The Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park was created is the only protected area with National Park status in Catalonia

Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park

  • Region: Catalonia
  • Province: Lérida
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1955 (National 1995)
  • Park surface area: 40,000 hectares
  • Towns and Villages: Alto Aneu, Valle de Bohí, Espot, Esterri de Aneu, Alto Arán, Sort, La Torre de Cabdella and Vilaller

Points of interest

The Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park is the only protected area with National Park status in Catalonia. It is located in the central part of the Pyrenees and divided into four regions (Alta Ribagorza, Pallars Sobirá, Pallars Jussá and Valle de Arán) in the province of Lérida.

The geography of the area is high mountain and a large part of the territory exceeds 1000 metres and including some peaks that exceed 3000 metres. Two spectacular valleys stand out. To the west the valley of the San Nicolás River with its characteristic meadows and meanders from which the name “Aiguas Tortas” (tortuous waters) comes and to the east the valley of the river Escrita with the beautiful lake of San Mauricio.

Within the national park there are around 80 lakes. The main ones are: Llebreta, Serradé, Contraix, Llong, Mussoles, Ribera, Morrano, Dellui, Redó, Negro de Portarró, Ratera, Barbs, Munyidera, lakes of Amitges, San Mauricio , Negro de Peguera , Monges, Travessani, Mangades.

All tourist activities are regulated.

Access on foot is free but wild camping, gathering of any type of plants, flowers or mushrooms, hunting and fishing is strictly prohibited. Access for private vehicles inside the park limits is also prohibited.

In the towns of Espot and Bohí there are public transport services (4×4 taxis) that allows access to the most emblematic places such as the plain of Aiguas Tortas and the lake of San Mauricio.

In summer, in the Arán Valley there is also a taxi service to the start point for the treks to the Colomers and Restanca mountain shelters.

At the Vall Fosca, the southern entrance to the park, there is a cable car that connects the Sallente reservoir with lake Gento which is also the starting point for various excursions.

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Hiking week through the Aigüestortes National Park With Sur-Walks

An incredibly beautiful mountain landscape, rugged rocks, lovely valleys with countless “Estanys“, mountain lakes, which remain as witnesses of the Ice Age, mark our way over the “Carros de Foc”, the fire wagon, from mountain hut to mountain hut.
The 69.2 km long mountain tour is easy to master for trained hikers in five and a half day routes.

During the hike we stay in mountain huts, with full board, breakfast, packed lunch and dinner. All cabins have dormitory / bunk beds with good mattresses and sufficient blankets, WC and (sometimes only cold) showers.

Read more about this hiking holiday here: https://www.sur-walks.com/index.php/hiking-holidays/224-hiking-week-pyrenees


Flora

In the lower areas of the mountains up to about 1500 m, there are mostly deciduous forests with downy oak, ash, beech and hazelnut. These woodlands have, however, been the most altered for centuries by human action and in many areas they are occupied by farmed meadows and planted forests of Scots pine .

From 1500 m to over 2000 m the black pine forests begins with shrubbery consisting of rhododendron, blueberry and juniper. On the shadier and more humid slopes, important fir forests grow below 2000 m and La Mata de Valencia is the most important fir forest in the Pyrenees.

In the alpine pastures above 2300 m, the forests give way to high mountain flora such as alpine gentian, snow gentian, Burser’s gentian, purple saxifrage and buttercup species .

Fauna

The brown bear

in 2012 the Casa Sastres d’Isil, a building of traditional architecture made of stone, slate and wood dating from 1825, was opened as the Brown Bear House of the Pyrenees. It is the first interpretation center about this animal in Catalonia.

The information and exhibition about the brown bear is complemented by guided walks through the habitat of these endangered animals.

Open Monday to Sunday from 11 to 14 h and from 16 to 20 h.
Guided tours every hour but it is recommended to make a reservation on + 34 690 28 40 29
See the website here: http://www.vallsdaneu.org/en/info/7/casa-de-los/

Read more about the brown bear in Spain here.

There are approximately 220 species of vertebrates recorded in the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park of which almost two-thirds are birds with notable species such as grouse, golden eagle, bearded vulture, griffon vulture, ptarmigan and black woodpecker

Some of the most representative mammals are the chamois (rupicapra pyrenaica ), wild boar, ermine, beech marten, grey dormouse, red squirrel and roe deer and Iberian desman. The marmot and fallow deer were introduced during the 20th century.

The two main rivers, the San Nicolás and the Escrita, and most of the lakes are populated by trout and share the space with other non-native fish species that were introduced years ago by fishermen.

Among amphibians, the Pyrenean newt, endemic to the north of the Iberian Peninsula, is significant for its rarity. Reptiles are also found, such as the western whip snake or the poisonous asp viper.

