VIELHA, Pyrenees, Spain
However, the main draw to this area is the fact the Catalan Pyrenees are relatively untouched by tourism, so it is a wonderful opportunity to explore unspoiled landscape. A popular pastime for most visitors is to tour the lakes, and the two most beautiful are Lake Colomer and Lake Saburedo which are about 13km away.
Just south of Vielha is the Aiguestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park. Its dramatic jagged rocky peaks tower over pine forests, waterfalls, and no less than 200 lakes. There are two rivers, the Riu Escrita and the Riu de Sant Nicolau which twist their way through the park. Hence its name which, when translated, means ‘twisted waters’.
The crystal clear mountain streams and lakes are teeming with trout, and provide a wonderful habitat for muskrats and otters which can be seen along the riverbanks. Other animals that can be seen roaming within the park are wild goats and marmots. For bird lovers, be sure to look out for the bearded vulture (Lammergeier) which nests in the cracks of the cliff sides.
On the western border of the park is the scenic town of Vall de Boi. This area became part of the Kingdom of Aragon during the 12th century, and because of its strategic position in the valley many castles were built within close proximity. Sadly, many of them have not been very well preserved. Although the valley had a very small population during the Middle Ages, the silver mines brought great wealth, and this resulted in the construction of many churches between the 11th and 14th centuries. Vall de Boi has no less than nine such churches, as well as the largest concentration of Romanesque artwork in Europe, making it a World Heritage Site.
Being so close to the mountains there is an abundance of outdoor activities to enjoy. During the winter you can take part in alpine skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing and snow shoeing. During the summer months there is fishing, golf, hunting, mountain biking, paragliding, rafting, hiking, horseback riding, and much more. So there is certainly never a shortage of things to do!
Should you decide to visit in August, the town holds its local festival called the Battle of the Flowers. In September they hold an annual celebration in honour of their patron saint and the local fair takes place in October. Vielha can also offer excellent accommodation as it has its own Parador; the Parador Hotel Vielha. This modern four star hotel has incredible views of the mountains from both the terraces and circular glazed restaurant. With lovely gardens and a seasonal swimming pool, it is a perfect place to come back to at the end of the day.
About the Author: This article was written by Susan Bartle who is a seasoned traveller and freelance travel writer.
Originally from Canada she currently resides in the UK and recent research has resulted in expert knowledge of the Pousadas and Paradores. Click here to read about other destinations where these luxury hotels can be found.
Or visit her travel website covering countries in Europe and all around the globe.