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Aiguestortes National park

The Aiguestortes National Park was created in 1955, only the 5th national park in Spain and the 2nd in the Pyrenees after the Ordesa Park. Originally it occupied an area of 9851 ha but was enlarged by laws passed in 1988, 1990 and  1996 until it now occupies an area of a little over 14,000ha. With almost 200 lakes it has the highest concentration of lakes in the Pyrenees, its topography sculpted by glaciation in the Quaternary era. The name Aiguestortes means twisted waters.

It covers climate zones from lower montane through upper montane and subalpine to alpine, its highest peaks being Peguera at 2982m and Besiberri Sud at 3017m. The slopes are wooded with silver birch (betula pendula), beech (Fagus sylvatica), silver fir (Abies alba) and pines (Pinus sylvestre and Pinus uncinata).

Specific studies are ongoing to ensure the survival of the Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus) and the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), the Pyrenean Desman (Galemis pyrenaicus), the capercaille (Tetrao urogallos) and the Sarrio (Rupicapra pyrenaica).

Other species to be seen at the park are the Pyrenean chamois or Izard as it is known and the black woodpecker  (Dryocopus martius).

There is a folk tale associated with the twin peaked mountain known as Els Encantats, the enchanted mountain. The story goes that on a day of pilgrimage two men, instead of attending Mass, took their dogs and went hunting Izard. They found themselves on the peak of a mountain where they were struck by lightning and turned to stone. If you look at Els Encantats you can see the profiles of two men and a dog.

A visit to the Aiguestortes Park is highly recommended. The scenery is stunning and of course there are lots of walks as well as mountain ascents and high level traverses. (The park has 10 refuges). Motorised access to the park is forbidden except for official land rover taxis which are plentiful in Espot on the eastern side of the park and also available on the western side. Alternatively, you may drive up to a car park (free parking) above Espot on the outskirts of the park. From there there is a very good footpath passing through beautiful alpine meadows. The walk up to the Sant Maurici lake takes around one hour and a quarter. From the car park there are even wheelchair ramps that allow wheelchair access to the lower areas of the forest and meadows. Along the route you will find information boards describing the flora and fauna. At the car park you are handed a leaflet detailing the rules of the park plus a biodegradable rubbish bag. The idea, basically, is to take care of the park, not to pick plants and not to leave rubbish behind.

Access to the park from the western side is via the Boi valley, famous for its Romanesque churches. It is possible to drive up close to the park from where there are plenty of walks.

Just beyond the southern limit of the park there is a cable car at the head of Vall Fosca. This only runs in July, August and September. When the cable car isn’t running it is possible to walk up into the mountains using a zig-zag path from the Capdella dam. An ascent of Montsent de Pallars (2882m), the highest peak in the Pallars Jussa region can be made from here as well as a number of other walks and summits.

The summit of Montsent de Pallars

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