Ainsa
Rio Vero
Alquezar
From 1035 (£ 934)
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Self-guided holidays
10 nights - 9 magnificent walking days
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Itinerary : Hotel to Hotel
Holiday code : FP2PUGU
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The Secret Canyons Of Europe

Sierra de Guara is somewhere to visit sooner not later. Its canyons are seriously impressive, but it is a region that has so much more to offer those who discover its wide ranging glories on foot - and we have developed an itinerary that enables you to experience the very best of it.

A summary of your journey

As spectacular as they are unknown, the magnificent canyons in the Sierra de Guara National Park, south of the Pyrenees and in the heart of ancient Aragon, offer some of the most exhilarating and rewarding walking anywhere in Europe because it is a landscape that offers so much. Geologically, it is a limestone plateau with mountains rising to nearly 7,500 feet, and canyons with cliffs falling hundreds of feet. Naturally, it's got tumbling streams, impressive waterfalls, and a multitude of rivers that eventually become the Ebro. Historically, it's as rich as it has become agriculturally poor. Medieval towns, beautiful perched villages, abandoned farms, castles and hermitages, there is so much to discover. Then there is a thriving culture in the region that matches a new generation of characterful boutique hotels, and an emerging cuisine that combines the traditional with the contemporary. You can probably tell we are rather enthusiastic about it - and think you may be as well.

The plus points

  • A magnificent and dramatic landscape packed with history
  • Canyons, waterfalls, vultures and ancient tracks largely unexplored by English speakers
  • Excellent walking country featuring abandoned and perched villages, hermitages etc
  • Authentic and characterful hotels with great regional cuisine and wines

Le programme

Day 1

The best airport (or rail station) for this exceptional holiday is Zaragoza (sometimes Anglicised as Saragossa; frequent flights from London) where we can to arrange to pick you up (tariff available on request), and take you to the delightful small town of Ainsa in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees with its magnificent medieval main square, historic houses, arcaded streets, cobbled alleyways, 11th century castle, 12th century church - and great views of Monte Perdido (Mont Perdu in French) dominating the other peaks. (In fact, Lourdes is almost the same transfer time and distance.)
You stay close to the Plaza Mayor at the wonderfully atmospheric and historic Hotel Los Siete Reyes, the Seven Kings. It blends its ancient stone walls and beamed ceilings with contemporary style and facilities in a way that many attempt but few succeed so well.
Transfer time from Zaragoza: 2.5 hours.

Day 2

Ainsa via Santa Maria de Buil to Arcusa. Your walk starts by using an historic bridge to cross the Cinca river (named by Julius Caesar, but called the River of Olives by the Moors), then climb gently through pine forests and pastures reminiscent of many a Western movie before arriving at the tiny village of Santa Maria de Buil renowned for its fossils and superb 11th century church of St Martin. Dominating the village is Buil hill on which there was once a castle (more a watchtower actually) as this was once the defensive line against the Moors, and your route now takes you through Saratillo to the pleasant village of Arcusa where the castle also dates from the 11th century, and is in line of sight with Buil.
Hotel Tierra Buxo is a completely new hotel made of stones reclaimed from local buildings. That shows you the dedication of Marta and de Romain - previously luxury hoteliers in Paris - to create an exceptional hotel in an exceptional location that combines all the character and history of the region - and the lovely village of Arcusa - with contemporary minimalist interior design - and that combination is also reflected in its superb cuisine.
Walking time: 6.5 hours. Elevation: + 500m / - 500m.

Day 3

Arcusa via Betorz to Lecina Plus UNESCO Prehistoric Caves. You really are now in canyon country, but the ridgeways paths enable you to see the best of them without having to go up and down them (as the ascent and descent statistics below prove). You walk up to Santa Maria de la Nuez (two historic churches and a hermitage) through occasional oak woods, passing dry stone shepherds' huts, and on "balconies" hanging above canyons riven by water over millennia, not least the impressive Vero river. Then there's the attractive village of Betorz, surrounded by olive trees and centred on its 16th century church, before arriving Lecina hanging high above river valleys that contrast white limestone, green oak and olive trees, and golden wheat fields, yet with high, often snow capped mountain peaks dominating it all. You will also have time to visit the wonderful UNESCO Heritage prehistoric caves at Barfaluy with paintings of animals as well as human foot and hand prints. Well worth it!
You stay tonight in the truly authentic rural hotel ("hostal") of Choca de Guara. It's small, family run, full of character, yet offers good quality rooms, and great regional food much of it coming from Miguel's own garden, and the farms of family and friends. It feels just right when you are exploring this unspoilt region where traditions are still highly valued.
Walking time: 4 hours. Elevation: + 150m / - 200m.

