Tag Archives: Hiking

Ordesa National Park in the Spanish Pyrenees

For our next stop we rented a car and drove from Barcelona into the Pyrenees Mountains on the Spanish side near the small town of Bielsa.  We stayed in the Parador de Bielsa hotel at the edge of Ordesa National Park (Ordesa y Monte Perdido Parque Nacional) on the Cinca River.  The hotel offers beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, including the waterfalls that cascade down from the peaks.  The hotel restaurant is excellent, a welcome amenity since there aren’t  many other options.   The trout was a standout entrée.

On our first full day we set out from the front door of the hotel and headed Northwest towards Monte Perdido and Lago de Pineta (also named Marbore).   The scenery on the way was beautiful including several large waterfalls and a birds eye view of the valley.  Halfway up cattle grazed on the slopes, apparently herded up and down from the mountainside daily (we could hear the bells as the cattle strolled by the hotel in the morning).  The farmer must be in excellent shape, also beware of stepping in the large cow patties scattered about.  The trail was steep in some parts and our feet were tired by mid afternoon.  Hiking poles would probably have helped.  Rather than push on and potentially return in the dark or just be exhausted, we decided to head back and drink some wine on the hotel balcony.

On day 2 we took a drive across the border into France with basically no destination planned.  After many switchbacks down and back up in elevation we ended up at Lac de Cap-de-Long not far from the town of Aragnouet.  This lake and several others nearby were formed at high elevation by a man made dams.  The water was a deep blue and very clear, trout could be seen swimming throughout the lake.  Hungry, we found a restaurant in Saint Lary-Soulan for some savory crepes.  Without much else to do we returned to the hotel and took another hike this time to the Northeast from the hotel to the Llanos de la Larri.

The hike up to the Llanos (plains) was relatively short and steep but rewarding.  The trail winds upward adjacent to the Rio de la Larri which features several waterfalls that aren’t visible from the hotel.   At the top there is a wide open area of grassy fields where horses and cattle graze freely.  There is a small waterfall at the far end of the valley.

Escaping the cities for a few days to get some exercise and take in some fresh air was perfect after Madrid and Barcelona.  The trails were wide open in September and the hotel only appeared to be about half full.  We encountered only a few other hikers over two days.  Hiking here inspired us to head to Yosemite and book a different trip to Europe revolving around mountain hikes.

Next post:  Lunch at Asador Etxebarri

Bielsa - Ordesa - Cinca River - Spain - Pyrenees

Cinca River
Olympus OMD EM-5, 7-14mm lens@7mm, f/20, 1/6s, ISO 200

Perdido - Waterfall - Bielsa - Ordesa - Valore

High Mountain Waterfall
Olympus OMD EM-5, HDR, multiple shots

Rio Cinca - Ordesa - Hiking - Parador - Bielsa

Cinca River Valley
Olympus OMD EM-5, 7-14mm lens@7mm, f/6.3, 1/500s, ISO 200

Parador - Bielsa - Mountains - Hiking - Valore

Morning Light in Ordesa
Olympus OMD EM-5, 14-42mm lens@22mm, f/4.1, 1/640s, ISO 200

Lac Cap-de-Long - Lake - France - Pyrenees - Landscape

Blue Waters of Lac Cap-de-Long
Olympus OMD EM-5, 7-14mm lens@7mm, f/4, 1/2000s, ISO 200

River Larri - Spain - Ordesa - Hiking - Waterfall - Valore

Hidden Falls of the Rio Larri
Olympus OMD EM-5, 14-42mm lens@28mm, f/11, 1/5s, ISO 200

Rio de la Larri - Waterfall - Hiking - Spain - Valore

Red Rocks of the Rio de la Larri
Olympus OMD EM-5, 14-42mm lens@14mm, f/11, 1/15s, ISO 200

Spanish Wildflowers - Llanos de la Larri - Hiking - Photography

Spanish Wildflowers
Olympus OMD EM-5, 14-42mm lens@27mm, f/6.3, 1/400s, ISO 200

Llanos de la Larri - Horse - Spain - Bielsa - Ordesa

Llanos de la Larri
Olympus OMD EM-5, 14-42mm lens@15mm, f/6.3, 1/640s, ISO 200



Vernazza and the Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre was the final stop on our tour of Italy in 2011.  We had figured the urban experiences of Rome, Naples, Venice, and Florence would be best followed by a more serene locale.  We could not have been better rewarded.

