Often overshadowed by more popular Catalonian tourist hot spots like Costa Brava and Barcelona, the Spanish Pyrenees is an all-season adventure lover’s paradise.
This is one of the best places to visit in Spain and there are plenty of things to do in the Spanish Pyrenees to keep you busy for a few days, or even a few weeks.
Sure, the land is blessed with dramatic scenery, craggy cliffs, and snow-capped peaks, but beneath its rugged exterior is a land rich in Catalan culture.
Peel your gaze away from the majestic vistas of glistening lakes and snaking valleys and you’ll find thousand-year-old monasteries clinging to mountainsides and delicious Catalan cuisine clinging to age-old preparation techniques.
In this post, I’m going to break down the top 10 best things to do in the Spanish Pyrenees and include some things that you may not find on every list!
Spanish Pyrenees Things to Do Highlights
- Pyrenees Mountains and Medieval Towns Tour: One of the most iconic features of the Spanish Pyrenees is the quaint medieval towns, and this tour provides a great opportunity to check them out.
- Three Countries in One Day Tour: If you want to knock three countries off of your bucket list in one day, this is a great opportunity to do so.
- Pyrenees Day Tour from Barcelona: If you’re in BCN, check out this fun day tour, giving you a taste of the stunning mountains.
- Pyrenees Hiking: Of course, you can’t visit the Spanish Pyrenees without doing some hiking in the Pyrenees mountains, and the best way to do this is with a guide.
- Lakes of Pyrenees: Explore the beautiful and breathtaking lakes in Panticosa Spa, which is a glacier hole in the middle of Spanish Pyrenees.
1. Go Fly Fishing
That’s right. I told you that this was going to be a unique post.
A lot of people come to the Spanish Pyrenees for hiking, skiing, and architecture, but whispers in the angler community have been growing as more and more people discover the incredible fly fishing opportunities in Spain.
If you’re into fly fishing, bring along your best fly fishing gear, or rent it at one of the many fly fishing shops in the main Catalan city centers, and be prepared for some exhilarating angling.
The fly fishing scene in Spain may not be as developed as in more famous destinations like Ireland or the US, but this is all beginning to change.
The Iberian Peninsula is home to a true fly fishing fossil, the Zebra Trout, as well as the more common browns and rainbows.
Spain is also one of the more affordable countries to travel and that goes for fly fishing as well, with many guided tours costing a fraction of what they would in places like the UK or the US.
2. Go Hiking
Okay, this one is a bit more obvious. Probably about 90% of people who are looking for things to do in the Spanish Pyrenees will have hiking on their itinerary.
This is easily one of the best places for hiking in Spain.
Of course, the Camino de Santiago runs through these rugged landscapes, but other hikes like the GR 11, the 22-kilometer Faja de Pelay in Ordesa National Park, and the 8-hour trudge over the Estos Pass in Posets-Maladeta are enough to keep even the most experienced hiker occupied for a while.
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3. Get in a Hot Air Balloon
That’s right, why not get a new perspective of the breathtaking Spanish Pyrenees mountains by floating through and above them in a hot air balloon?
To add to the excitement (or maybe calm you down), most companies offer glasses of bubbling cava and snacks like Iberian sausage and cheese while you enjoy the views.
There are plenty of companies that offer rides, but Volde Coloms comes highly recommended as they’ve been sending balloons up for over 28 years, they have professional staff and a great safety track record.
4. Get Lost in Medieval Villages
One of the best things to do in the Spanish Pyrenees is to rent a car and drive the narrow winding roads between different medieval villages.
Make your way through shadowy Lanuza, modern Panticosa, pastel-colored Puigcerda, castle-clad Besalú, or seaside Portbou.
Each has its own distinct character and each is worth a day or two on their own, but it is possible to see multiple in a day, either as part of an organized tour or in a rental vehicle.
Tip: Short on time and want to see as much as possible? Check out this full-day tour of some of the best-preserved medieval villages in Catalonia, including Besalú, Rupit, and Tavertet.
5. Go for a Drive
Not all car rides have to be going towards a medieval village. In fact, the best road trips in the Spanish Pyrenees are those that don’t have a specific destination.
Try the windy road from Castellfollit de la Roca to Beget along the GIV 5221, or spot horses trotting alongside the road in the countryside.
For the best (and safest) road trips, make sure you come in the late spring, summer or early fall, when there isn’t too much snow and ice on the higher pass roads.
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6. Dance With the Giants
Stilted caricatures with massive paper maché heads and thin, lanky bodies are one of the main cultural staples in this region of Spain.
