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  • Writer's pictureNigel Perrin

Weekend Walks in the Pyrenees

Last weekend, at the end of October we took the kids up to the high Pyrenees for the weekend and we stayed at the Alberg Xanascatin in La Molina. A very clean Hostal with basic facilities and a good choice for a no-frills weekend away for walks or skiing in the High Pyrenees. Close by ski resorts are La Molina, La Masella, Four Romeu, Ax-les-thermes, Formigueres, Nuria and Valter should you decide to visit between December to March.

Pine trees and pyrenees mountains in the distance
Els Lacs de Meranges

Going from the 27ºC on the Costa Brava to 7ºC in the mountains in late October was a bit of a shock. I had to have a few hot chocolate and rums to get over the trauma of it all. This short walk is perfect for little hikers that can manage 3 or 4 kms on a gently sloping trail. My two seasoned champions of 7 and 4 managed it easily....

A large boulder on the trail through the Pyrenees with mountains and cloud in the distance
The lakes near to the refuge at Malniu.

There is a refuge and parking at Malniu with toilets, maps (hot chocolate and rum) and helpful staff to point you in the right direction. You can see the trail here with Wikiloc that takes you past the first lake to another small lake a little further up the trail.

A tall pine tree in the Pyrenees and mountains in the distance
Els lacs de Meranges

Other things to do in this area are a visit to the lakes at Bouillouses near to Font Romeu in France or for a real high mountain experience, stay at the refuge in Les Camporells and explore the lakes and area around Pic Carlit at 2921 Mts.

Close by La Molina is the National Park of Cadi Moixeró with the iconic mountain of Pedraforca and a pretty stunning hike to the Prat del Cadi. A little further away, you'll find the National Park of Aigüestortes y Sant Maurici for some awesome hikes in the Catalan Lake District.

A little closer to home, try the hike to the source of the river Ter at Valter which, at about two hours from the Villa, is an easy option for the day.

One activity that we don't recommend is the excursion to Castellar de n`Hug. Firstly it's impossible to pronounce and secondly there is very little to do there. The tourist office (very friendly lady) will suggest a train ride, which was quite fun albeit rather short and a visit to an old derelict cement factory. If, like Daddy Pig, you are into cement, then it will definitely blow your skirt up, but for us mere mortals, it was a little "dry". The recommended stop off at the gardens (I've forgotten the name already) was great for the 5 minutes that you need to see it and then you are stuck there until the next train arrives in about two hours. That would not really be a problem if the gardens let you take a picnic (they don't) or if they actually stayed open in between trains (they don't). Along with the other visitors, we had the option of waiting 90 minutes looking at stray cats or walking down the train track to the next stop, a village with a couple of bars and an old stone bridge. With the kids in tow, we didn't want to join the locals in an afternoon drinking session. The last stop, which was recommended by the train conductor as a good place to visit, was a disused train hut with one swing for the kids to play on. Totally not worth the €45 for the four of us and more annoyingly, a waste of a day. OK, there you go, rant over with....

If you do decide to go to Castellar de n`Hug, the one thing that is worth doing is the walk to visit the birth of the river Llobregat. It's 600 steps down or so (I lost count) from the village to the spring / waterfall and then the climb back up. Alternatively, if you have two cars, you can park on at the top of the trail and the other at the bottom and hike the full 7km down through the woods following the river.

A lake and ducks in Puigcerdá with the Pyrenees in the distance
The lake at Puigcerdá

A good place to stop off and have Churros and Hot Chocolate or a late lunch / early dinner is the town of Puigcerdá right on the border with France. It has a charming little square with cafes and restaurants and a small lake with a bar and seats to take in the view.

If you have kids, the short drive from Puigcerdá to the Spanish enclave village of Llívia situated in France ( it's complicated) is well worth it. There is a pretty good play park there with a bar / cafe that will keep the adults and kids amused for an hour or two. If you have them, skate boards, scooters and basket balls / footballs will come in handy at this point. I even let the kids have a play with them when the bar beckoned for a ver de vin o dos.

Even though we visited in late October, we recommend the high Pyrenees from May onwards if you feel the need to escape the heat of the coast. It makes for a refreshing day out away from the beaches and bustle of the Costa Brava in July and August.

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