The Cinque Terre region is made up of five towns; Monterosso, Vernazza, Riomaggiore, Manarola and Corniglia.  Each town has its differences but they share colorful building facades and beautiful views of the Ligurian Sea.    Monterosso is the largest and feels like a resort, having a relatively large beach and a multitude of shops and restaurants.  Corniglia is the smallest and is less accessible than the other towns.  It has a sleepy feel and is less popular with tourists.  It is also the only town of the five that isn’t directly on the water.  Riomaggiore and Manarola are similar with a main street leading down to a small harbor inlet.  We chose to stay in Vernazza after reading Rick Steve’s recommendations and booked a room at Camere Giuliano.  Vernazza is laid out similarly but is smaller, or at least it felt smaller and more welcoming.

Pages have been written on Camere Giuliano and the man (Giuliano Basso) who built, owns and runs the rooms in Vernazza that we booked.  Check out the link and read some of the Tripadvisor reviews.  I don’t recall having met another stranger who immediately commanded my respect in the way the Giuliano Basso did.  My wife and I spent several hours chatting with him on the patio during our stay and our time could not have been better spent.  Book well in advance.

Vernazza has approximately 500 permanent residents.  Giuliano noted that additional development is prohibited by the government to preserve the town.  The main street runs from the train station down to the beach which is flanked by the old castle and the church.  The tower of the castle offers a nice view of the sea and town harbor however the town is best viewed from the end of the dock or the hiking trail to Monterosso.  Small shops and restaurants line the street.  The beach is small and was frequented by the local children.  Not the type of beach to lay out in the sun for an entire day on.

Hiking trails connect all five towns of the Cinque Terre.  The trails leading out of Vernazza (Monterosso to the west and Corniglia to the east) are probably the two longest and most difficult, though neither are particularly excruciating.  Take enough water, there are no spots to refill.  The trails between all five towns run along the sea and offer spectacular views of its deep blue/green waters.  The towns are also connected by train which is convenient if you don’t want to hike to and from on the same trail.  We made it to all five towns on two separate days of hiking and still had plenty of time to relax and dine on the local specialties (Pesto, Focaccia, Anchovies… more in the next post).  Check on the status of the trails before departing, Corniglia to Manarola was closed during our visit.  Hiking the trails during mid day while tourists pack the towns seemed to be the perfect way to experience this area.    The first two shots below show Vernazza at different times of day, note the crowds in the shot taken in mid-afternoon.  The mornings and evenings were peaceful with far fewer people roaming about the town.

Shortly after we had left, in the fall of 2011, extremely heavy rains caused severe flooding and landslides, causing significant damage to Vernazza and Monterosso.  The Save Vernazza website has a wealth of information on the destruction and also the efforts that have taken place or are underway to restore or even improve upon this beautiful town.  Rick Steve’s also has some good information on the recovery.  It appears that the trails and businesses are back open and the towns have recovered well.

Perfect end to our trip.

Next post:  Tour of Italy Cuisine Recap


Morning in Vernazza from the Trail to Monterosso
Olympus EPL-1, 7-14mm lens@14mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO:200

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Afternoon, Vernazza from the Trail to Monterosso
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens@14mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO:200

Corniglia, Cinque Terre

Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens@14mm, f/4.0, 1/800, ISO:200

Trail to Monterosso above the Ligurian Sea

Trail to Monterosso above the Ligurian Sea
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens@24mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO:200

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens@42mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO:200

The Ligurian Sea

Hiking to Manarola
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens@20mm, f/5.0, 1/800, ISO:200

