On Sunday, a group from the University had organized a day trip to El Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido in the Pyrenees Mountains (Los Pirineos) which is in the north part of Spain and borders France. This park has 22 different hiking routes and is the second largest national park in Spain. I quickly signed up for this opportunity to go on a hike and get out of the city! While I am learning to love the city, I needed a break from Zaragoza and have been eager to see the countryside and mountains which I had been told about before coming to Spain. For someone who has only ever lived in flatlands, this trip seemed like it would be a fun and memorable experience.
Our group of over 100 foreign students left at 9:00 am for Ordesa which is about 167 kilometers (103.7 miles) north of Zaragoza. After a few stops and wrong turns, we finally arrived to the start of our hike at 2 pm. It was a little scary looking out the window and seeing the steep cliffs below. The roads were narrow with bends, twists, and curves so we were happy to arrive and ready to start the hike.
The hike was 17 kilometers (10.56 miles) total and had an elevation gain of about 500 meters (1640 feet). A majority of the time, we were walking along a stream which included waterfalls occasionally. The hike started out pretty flat, but that ended soon enough. Every corner and turn during the hike seemed more beautiful than the last one. When we were done with 2/3 of the way to the final waterfall, we stopped to have lunch by the stream. Some friends and I ate while sitting on top of the rocks in the water allowing our feet to take a break and feel the cold water. The rest was much needed and a great chance to take in the serenity of the land. After that, we set off to get to our destination before turning around to leave. The last 1/3 of the trail to the final point was definitely my favorite. After hiking some steep trails, the trail opened up to a huge valley with greens, streams, and more waterfalls. The scene was quite different from what we had been seeing the rest of the hike. This valley was very open and vast.
I have read that Spain is a pretty popular destination for hikers, and now having a bit of experience, I can absolutely agree. The hiking websites and books will tell you this, but I suggest hiking in the fall or spring. We went hiking on September 20 and it was the perfect day. It was warm, but there was a cool breeze throughout the day which did not make it hot. Any earlier in the summer probably would have had me complaining about the heat and the sun.
Our final spot before turning around was a grand waterfall at the edge of the valley. Many hikers continued on past this point, but it was very steep and for more experienced hikers. After some time spent here, we headed back. The way back took much less time because it was downhill. We got back to the buses at 8:30 and left shortly after. We returned to Zaragoza at midnight which was pretty tiring (it’s all ok though, I took a four hour siesta [nap] the next day). I’m so thankful I was given the opportunity to go hiking in Spain! If you are ever in Spain, please consider hiking a trail as there are many different trails with varying length and difficulty.