Michael Heffernan

The Catalan Pyrenees

Catalonia's Pyrenees are much more than an all-season adventure playground, and, beyond the major resorts, conceal a raw natural beauty that invites discovery. Certainly, the Val d'Aran draws winter skiers and snowboarders (with resorts ranging from red-carpet to family-focused), while summer and autumn lure hikers to the jewel-like lakes and valleys of the Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici, the low-lying countryside of Cerdanya, and the climbing terrain of the Serra del Cadí.

But there's also Catalan heritage to be uncovered amid the majestic scenery, plunging valleys and snow-dusted peaks. Thousand-year-old monasteries slumber in these mountains – including some of Spain's outstanding Romanesque architecture – meaning Pyrenean hikes are as likely to pass ruined churches as valley panoramas.

Meanwhile, taste buds yearning for more than hiking fodder will find full satisfaction in the rich volcanic gastronomy of Olot and the Parc Natural de la Zona Volcànica de la Garrotxa.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout The Catalan Pyrenees.