Camere Giuliano

View from Camere Giuliano
Olympus EPL-1, 7-14mm lens@20mm, f/9.0, 1/320, ISO:200

The Villa dell'Amore

The Villa dell’Amore
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens@18mm, f/5.0, 1/800, ISO:200

Dolomite Mountains, Italy

Destination 4:  Cortina d’Ampezzo and Borca di Cadore

The Dolomites are known for winter skiing and summer hiking and mountaineering.  November is slow in this area as the snow has not yet fallen and it just isn’t warm enough to draw a crowd.  I had the opportunity to spend a weekend here in early November and had no idea what to expect.  Aside from the rather lousy weather and thick fog/cloud cover it turned out to be a fantastic experience.

I booked a hotel in Borca di Cadore based upon online research focusing on the area of Cortina d’Ampezzo.  Hotel Antelao offers a great location close to hiking trails with pristine views of Mount Pelmo.  I would definitely recommend this hotel to anyone in the area, though sadly my window view of the mountains was obscured by fog and cloud cover for nearly the entire weekend.  Hiking trail maps were readily available in the hotel and the first trail I decided to try was within walking distance of the hotel.  The trail starts near the church seen in the shot below a short distance from the center of town.  From the church a road runs downhill to Boite creek.  The trail begins on the other side of the bridge and is reasonably well marked, there is even a sign pointing in the direction of the waterfall (cascata).

The gravel trail is steep in some points but is not very difficult.  I was able to jog the majority of the way to the waterfall.  The waterfall was shrouded in mist and fog making HDR a necessity to get the first shot of the falls from a distance.  The second shot was taken from a small wooden plank over the stream.  I probably took 50 shots here to get this one, the mist from the light rain and the falls made for unusable shots due to exaggerated water spots from the wide angle I was shooting.  Short on daylight as I always seem to be, I took the trail back the way I came and drove into Cortina d’Ampezzo and took the shot of the main church in the center of town through the thick fog.

The next day the fog still had not lifted making the higher elevation trails a complete waste of time.  I decided to take another loop in the hills near the town of San Vito.  I was able to take the fifth shot of Torrente Boite through a small break in the fog.  After I made it back to the hotel to check out, the fog finally began to lift and I was able to take the post header shot of Mount Pelmo from the parking lot.  The drive back led me through the town of Valle di Cadore where I took the last shot in this post.

Chiesa Teddeo e Simone

Chiesa Teddeo e Simone, Borca di Cadore
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens@33mm, f/5.0, 1/80s, ISO:200

Shrouded Waterfall, Borca di Cadore, Italy

Shrouded Waterfall, Borca di Cadore, Italy
Olympus EPL-1, 7-14mm lens @7mm, f/4.0, Multi, ISO:200

Waterfall near Borca di Cadore

Waterfall near Borca di Cadore
Olympus EPL-1, 7-14mm lens @8mm, f/14.0, 1/4s, ISO:200

Chiesa Parrocciale, Cortina d'Ampezzo

Chiesa Parrocciale, Cortina d’Ampezzo
Olympus EPL-1, 20mm lens @20mm, f/4.0, 1s, ISO:200

Torrente Boite, San Vito, Italy

Torrente Boite, San Vito, Italy
Olympus EPL-1, 20mm lens @20mm, f/4.5, 1/200s, ISO:400

Chiesa San Martino, Valle di Cadore

Valle di Cadore, Chiesa San Martino
Olympus EPL-1, 7-14mm lens @7mm, f/4.5, 1/800s, ISO:200

Next posts:  Tour of Italy, Rome

Slovenia, Triglav National Park

Destination 3:  Triglav, Vintgar Gorge and Lake Bohinj

Between the borders of Italy and Austria in northwestern Slovenia lies Triglav National Park.  Triglav encompasses the eastern end of the Julian Alps and is the only national park in Slovenia.  In March of 2012 I was able to spend a day in the park jogging around Lake Bohinj (stopping for pictures of course) and walking the platform and bridges of the Vintgar gorge (also known as Bled gorge).

