- 1 On the road
- 2 Hiking trough the gorge of Congost de Montrebei
- 3 Monastery of Santa María de Bellpuig de las Avellanes
- 4 Astronomical Observatory in Montsec
On the road
A weekend with friends in the foothills of the Catalan Pyrenees. Our destination is the legendary Congost de Montrebei. We start at the Costa Brava and drive about three hours. The road leads us inland, through wooded hills and mountain tunnels – the smell of pine trees is in the air. A few romantic castles appear in the mountains. The journey continues via the picturesque small town of Vic, where a stop is definitely worthwhile. We buy some local sausage and cheese as a delicious souvenir for home.
Trough the sunset to the hinterland of Catalonia
As we drive on, the landscape is already in the golden evening light of the south. The sharp silhouette of the Montserrat mountains reminds me of knife points on the horizon and beam me to another world. Also the evergreen cypresses – rising towards the sky – shape the Catalan landscape. Small clouds slowly turn pink and the crescent moon hangs above us like a lantern. We drive into the blood-red sunset and then we finally arrive!
Accomodation in Ager
We spend the weekend in the Hotel Vall d’Áger: Pretty little houses in Swedish style combine modern elegance with cosiness. Alternatively, visitors can pitch a tent here. On the small roof terrace we toast in the evening with a glass of wine under the glorious stars.
Hiking trough the gorge of Congost de Montrebei
From our small weekend house in the Hotel Vall d’Áger we have a great view to the forest surrounded village of Áger with its ancient castle. The lavender on the terrace in front of our house smells lovely and the sky greets us with its bright blue color. Spring (May/June) and autumn (September/October) are the recommended best seasons for exploring the Congost de Montrebei. Even if the October sun is not so strong anymore, you should take enough water and sun protection with you for a hike. Strengthened by breakfast in the hotel restaurant, we start our hiking tour.
What and where is the Congost de Montrebei?
The Congost de Montrebei is one of the most beautiful spots I have ever seen so far. It is a nature reserve and located between Huesca and Lérida, on the border of Catalonia and Aragón. A turquoise river, named Noguera Ribagorcana once split the grey to orange colored mountains of Montsec.
Today it winds its way through limestone gorges covered of dense Mediterranean forests. A dreamlike sight that will take your breath away. The whole area extends over 600 hectares and has an enormous ecological value due to its flora & fauna, rare species and untouched nature.
Lust to hike!
We start our hiking tour from the La Pertusa car park, which owes its name to a pretty mountain chapel overlooking the lake Canelles. From the very first second, the view into the landscape is enchanting.
Confucius, a Chinese philosopher already said about 500 B.C.
“The way is the goal”
– and with such an impressive hike this is of course the truth!
Spectacular views in the Congost de Montrebei
We’re watching two big eagles. The kings of the air circle majestically in the sky. Well signposted and the fortunately not overcrowded hiking trail leads us to fantastic vantage points like La Portell del Montsec, to bridges over the river to Aragon and to hidden mountain caves.
From above we see some colorful kayaks gliding deep down through the turquoise blue water. The area is of great interest to mountaineers who want to climb off the beaten track, but is also suitable for less experienced hikers like us.
We walk with small picnic breaks within 3 hours to the unique suspension bridge, called St. Jaume. From there we enjoy the view over the river, through the gorge and up to the Pyrenees. Some brave tourists jump into the ice-cold water of the river. The highlight of the Congost is the narrowest part of the gorge, where the eroded rocks are only 20 m away from each other. The path carved into the rock is simply spectacular and is well visited!
We also take the way back by foot to enjoy the unique views from another perspective. One can also get back by kayak, water taxi or bus, maybe a possibilty for the next time. It is absolutly recommended to make a reservation in advance.
Arriving back at the hotel in the evening we are all tired and happy, admiring how some paraglider jump off the cliffs in the evening sun, are carried by the wind and finally land safely on the field. This area offers many opportunities for adventure sports, including canyoning, rafting and skydiving.
Happy and hungry : Restaurant recommendation
After the long march we have a ravenous appetite and are looking forward to something hearty. The restaurant Casa Xalets in Áger is our choice for the evening : Here you can find top quality food and wine, fair prices and a loving atmosphere!
Monastery of Santa María de Bellpuig de las Avellanes
The ancient monastery of Santa María de Bellpuig de las Avellanes in Os de Balaguer in the southern foothills of Montsec is not very far from Áger and is on our way back home. So we visit the still active abbey. For visitors who want to stay longer there are hotel rooms and a restaurant overlooking the Romanesque cloister.
We take a tour with a friendly guide. You can learn a lot about the eventful history of the monastery – Catalan or Spanish language required. Of course you can also explore the monastery on your own.
Our road trip slowly comes to an end. We chug relaxed through picturesque landscape and over small country roads towards the sunset back to the coast. We are looking forward to a cool beer on the home terrace after the eventful and also exhausting weekend.
Astronomical Observatory in Montsec
We are made of stars
It is worthwhile to take a closer look at the starry sky here. This part of Spain is not very densely populated and thus no big city lights prevent the nocturnal glow of stars. Two important observatories of Southern Europe are only 10 minutes away from Áger by car. We take part in a nocturnal guided tour in the PAM – an absolute highlight for those interested in the universe.
Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662), French philosopher and founder of probability calculus once said:
“The universe is a circle whose centre is everywhere, whose circumference is nowhere”.
Even today it does not seem to be quite easy to understand – but to expand one’s knowledge about is exciting.
Exhibition & cinema
The astronomical park is very well visited despite nighttime. In the beginning we explore an interactive exhibition on our own. The role of astronomy in our society, the evolution of the universe and the necessary protection of it are thematized in this exhibition. Afterwards, a 3D film about the origin of the universe and man is shown in a cinema hall with a large domed roof. The film is playful and easy created – especially exciting for children! Afterwards, an astronomical expert explained our solar system to laymen in the artificial starry sky of the cinema. With a surprising and spectacular effect, the roof of the dome opens and the projection changes into a real sky tent.
Through the telescope to the stars
Finally we go outside to the telescopes equipped with cameras. We see great shots of the current sky and the waxing moon. Looking through the telescope I discover Jupiter with its rings. A great experience!