The parks of the Aragon Pyrenees mountains are a mecca for nature lovers and summer trekkers; offering a great variety and range of walks, from one or two-hour strolls to some seriously strenuous high Pyrenean adventures.
Why not try the Old Aragon Kingdom route which takes in a combination of historical sites, such as the San Juan de la Pena monastery, and spectacular views, like that of the stunning Maladeta massifs, and the southernmost glaciers in Europe.
In fact, this area is home to the highest peak in all the Pyrenees range – Aneto. As well as some of the most important National Parks and Protected Natural spaces.
Here’s a summary and list of natural highlights for this beautiful area of the Pyrenees mountains.
National Park of Ordesa and Monte Perdido
This spectacular park is located in the Aragon Pyrenees province of Huesca, near the French border, and France’s National Park of the Pyrenees.
It includes an area of more than 15, 000 hectares (156.08 km² ), in a U shaped glacier valley, and is one of the most important Parks in the Pyrenees, and in Europe, with one of the highest limestone mountains of the continent: Monte Perdido(3355 m).
Within Ordesa are the four valleys of; Ordesa, Anisclo, Pineta and Escuain. Its territory includes the municipalities of Torla, Broto, Fanlo, Tella-Sin,Puertólas and Bielsa.
The park is a World Biosphere Reserve, a ‘Special Protection Area for Birds’, in the Pyrenees, and has been declared a place of World Humanity Heritage by UNESCO for its stunning scope of diverse, natural landscape.
High, soaring summits contrast dramatically with deep glacier valleys, lush green forests and steep canyons, carved from the limestone mountains.
There are also lots of lakes, rivers, caves and waterfalls, plus a wide variety of wildlife and flora.
Ordesa is a popular place to visit in the Pyrenees, and many tourists come here to see the famous birds of prey; six pairs of the rare Lammergeier, Griffon vultures, Royal Owls, and other pairs of Golden eagles.
Pyrenean Chamois, marmots, and boars are also known to be seen wandering throughout the park.
Naturally, a large variety of mountain and adventure sports can be enjoyed here. Especially excellent in Ordessa, are the fantastic trekking trails and climbing routes for all levels.
Other popular sports in this Aragon park are; mountain biking, climbing, rafting, canoeing, paragliding, glider planes, and bungee-jumping.
A popular hike is the “Circa Soasa”, which is not too difficult and provides some excellent scenery. Or, the ‘Cola de Caballo’, horses tail (a waterfall), which is suitable for any level of trekker, and reaches the beautiful ‘La Garganta’ viewpoint.
A good idea is to start off in the picturesque typical Pyrenees mountain village of Torla, and look into all the treks that start from there. You may want to try some local tapas too, they’re especially tasty here.
Good areas for climbing are Gallinero, Petit Vignemale or Tozal del Mallo.
There is an Aragon Park Interpretation/ Information Centre in the ‘Old Parador’, which is on the road between Torla and the Pradera de Ordesa.
You can get info about the park and maps for trekking here.
The charming towns of Torla and Ainsa are great places to use for a base while exploring the park and surrounding areas.
Ordesa National Park is open from May through mid-November.
Natural Monument of San Juan de la Peña
This protected natural enclave is just 23 km from the important Aragonese town of Jaca, and has a fantastic combination of both ecological and historical value.
For this, it has been declared as a Natural and Cultural National Monument of Aragon, and Spain.
The stunning monastery of San Juan de la Peña is the historic and monumental center of the protected area. It was built in 1025 under the shelter of an enormous rock.
This monastery is considered to be the cradle of the old, and very important kingdom of Aragon.
It holds the remains Aragon’s first monarchs, and some beautiful Romanesque and Mozarabic art.
Many legends of the Holy Grail also surround the monastery. It was said to have been brought here from Rome by Saint Lorenzo.
San Juan de la Peña is surrounded by a dense and varied forest, some interesting limestone formations and birds of prey that live in the rocky cliffs.
There are plenty of treks to do at all lengths and levels.
Other nearby sites to visit are; the famous “Balcony of the Pyrenees” – a lookout spot over the Pyrenees mountain range, the Monasterio Alto y Santa Cilia de Jaca, the village of Santa Cruz de la Seros, and the ‘Monasterio Viejo’, (old monastery), on the ‘Camino de Santiago’ – road to Santiago.
The Aragon Pyrenees ski resorts of Candanchú and Astún are also not far away.
There is also a new monastery of San Juan de la Peña, further down, but not far from, the old one. It’s here that you’ll find an Interpretation/ Information Centre, as well as the ‘Kingdom of Aragon Interpretation Centre’.
Nature Reserve of Posets-Maladeta
This Nature Reserve is located in the easternmost area of the Aragon Pyrenees Mountains, in Ribagorza, in the valley of Benasque.
The park houses more than half of the highest mountains (over three thousand meters) in all the Pyrenees mountains.
With, Aneto at 3404 m, being the highest in the Pyrenees, Maladeta (3308), the Perdiguera peak (3222 m), and Posets at (3375 m).
