Pyrenees advice sought

Old Apr 4th, 2024, 07:43 PM
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Pyrenees advice sought

We are a non-driving, self-catering, senior couple who will be visiting the Pyrenees for the first time this fall. Have you ever based in Ainsa and what were your impressions? Our plan is to spend a couple of weeks taking 4x4 (4WD) tours, plus buses to easy-hike towns and daytrips. Will also be doing same on the French side for the following 2 weeks.
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Old Apr 5th, 2024, 07:47 AM
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Hi zebec,
I´ve spent the night in Ainsa in the Sobarbe but have never based there. It´s one of the Aragonese Pyrenees prettiest towns, along with Alquézar and Sallent de Gallego, with an enchanting setting above the confluence of two rivers, a gorgeous Plaza Mayor, a castle with a little eco museum and lovely Romanesque church. Charming town but small. Population: 1,757 (2021 census)
I don´t know how many 4x4 tours there would be. There are kayaking tours.

We've based for 4 or 5 nights in the Tena Valley, close to the border in the town of Sallent, which is also lovely and very popular in winter as the ski slopes of el Formigal are close by.

Torla, on the bus line from Aínsa, is another very popular base for hikers to take excursions into the Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido. There's a shuttle bus service from Torla into the park. But again, Torla is teeny, tiny: population: 300 or so, and just not that attractive to my eyes.

Would you consider the majestic Catalán Pyrenees instead?

We've based in the Val d'Arán for a week several times, and this valley is gorgeous as well. The major town, the valley's capital, is Vielha, and although not that attractive, it is much larger with more options for grocery shopping, dining, public buses, tourist office, excursions, although since we're talking Catalunya, more expensive overall. Population: 3,628. But there's much more tourism infrastructure due to its popularity both in summer and winter for major skiing (see below).

The smaller stone and slate towns of Bagergue, Salardú, Artiés, Garòs & Tredòs, all with their Romanesque. churches, are absolutely charming, highly photogenic (for you, the wonderful photographer!). Here the older locals still speak aranés. (The city hall web page is in aranés as well as catalán).
We did the Camin Reiau (King's Road) hike from Tredòs from our home base in Salardú (but we've always been there with a car). There are many rentals, apartments and chalets in this area, but you would need one close to the bus line running into Vielha.

Tourism page for Vielha
https://visitvielha.es/en

Although the Val d'Aran has the most prestigious (exclusive) ski resort in Spain, Baqueira-Beret, we've never been in winter.
https://www.visitvaldaran.com/en/

This is the bus schedule for the line that runs west-east from Vielha to Baqueira. "Our" village, Salardú, is on this bus line.
HORARIOS-VALLE-DE-ARAN2.pdf

There are buses from Vielha to the French side as well.
There are hiking routes around and many outfitters there that will take you on 4x4 tours of the beautiful Aigüestortes National Park and Sant Maurici lakes.
https://parcsnaturals.gencat.cat/en/...ici/index.html

The Val d'Arán and Val de Boí, south of there, with its fine collection of Romanesque churches, are my 2 favorite spots in the Catalán Pyrenees.
My favorite base in the Aragonese Pyrenees--the Valle de Tena in Huesca
https://www.turismodearagon.com/en/f...ena-y-entorno/

Last edited by Maribel; Apr 5th, 2024 at 08:41 AM.
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Old Apr 5th, 2024, 11:58 AM
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zebec,
About the other Pyrenees region of Navarra, the soft, final western end.

I´ve spent considerable time exploring the Navarran Pyernees (we were married in Pamplona, and Navarra is sort of a second home). These Pyrenees are far less dramatic, softer and not as majestic.

I have a friend who lives in the Roncal Valley (the tiny villages of Roncal, Isaba, where the Roncal cheese is produced), and it is quite cold in October and often wet.

I certainly wouldn't want to spend 2 weeks there, especially without a car, as it's very, very isolated. My friend, luckily, has a flat in Pamplona where she can spend the weekend when not working. Public transportation in the Roncal Valley or the Baztan Valley is minimal. She works in Roncal but spends her non work days in Pamplona, as there's very little to keep her in the Roncal.

