Espot - Parc National d'Aiguestortes

Espot – Parc National d’Aiguestortes

Espot - Parc National d'Aiguestortes

Espot – Parc National d’Aiguestortes

Our travel diaries of Summer 2022 are reaching some really interesting destinations. Now it’s mid August and we’re about to arrive at Espot village, in The Parc National d’Aiguestortes. Quite honestly, we can’t wait because this region of the Central Pyrenees looks simply breathtaking.

Espot - Parc National d'Aiguestortes

Sort and Rialp Towns

First though, we’re at a place called Sort, where a small river crossing leads to a very handy parking spot.

Unfortunately, although there’s no signs to say no parking or no overnight, we begin to get some glances off locals passing by on an adjacent walking track. We can’t help but think they’re not liking us parking up here, especially after one family get out their mobile phone and start dialling!

Next comes a drive-by from the local National Park Warden. Now, although he drives on, he does stop and get out to talk to some other vanlife people just across the river. No sooner has he gone, the vanlife vans move on, so now we’re feeling a little bit unsure.

As it’s nearing 9pm, we decide to move on, so we’re not upsetting the people that live in this town. Although we can’t find anywhere to park in Sort, which by the way is a small town by a river.

The whole area is actually renowned for its river rafting and canoe trips, with the River Noguera Pallaresa attracting adventure sports of all kinds. It’s here, beside a river that we find a large, free motorhome Aire in the next town along called Rialp.

Luckily, there’s a place free and we join about 30 other motorhomes parking up for the night.

Aire Spain

Tales from the War

This area is called Pillars Sobirà and like many Spanish towns skirting the mountains of the French border, it holds a striking tale of desperation.

Here, is where many Jews tried to escape to from war torn countries of Europe during WW2. This route across hazardous terrain through the mountains, they hoped would lead to the coast, and with it the chance to flee.

Unfortunately, many were captured and sent back to where they’d started their journey from. Then, many would often be sent on to the camps, their hopes of freedom at the coast lost forever.

Llavorski – a rafting town

Driving a little further on along the scenic river route, we arrive at a small town called Llavorski. Ultimately, Llavorski is an adventure kind of place, with a few shops concentrated close to the river.

There’s plenty of action going on, with mini-bus loads of people climbing into a colourful selection of rafts. After parking up on the road, we take a stroll both to watch the rafting and also find an information office.

I don’t know why, but we’re really struggling to find instant coffee at the moment. So, we’re trying every shop in sight in the hope of finding a jar and here we find one – hooray!

At the tourist office, a helpful lady gives some information on both Espot and the Parc National d’Aiguestortes. Remarkably, one of the most interesting facts is that this region has an incredible bear population. Unbelievably, there’s no fewer than 72 roaming these mountains, and a warning leaflet tells us what to do if we come across one.

Espot – The Parc National d’Aiguestortes

The mountain village of Espot is the last stop before the dramatic landscapes of The Parc National d’Aiguestortes. Thankfully, here we find a free overnight parking spot, located beyond the village.

It’s worth pointing out that there’s no overnight parking in the other parking areas or in the National park itself. If you want a campsite, there’s a couple of sites before the village itself, aswell as one just after where we’re parking.

At the end of the day, we’re here in Espot, because just beyond is a walk that looks absolutely stunning. Then comes the interesting bit, because to get to the start, you take a landrover taxi! Now that sounds like a plan.

Unfortunately, just as we sit down for lunch, the storm clouds roll in. After waiting a while, we take to the rain for the short walk into Espot. We need to find out how to get the landrover taxi in the morning and soon find the office at the end of the village.

Set amongst the backdrop of the mountains, Espot is a charming place. Not only does it have a good selection of eateries and a few shops, but it’s stone buildings give a welcome character.

The Landrover Taxi – Espot – Parc National d’Aiguestortes

It’s 8.30am and we’re waiting at the taxi office along with lots of other people. Unfortunately, despite paying our 22 Euro return fee some time ago, there’s no sign of us boarding a landrover. That’s because, it’s ever so slightly disorganised, with loads of landrovers and drivers waiting, but no one being ushered to them.

After asking several times which start we’re going to, eventually we’re shown to a landrover. Apparently, there’s a longer drive up to a further point than the one we’re going to, higher up the mountain.

Now, you may be asking why aren’t we walking to the start of the walk? Well, that’s simply because it’s an extra hour of walking to get there, as it’s 4km away. Then, the walk itself is a about 4 hours and after all, who doesn’t want to take advantage of the landrover ride?

Hopping on board, we join a family and a dog on the slow drive up the mountain. The road climbs steadily, and seems to take forever. By now, we’re glad we haven’t done the extra walking to the start, as we think we’d rather save our energy for the really good part.

There is a large parking area at one point, but it’s no use for our 3.5t campervan due to restrictions. Also, there’s no overnight permitted and it’s still not at the start of the walking route.

The incredible Estany de Sant Maurici Walk

Eventually the taxi pulls over at the most incredibly scenic location you’ll ever see. Certainly for us, this is a Wow moment and we feel blessed to be here.

Like most of the best drives and walks we do, it’s not coincidental that we find them. Usually, we take books and the walk of Estany de Sant Maurici is one from the DK Road Trips in Spain book.

Stepping out before the most turquoise blue lake is simply breathtaking. Not only is early morning the best time to be here because of less people, but the reflections of dramatic mountain peaks on the water is magical.

This lake of bright blue is the Estany de Sant Maurici, and the walk has the same name.