Posets and Maladet Nature Reserve is also home to the majority of the remaining glaciers of the Pyrenees mountains, plus a Special Protection Area for Birds.
Hundreds of clear blue mountain lakes have been left here by the giant glaciers that shaped these valleys.
Some of the most well-known are; Sein, Millares, Barbarisa, Balliberna, and Batisielles.
Typical Aragon Pyrenees mountain flora and fauna are abundant here. In the wet valleys there’s a wealth of pine and fir trees, and animals like; chamois, deer and wild boar.
Birds of prey here include; the golden eagle, the vulture, and the Lammergeier.
There are lots of nice treks and walks through the park. Two of the more popular ones are to the Forau de Aigüalluts, which is about 45 minutes there (one way), and The ascent of Aneto, known as the ‘Roof of the Pyrenees’. This one takes more than 6 hours and is quite challenging, but well worth it for the views that are granted.
Both treks begin near the refuge of Renclusa.
To find out more information about these hikes, and others go to either of the Aragon Park Interpretation Centres. One is within one kilometer from Benasque, and the other is located in the old school of Aneto, in Noguera of the Ribagorzana Valley.
Nature Reserve of the Sierra and Canyons of Guara
The Sierra and Canyons of Guara are actually in the pre-Pyrenees of Aragon, at the outer mountain ranges and limit of Huesca.
It’s the largest protected natural space of Aragon, and has a Special Protection Area for Birds, which is considered to be one of the most important reserves in Europe.
Many mountain ranges make up this reserve, but it’s name comes from the most important one; the Range of Guara.
The landscape here is complex, and spectacular, with deep narrow gorges towered over by high limestone walls, rushing waterfalls, rocky out crops, circuits of caves, and canyons with powerful rivers rushing through them.
This area of the Aragon Pyrenees mountains also has some interesting cultural heritage, in the park you can remains from medieval villages, megalithic constructions, and prehistoric cave paintings.
All kinds of sport can be done here, from leisurely walks, to climbing, canyoning, or caving.
To get more information on the Nature Reserve of the Sierra and Canyons of Guara stop by the Interpretation Centrewhich is located next to the town called Bierge.
Other Aragon Nature Highlights:
- Valley of Garcipollera
- Located in the valley of the river Aragon to the north of Jaca, with an array of flora and fauna, including wild boar, squirrels, foxes and many birds.It’s considered to have the most beautiful forest of the municipality of Jaca.
- Throughout the valley there are tons of treks and different areas to do all kinds of mountain sports.
- Anayet and Panticosa
- This area is in the amazing valley of Tena, in the Aragon Pyrenees mountains.
- The glacial formed valley is surrounded by high mountain peaks, reaching up to almost 3000 meters. Collarada (2888m) is the highest.
- There is also an old volcanic chimney in the range of Tendeñera and Anayet, plus vast pastures, wild and black pine forests and the remains of an old oak and beech grove.
- The cirque of Piedrafita in Sallent de Gallego, and the stunning limestone formations of Peña Telera and Peña Foratata are also worth a visit.
- Some of the more famous peaks are: Balaitus, the Picos Moros, and Picos del Infierno (peaks of hell).
- You can also visit some pretty mountain lakes here, the best ones are; Bucuesa, Sabocos, Bramatuero, Bachimaña, Brazatos, Azules, and Respomuso.
- The excellent Spa of Panticosa is fed by the thermal spring waters that come from these mountains.
- It’s located a short drive up the mountain, from the village.
- Oza Forest
- Selva de Oza, or Oza Forest in English, is situated in the region of Jacetania, in the picturesque Valley of Hecho.
- This fantastic forest is full of wonderful flora and fauna, including beech, fir and pine trees, lots of pretty mountain flowers in spring, and wild mushrooms and berries in Autumn.
- Oza has some special species of animals within its boundaries. There are wild boars, rare birds, like the much sought after treparriscos.
- The forest is surrounded by mountains reaching as high as 2, 700 meters- Peña Forca (2.390 m.), Punta Agüerri (2.450 m.), Castillo de Achert (2.384 m.) and Bisaurín (2.668 m.)
- Within the park you’ll find lots of megalithic monuments, like dolmens, menhirs and stone circles.
- If you want to find out more about the park, and the megalithic monument routes, you can visit the Megalithic Center of Interpretation, on the highway from Echo to Oza.
- Further beyond the Oza Forest there is an interesting old Roman road that was used before the 4th century to get to France.
- It forms part of the route of Santiago’s Way -the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
Aragon’s Special Protection Areas for Birds – (S.P.A.B),or Z.E.P.A. in Spanish:
- the western valleys of Echo, Anso, Aragües del Puerto
- Aisa, Cotiella-Sierra Ferra, Turbon-Sierra de Sis
- Sierras of Santo Domingo-Caballera, Alto Cinca, and La Sotonera.
* For more information visit the Interpretation Centre of the Western Pyrenees Valleys in the town of Anso.