After a couple of weeks that involved walking an awful lot of the Pyrenean countryside and eating copious amounts of food into the bargain, we can say with complete confidence that the Spanish Pyrenees offer a fantastic combination of hiking and dining.
Walking in The Pyrenees – Pure Air & Intoxicating Vistas
As far as the walking goes, it’s The Pyrenees – so no great revelation that the walking is inspirational.
Our routes took us through perfectly preserved Medieval villages where it required superhuman displays of willpower not to give in to the lure of wickedly inviting bars; across high pastures with bright and perky displays of Alpine flowers and alongside exuberant mountain streams that danced their way down the verdant slopes.
Personal favourites include around the almost ‘too pretty to be true’ Valle de Nuria which on a clear summer day is just about as good as it gets when it comes to WOW views – and, as a bonus, is family friendly as well. Another outstanding hit was around Setcases where there are secret waterfalls to be discovered and the route from Ulldeter back to Setcases blends mountain-top drama with the most wonderful high meadows where cows, horses, chamois and marmots live together in harmony.
The mountainous terrain means just about every walking route involves a muscle stretching ascent which adds that essential and satisfying challenge. In most towns you can step outside of your accommodation and straight on to the trail, which makes any hiking destination especially attractive as far as we are concerned.
Wining & Dining in The Pyrenees
The food in Catalonia never fails to have our tastebuds applauding (metaphorically speaking). It’s one of those destinations where you feel you’re never going to run out of new things to try. Just when you think you might, Catalonia’s creative chefs come up with something different.
There’s a lot of hearty fare in the hills and some places relish serving generous portions of meaty dishes and stews – it’s good honest, country cuisine and sometime’s, after a long day yomping around the hills, you just want to gnaw on a big chop or wrap your mouth around a savoury butifarra sausage.
But too much of it can get weighty on the stomach which makes places like Cal Sastre in Santa Pau, Hotel Grévol in Llanars and the Hotel Calitxo in Molló perfect for balancing the hearty with the creative. These three gastronomic shrines serve lighter and more sophisticated takes on traditional Catalan cuisine.
For adventurous foodies even the most traditional menus can throw up some interesting choices like rabbit and snails, or pony whilst the three establishments mentioned above conjure up culinary creations that positively woo the tastebuds. At Cal Sastre, Jesús’ violet marmalade elevates foie to the giddy culinary heights whilst we’re sure it’s against some sort of local law not to try his ‘famous’ cannelloni.
As for the wine, well the local vino tastes immensely quaffable at the end of a long day’s walking and, as well as local specialities like ratafia, there are surprises to be had. Ramón’s gin palace in the Hotel Cacadores is a revelation.
Overall, and simply put, we award The Pyrenees a giant sized thumbs up for being an exeptional gastro-hike destination that ticks all the right boxes and then some.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+