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Activities

To experience the area to it’s fullest I would recommend visiting the Epicentre in Tremp to gather all the information for the region so that you can plan your activities for your stay. http://www.pallarsjussa.net/es/epicentro

walking

The previous owners were keen walkers and have written a guide to walks from Santa Engracia and around the Tremp valley for the use of  guests. A copy is available in each property and you can also borrow maps.

There are walks to suit most visitors from family outings to serious hikes, for example, walking to one of three nearby villages (there is a waterfall at one and caves at another plus water-sculpted pools along the way) or up onto the summit ridge of the sierra above the village where there is an outstanding view of the whole Pyrenean range and even the Montserrat peaks near Barcelona. Wherever you walk the scenery and flora and fauna is beautiful and varied. The guide describes some walks nearer the high Pyrenees for the hotter summer months and around the Tremp valley when the weather is cooler. A visit to the Mont Rebei gorge cannot be missed. After crossing a suspension bridge a footpath is cut into the vertical rock face above the river Noguera Ribagorcana. Once in the gorge you can cross the river on another suspension bridge and climb up so a to descend a wooden walk way that is bolted onto a sheer cliff face!

Mont Rebei gorge

Mont Rebei gorge

CASAMAURI

– the lakes

Swimming in lake Sant Antonio is very popular with our summer guests. Canoes and pedalos can be hired or rides on bananas and bus-bobs can be great fun. You can also request lessons in water skiing. On the Terradets lake a company offers skidoos and nearby there is a riding school. For those who prefer swimming pools, the local authority pool in Tarlarn is excellent, especially if you have young children. You can also visit The Hotel Terradets which is set by Terradets Lake, it usually costs about €2.50 per person for the day.

– adventure sports

The river Noguera Pallaresa in the valley running north east from La Pobla de Segur towards the high Pyrenees has white-water stretches where a number of companies take groups white-water rafting and canoeing or body-boarding. These same companies offer a range of other activities including archery, horse-riding, canyoning and rock climbing, bungey jumping and quad bikes. I have negotiated a 10% discount with La Rafting Company in Sort, please ask me first. http://www.laraftingcompany.com/en/

– paragliding

South of Tremp there is a small range of mountains known as the Montsec (high point 1678m) where a hangliding and paragliding station is located. International competitions are held here and a number of companies give lessons or take individuals for a ride on a dual rig. It is also possible, for a price, to organise a balloon trip.

– rock climbing

The region is extremely popular internationally because of the wide range of rock faces and crags. Closest to Tremp is the Terradets gorge with 200 or more climbs of up to 500m in length (and as little as 20m). One of the more spectacular faces is known as Roca Regina. Another sector very popular at the moment is Bruixes (witches). To the west of the Terradets gorge is the Mont Rebei gorge offering a selection of 85 routes up to 600m in length. The N260 road from la Pobla de Segur to Sort now bypasses the old road which passes through the Collegats gorge. Here there are 400 climbs on conglomerate and limestone. To the east of the Terradets is the Vilanova de Meia area. Here you can find a lot of shorter climbs as well as some of 250m or so.

Other climbing areas are Sant Llorenc de Montgai to the south, Abella de la Conca, Santa Linya and Oliana to mention just a few.  Details of the climbing in the area can be found in the guide book, Lleida Climbs by Pete O’Donovan and Dani Andrada.

– the Aiguestortes National Park described elsewhere on this site is a must visit because of the outstanding scenery.

– wildlife/birdwatching

Whilst enjoying this range of activities, or indeed just relaxing, it is hard to miss the variety of wildlife in the area. Black redstarts are commomg inthe village and blue rockthrushs have often been spotted as well as golden orioles, nightingales, great tits, nuthatchs, goldfinchs, warblers, wagtails, swallows, swifts, martins and crag martins, hoopoes and bee-eaters, to name a few in the summer. Griffon vultures glide past the the terraces and over the courtyard all year round. Short-toed eagles, peregrines and egyptian vultures are not uncommon and lammergeiers and golden eagles are seen too.

There are also many species of butterfly and the wild flowers are beautiful, especially in the Pyrenean meadows.

– wine tasting

Within 10 minutes from Santa Engracia is Encus, a vineyard which can be visited to enjoy tasting the great wine of the region. It is necessary to phone for an appointment  http://www.castelldencus.com/en/. If you wish to enjoy a wide variety of wines, you can visit La Bodega in Tremp    http://labodegavinscaves.esy.es/

Excursions

There are attractive and historic villages to visit and Catalunya is famous for its Romanesque churches and castles. Many of the original frescos having rescued and preserved in the National Art Museum of Catalunya.  Below are described a couple of excursions that combine visits to villages and monuments with short pretty walks and drives which allow you to appreciate the stunning scenery of the area.

– Gerri de la Sal

Gerri de la Sal is a very attractive small village beside the river half way between La Pobla de Segur and Sort. There is a 12th century monastery reached by a Romanesque hump-backed bridge over the river and a short walk along the river to a little chapel. Gerri has a couple of roadside cafes with tables out on the pavement to enjoy a very pleasant lunch. Before reaching Gerri it is well worth stopping at the car park with the sculpture of log- rafters and taking a walk through the Collegats gorge along the old road, now bypassed and closed to traffic. After lunch in Gerri there are two alternatives for the rest of the day. You can either continue on to the small town of Sort which is quite different in character to other towns in the area as it is a base for ski resorts in the winter and has a range of touristy gift shops along the main road with the shops of the old town one street back from the road. Further along the valley Esterri d’Aneu is a picturesque village surrounded by mountains where there is an ecomuseum, Casa Gassia, which was the large house of a wealthy land-owner, made of wood, preserved as it would have been around 150 years ago. Guided tours are given and if you’re lucky you may just be able to secure a tour in English. If so, the tour guide has many interesting facts to tell and if not the house is well worth a look anyway; its beautiful.