Day 4

Lecina via Rio Vero to Alquezar. You will see much evidence today that this region has barely changed in thousands of years. Spectacular canyons made by Nature not man. Cliffside footpaths that have been used for many thousands of years. Prehistoric cave paintings (not least at Arpan and Mallata) still there for you to see right up close. The nests and lookouts of eagles and vultures as they themselves float in the thermals above you. Then there's the memorable descent into the Vero valley with its crystal clear, jade coloured waters and Roman bridge before you climb up the other side of the valley to arrive at the magnificent village of Alquezar for two nights. You'll soon appreciate why.
Alquezar is, officially, one of the most beautiful villages in Spain, and Villa de Alquezar, right in its centre, makes the most of its location with beautiful views from bedrooms, and beautiful bedrooms too. It's a newly built boutique hotel, yet has been so well designed and constructed that it blends into this historic village. There's a spa, swimming pool, and cool terraces to relax on (good bar service too). You dine in a local restaurant with bags of character and good regional dishes.
Walking time: 5 hours. Elevation: + 350m / - 500m.

Day 5

Around Alquezar including Quizans Caves and Chimiachas. Canyons and caves galore today. You begin by walking past pyramid shaped, stone shepherds' huts, and a canal before reaching the bridge and ponds of Basacol - good for a cooling swim in high summer (earlier and later if you're brave) in the canyon of La Payuela before beginning to walk high above the gorge on a wonderfully memorable path that you can't believe isn't packed with tourists it's so good! Thankfully, it isn't! The UNESCO protected caves of Quizans feature prehistoric paintings. The views are panoramic south across the Aragonese plains and north to Monte Perdido and other high peaks. From there you can return to Alquezar, or (we would recommend) add an another hour's walking to the Chimiachas canyon, and its caves that include the famous prehistoric painting (in Levantine style, so it is said) of a deer.
Another warm welcome and super-comfortable night await you at the Villa de Alquezar.
Walking time: 5 or 6 hours. Elevation: + 450m or 550m / - 450m or 550m.

Day 6

Alquezar via Radiquero and Balces to Las Almunias de Rodellar. This is great foothills walking country as you pass through oak woods and past vineyards as the sandstone of the Ebro valley meets the limestone of the Pyrenees. Radiquero is your first village, and an absolute delight renowned for its covered pasageways, and the mainly 17th century church dominating the village and landscape. From there the path takes you through Mediterranean type "garrigue", over an historic bridge, Puente deras Bruixas, and into las Capillas canyon, which garners so many incredibles, amazings, phenomenables from visitors that we think you'll probably enjoy it! You then descend gently down into the river Balcès valley to certainly see the vultures nesting on the almost orange cliffs, and possibly to take a cooling dip before a bracing walk up to the col de Colmenares, and a final grateful descent into the hamlet of Las Almunias.
Casa Tejedor is precisely the sort of hotel you'd want to stay in after a good day's walking. A village location with wonderful views, a traditional style, smart, contemporary rooms, a proud reputation for regional cuisine, and a choice of shaded terrace or light filled interior for eating it. The tranquillity of its mountain environment comes as standard.
Walking time: 5.5 hours. Elevation: + 650m / - 650m.

