Queralbs and Nuria in Spain

Queralbs and Nuria in Spain

Quealbs and Nuria in Spain

Queralbs and Nuria in Spain

It’s early August and our vanlife travels arrive at Queralbs and Nuria in Catalonia, Spain. The drive from the nearby village of Ribes brings a bit of confusion. First of all, we’re not sure if we can find the right road. Simply because, it’s narrow, congested and a storm is raining down on us, which isn’t helping.

After a couple of turn around sessions and lots of looking at the sat nav and the roads, we decide to give it a go. Now, we’re no strangers to narrow roads, far from it, but this one looks worse because it seems to disappear into the depths of the village.

In the end, going for it happens to be the best thing to do. Because, just around the corner, the road becomes more passable, although still narrow. Before long, we’re out of the village, and the road now climbs steadily up to the mountain hamlet of Queralbs. Here, according to our App, there’s a motorhome stopover and it turns out to be a good one.

A Storm hovers over Queralbs

Approaching the end of the road, we find the motorhome stopover to our right, in a large tarmac parking area. We’re not the only ones to spend the night either, with around twenty other vans already parked up.

Unfortunately, although the storm has passed, the rain is still falling and the clouds are low. However, luckily, there’s a front line parking place available, overlooking a glimpse of mountain view through the mist.

At the moment, the weather is only good for one thing – eating and drinking inside the van. Inevitably, we sit it out, waiting for a break in the rain because Queralbs itself looks beautiful and we want to take a look.

Even more important, tomorrow we want to walk the ancient pilgrimage route which starts from Queralbs. Here, we’re going to take a one-way train ride up the mountain to Nuria. Nuria being a hamlet and home of the sanctuary complex called Sanctuary de la Mare de Den, built in the heart of the mountains amongst stunning scenery.

After the train to Nuria, we’ll then walk the old pilgrim track back down the mountain to Queralbs. First we need to check out both the train times and find out how to book one.

Thankfully, the rain stops and we seize the opportunity to walk into Queralbs village. It’s actually really chilly up here, despite it being peak Summer, so the fleece and coat gets an airing.

Queralbs Village is adorable

From the parking area we follow a paved path towards the village. This brings us out at the quaint railway station building, where we check out the timetable and payment information, or should I say lack of it.

The station building is closed, so there’s no one to ask for information either. Instead, we take to the website to find out what we need to know, booking the 7.45am train to Nuria, costing 34 Euro for 2 adults.

Further on from the station, the tiny streets of this mountain hamlet bring an adorable quaintness amongst the stone buildings. The character houses and cobbled alleys line the walkways, where a few shops and eateries can also be found.

At the far end of the hamlet is a really pretty church, and fine views across the roof tops bring an added interest to an already beautiful setting.

This area is the Vall de Nuria and queralbs is the starting point for numerous walks. However, it’s the Cami Vell route that’s the most popular, hence our early start tomorrow.

The Cami Vell Walk – Queralbs and Nuria in Spain

We’re up at 6am ready for the first train up the mountain to the Sanctuary stop of Nuria. There’s a welcome chill in the air and we’re pleased when the train pulls into the platform bang on time. Next comes a 20 minute ride further into the mountains and passing beautiful scenery on this rack railway, dating back to 1931.

The train arrives at the train station of Nuria, where a deserted plateau awaits. Here, the scenery is both dramatic and serene. It’s also the location of a lake, ski stations and the huge sanctuary complex which is also a hotel. To be honest, we aren’t expecting it to look like this. Not only is it a huge area, but there’s so much going on here for visitors to this mountain hideaway.

Like anything, the first thing we want to do before setting off on the walk is to use the toilets. We follow the signs into the vast buildings where shops, restaurants and the hotel can be found. Unfortunately for us, the loos aren’t open yet, how strange – but this is Spain after all! Fortunately, there’s no rush, especially here in the mountains, all we can do is wait.

Nonetheless, we hang around and eventually the toilet doors open and we take our chance. Outside, there’s a chill in the air still and no sign of the sun reaching the paths just yet.

An 8km route down to Queralbs

The route begins by the lake, with well-signed walking posts marking the way. There’s picnic areas and so much space up here, looking back at the vast building behind us is quite extraordinary.