Alternatively, you could spend the afternoon on a drive. At the northern end of Gerri de la Sal take a road to the left to Peramea, Montcortes and Pobleta de Bellvei. Peramea is an old medieval village with remains of a covered walkway. At Montcortes there is a beautiful lake and some birdwatching. At Pobleta de Bellvei, in Vall Fosca, it is possible to partake of further refreshment before returning to Santa Engracia.

– Abella de la Conca, dinosaur footprints and Santa Maria de Covet

This tour encompasses a number of Romanesque buildings, a museum, dinosaur footprints and a village in a spectacular situation.

Leaving Tremp on C1412b towards Isona, in 8 or 9 km you will see up on the hills to the left the late 12th century castle of Orcau above a village of the same name. It comprises of a church and castle within a retaining wall, the castle having a square ground plan with 4 circular corner towers. Murals were removed from the church and are now to be found in Catalunya’s National Art Museum in Barcelona. An outer wall encompasses all useable land on the hilltop and is perforated with arrow slits. The castle was a vital defence in the 15th century during the Catalan civil war and the Pallars War   when it was one of only two castles not to fall to Hug Roger 111. The castle is on a hill above the village. Just before the village is a parking area, to the right of this you can see a footpath that leads to Basturs and to the dinosaur footprints. Follow a footpath for about 10 minutes and it brings you to a sloping rock-face with several dinosaur footprint imprints.

Continuing on to Isona there is a museum describing agricultural life, life in Roman times and an exhibition of dinosaur eggs. It is possible to take a tour to the dinosaur footprints, but it is necessary to make an appointment, this can be done at the Tourist Information Centre in Tremp. Apart from the ground floor exhibition of farming and household implements there are not many exhibits in the museum, the other exhibitions being largely well-laid out description and graphics, though the description is in Catalan.

Leaving Isona on the L511 following the route of a Roman road you come to a triangular junction. The road to the left is to Abella de la Conca, a village situated under a rock outcrop above the valley. Abella has its own ancient church, Sant Esteve de Abella. You can walk up to and around the church by defensive village walls and perhaps you will find a neighbour with the key to the church. Vultures nest on the crag above the village and are a common sight.

Returning to the triangular crossroad take the other road. About one hundred metres along the road is a right turn to the little chapel of Nuestra Senora de la Posa and a large field of dinosaur footprints anotated with descriptions of the climatic conditions which resulted in their preservation.

Returning to the main C1412 road continuing east you will see up on the left the 11th century castle of Llorda, constructed by the influential feudal lord Arnau Mir de Tost who was critical in the fight to reconquer land to the south that was dominated by the Moors. To the right of the main road is the village of Covet. Here you will find a 12th century church with a remarkable sculpted doorway.

Other places of interest

There are too many to give all a mention here.

-The ancient castle of Mur above Guardia de Noguera with its associated collegiate and church are well preserved.

-The valley of Boi is a UNESCO World Heritage site with its 10 fine examples of Romanesque churches from which wall paintings were taken to hang in the art museum in Boston, USA.

-To the south east of Lerida (Lleida) a number of sites with cave paintings declared World Heritage sites.

-The historic town of Ager on the southern slopes of the Montsec is the site of an observatory open to the public with tours, exhibitions and demonstrations lasting two hours.

Salas de Pallars is Santa Engracia’s closest neighbour. This attractive village dates back to 840AD. Its main claim to fame is that it held a very important annual livestock fair. The fair was established by King Pere 111 in 1380 and ratified by Alfons 1V in 1420 but reached its heyday in the 18th and 19th centuries when one quarter of all mules sold in Catalunya came from the Salas fair. The market declined in the 1960s due to agricultural mechanisation with the final market held in 1973, though the fair is commemorated each year in November (the 13th & 14th in 2010). Before the civil war 7000 heads of livestock were traded. In 1964 this was just 541. As well as the trading which went on the various cafes offered entertainment with comic duets, singers and dancers.

The structure of the village is based around its function as an important market. In the 16th century building outside the village walls was prohibited. With a growth in population the only solution was to extend the houses out above the streets without obstructing them, leading to the porticoed streets of the inner village we see today. In 1758 the town walls were demolished and the moat filled in with houses, pens and barns. In the 18th century the village expanded beyond the walls. Barns were built with a large central open patio surrounded by porticoed stables which were used both as shelter and to exhibit the animals before sales. Above the stables rooms were built to accommodate and feed the many visitors to the fair. Two of these remain as bars and restaurants today.

Very recently a group of shops in Salas has been opened as a museum of goods and services dating back up to a hundred years including a barber, a pharmacy, a bar and a shop selling foreign and colonial goods.

– Andorra

The duty-free Principality of Andorra is less than a two hour drive away. On the border with Spain are huge hypermarkets but it is more enjoyable to drive into the vibrant city of Andorra La Vella. As well as cheap alcohol, cigarettes and petrol (quantity brought back into Spain is restricted) the town offers good value, mostly, on electrical goods, cameras and sports goods and has a wide range of furs and perfumes.

 

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