way – the hotel also has independent rural apartments, perfect for anyone seeking a truly relaxing escape. And don’t miss the hearty breakfast!
Hotel restaurant Casa Frauca (Sarvisé). A family-run restaurant in the small village of Sarvisé. This cosy restaurant is one of the best well known in the Ara valley. Expect dishes packed with flavour, made with local and seasonal ingredients. The hearty portions are spot on after a full day’s hiking.
Bujaruelo Hut (En-route). This restaurant serves a wide range of food for mountaineers who come to spend the day in the great outdoors.