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Catalonia - The Eastern Pyrenees

Tour Code: ESP01

An 8-day holiday of birdwatching and botanical walks in the Catalonian Pyrenees.

8 days from £1495(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1375 SRS: £160


We stay at two different rural locations for this tour which will offer us a chance to explore a wide range of habitats including rocky crags and hidden river valleys of the Montsec range in the pre-Pyrenees, plus the National Park of Aigüestortes in the heart of the Catalan Pyrenees. Daily walks and excursions from these two bases will give us a chance of encountering the region’s rich birdlife which includes Golden Oriole, Roller and Black Vulture among many other species. Wild flowers abound along the edges of poppy-strewn cereal fields, in almond groves, and in alpine meadows just emerging from winter.

  • Led by expert naturalist guide
  • Superb landscapes, from dry plains to snow-capped pinnacles of the high Pyrenees
  • Two charming family-run hotels serving excellent local food
  • Rich birdlife includes Little Bustard, Bonelli’s Eagle, Bee-eater & Black Wheatear
  • Lammergeier, eagles & Black Woodpecker in the mountains
  • Includes a visit to the stunningly beautiful National Park of Aigüestortes
  • Led by expert locally based guide Steve West

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

Charming, family-run hotels serving excellent local food, both with private facilities.

Aigüestortes (Steve West)

Aigüestortes (Steve West)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Barcelona; transfer Espot.

Day 2/4 Daily programme of birdwatching and botanical walks in the Catalan Pyrenees.

Day 5/7 Les Avellanes.

Day 8 Fly UK.

Catalonia is an immensely proud and semi-autonomous region of Spain which boasts its own culture and language, age-old customs and festivals, a highly diverse landscape, and internationally renowned culinary traditions. Situated in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula, it has over six million inhabitants and covers an area the size of Belgium or Switzerland. The Catalonian Pyrenees, part of that spectacular mountain barrier between France and Spain, dominate the entire north of the region, stretching for more than 200 kilometres from Val d’Aran, in the west, to the headland of Cape Creus, in the east, where the last rocky spurs of the Pyrenees, stripped bare by the wind and waves, plunge into the Mediterranean. It is a dramatic land of snow-capped peaks, glacial lakes, wooded gorges and astonishing rock formations, and its flora and fauna is similarly rich.

This 2-centre holiday, inspired by the eternal popularity of our long-running Spanish and French Pyrenees tours, together with the enthusiasm and encouragement of the Catalans for us to share some of their rich natural heritage, is based for the first four nights in a splendid mountain hotel high up in the Pyrenees. Our journey will take us through a variety of habitats. The flora of the area is a wonderful mix of Mediterranean, northern European and Alpine. In the villages, Soft Snapdragon grows on the walls. Along the tracks grow Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender, Rock Soapwort, Blue Apyllanthes, I>Centaurea conifera/I>, Clary and many vetches, including the pungent Pitch Trefoil. In delightful meadows orchids are found, including Elderflower and Fragrant, and a variety of other flowers such as Dog’s-tooth Violet, Pyrenean Buttercup and Large-flowered Butterwort. Birds of prey will be very much in evidence, and may include Lammergeier, Golden Eagle, Black Vulture and Egyptian Vulture. One of the highlights of our holiday will be a visit to the spectacular Parc National d’Aigüestortes, in the high Pyrenees. Land Rover taxis take us up as far as the snowline and within tantalising distance of the majestic summits. Here we are transported into a different world, botanically speaking, with true alpine flowers such as Trumpet Gentian, Alpine Pasque Flower, or Alpine Snowbell amongst a wealth of other interesting plants. Birds at this altitude may include Citril Finch, Crested Tit, Crossbill, Crag Martin, Rock Bunting, Firecrest and possibly Black Woodpecker. We will also spend time around the little-visited eastern edge of the national park, enjoying a backdrop of tiny villages, flower-filled meadows and pinewoods. Later, snow conditions permitting,  we will drive up to a mountain refuge where a short uphill walk will take us to a spot with splendid mountain scenery. Along the way Ring Ouzel and more Lammergeier and Citril Finch sightings are possible.

Leaving the high mountains behind, we transfer south through the picturesque Pyrenean foothills, looking for Ortolan Bunting, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush and Dartford Warbler along the way. Plant specialities include I>Fritillaria lusitanica/I>, Hedgehog Broom and Rush-leaf Jonquil.

