Hiking in the Spanish Pyrenees
Vall de Nuria
There are several national parks in the Pyrenees that are perfect for a day´s hike. Besides that there are also options for a few days hiking with overnight stays at refugios - mountain huts. All hiking routes in Spain are labeled GR which is a shortening for Grand Route. GR 11 is a 840 kilometres long hiking route that runs along the Pyrenees from Cape Higuer by the Atlantic ocean to Cap de Creuz by the Mediterranean. We walked part of the GR 11 for 2,5 half days with start and finish in the little village of Queralbs. The hike can easily be shortened to an amazing one day´s hike.
How to get there?
Queralbs is only a 2 hour´s drive from Barcelona Airport. After less than one hour north of Barrcelona you see the mountains of the Pyrenees rising up in front of you.
After passing through the village Ribes de Freser, perfect for a lunch stop, you arrive in the little pretty village of Queralbs.
In Queralbs there is a parking where you can park your car by the Cremallera (train up to the monasterio de Nuria) or closer to the village. When we visited parking was for free. You can either take the creamallera all the way up to Nuria or walk along the very beautiful Route 11.4. If you choose the latter it will take you about 3 hours.
2,5 days hiking along GR11
Queralbs - Nuria - Coma de Vaca - Refugio de Ulldeter - Queralbs
Parking in Queralbs
8-16 kilometres per day
Length of time
3-8 hours per day
+/-1000 per day
Water along the way
Shoes to choose
Queralbs - Nuria
This hike GR 11.4 is very well signposted all the way and starts right by the parking in Queralbs.
Part of the path is with step stones. It is a very beautiful hike but a rather tough one with an elevation of almost 1200 metres in 7 kilometres.
About half way you reach a sign giving you the option to walk right or left. Choose the right one as it is more beautiful.
"It is a very beautiful hike but a rather tough one
with an ascent of almost 1200 metres in 7 kilometres."
Most of the way you follow a stream and is surrounded with high rock walls on both sides.
Just before arriving in Nuria there is a little hill, a viewpoint of Nuria. Climb up the hill and you will get a stunning view of the monasterio de Nuria. This is where you will spend your first night.
An easier option is to take the cremallera (train) starting in Queralbs running all the way up to Nuria.
An option if you want to shorten this 2,5 days´hiking to a one day´s hike is to continue to Coma de Vaca from Nuria. From Coma de Vaca you walk down to Queralbs. It is a long and streneous hike but definately doable if you are used to hiking.
Where to stay and eat?
Part of the monasterio in Nuria is an hotel. It is not a luxuary hotel but works just fine. The surroundings are beautiful. You can go by small boats on the lake and also have Nuria as a base for several days of hiking in the surroundings.
There is a cafe and a restaurant at the hotel.
Nuria - Refugio de Coma de Vaca - Refugio de Ulldeter
Today´s hike will follow the lovely Camino dels enginyers GR 11.7 from Nuria to the refugio of Coma de Vaca where you will cross the river Freser.
From Nuria to Coma de Vaca is a 3 hours really lovely hike for a little less than 10 kilometres passing several streams and meadows with wild horses. The elevation is 400 metres.
Arriving in Coma de Vaca you have the perfect place for a lunch brake by the river Freser. The refugio is closed in day time.
From Coma de Vaca you then continue along the valley to refugio de Ulldeter. You can also choose to shorten the hike by heading down for Queralbs, about 1000 metres lovely descent taking you a little less than 3 hours.
From Coma de Vaca you have a 2,5-3 hours hike for 6 kilometres to refugio de Ulldeter, your place for the second night´s overnight stay. The path first runs through a beautiful valley. when you reach the end of the valley you have a rather heavy ascent to a ridge from where you then have a descent all the way down to refugio de Ulldeter.
Where to stay and eat?
You can book overnight stays at refugio de Ulldeter. Pre-booking is necessary, especially if you want a room for 4 people. You can also have dinner and breakfast there and buy a lunch pack. Check payment before, you might need to bring cash.
It might be that the people working at the refugio only knows Spanish and French. Even if you do not know any of those languges you usually get around anyway.
Remember to bring your own travel sheets or sleeping bag. There are no sheets for rent at the refugio.
Refugio de Ulldeter - Queralbs
The views from refugio de Ulldeter are lovely. After admiring the surroundings you have a really nice half day´s hike back down to Queralbs following the same way back to Coma de Vaca.
By Coma de Vaca you cross the bridge to the other side of the stream and walk down to Queralbs. It is a rather steep descent so if you are used to using poles you will get use for them here.
"The views from refugio de Ulldeter are lovely."
The 16 kilometres from Ulldeter to Queralbs will take you about 4-5 hours.
After arriving in Queralbs you have enough time either to drive to Barcelona. If you choose to continue to Costa Brava you have a 2 hours drive to for example the picturesque village Calella de Palafrugell.
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