Highlights of the Pyrenees: From the Mountains Through the Rivers to the Sea

Posted on October 4, 2011 by

Over the past week in the Spanish Pyrenees, we canyoned down rivers, biked through golden meadows, kayaked off the coast, hiked on volcanoes and even flew over the mountains on a hot air balloon. My head is still reeling from the adrenaline-packed adventures and my eyes swirling from the visual feast of landscapes. With so much packed within a small region of Spain, the Pyrenees sprang one surprise after another upon us. Over the next week or so, I’ll be sharing snippets from the trip here with you, meanwhile here are some highlights of the Pyrenees.

Canyoning Along Freser River

Promising a whole load of splish splash, canyoning along Freser River definitely fed our thirst for adrenaline.  As most of our group of travelers were first-timers, our instructor led us on a basic canyoning circuit where we found ourselves scrambling on rocks, wading in knee-deep rapids and hurtling ourselves off 5m-tall cliffs.  Freser river flows through the highlands of the Girona province, breaking into series of waterfalls and rapids along the way, making for an excellent spot for canyoners of different levels.

Flying over 3 Countries at a time

On board a light aircraft, we flew over the skies of the Pyrenees, taking in views of three countries at a time. Spain, France and Andorra meet in the Pyrenees mountain range, separated by invisible borders and air space. Green fields, rivers and clusters of alpine towns lay below our feet, while grey granite mountains poked through the skies just inches away from us. It was surreal to imagine that we were flying at the vortex of  these three distinctive countries.

Hot Air Ballooning over la Garrotxa

It was dawn and the sky was shrouded in mist and painted in a shade of rosy red. We’d awoken at 5am that day to take to the skies on a hot air balloon over the volcanoes of la Garrotxa. As we languidly floated above mountain peaks and volcano craters, the sun rose together with us. By the time we reached heights of 1,500m, our pilot, Xavi, was ready to pop a bottle of cava and treat us to a round of bubblies and cakes. The rest of the morning was spent guiding slowly over the greenery and drinking in the striking views of the Pyrenees landscapes – scenes that would definitely stay with me awhile…

Biking to France and Back

Our bike trip looked like any other group cycling tour – except that we would be crossing from Spain to France and back just within a short half-day ride. Starting off from Puigcerdá, a small town in the Spanish Pyrenees, we weaved through narrow alleys and cobblestoned squares before skirting its countrysides and finding ourselves in the French town of Ur. It wasn’t long before we were back in Spanish territories at Llívia, a Catalonian town surrounded by France.

Horse-riding in Vall de Nuria

I’d long heard about the outstanding landscapes of the Nuria Valley and it definitely did not disappoint. I can safely say this was the most picturesque spot in the parts of Pyrenees we’d seen, and exploring the valley on horseback was no less fulfilling. Under the guidance of our instructor, we trotted through steep slopes and rocky paths, taking in amazing views of the majestic mountains and even spotting deers and mammots along the way.

Sea Kayaking in Alt Empordà

I was surprised to hear that the Pyrenees had a coastline. I was even more taken aback when we paddled through narrow rock caves and small bays surrounded by turquoise waters. Off the golden sandy beaches of Alt Empordà, the coastline was tucked with secret coves and treasures waiting to be uncovered. While our time on the kayak was short, I was thrilled to have the chance to see the Pyrenees from the sea.

Read more about my adventures in the Pyrenees here or get more visual perspectives through my Pyrenees photos.

Disclaimer: This trip was made possible by Patronat de Turisme Costa Brava. All opinions expressed above are my own.

About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

4 Responses to “Highlights of the Pyrenees: From the Mountains Through the Rivers to the Sea”

  1. Global Basecamps October 5, 2011 6:48 am #

    Your travels in the Pyrenees look amazing! I could imagine the hot air balloon excursion is one you'll never forget!

  2. Citibank Locations October 5, 2011 1:53 pm #

    Pyrenees is very nice place for tourism. It looks like heaven. Riding a horse seen is very attractive and praiseworthy. Every body should schedule this tour at list one in his life.

  3. Maggie October 5, 2011 7:29 pm #

    It looks so beautiful! I'm looking forward to reading more about the Pyrenees! :)

  4. Nancy $ Shawn Power October 6, 2011 1:58 pm #

    Awesome pictures, glad to see your having fun!

    Nancy & Shawn

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