5 Outdoor Summer Activities In the Spanish Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is one of the most popular winter destinations in Western Europe. This massive mountain range, which forms a natural border that divides Spain and France, turns a divine white color and becomes a hub for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts.
Although the Pyrenees is more famous for being a winter destination, this part of Spain also has a lot to offer on warmer days: trekking, mountain biking, rock climbing, via ferrata, canoe rafting... you name it!
It's also common to see people doing the Camino de Santiago in summer, and the first leg of the French Way (its most famous route) goes over the Pyrenees, starting from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France to Roncesvalles in Spain. And although I'm yet to do this leg of the Camino, my boyfriend and friends sure have confirmed how beautiful the landscapes are in these parts.
Whether you're doing the Camino or not, spending time in the Pyrenees for some days is something you should think about as you prepare for the summer holidays. Here are my top 5 summer activities in the Spanish Pyrenees.
Explore the town of Jaca.
Take a stroll along the streets of the center of Jaca. One of the favorite things I did when I was there was to go out for tapas in the afternoon. There's a thing called "ruta de tapas" where people would move from bar to bar to have tapas (bar snacks) and drink a glass of wine or beer. I highly recommend Bar Gorbea as well as Tasca de Ana to cap off your busy day sightseeing.
You can also check out the Jaca Cathedral and the Ciudadela de Jaca (Jaca Citadel) where you can visit the Military Miniatures Museum and join a theatrical guided tour (website information is only available in Spanish). You can also opt to just walk around the citadel - be on the lookout for deers feeding on the grass!
hike in Astún and cross over to the French side.
Astún is definitely one of my favorite destinations in the Spanish Pyrenees. It's a bustling ski resort in winter and a charming summer destination just as well.
There's a popular walking trail you can follow from Astún that crosses over to the French side. To get to where the route starts, you have to get on a chairlift (or telesilla in Spanish) for around 10 euros for adults and 6 euros for children until 14 years old. They also offer discounted prices for bigger groups and special prices for those who wish to do trail biking. You can find more information here.
The Astun walking trail has a total of 6 legs, and some people actually camp out on warmer days so they can do the full hike. I found some parts of the route to be rough and steep, so be sure to bring along enough water. To give you a general idea, it took us 3 1/2 hours to do three of the six legs, lunch break included.
The trail passes by a few lakes with insane views. My jaw literally dropped when I saw them for the first time (and the second, and the third...).
At the very least, try to reach Pico de los Monjes, which takes around 1.5 hours to reach from where the chairlifts are. You'll see a makeshift fence which marks the border of France and Spain. I went all Mandy Moore and asked my picture to be taken with the caption "being in two places at the same time." ;)
You'll get amazing views of the French side of the Pyrenees from here. I'd say that if you'd like to take it easy, you can sit down to have your lunch or snacks, enjoy the views, and head back to the chairlifts.
Visit LaCuniacha Wildlife Park.
It's hard not to love this place. This massive park involves some walking, but it definitely felt like I was on an adventure the whole time I was there. I saw reindeers, deers, bisons, rare breeds of horses, owls, and wild goats.
For more information on how to get there, events, and attractions, check out LaCuniacha's website.
Kayak in Lanuza.
Lanuza is a town within the region of Sallent de Gállego, some 40 minutes drive from Jaca. We headed first to Sallent de Gállego town proper, walked around to bask in its charming and streets with a rustic vibe, and had a quick cup of coffee before heading over to Lanuza for some kayaking action.
Kayaks and water bikes can be rented for a minimal fee in Lanuza, and these activities happen right in the Lanuza Reservoir. With the kayak, you can get closer to the town of Lanuza and ogle at the beauty of its slate-roofed houses.
On the second week of July each year, Lanuza also hosts the rock music festival Pirineos Sur featuring artists from different parts of the world. It is a celebration of music and culture and happens on a floating stage that you can see on the far left side of the photo above. You can kayak in the morning and attend the concert at night. Who's complaining? :)
Relax in Somport and Candanchú.
Somport and Candanchu are small towns situated at the border of the Spanish Pyrenees. Somport used to be a place for customs check on people crossing the border. I'd recommend treating yourself to a quiet afternoon and head over Aysa, the lone bar you'll find in this area. Have a cup of coffee or beer on the terrace and enjoy the magnificent views!
I also highly suggest to stay the night at Hotel Candanchú. I booked my stay there through Booking.com and it all went so smoothly! What's more, I got the chance to wake up to these stunning views from our room's terrace, experience top notch customer service, and delight myself with buffet breakfast and an all-you-can-eat brioche bread for 5 euros!
I highly encourage you to rent a car, as buses are scarce and poorly connected in these areas. Having said that, there are some intercity buses that serve the bigger surrounding towns. Getting to Jaca is possible by bus or train, but getting to the other interesting spots listed here would be difficult, and practically impossible, without a car.
To get to Jaca from Barcelona Sants, you can take an Alosa bus to Huesca (4 hours) and take another bus from Huesca to Jaca (a little over an hour). You can book these tickets from Avanza.
If you're coming from Madrid, the best way to go is to take a Renfe train from Madrid-Atocha (make sure to get it right, as there's another big station called Chamartin) to Zaragoza-Delicias and take an Alosa bus from Zaragoza-Central to Jaca.
What you can do is to take public transportation from the bigger cities (Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Zaragoza) to Jaca, and rent a car once you're there.
So next time you're in Spain, do include the Spanish Pyrenees in your itinerary. Safe travels!
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