The second part of the holiday, based in the splendid Monastery of Avellanes (restored and converted in to a hotel), offers tranquillity and wildlife-rich gardens where ancient Nettle Trees grow, and Short-toed Treecreeper, Spotted Flycatcher, Woodchat Shrike and Cirl Bunting breed. Brown-flowered Squill, Rosy-flowered Garlic and Shrubby Gromwell thrive whilst a nice walk by a cliff can produce Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Sparrow, Red-billed Chough and Peregrine Falcon as Griffon Vultures soar overhead. The paths are full of Dwarf Mallow in full bloom, Curry Plant and Sea Grape, whilst orchids include Early Spider Orchid.

An early morning excursion to the plains around Lleida is a highlight and we’ll be looking here for Lesser Kestrel, Bee-eater, Little Bustard, Roller, Montagu’s Harrier and, with luck, Black Bellied Sandgrouse, all in the beautiful soft light of a sunny Catalan morning and surrounded by fields of poppies in full bloom.  A nearby lagoon is home to a good variety of birds including Penduline Tit and Red-crested Pochard, and we will look for Bonelli’s Eagle and Golden Oriole in a gorge nearby a restored medieval castle. Here we will breathe in dramatic scenery and discover interesting new flowers such as Pitch Trefoil and Catalonian Jasmine.

This region of Spain has something of interest for everyone. The flowers, birds and butterflies are outstanding, not to mention the scenery, food and hospitality! In addition, Barcelona makes for a wonderful cultural post-tour extension, and is easily arranged.

