In the Spanish region of Aragon, the National Park of Ordesa and Monte Perdido is a verdant region presided over by the ‘Lost Mountains’ – the largest limestone range in Western Europe. The park has lush, tree-filled valleys or beech, fir and pine, traversed by rushing rivers and sparkling waterfalls. Perhaps in spring or early summer, after the snow melts, is the most delightful time to visit this region. Honeysuckle, primroses, irises and other flowers bloom amid the crags, while overhead, Egyptian vultures and golden eagles wheel and swoop across the skies. Sure-footed Pyrenean chamois teeter on rocky ledges and the waterways are full of trout.
There are a range of hikes in the park, from easy strolls to long-distance treks, that link up with even longer trails that criss-cross the entire continent. But in this area there is plenty to keep you entertained and to please the eye and mind, without having to think about travelling further afield. There are green valleys, gaping gorges, dramatic waterfalls, and steep walls of rock in the three delightful sections of this national park.
The park can be divided informally into three main sections each of which has plenty to offer. These three sections are Ordesa, to the west, Anisclo, to the south and Escuain to the east. There are several possible points of access for the park but the most common gateway to the park, especially for those who are walking in, is the town of Torla, which is just 3km away from the border of the park. You can easily walk from Torla into the park – just take the well-marked GR15 path from the town which will take you to link up with the GR11. The GR11 has a right fork which will lead you to Pradera de Ordesa – this is the entrance to the Canyon of Ordesa and the starting point for many of the most popular walks leading further into the park. Walking from Torla to Pradera de Ordesa takes around two hours.
One of the most popular treks in the park is the Circo de Soaso, a 6-7 hour day hike that takes in many of the scenic sights, giving an overview of the park’s natural highlights. First of all, after leaving Pradera de Ordesa, the route takes you through the forest and then on a steep ascent on the Hunter’s Path. You climb for some way before the path flattens out, but at the end of the trail walkers are rewarded by views of a wonderful waterfall, the Cola de Caballo (Horsetail Waterfall).
Another lovely walk to a waterfall is Circo de Cotatuero. This hike takes walkers around the northern end of the delightful Valle de Ordesa. Be warned though that in winter and spring this route can be subject to avalanches. The Cascada de Cotatuero is, again, ample reward for the steep climb. This walk can be completed in around five or six hours round trip, but if you are looking for a challenge (and have a good head for heights) then you can continue on from the waterfall by climbing a series of iron pegs in the wall, continue on to Brecha de Rolande and thence into France.
But don’t leave this delightful region too soon. There are plenty more trails to explore.