The Vintgar gorge is located northwest of the town of Bled.  The entrance to the park is not too difficult to find as there are signs posted once you near the tiny town of Krnica.   The limestone sheer cliff faces of the gorge are cut by the deep green hued waters of the Radovna river.  Wooden walkways hug the cliff face and cross over the river at several points. Arctic grayling and various types of trout can be seen in the deep pools throughout the gorge.  Entrance is only a few euros and the walk is an easy one.  The gorge ends at the Sum waterfall (about a 25 minute walk) but trail continues on.

Vintgar Gorge, Radovna River, Slovenia

Vintgar Gorge, Radovna River, Slovenia
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens @14mm, f/5.0, 1/50s, ISO:200

Sum Waterfall, Radovna River, Slovenia

Sum Waterfall, Radovna River, Slovenia
Olympus EPL-1, 7-14mm lens @7mm, f/8.0, 1/60s, ISO:200

Near the town of Bojinska Bistrica at the southeastern end of Triglav national park lies Lake Bohinj.  The hiking trail runs the entire perimeter of the lake and is an easy walk.  Parking is available at the east end of the lake in the town of Ribcev Laz near the church of Saint John the Baptist (locally known as Sv. Janez Krstnik).  Surrounding the lake are the mountain peaks of the Julian Alps.  The water of the lake is crystal clear with the same greenish tint seen in all of the area’s limestone rivers.  At the end of the lake opposite of the town one can take a short detour to the Savica waterfalls.  Unfortunately it was getting later in the day and I wanted to drive through the park with some daylight remaining so I skipped the falls.  The post header shot was taken from the east end of the lake near the church.  Light rain and heavy cloud cover made HDR a necessity for the shots I took around the lake.

Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Lake Bohinj, Slovenia
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens@42mm, f/5.6, Multi, ISO:200

On the way back to Italy I took route 206 from Kranjska Gora to Bovec through the heart of the park.  The relatively warm temperatures at the lower elevations near the lake and the gorge quickly gave way to snow covered roads and sub freezing temperatures.  The road is steep, thin at spots and there are numerous switchbacks making for a somewhat harrowing drive however the views were spectacular.

Triglav National Park Near Trenta, Slovenia

Triglav National Park near Trenta, Slovenia
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens @14mm, f/4.5, 1/400s, ISO:200

Next posts: The Italian Dolomites near Cortina D’Ampezzo

Puerto Rico, El Yunque Rainforest

Puerto Rico is the highlight of my first posts in this blogging experiment.  Thus far, Puerto Rico is my favorite location in the Caribbean (Cancun, Aruba, St. Croix).  Flights and hotels are affordable and the island has something for everyone.  Personal safety never felt like a concern in San Juan or any other area for that matter.  The climate and terrain is diverse with desert sands on the south west end of the island and tropical rainforest in the northeast.  My wife and I spent eight days on the island in 2012.

Destination 1:  El Yunque Rainforest

The El Yunque Rainforest is the only rainforest found in the United States.  Located in northeastern Puerto Rico, this 28,000 acre rainforest is a must see on the island.  Within the park, a short drive and or hike can take you from mountain peaks in the clouds to spectacular secluded waterfalls.  The Yokahu observation tower, La Mina Falls, and La Coca Falls are popular attractions.  Long strenuous hikes are available as well as shorter more accessible trails.  The La Mina Falls trail is easily accessed and the trail is even paved in some areas.  The less popular Juan Diego Creek trail is the must see in my opinion.  Finding the trail is the most difficult part.  Excellent directions can be found here.  The climb up to Juan Diego falls (post header shot) is not too strenuous however it is steep.  The cool water of the falls is refreshing after a day of hiking in the humid rainforest.  Shots below were taken with an Olympus EPL-1 and package 14-42mm lens.  Next Post: Old Town San Juan and Castillo San Felipe del Morro.

Small Waterfall on Juan Diego Creek

Small Waterfall on Juan Diego Creek

Juan Diego Falls in Background

Juan Diego Falls in Background