Explore’s Prue Payne went to the Andorran Pyrenees on her first ever trekking trip. New walking boots firmly laced, did she manage to climb every mountain and keep up with the rest of the group?
Andorra. Tucked snugly in between France and Spain this tiny country was our home for eight days while we discovered what the Andorran Pyrenees has to offer both experienced and novice walkers. I sat perfectly in the latter category, and as anyone will discover on their first walking tour, you never know exactly what to expect or even pack. I bought my first pair of walking boots and socks, borrowed a rucksack and discarded the idea of walking poles.
My first day was tough. I think mainly because the first day is always going to be the hardest and perhaps I didn’t quite anticipate the landscape through which I would be walking. But then, what exactly was I expecting out of a mountain range, if not mountains?
The second day I found myself a set of walking poles (the village sells everything!) and bought a big bag of plasters. I started with a fresh mind and determination. With realistic expectations I set off slowly and comfortably, and was able to appreciate for the first time perhaps just how incredibly stunning the country is. The second day walks through the Incles Valley, following good paths through mountainside botanical gardens and along cascading streams.
The flora and fauna is abundant and changed constantly as we reached different sections of the path. Some sections were steep and we became engulfed by Scots pine while other areas were open and would not seem out of place with Heidi skipping through. A crystal clear lake was our lunch spot. While those looking for a sharp incline to push themselves further continued, the rest of us slowly and enjoyably made our way down – stopping all the while to appreciate the flowers and river, or marvel at the sheer scale of the valley in front of us. I absolutely loved this day and each walking day thereafter.
Each walk was dramatically different, and provided an entirely new landscape. Our last walk was in a UNESCO World Heritage listed area and followed a steep cobbled path by the river, until the path turned into wide smooth rocks and ultimately out in to a huge meadow. Lunch was outside a mountain hut with views down into the distant valley, sitting on a small bridge with the stream below. The first and third days of walking provided rugged and wooded terrain while the others were the epitome of alpine, with fresh flowers, rivers to fill the water bottles, butterflies, grass and of course cattle with bells.
Every day we explored another corner of the country on foot with two free days to visit the capital, walk more or enjoy a spa. I really feel like we saw as much of the country as possible. I loved the experience; it was challenging at times, but you find your own pace and then simply absorb the staggering scenery, rewarded with a dip in a pool afterwards in the sun.
The most convenient airport for the tour is Barcelona. Myself and other members of the group jumped at the opportunity when booking to extend our flights to allow for a few days either before or after the tour to soak in the atmosphere of this brilliant city. It was certainly a contrast to the quiet village life in the Pyrenees with walkers and mountain bikers, to the throngs of tourists and locals gathered around the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. Overall a wonderful tour, superb tour leader and great way to finish in Barcelona watching the world go by.
By Prue Payne, Yield and Capacity Manager
Prue travelled on our Walking in the Andorran Pyrenees tour.