We take a moment to look inside the Saint Giles Hermitage, a quaint chapel dating back to 1072 with most recent renovations in 1999. Saint Giles came to these parts in the year 700, living a hermit’s life and preaching Christianity. However, the chapel was built by shepherds and Amadeus, a pilgrim from Damascus who came in search of an image of Mary.

For us, it’s just a lovely space to spend some quiet time before heading off down the mountain. The trail ahead is well marked taking us through the dramatic gorge along this 8km route down to Queralbs.

It’s a mix of stone laid paths – typically pilgrim in style if there ever were such a thing. We pass through woodland sections where we spot an Ibex or similar kind of animal, on a craggy slope in the distance. Before long, the path becomes more stoney, soon we’re passing waterfalls and dramatic peaks. In short, it’s simply stunning.

Waterfalls and views – Queralbs and Nuria in Spain

All the way, we seem to be almost alone on the path, certainly there is no one visible either behind or in front of us. Although eventually, there are plenty of people making the walk up the path, instead of taking the train.

The walk is a gradual descent, which winds its way through the gorge with the river tumbling below. It’s generally a peaceful route, with a solitude reserved to nature. As the sun reaches the path, we feel the heat and relief that we’re on our way down and not up, in this hilly terrain.

A pretty stone bridge leads us over the river and the path continues, winding round the lower mountain slopes. With the change of direction comes an opening in the views across the valley. The skies are clear and blue and the greenery of the surrounding mountain slopes makes for a gentler image through the wilderness.

Two Trains Together

It’s not long before we see the train climbing steadily up the tracks, winding gently round the hillside. Then, no sooner does one pass and another appears. It seems they take two trains for each departure during peak season, maybe due to the popularity of this place.

Now we come to a short section of rocky scree, where the path becomes lost in the stoney slope. Then we find a marker, guiding us over the stones towards a more prominent path ahead.

It’s nearly 3 hours since we left Nuria and there seems to be some civilisation in sight. Soon, we’re crossing a road and another footpath sign leads us back beside rural buildings and towards the village.

Pancakes await before a Scenic drive

Before we know it we’re back in the village of Queralbs which is full of life during the day. As the hunger pangs strike, we have the urge for some homemade pancakes so head back to the van for lunch.

It’s been a beautiful day and both Queralbs and Nuria provide another dimension in this interesting part of Spain. After our pancake fix, it’s time to take the same road back down the mountain. This time we’re ready for a scenic, 53km drive towards Cerdanya, the French/Spanish region running beside the Pyrenees.

Although it’s a pleasant drive with some nice scenery, it’s not a Wow moment, but a nice drive all the same.

Martinet and a popular Free Aire

When we come to a place called Llivia, we stop and take a walk around, mainly to see the old town and its medieval centre.

Onwards we drive, towards La See d’Urgellel, where at Martinet we find a free Aire for the night. Unfortunately, it’s full, but we manage to squeeze into a small spot while we wait and see if anyone leaves.

It’s worth pointing out that so far, the choices of places to stop overnight are quite limited. There’s not much in the way of wild camping or Aires, so when we see this one, we want to stick it out.

As ever with these things, no one is budging, but then there’s a bit of hope in the form of a local council representative. Yes, this public motorhome parking area, next to the municipal swimming pool has an extra parking section made available to cope with demand.

In an instance, we set the wheels in motion and follow the enthusiastic chap into another parking area higher up. It’s not long before there’s several more vans with us. This town is obviously onto a winner here and even provide a hot shower and loo, which I have to say is quite a welcome change.

Market Day and a Meander

After a good nights sleep, we take a walk into Martinet which turns out to be a nice little town. Not only does it have a rustic feel with its cobbled, hilly streets which rise up a hillside, but it also has a lovely river flowing through the centre.

Luckily, it’s market day, which means only one thing – a bit of tasting and buying. It’s not long before we’re retuning to the Campervan with a local cheese, costing a pricey 12 Euro and more reasonable local honey.

Now it’s time to move on again, because we have Andorra in our sights. But, that’s for another day, so keep any eye out for the next instalment of our travel diaries, where we find a manic border and very cheap fuel!

Martinet motorhome aire spain
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