If you've heard of Elizondo, the capital of the Baztan Valley, it´s probably because of the writer, Dolores Redondo and her crime trilogy, the books and the movie, which I really enjoyed and the movies are on Netflix.
If you´re there in fall or winter, you may think the sun never shines, as it's often raining (as it is in all 3 movies).

Elizondo and the Baztán are close to the witches' caves of Zugarramurdi and the French border at Sare, the area called the Xareta. Picturesque yes, but nothing like the majestic Pyrenees of Aragón or Catalunya.

Last edited by Maribel; Apr 5th, 2024 at 12:33 PM.
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Old Apr 5th, 2024, 12:15 PM
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Taül may be too small, although the chyrches should be seen even if the frescoes are replicas, but on the drive up we passed a few larger towns with hotels, and the area might be very suitable for walks/small hikes.


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Old Apr 5th, 2024, 12:21 PM
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I wouldn't base in Taüll or any other village, like equally pretty, stone and slate Durro or Erril la Val, in the Val de Boi at all, as it´s just too limiting. Not at all practical for 2 weeks. I would base in the Val'Aran, as we've done, and take a bus or a tour to the Val de Boí to see the frescoes. The remaining frescos aren't replicas. The remaining ones, that weren't transported to the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in Barcelona (and many were), are the originals. One can purchase a pass to see all the Romanesque churches with their remaining frescos. It's a lovely, serene valley that we've visited several times, but on day trips from the Val d'Arán. There´s a small winter skiing area there as well but with limited infrastructure.

https://www.vallboi.cat/en
https://www.vallboi.cat/es/iglesias-romanicas

Last edited by Maribel; Apr 5th, 2024 at 12:44 PM.
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Old Apr 8th, 2024, 09:01 AM
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Gracias a ambas 'M's. I appreciate both of your feedbacks and all those great ideas above. We nearly chose to base in Alquezar, but the Escalona-based 4x4 tour company with whom we have already begun communications, would've then had an extra hour both ways to fetch us/return us there. We'll likely base in Ainsa and include Alquezar as a daytrip.
As for the French side - just discovered that the woman who supplemented her part-time gig at the Lourdes Tourism Office with her own guided-daytrip-with-a-van company is apparently no longer in business. Sigh...she had great reviews and seemed exactly what we needed. Her old colleagues have sent us the names of two alternative competitors, but they seem to cater to extremely upscale clientele.

Again, I appreciate your both having taken the time.

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Old Apr 8th, 2024, 09:06 AM
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Yes, Alquézar is more (as in much more) isolated than Aínsa in the Sobarbe. Glad you found a 4x4 tour company with which to work. Will they take you to the Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido perhaps. We stayed for several days north of there in Bielsa at the mountain lodge/Parador to explore the park.

Last edited by Maribel; Apr 8th, 2024 at 09:54 AM.
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Old Apr 8th, 2024, 11:26 AM
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Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido, a World Heritage Site
https://www.turismodearagon.com/en/f...monte-perdido/
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Old Apr 8th, 2024, 07:41 PM
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From Day One of planning, I targeted Ordesa-Perdido as our main goal on this trip. And that Bielsa parador also appealed to us from the get-go: how could any parador not?
But staying further south will put Alquezar more into play, and make for a slightly easier entry transfer, i.e. train from Barca to Llieda then taxi up to Ainsa.
Btw, 'Solomonte' is the Escalona-based 4x4 outfit. They drive to all the 'usual suspect' attractions. Their competitors are mostly based more to the west in the general Torla and Vielha area.

We rarely book the next trip so far ahead even prior to the upcoming (Calabria), but are obliged to do so because of logistical needs.
*this is the part where Maribel comments, "Actually Zebec you know, my cousin Isabella has just begun her own 4x4 touring company based in that area. She is looking for clients and I'd be happy to hook you guys up if you might be interested. Just sayin'."

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Old Apr 8th, 2024, 10:23 PM
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Ordesa-Perdido is gorgeous. I'm sure you'll have a great trip!
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