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