Day 7

A Circular Walk to the Canyon de Mascun, Otin and back. Just to make sure you get the best of this walk, we take you to the pretty village of Rodellar in one of the most stunning locations in the Sierra de Guara that also boasts the chapel of the Virgin of the Castle rising out of the canyon cliffs, and the medieval bridge of Las Cabras. You venture into the Mascun canyon with its extrordinary natural "sculptures", and climb, passing the memorable Dolmen de Losa Mora, up to the deserted village of Otin. Man has lived in this spectacular landscape for tens of thousands of years, so it's no surprise its associated with many legends - some true, some undoubtedly false, all interesting. You continue via sweeping bends with sweeping panoramic views, none more impressive than the limestone pillars of Ciudadella y Cuca Bellostas you often walk right beside. Finally, you follow the river bank back to Rodellar.
We're sure you'll welcome a second night at the Casa Tejedor.
Walking time: 4 or 6 hours. Elevation: + 450m / - 450m. Transfer time: 10 minutes.

Day 8

Rodellar via waterfalls and abandoned villages to Paules. A sense of history and sadness may accompany you on today's walk as you discover high altitude abandoned village after abandoned village, yet the magnificent landscape may well equally inspire you. Again, we transfer you to Rodellar where you take a different route on ancient paved paths beside dry stone walls protecting fields that have been farmed for thousands of years as you'll discover in the uninhabited hamlet of Cheto with its photogenic stone barns. As you steadily climb, the views across the upper Mascun valley with those giant pillars become more magnificent and, we have to say, beautiful. The narrow gorge of Salto de las Lañas with its impressive waterfall provides shade and a change of scene before you reach the deserted Letosa, then the abandoned 12th century Santa Marina hermitage and village high up, lost and lonely before descending to the Balcès river, and a gentle climb to the farming hamlet of Las Bellostas.
We collect you for a short transfer to Paules, and the hospitable Casa El Cóndor, situated in a village of only 30 inhabitants in a stunning location. It is a 300 year old farmhouse with thick stone walls, beamed ceilings and comfortable bedrooms. It's also got a very pleasant terrace, an outdoor swiming pool, and good home cooking.
Walking time: 5.5 hours. Elevation: + 500m / - 450m. Transfer time: 10 minutes.

Day 9

Paules via Capramonte and Choro de Coñolmundo to Sieste De Paules. Today's route begins by taking you gently up a remote and wild valley up to the high plateau of Capramote with its breathtaking horizon to horizon views contrasting with the mundane fields and walls of a farming community. There is then an equally gentle descent to the abandoned village of Morcat where everything was built with solid stone contrasting with the ever changing panoramas across the Pyrenees. You decend further to the absolutely delightful gorge of Choro de Coñolmundo with its clear, yet jade tinted, waters tumbling over serious waterfalls into pools begging to be swum in. You follow the river Sieste to the village of the same name where you spend tonight. An up and down day, but a constant pleasure, we think.
Hotel L'abadia is packed with history. Originally a 16th century fortress, it became a monastery, and many features have been tastefully retained including its deep stone walls and beamed ceilings, an oil "well", a grape press, and farming tools. The bedrooms are light, comfortable, and have distinctive original paintings in every room. There is a shaded terrace with panoramic views, and a good restaurant featuring local specialities.
Walking time: 5.5 hours. Elevation: + 500m / - 450m.

Day 10

Sieste via perched villages to Ainsa. It's back to where you started today, but there is a huge amount to be enjoyed en route. In essence, you walk on ancient, often ridgeway, tracks across the "garrigue" and through pine woods enjoying exceptional views of the Pyrenees, and particularly the imposing 7,500 foot rocky outcrop of Peña Montañesa. Yet the route is punctuated with an abandoned hermitage, and unspoilt, captivating perched villages like Latorecilla and Guaso, stone built to resist both winter storms and summer temperatures, and representing the fortitude of these traditional mountain communities, some of which still thrive to this day. It would be fanciful - but fun - to think that's partly because the Escojuganderos - the small constructions open to the four winds - have indeed blown the evil spirits away as intended. The last section of this canyon experience takes you along the banks of the Cinca river back to beautiful Ainsa. Congratulations! A walk well done!
You again stay close to the Plaza Mayor at the wonderfully atmospheric and historic Hotel Los Siete Reyes. A welcome return we are sure, and there's no better place for a last night's celebration.
Walking time: 5 hours. Elevation: + 500m / - 400m.

Day 11

After breakfast, you can make your own way home, or we can to arrange to take you to Zaragoza airport or railway station.
  • Détails Pratiques
  • Equipement
  • Formalités et Santé

DATES

February to November, but we would particularly recommend May, June, September and October.