Known as Gigantes y cabezudos or “Big-Headed Giants”, these ornate and colorful costumes can be seen during town festivals in places like the Panticosa or Lanuza.
These enormous costumed figures have been part of Spanish folklore since some time in the 13th century, and the Spanish Pyrenees is the best place to witness them dancing around the streets during town events and special gatherings.
Come in the summer for the best chance of seeing them.
7. Go Skiing
Remember I said that the Spanish Pyrenees were a year-round destination? Well, I wasn’t kidding. This is one of the best places in Spain for a skiing trip.
Incredible ski resorts like Vallter 2000, La Molina, Vall de Núria, and Masella have been drawing crowds of slope-junkies for decades and today they are some of the most popular ski resorts in Europe, thanks to their close proximity to Barcelona and Girona.
I’m personally a terrible snowboarder, so I haven’t tried skiing in the Spanish Pyrenees yet, but my wife can ski and we definitely plan to give it a shot next time we return to Spain.
Tip: For a real thrill, take on the highest mountain of the Pyrenees, the Aneto. This two-day ski tour isn’t technically difficult but it does require some physical fitness. With only four skiers in the group, your guides will take you through off the beaten tracks of marked trails. It’ll be an adventure to remember!
8. Stay in a Cosy Lodge
The Spanish Pyrenees are home to some amazing lodges and ski resorts and you’d be missing out if you didn’t get a chance to stay in one of them.
Picture wood log frames, cozy fireplaces, and the smell of hot stews boiling on the stove in winter. Or picture the bright colors of spring shining in through the windows, with swimming pools and beautiful hiking options if you come during the warmer months.
Some of the best ski lodges include The AC Baqueira Hotel & Spa and La Pleta in Baqueira, while Hotel Almud near Sallent de Gallego or La Casuena in Lanuza are great options for those who want to hit the hiking trails.
9. Spot Volcanoes
La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park is a geologist’s dreamland and is one of the best examples of volcanic landscapes in all of Europe. There are plenty of towns and sites within the park, as well as long hikes and bike trails.
The park itself is home to 40 inactive volcanoes and over 20 lava flows and is also a great place for a hot air balloon ride.
10. Eat Some Catalan Cuisine
As a self-proclaimed foodie, my spouse and I always try to eat as much of the local cuisine as we can while traveling. But Spain has such a regional gastronomic scene that you really have to try the available dishes in every region you visit in the country.
Catalonia is no different. This is truly one of Spain’s gastro-capitals and after a trip through the Pyrenees, you’ll see why.
Catalan cuisine is refreshingly humble, so you won’t feel like there’s a magician in the kitchen, wowing you with fancy cooking techniques and then underdelivering on the plate.
Instead, the food here is simple, fresh, and delicious.
Don’t miss the fluffy breads, the decadent meats (both roasted, fried, and cured), the fantastic fresh fish, and the unique vegetables, herbs, and greens of the region.
When to Go to the Spanish Pyrenees
Now that you know the best places to visit in the region, it’s important to plan your trip for the right time of the year.
Perhaps not surprisingly, with the highest roads winding through mountain peaks 2,500 meters above sea level, this is a place you’ll want to prepare for.
There’s really no “best season” for this region of Spain because it truly is a year-round travel destination.
If you’re coming for ski slopes and ice trekking, then obviously the winter months will be best for you. But if you want clear skies and dry roads, you’ll want to come in the middle of summer.
Probably the best season for non-skiers to visit would be the spring or fall when there are fewer crowds, and it’s still a good time to come for hiking, cycling, and trekking.
The middle of summer comes with sunnier skies and longer days, as well as plenty of festivals to witness in the different towns and villages, but with all of that excitement comes more crowds, higher prices for accommodation, and sometimes sweltering heat.
For skiers and snowboarders, winter is the time you’ll want to be in the Pyrenees of course. Outside of Christmas and festival event days, the winter is usually a bit quieter than the summer, but the ski resorts can be packed.
They are rarely as busy as their counterparts in Switzerland and France however, making Spain a good ski destination for those who enjoy quieter slopes.
The snow levels are optimal for skiing from mid-December to March and you can check local snow and ski forecasts online before you head out.
Escape From The Coast
The Spanish Pyrenees are so delightfully accessible. They lie just a few kilometers from the coast and from Barcelona. They’ve given something for Catalan people to brag about for centuries.
In a few places around the world where you can be hiking near snowcapped peaks one minute, and swimming in the Mediterranean the next.
If you have a trip planned to Barcelona, don’t miss the fascinating medieval towns, the delicious food, the jagged peaks, or the winding roads of the Spanish Pyrenees. They’ll take your breath away.
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