Walking, hiking and trekking

The Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park is very popular with hikers and walkers and there are many routes but care must be taken as many of the smaller and isolated footpaths do not appear on maps, require high levels of fitness and many and are not well signposted.

Other mountain activities such as mountaineering, climbing, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing can also be carried out inside the national park.

The park’s information centers offer itinerary brochures especially for hikers covering easy, difficult and the highly recommended excursions. Below is a list of some of the most popular routes and places to visit.

Easy to medium difficulty
  • Lake LLebreta to Lake Llong, going up the San Nicolás River
  • Lake San Mauricio, from San Mauricio, passing through the waterfall, towards Lake Ratera and to the viewpoint that is above the lake. From this viewpoint you have the best perspective to see Lake San Mauricio. From Lake Ratera, a second option allows you to reach the Agujas de Amitges.
  • La Peülla car park, on the Pallaresan slope of Puerto de la Bonaigua, to the Gerber lake .
  • Baños de Tredós, in the Arán Valley, to the Colomers refuge and tour the circuit of the lakes of Colomers.
  • Lake Gento you can visit Lake Tort and reach the Colomina refuge or Lake Saburó.
More difficult
  • Espot-Boí crossing, through the Portarro de Espot, with unforgettable panoramic views.
  • Crossing Arties -Espot, going up towards the Restanca Refuge and passing, later, through Colomers and Amitges, descending towards the San Mauricio lake.
Experienced and very fit mountain trekkers
  • The path called the !”Chariots of Fire” allows you to complete a circular route through some of the mountain shelters kept in the area. A minimum of four days is recommended for this route
Withing the limits of the National park there are quite a few Mountain refuges (Refugios)
  • Refugio del Pla de la Font
  • Refugio de la Restanca
  • Refugio de Colomers
  • Refugio de Saboredo
  • Refugio de Amitges
  • Refugio Ernest Mallafré o de Sant Maurici
  • Refugio Josep Maria Blanc
  • Refugio Ventosa i Calvell
  • Refugio del Estany Llong
  • Refugio de Colomina
  • Refugio de Besiberri
  • Refugio vivac Gerber “Mataró”

There is a website through which you can make reservations online in most shelters.
Reserve a shelter Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park here: http://www.refusonline.com/en/online-map-reservations

Information/Visitors Centers (Centros de visitantes)

The two main tourist information centres are located in Boi and Espot and they both contain all the necessary information such as exhibitions and audio visual displays. Most importantly these are the centres where you should find out about hiking routes and for reserving any mountain shelters.

Casa del Parque Nacional en Boí

Address: Ca de Simamet, C / de les Graireres, 2, 25528 Boi

Opening times:
Winter (from 09/01 to 06/30): from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. Sundays and holidays closed in the afternoon
Summer (from 07/01 to 08/31): from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.
Closed on January 1 and 6 and December 25 and 26

Services: Park management and administration, General tourist information and permits, permanent exhibition, temporary exhibitions, documentation library and archive, projection room, guided visits and a gift shop

Casa del Parque Nacional en Espot (Pallars Sobirá)

Address: C / de Sant Maurici, 5, 25597 Espot

Opening times:
Winter (from 09/01 to 06/30): from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. Sundays and holidays closed in the afternoon
Summer (from 07/01 to 08/31): from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.
Closed on January 1 and 6 and December 25 and 26

Services: Park management and administration, General tourist information and permits, permanent exhibition, temporary exhibitions, documentation library and archive, projection room, guided visits and a gift shop

Museu dels Pastors de la Vall d’Àssua

Escoles de Llesui, s/n, 25567 Llessui (Pallars Sobirà)

Opening times:
Winter (from 09/01 to 06/30): from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. Sundays and holidays closed in the afternoon
Summer (from 07/01 to 08/31): from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.
Closed on January 1 and 6 and December 25 and 26

The information center of the Park in Llessui is also the headquarters of the Ecomuseum of the Shepherds of the Vall d’Àssua, in it there is a permanent exhibition on the traditional activities of the valley related to sheep farming.

La Serradora

C/ del Port, 10, 25553 Senet (Alta Ribagorça)

Opening times:
Winter (from 09/01 to 06/30): from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. Sundays and holidays closed in the afternoon
Summer (from 07/01 to 08/31): from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.
Closed on January 1 and 6 and December 25 and 26

The Senet center, located in the Barravés valley, in the westernmost part of the park, contains an interesting permanent exhibition on the relationship between human population and wildlife.

Cable car upper station

Opening times:
July, August and September
From 9.30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 3.30 p.m. to 5.45 p.m.

At the upper station of the Estany Gento cable car there is a small information center open only during the summer, while the cable car works. From this center you can take guided excursions or visit a small exhibition on the aquatic ecosystems of the National Park.

The official Spanish website for the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park
https://www.miteco.gob.es/es/red-parques-nacionales/nuestros-parques/aiguestortes/


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