MEETING POINT

The holiday begins at the hotel in Ainsa (20.00 arrival latest), although we can arrange transfers from Zaragoza airport or rail station.

END OF YOUR TRIP

The holiday ends at the hotel in Ainsa, although we can arrange transfers from Zaragoza airport or rail station.

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY

This itinerary features comfortable rather than challenging walking, and is suitable for people who are reasonably fit and enjoy a good day's walking. You are mainly in the foothills rather than in the high mountains. Typically, there is 4 to 6 hours steady walking with ascents and descents of upto 650 metres. In July and August it can be very hot for all day walking, and some rivers and waterfalls will have dried up. As there can be the need to cross streams and small rivers, we recommend carrying a lightweight pair of trainers or similar.

DEPARTURE GUARANTEED FROM ( No. of participants)

1

LUGGAGE TRANSFER

We will transfer your luggage to the next hotel, so all you need carry is a daysack with your choice of essentials plus picnic.

TRIP FORMAT

This is an independent, self-guided holiday.

ACCOMMODATION

You stay in double-twin rooms in authentic hotels with en suite facilities.

MEALS

The cuisine is often regional in character, and all the better for it. Picnics are not included, but you can shop for them locally, or order them the night before from the hotels (pay locally).

TRANSFERS

Usually transfers are in people carriers, mini-buses, cars or taxis.

YOUR TRAVEL DOCUMENTS

When we have received the balance of payment for your holiday, and in the month before your departure, we send you all the documentation you need: a detailed itinerary showing dates, times, contact addresses etc; a detailed guide to your walking routes, often also including a lot of cultural, historical and nature background information; formal documents (invoices, contractual terms and conditions etc); luggage labels etc. If you book at the last minute, we can send information to the first night's accommodation.

To make the right choice

Have a look at our detailed explanations on the types of hiking, the standards of accommodation, and understand baggage transport ... How to choose your trip ?

LUGGAGE 

- a soft travel bag, avoid suitcases, which are more cumbersome and limit the weight of your belongings to 10 kg. - a small backpack of 30 litres minimum for your daytime requirements.

CLOTHES 

- a waterproof and breathable jacket (Gore-Tex type)
- a fleece or a sweater
- a raincoat (poncho)
- walking trousers
- 1 pair of gloves
- 1 hat- shorts
- a bathing suit + towel
- several pairs of socks (not too large)
- underwear
- 1 pair of trainers
- loose clothing for the evening

EQUIPMENT TO BRING 

- 1 pair of walking shoes that have been used before
- Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip protection
- 1 bottle (allow 2 to 3 liters per person per day in summer)
- a Tupperware type plastic bowl for the picnic + cutlery
- 1 compass
- Waterproof map cover (advised)
-1 head torch in your rucksack (for safety)
-1 survival cover (from a chemist)
-1 mobile phone (advised)

FORMALITIES

You need to keep your passport with you at all times, and ideally insurance information. You need to make your own arrangements to claim local healthcare. There are requirements in France and Spain for all vehicles to carry safety equipment.
Click on the price that corresponds to your choice.
FromToStandard priceWith extra airport pick up
Sat 01/06/2019Mon 30/09/20191 120 €  (₤ 1 010) 1 500 €  (₤ 1 353)
Sun 01/09/2019Sat  30/11/20191 035 €  (₤ 934) 1 415 €  (₤ 1 277)
 
List of additional options (to select later)
TitleTime periodPrice
Single room supp. / pers. from 01/02/2019 to 30/11/2019495 € (₤ 447)
Supp. only 1 participant from 01/02/2019 to 30/11/2019145 € (₤ 131)
Supp. only 1 participant With extra airport pick-upfrom 01/02/2019 to 30/11/2019525 € (₤ 474)

THE PRICE INCLUDES

10 nights dinner, bed and breakfast; people transfers as detailed; luggage transfers each walking day as required; detailed walking directions; 1:25,000 maps as required; 24/7 customer phone service.

THE PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE

The journey to the start point and from the finishing point; menu choices at extra cost; all drinks; lunches; entry fees; booking fee, personal and travel insurance.
Provided by TransferMate

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