DIV>/DIV>

Pyrenees from Barcelona flight (Tom Mills)Foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees (Tom Mills)European Bee-eaterRoca Balladora, CataloniaBlack Redstart (Liz Harland)Prades, CataloniaWoodcock Orchid (Steve West)Southern Smooth Snake (Andrew Cleave)Our hotel in AvellanesOne of the gardens of our Avellanes hotelRanunculus pyrenaeus, Pyrenean Buttercup (Dawn Balmer)Bedroom at our Avellanes hotelOur hotel in AvellanesPoppy field in the Eastern PyreneesPistacia lentiscus, Mastic Tree (Dawn Balmer)Red-footed Falcon (Andrew Cleave)Aiguestortes National Park group (Steve West)Griffon Vulture (James Lees)Naturetrek group picnic (Christopher Hardingham)Watching the vulture feeding site (Andrew Cleave)Roca Balladora, CataloniaCornudella de MontsantArtesa Valley, Catalonia (Liz Harland)Marsh FritillaryBenetCataloniaAigues Tortes (Steve West)Espot (Izzie Harrison-Hall)Weevil on Silybum maritanum, Milk thistle (Dawn Balmer)Our hotel in Espot (Tom Mills)Espot hotel bedroom (Tom Mills)Auigestortes NP sign in Catalan and Spanish (Tom Mills)Els Encantas, Auiguestortes (Tom Mills)Auigestortes NP (Tom Mills)Woodpecker holes (Tom Mills)4x4 taxi to get into Auiquestortes NP (Tom Mills)Coal Tit (Tom Mills)Common Wall Lizard (Tom Mills)Mountain refuge in Auigestortes NP (Tom Mills)Els Encantas, Auiguestortes taken during the late spring of 2013 (Izzie Harrison-Hall)Queen of Spain Fritillary (Tom Mills)Raven, Auigestortes (Tom Mills)Black Redstart female (Tom Mills)Espot (Izzie Harrison-Hall)Anagalis arvensis subsp. foemina, Blue Pimpernel (Dawn Balmer)Antirrhinum procumbens, Creeping Snapdragon (Dawn Balmer)Naturetrek group in Aiguestortes NP (Dawn Balmer)Naturetrek Group in the Low Aran Valley (Dawn Balmer)Common Wall Lizard (Dawn Balmer)Corydalis solida, Bird-in-a-bush (Dawn Balmer)Dipardi serotinum, Brown Bluebell (Dawn Balmer)Erythronium dens-canis, Dog's-tooth Violet (Dawn Balmer)Estais (Dawn Balmer)Euphorbia serrata (Dawn Balmer)Helleborus viridis, Green Hellebore (Dawn Balmer)The Raptor feeding station (Dawn Balmer)Ulex parviflora, Small-flowered Gorse (Dawn Balmer)
Anon.
UK
Our Naturetrek holiday in Catalonia was aimed at discovering the natural history of Catalonia in both the plains and the Pyrenees mountains. Our guides Jaume and Laura were excellent companions and imparted their knowledge not only of the birds and flowers of this wonderful region but also of some of the background of Catalonia. The standard of accommodation was excellent and the countryside in the Pyrenees in particular stunning. Another great experience from Naturetrek.
Anon.
UK
Our Naturetrek holiday trip to Catalonia, the Eastern Pyrenees, was exactly what we wanted and more. It promised plenty of birds and flowers and these were in abundance, in spectacular scenery and wonderful weather. Our two guides worked tremendously hard to make sure that we missed absolutely nothing and for the bird lovers in our group there was a special surprise which was breathtaking - and which we will not reveal here so that it is not spoilt for anyone thinking of taking this trip! You'll have to go to find out but it is well worth it. The last day of very very early rising to get to the airport was tough but unavoidable as the world of work was running a conference in Barcelona which affected our flights but all in all, we had a really excellent time and thoroughly recommend this a a great trip. Don't miss it!
I.S.
Kent
A most enjoyable holiday to a beautiful part of Spain with first class guides, excellent birding and botanising. Excellent picnic lunches. The itinerary was very well organised, and all the target bird species were well seen, the visit to the vulture feeding station on day 4 being an amazing experience!
C.S.
Kent
On the whole I really enjoyed this trip - excellent tour leaders, good hotels, amazing scenery and a friendly group.
G.W.
London
Holiday was made special by the knowledge and enthusiasm of the two guides.
Mr & Mrs B
Derbyshire
We enjoyed a thoroughly successful week, enjoyable in all aspects. I can't praise our tour leaders enough they "made" the holiday for us in every way. Jaume's hearing and eyesight were phenomenal, enabling us to see an amazingly wide number of birds. Paul was also totally expert in his field...... enthusiastically sharing his knowledge.
Mr & Mrs C
Dorset
A very good trip with good viewings of both birds and plants. Lucky with the weather and pleased with the accommodation especially the hotel in Espot. Both leaders very knowledgeable and helpful and we considered Jaume Zurita an outstanding guide, very quick and helpful at identifying the birds and with a particularly charming manner.
J.H.
Derbyshire
The combination of outings was excellent and we would not have wanted to miss any of them.
Mr H.
Kent
Jaume and Paul were excellent guides and incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about their relative interests. They were particularly helpful to me when I injured my knee, ensuring that I reached a pharmacist as soon as possible and including me in the programme, even providing an additional taxi trip to make the most of the day.
P.T.
Hampshire
We are already discussing next year's excursion.
R.B.
Bristol
The hotels were excellent - the best you have used in Spain out of the three Spanish trips I have done. The owner and staff of the Roca Blanca Hotel were very friendly and helpful, even managing an early breakfast on the day of departure with very fresh croissants. There is good birding around the village - ideal for pre-breakfast birding, and late-night, with a Scops Owl 50m from the hotel. The main sites are all in easy reach. Steve (local guide) was excellent. He knows his patch well, and all the dirt roads, so we got to places and saw birds you wouldn't find otherwise. It was much better than having a UK-based leader.
R.O.
Devon
The local knowledge of the area by Steve West is superb.
M.P.
Derbyshire
Thanks for a very good birding trip. Steve was an excellent guide who was friendly, approachable and knowledgeable.
K.B.
Hampshire
This promised to be an excellent Naturetrek holiday - thoroughly enjoyable scenery, birding and botanising and jolly good company! Impressive staff consideration and hospitality at both the monastery and the Pyrenean hotel. Great weather and sightings! Excellent expertise in the field as ever! I would like to thank both leaders for all they contributed to make it a good wildlife experience!! Knowledge, language, expertise and conviviality - a lively and memorable trip indeed!
M.L.
Hampshire
Monastir de Avellanes, in particular, was an excellent choice of venue due to the close proximity of good habitats - I took the opportunity to have an early morning walk by myself every day whilst staying here. This allowed much better observations of the more difficult to see species (warblers etc) than can usually be obtained in a group.
M.G.
Leicestershire
The accommodation at both hotels was excellent and the food very good. Scenery stunning; flowers, plants and butterflies good.
N.B.
Berkshire
The two leaders were informative and knowledgeable. A very interesting and enjoyable trip.
S.H.
Suffolk
The two tour leaders were excellent - very knowledgeable, professional and pleasant with firm leadership qualities. The holiday was very good with plenty to see - birds, butterflies, and flowers. The group was very diverse, but worked brilliantly with the help of the two guides, Sophie and Steve.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Wed 25th April 2018 - Wed 2nd May 2018

YES

£1495

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Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1375 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Spain

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Andy Tucker
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01962 733051

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Tour Reviews

Our Naturetrek holiday in Catalonia was aimed at discovering the natural history of Catalonia in both the plains and the Pyrenees mountains. Our guides Jaume and Laura were excellent companions and imparted their knowledge not only of the birds and flowers of this wonderful region but also of some of the background of Catalonia. The standard of accommodation was excellent and the countryside in the Pyrenees in particular stunning. Another great experience from Naturetrek.
Anon., UK