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Visiting the Pyrenees near Barcelona

We are spending 10 days between Barcelona, La Costa Brava, and the Pyranees, and would love some recommendations on where to go in the Pyrenees. We would like somewhere that is somewhat close to our other destinations, but will drive a bit further to hike and get to some stunning scenery! We would appreciate any recommendations on a good place to stay close to the mountains as well? We are traveling with our 18 month old toddler and are planning to rent a car.

Thanks in Advance!

Posted by
9110 posts

You're about out of luck since the best part of the mountains are in the French national park and west thereof. Pau and such are a good six hours away. Cathar castles weren't built by Catharsis -- the notion was invented by the Aude tourist bureau about twenty years ago.

About the best you can do is head to Olot and cut north, but it might be a disappointment.

If you're an American, the chances of finding a rental car that wasn't allowed to be taken into France are just about zip in a million.

Posted by
4535 posts

There should be no reason not to drive into France.

I'm fond of Besalu, worth half a day. Get a good guidebook for that region. I know there is at least one organized by driving routes. There are lot's of small hillside towns and remote churches, as well as some natural parks. You'll want to have a guidebook to locate some of them along your driving route or choose some destinations.

I didn't get deep into the mountains, but thought it was beautiful as far as I got. Roads are twisty but pretty well paved and marked and drivers are courteous. To really get deep into the mountains, you'll need to spend a night somewhere.

Posted by
2967 posts

... have a 'taste' of the scenery at the Catalan Pyrenees http://infocatalonia.eu/w/4Xv0s This was the eastern side, http://bit.ly/CATcounties corresponding to the stretch also known as Pirineus de Girona (counties of La Cerdanya to Alt Empordà) and then you have the more wildest side, the western side -known as Pirineus de Lleida (counties of Alt Urgell to Val d'Aran) where the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park http://infocatalonia.eu/w/3jo1E as well as the highest peaks are located (Pica d'Estats, 10300 feet, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pica_d'Estats) This is a list of the highest mountains in Catalonia, and you'll see most are in this area: http://ca.wikipedia.org/wiki/Llista_de_muntanyes_de_Catalunya

For more info:
western Catalan Pyrenees: http://www.lleidatur.com/tourism/home.aspx
eastern Catalan Pyrenees: http://en.costabrava.org/

... and then of course you can also go to the Aragonese side (http://www.turismodearagon.com/en) or the French side of the Pyrenees (http://www.tourisme-pyreneesorientales.com/en)

PS. By the way, the stone bridge and town appearing in the first video is Besalú, as per Douglas comment. I'm also fond of this little fortified town, it has a medieval allure. If you like this sort of towns, don't forget also to visit Cardona, its fortress and its salt mines: http://cardonaturisme.cat/en/

Posted by
656 posts

You can book a day trip from Barcelona that will take you to 3 countries in a 12 hour trip...Spain, Andorra and France. Just Google day trips from Barcelona and don't let Ed's negativity get you down!
:) and listen to Enric...he lives there and will give you more insightful info than someone from the good ol' USA

Posted by
9110 posts

Hmmm....... Extensive editing of the previous response.

Someone from the good old USA grew up in the Basque provinces, learned to ski at Candanchu when the whole place was just one lodge on a dirt road, and has humped all but thirty-some miles of the GR 10 (with coastal extensions). There must be a feel for the range buried in there somewhere.

Someone from the good old USA also has a home on the Wasatch Back with a view of a ten thousand footer that clobbers every window on one side of the house. The Wasatch Mountains are the westernmost range of the Rockies, but they're not the usually envisioned peaks of the San Juan's, the Tetons, the Front Range, or the Bitteroots.

Drink a beer on my back deck and you can check off the Rocky Mountains. Go into the eastern Pyrenees and you can X them out -- but in either case you won't see what you expect.

The closest you can get to a stereotype is cutting north from Olot, thence over to Ceret and back down the freeway to Barcelona. A wild guess is that it's more than six hours of road time with only a couple hours actually in the mountains. The first two-thirds of the driving wouldn't be a bunch of grins.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank You for all the helpful tips and advice! Even if we don't make it deep into the mountains, am I hearing that the countryside and some of these little towns are still beautiful and fun to check out?? We would love to get out in nature to some extent and are either going to plan for 1 to 2 nights somewhere closer to the mountains. I think we really just want to see a bit more of spain than what is in the city and on the coast and if hiking can be involved... that is even better! We are going to look into Besalu and Olot as far as overnight accommodation... Are these the best towns to stay overnight in? Thanks again!!!

Posted by
6 posts

We would be delighted if some wine/ wineries so happen to be in this area and can be included in our 2-3 day excursion near and in the Pyrenees ;)

Posted by
2967 posts

Catalonia is a great place for wines, perhaps a bit less known internationally than La Rioja but equally good (or better!).

These are its wine D.O.: http://www.wineandvinesearch.com/spain/catalonia/catalonia_do.php

Have a look at these websites:

http://www.catalunya.com/what-to-do/enotourism

http://www.cavaemotions.com/en/welcome

http://www.wine-searcher.com/regions-catalonia+%5Bcatalunya%5D

http://www.snooth.com/region/spain/catalonia/

http://www.catalannewsagency.com/catalan-wine

http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2012/nov/23/catalonia-el-penedes-red-wine-trail

A visit to one of the many vineyards is obviously a must. There are literally dozens but not all offer tours, and from those offering, some target local tourism (hence in Catalan language only). You probably don't want to do the 'big' ones: Freixenet and Codorniu ( http://www.infocatalonia.eu/w/2013/12/07/the-codorniu-winery-and-estate/ ) instead less well known places such as Jean Leon http://www.infocatalonia.eu/w/2013/12/07/jean-leon-hollywood-and-wine-experience/ might be more interesting as are less 'touristy'.