Everything from arable plains and rolling, verdant hills to desert, mountains, forests and sandstone peaks shaped by the wind into unique shapes. Our two-week Pyrenees Ultimate 4×4 adventure combines our Pyrenees Foothills and Altitude adventures to show you every landscape imaginable that the Pyrenees has to offer!
Week one of this hotel-based adventure is in Aragon and Navarre; a trip of contrasts, we start in the forested area around St Jean Pied de Port, continuing through the desert before passing landscapes littered with ancient castles, tracks and bridges over precipitous gorges, finishing in Ainsa. Week two from Les to Andorra takes us high into the mountains, tracking the ski resort piste runs. Alongside the mountains and high passes, the tracks take us from picturesque meadows to forests and rough tracks. There is always the chance that at high altitude snow may block our way, however, there are always alternative routes which just adds to the adventure!
We meet at Portsmouth for the 8.15am ferry to Santander which is a great chance to spend the day relaxing and getting to know each other and also avoids the long drive down through France. The ferry and cabins are included in the price; if you would like to upgrade to luxury suites, please contact us after booking.
At around 2pm our driving starts along the coast until we get to the French border where we head up into the foothills of the Pyrenees to St Jean Pied de Port, a medieval town at the beginning of the Santiago de Compostela pilgrim trail. This is where we meet those who have not chosen to travel with us from Portsmouth. You’ll have time to enjoy the town and sample the local cuisine.
We start on forest tracks that turn to hills, providing spectacular views as we drive to the Bardenas Reales, a semi-desert which has to be seen to be believed! The region is full of surprising shapes, canyons, plateaus and isolated hills. A hairpin drive leads to the hotel at the top of a hill where you will enjoy breathtaking panoramic desert views and spectacular sunsets.
We travel along the edge of the Bardenas, giving us a chance to stock up on food, snacks and fuel before we head into the wilds! We’ll stop at the visitors centre and then head into the desert before travelling past Roman viaducts and a more verdant landscape to Castle Loarre (where we spend two nights), which sits on a mountain guarding the Pyrenees from invaders, surrounded by the Riglos crags and Santo Domingo hills.
For the next two days we venture from Loarre to the Sierra de Guara, a total contrast to the more barren Bardenas region. Water, with river crossings and ancient bridges, trees and rising hills - you’ll see the landscape slowly change and spectacular rock formations rise above us. We will visit a famous example of this at the hermitage de Marcuello, which has incredible views of the Mallos de Riglos.
We leave Loara and travel on tracks and trails through the rising mountains towards the medieval town of Ainsa with eagles and other birds of prey circling the steep walls of the canyon. We also visit the cave-drawings at Abrigos del Tozal de Mallata. Ainsa sits on a hillside overlooking the river and valley; the old quarter is worth exploring and there are excellent restaurants for your evening meal.
An opportunity to take in the sites of the medieval town of Ainsa and the surrounding area. We travel in the morning to visit a spectacular canyon to the south of the town - an opportunity to walk and explore and also to photograph the numerous birds which use the canyon as their home. The afternoon is for you to use at your leisure - either relaxing at the hotel or touring the town.
After a leisurely start to the day, we leave Ainsa and travel on roads which travel through a landscape which gradually changes from foothills to soaring peaks. We cross over the hills via mountain passes and under them through lengthy tunnels before arriving at our destination, Les, in the heart of the High Pyrenees.
We drive up the densely wooded mountainside, a backdrop to the town of Les, until we arrive at a viewing area offering spectacular views. Lunch is at a tapas bar in a pretty town called Bosost, before continuing through the forest and above the treeline to 2,300 meters with breathtaking views of the Pyrenees. The day ends descending into Les and an evening meal at the local with an opportunity for some duty-free shopping.
We leave Les, but not before stocking up for a mountain picnic! At 2,000 metres, the Col de Varrados may still be snowy in May, which can block the trails. After passing through Bagerque ski resort, we visit the famous church at Montgarri, a refuge to many escaping from France during WWII. A beautiful valley full of cattle and wild horses leads to the d’Aran valley and Rialp, our base for three nights.
We head up 30 hairpins towards Cap de Port for a superb view down into the next valley. After a quick stop, we descend and then climb towards Espot for picnic provisions. We ascend through the ski resort of Super Espot and up to the Col de L’Exoil for a panoramic lunch - we're even higher than the lifts! The return drive offers spectacular views before descending through Sport towards Rialp.
This is the longest trail of the week but well worth it, passing through and above ski resorts before crossing into the next valley. The route takes us close to Andorra, skirting La Seu d’Urgell, with fabulous track views and regular photo opportunities. We have lunch at a forest refuge before continuing through high passes and forest, heading to the pretty village of Burg where we descend into Tirva and to Rialp.
The Smuggler’s Route is one of the most famous trails in Europe, going from Spain into Andorra through ever narrowing valleys before reaching the village of Tor where we stop for refreshments. We drive through picturesque valleys, climbing to the mountainside, culminating in a panoramic vista over Andorra. Our adventure ends at the central Hotel Pyrenees with time to explore Andorra and do some duty free shopping!
An early start for those heading home with us via the ferry from Santander as we have over 400 miles to cover before the sailing at 8.30pm. We’ll stop for breaks and lunch as time allows. The ferry arrives in Portsmouth at 7.45pm the following day.
“The off road treks were scenic, rugged, stunningly beautiful, sunny, misty and exciting. Hubby Shaun loved the driving and for me it was a photographers' dream for the sheer beauty of the land and skyscapes. The food was so good, it could be advertised as an off road gourmet trip!”
Conditions are temperate at lower levels although it can get hot in the desert and as we approach the Central Pyrenees. Do pack warmer clothes for the evenings and be prepared for unexpected showers.
Varied driving from farm and forest tracks, dusty desert crossings to the rocky trails that lead into the peaks. Suitable for all driving abilities under our expert guidance.
Low-box, underbody protection and recovery points along with all terrain tyres.
We carry medical kits, our guides are all first-aid trained and we have emergency beacons to hasten location and evacuation in emergency situations. Lead vehicles have full recovery equipment which is tested before departure and we also carry a range of tools and spares.
A detailed requirements check-list will be sent to you six weeks before your departure date.
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