When you think of the Pyrenees, you are more likely to have France, rather than Spain, on your mind. However, any self-respecting hiker should consider exploring the summits and the valleys of the Spanish side of the range as well.
We visited the Ordesa Valley right at the beginning of our hitch-hiking trip around the Iberian Peninsula, lured to this part of Aragon by the promise of high peaks and breathtaking views. We love mountains and we anticipated being stunned by the virginity of the nature the National Park had to offer, but what we found there was far beyond our expectations. Cascades of ice cold waterfalls, rocky cliffs, snow covered peaks on the horizon and perfectly preserved medieval villages as a hikers’ base were just the beginning.
Ordesa Valley is a glacial valley located in the Ordesa and Ponte Perdido National Park (Parque National de Ordesa y Monte Perdido) in the Spanish Pyrenees. It’s one of the most beautiful and unique valleys in Europe and has been listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The valley consists of a number of small valleys and peaks reaching up to more than 3000m.
The National Park can be divided in two parts: the higher and the lower. The higher mountains can be found along the Spanish-French border together with Monte Perdido (3355m) which literally means “lost mountain”. The origin of this name supposedly comes from the fact that the mountain couldn’t be seen from the French side of the range. Monte Perdido is the third highest mountain in the Pyrenees.
The lower part of the National Park is located southeast of “The Lost Mountain” and it’s main and most picturesque part is the U-shaped Ordesa Valley. through which the river Arazas flows forming a series of beautiful waterfalls. The most famous and breathtaking of them, called Cola de Caballo (“Horse’s Tail”), and can be found at the end of the walk, as a nice reward for exhausted hikers.
The closest town to the valley is Torla, a stunning little place built with black stone and filled, in summer, with hikers and climbers from all over the world. During the summer months private cars are not allowed to drive into the National Park, so your only option are buses.
Torla – Valle de Ordesa: 6.00, 7.00, 7.30, 8.00. Between 8.00 and 18.00 there is one every 15-20min.
Valle de Ordesa – Torla: every 15-20min. The last bus going back to the town leaves as 20.30 during Easter, 22.00 between June and August, 21.00 in September and 20.30 in October.
Price: €3 – single, €4,50 – return.
- The majority of people walk along the bottom of the valley until Cola de Caballo and back, which takes around 5-6h.
- A more difficult alternative is to take Senda de los Cazadores (6-7h), a path that goes the same direction as the path at the bottom of the valley but is located on one of the mountain shelves formed by the glacier and gives a panoramic view over the valley and surrounding peaks. It has a 2h sharp ascend which some hikers might find challenging. To get on Senda de los Cazadores follow the wooden wheelchair access path that goes to the right from the bus stop. After about 5 min the path you want to take will divert off to the right and go steeply up for 2h. When you reach Cola de Caballo, go back to the bus stop following the bottom path.
Alternatively you can start with the bottom of the valley path and take Senda de los Cazadores after reaching Cola de Caballo waterfall, the way we did, but be prepared that the sharp descent might be strenuous on your knees. Don’t take the path after 3pm and be aware that the weather changes dramatically (we got hailed on in the middle of July).
There is a restaurant next to the bus stop which offers basic platos combinados (e.g. sausage, 2 eggs, chips and bread) for €8.
written by: Ania
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