Not one but 2 lakes

Looking up beyond the first lake into the mountain peaks reminds us of the Dolomites. However, there’s one big difference here, we have the place virtually to ourselves. Although, there seems lots of people taking taxi’s up here, they are now few and far between.

This little corner of Spain is still a closely guarded secret, with mostly locals enjoying this spectacular setting.

One good sign on a walk is when we’re always stopping to take photos and this is no exception. This is one of those special places, giving a feeling of gratitude experiencing its beauty.

Before long, we’re passing the first lake of Estany de Sant Maurici, passing a waterfall and climbing higher along the trail.

Estany de la Ratera

Next comes the second lake of Estany de la Ratera and it’s equally as beautiful if not totally different in appearance. Now we seem closer to the mountains and the crystal clear waters bring a relaxing solitude in the morning sun. Along the shore are large boulders, whilst wild raspberries grow beside the path. These tasty wild fruits make a tangy, soothing treat along the way.

A little further along and a viewpoint allows for a moment of deep concentration, eyeing up the peaks in line with the images on a display board. Here, just admiring the scenery across this absolutely gem of a find is quite something.

One wrong turn and cattle bells

After walking along a scree slope, we feel more remote than ever but the path is still leading us the right way. Then comes a wrong turn, as we follow a sign for a refuge by mistake. Instead of going down hill, we’re now going up again, before we realise our error.

However, it turns out to be a stroke of luck, because the path is both beautiful and interesting. First, we come to a wooden plank path crosses a pond and a frog sits happily on the edge. Then we hear a familiar sound, as a heard of cattle pass by on their way to new pasture. The sound of cattle bells sound across the mountains, bringing such a delightful tune to the stillness of the air.

At this point we realise we’re going wrong here. So, we re-trace our steps and find the correct sign post back towards the Estany de Sant Maurici. This final down hill section of the walk, takes us through woodland, gradually back to the start of this circular route. Soon we arrive back at the lake, only on the opposite side to where we began.

By now there are families taking picnics on the grassy lake edge, where beauty and serenity unite. For us, we take a last look back at the incredible scenery, before taking a waiting Landrover back to Espot village.

Parc National d’Aiguestortes – Salardú

Our day has been a good one, blessed with the most amazing landscapes and natural treasures. As for the walk, it’s certainly one of our favourites and will go down as a “must do” for anyone who asks.

As the afternoon wears on, those storm clouds gather again, luckily the weather for us was perfect. Now, we choose to leave Espot behind, because there’s another incredible looking walk that we have our sights on.

Also in the Parc National d’Aiguestortes, but on the opposite side of the moutains is Salardú and the start for our next walk.

First though, we’re driving over the mountain pass at Bonaigua and at 2072m, it’s a stunning drive. Best of all, it comes with opportunities to pull over in one of a few large parking areas. Here, we stop and take in the views, watching wild horses being herded amongst the shadows of Winter ski stations.

By the time we get to Salardú we’re hoping to park up near the start of the walk ready for tomorrow. Unfortunately, we get a surprise. Not only is the 8km road closed to motorhomes, but any vehicles over 3.5t, 2m high and 6m long.

No overnight Parking

So, we’re absolutely gutted. We really want to go, but with narrow roads and no parking in the village, there’s no choice but to turn around.

It’s such a shame, but we continue through these small villages and ski areas towards Vielha, the capital of The Val d’Aran.

Here it’s busy and big and not great. Once again, there’s signs in the parking areas saying no overnight parking. Onwards through the very long tunnel of Vielha leads us to another mountain pass with a lake in the distance.

All the while, we know we need to find a place to park for the night and refer to the Apps constantly. Every place we find has signs saying no overnight parking, this is becoming a common occurrence. It’s so frustrating because there’s fabulous walks starting from many of these parking areas, where overnight parking was once tolerated. Still some vanlife folk take their chances, asking us if we’re staying and do we know if the ranger calls? Of course, we have no idea, but the Apps mention they do and that fines are possible.

Valle de Boi

So, onwards we drive, arriving at a dead end valley called Valle de Boi and a free Aire at Barruera. This area is known for its Romanesque churches, so we’ll take a look in daylight tomorrow.

Yes, by now it’s dark and the parking area isn’t that great. The first thing we notice is a large mound of poo, not the first time on this trip and we wonder if its source is human.

The overgrown grass and noisy neighbours only add to the non-ambient surroundings. It’s only the next morning that we realise this isn’t an Aire at all, the sign says “no overnight parking” although it does have a motorhome dump area. Oh well, there were about 20 other vans, people sleeping in cars and motorhomes, so we aren’t the only ones.

A little further along the valley is Boi and Taull, two pretty mountain villages of immaculate appearance. We park up on the road and take a walk into the small streets before taking a coffee stop. The Romanesque churches are as lovely as expected, in fact, they are quite beautiful.

Then it’s time to depart, heading along a winding moutain road towards Port de Suert. We find ourselves passing huge reservoirs of bluest water, stretching for what seems like miles. Of course, it’s the full heat of Summer and the water levels are low, revealing dry lake beds in places but equally beautiful.

Now it’s time to find a place that’s hopefully going to bring more Wow factor moments. Yes, we’re heading to the Congost de Mont Rebei and a thrilling walk that may leave us terrified! Find out how we get on next time.

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Espot - Parc National d'Aiguestortes


  1. Most appreciative of your posts and though living in the French Pyrenees we are learning a great deal.
    Keep them coming!

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