Sports and Activities

Between commercial groups offering action sports requiring special equipment, and ever more facilities laid on by the local authorities, such as marked walking trails, information points, etc. there seem to be more activities available each season. As well as ‘Official’ web pages, we’ve provided links to commercial firms offering action sports. We’ve also referred to places where these sports are mainly based, so a Google search should give you plenty of food for thought, current prices, etc. We do not have any relationship or interests with any operators, however, so the links should be used as guidance only. Similarly, we can’t vouch for the quality of Internet blogs that we’ve found links to. Note that there is such a rich and varied variety of walking routes that this gets a specific Guide Folder at the Casa Rafela, including routes that we have devised as well as some of our favourite marked walks.

Our ‘Congost de Collegats’ walk is not for the fainthearted!

High Action Sports

Several companies provide a wide range of activities based around the resort village of Llavorsi in Pallars Sobirá, about an hour’s drive away from Casa Rafela. Rafting Llavorsi is typical and has been recommended by several of our guests, especially with regard to how they look after children. Their site is especially good for video clips of their wide range of activities and has up to date prices.

The Noguerra Pallaresa is the most powerful river in the Pyrenees and there are many long stretches of white water suitable for rafting, canoeing hydrospeed and kayaking, a fact not under exploited by the action sports companies that guarantee plenty of choice and availability, and a wide range of options to suit all tastes and abilities – and nerve! The town of Sort regularly hosts world-class championship events in its specially marked Camp de Regates (Water Sports Circuit). But kayak can be practised at many locations on the Noguerra Pallaresa. Several companies offer Canadian canoeing on the huge Canelles reservoir in the river Pallaresa Ribagorçana, which is the next valley, a short distance away from Fígols.

A barranc is Catalan for a river gorge or canyon and the new sport of barranquisme, sometimes translated as ‘canyoning‘, combines a whole range of skills from climbing, caving and rafting to absailing and just sheer pluck as one descends the barranc, often driven by surging water! In recent years it has become one of the most popular action sports in the Pyrenees.

Underwater sports are also a local speciality, including high altitude SCUBA diving courtesy of local guides The Busseing Pallars. Check out their web page for details, including a feature on the Catalan TV channel, TV3 – it’s the second feature in the programme – all in Catalan, of course, but you can mail in English to joanlpg@gmail.com or phone Pamela on (0034) 62897681.

Hot air ballooning is obviously very specialised but, as one can imagine, a ‘must do experience’. KON-TIKI, a local company that has several world record-breaking flights to its credit, offers a variety of trips, including an ascent over the Serra del Montsec. One gets a champagne breakfast and a certificate along with all the requisite recovery, transport, etc., but it does mean a very early start! Trips must be booked well in advance, however!

Alsnuvols

The ‘Alsnuvols’ flying school at play near Lake San Antonio

Staying with airbourne sports, the village of Ager gives access to the escarpments of the Montsec d’Ares, whose towering cliffs on both north and south faces give ideal conditions for hang gliding and parapenting virtually the whole year round. Indeed Ager has hosted many international championship competitions including the World Championship. The Alsnuvols (Catalan for “Up to the clouds!”) flying school offers lessons in parapenting and motorised parapenting from beginners to adbanced levels in English. They also offer experience flights with tandem machines as well as a flights in a light aircraft. Advance booking recommended.

Mountain biking can be practised right from the front door of Casa Rafela as a network of trails and goat tracks fans out across the escarpment of the Serra de Montllobar. In addition, the basement floor of the house provides an excellent workshop for running repairs! We provide route maps of the immediate locality and the Catalan Tourist Authorities have marked a network of routes in English throughout the Conca de Tremp with detailed grading for ability, duration, etc. Bikes and equipment can be hired in Barcelona and delivered to the airport for collection or portage by train (see the Travel section). Bike are also availble for hire locally from the dedicated mountain biking centre at La Pobla de Segur, some twenty kilometres from Casa Rafela. The year 2010 has seen a lot of interest in mountain biking, or ‘BTT’ as it is called here, with enthusiasts coming from as far afield as Australia, hiring bikes from La Pobla, or even lugging their own bikes across the globe! In the latter case we owe Simon Isaac from Kobe in Japan a special acknowledgement and thanks; he’s offered us his record of a variety of routes on Garmin.connect:

  • Firstly: a challenging short circuit based on our daily walks (B1) that start right outside the front door – Simon also did this running on several mornings – amazing guy! Part of the route takes in the local extended Moto-Cross circuit – Tremp hosts part of the Catalonian National Championship in March
  • Secondly: a route over the sierras directly behind Fígols, which combines delightful forest trails based on one of our extended walks (C1), quiet country lanes with spectacular views over the Sierra de Montsec and into the Montrebei ravine (also cyclable by the brave!) and concludes with a stiff thirteen kilometre climb from Pont de Montanyana (544m) to the Port de Montllobar (962 m) before dizzying decent to Fígols and home at Casa Rafela – 250 metres in four very bendy kilometres!
  • Thirdly: again starting from Casa Rafela – an exillarating road ride which decends some 300 metres to Tremp and then a rockly and rather hot circuit of the low sierras to the east of the town
  • Finally: one of the marked routes based around the BTT centre in La Pobla de Segur. This gentle trail takes in the abandoned historic township of Aramunt and our guide to the area, the Conca d’Alt, complements the excursion. Helpfully of not, this route includes a break at the excellent ‘Xirunguito‘ or beach bar on Lake San Antonio – a great way to wind up a busy holiday!

During the winter Tremp hosts a heat of the national Moto Cross championships on its purpose built circuit near the town, plus a section which is formed by a long ‘green lane’ route which passes close to Fígols. Moto Cross and Quads are a popular sport and miles of green lanes await the enthusiast. It’s no surprise that Catalonia produces so many Dakar rally winners! If you don’t have your own machine, Quad hire is available from the adventure companies.

The Sierra de Montsec, which forms the major single feature of the view from Casa Rafela, is a rock-climbing centre of international renown. The main areas are in the Congost de Terradets near Cellers, but the ravines of Mont-rebei and Vilanova de Meia are also excellent. There ia also good climbing in the north of the region there is the Congost de Collegats north of La Pobla de Segur and Las Escalles at Sopeira.

photo

Graham and Adina of Tunbridge Wells took their Land Rover G4 Challenge to the top of the Sierra de Boumort in 2009 – aided by 5 year old Rory!

Guided 4X4 tours are available to many sites of natural interest. In places like the Serra de Boumort an all terrain vehicle is all but essential. Vehicles are banned on some forest tracks, but these are protected by barriers so it’s impossible to go wrong and there are general restrictions for large groups and any form of competitive activity attracts heavy fines! However the  Consel Comacal de Pallars Jussà, the equivalent to a British County Council, promotes and maintains several dedicated 4×4 routes throughout the region, taking in some of the most dramatic mountain ranges and forests and historical sites. NB these are available to download but are  only in Catalan, however the maps and directions are readily understandable as they identify physical features along the route.

If you don’t have your own off-road vehicle there are specialised guides who offer tours based around the township of la Pobla de Segur as well as Llavorsi. All cars are banned from the Parc Nacional de Aigúestores i Estany Sant Maurici park but licensed Landrover taxis operate within it, they are not guided tours in themselves but the information offices at the entrances to the park are excellent so one can be one’s own guide.

Field, stream and more passive adventures!

The local rivers abound with wild trout and the lakes with course fish whose populations are maintained by an alliance between the environmental department and local fishing clubs. In order to fish legally you need a generic licence from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. Then one buys daily permits from local clubs, owners, etc. as and when required. Fortunately there is a branch of the Ministry in Tremp, which is very helpful. Note that the river Noguera Pallaresa prides itself on its uncontaminated, indigenous population of Brown Trout!

Most of the pony trekking schools are located in the Pallars Sobirà and all of the adventure companies there can arrange this. There are more local centres, however, that are both more personal and are operated by genuine enthusiasts. Tatanca, at Montcortes high above the Val Fosca, is particularly impressive and offers traditional, western style and bare back riding on its stud of Appaloosa ponies!

Walking and enjoying the fantastic scenery and wildlife is perhaps the most important single activity in the region. However the variety of terrain, climate, severity and accessibility is so enormous that every possible taste can be provided for; from serious high mountain walks amongst the rugged peaks to gentle strolls along wooded riverbanks. One of the national GR routes, GR1 and its subordinates, passes close by Fígols through the stunning Congost de Mont-rebei before traversing the entire Montsec mountain range. In the Conca de Tremp itself the local authorities maintain, mark and publicise a variety of routes among its distinct landscape. The network of lanes around Montcortes or the walk along the riverbank from Gerri de la Sal to the hermitage of Mare de Deu d’Arboló are ideal for the less adventurous. We have pioneered our own walks around Fígols, including complete days out to the Castle of Mur and the remote villages on the top of the Sierra de Montllobar. As well as our own series of Guides that we provide at Casa Rafela we have details of the routes that the Catalan government has marked out and published numerous walks of differing grades in English. In addition the  Consel Comacal de Pallars Jussà, the equivalent to a British County Council, promotes and maintains several walks and paths throughout the region, taking in some of the most dramatic mountain ranges and forests and historical sites. NB these are available to download but are only in Catalan, however the maps and directions are readily understandable as they identify physical features along the route. Furthermore all routes are graded for difficulty.

Swimming pools open during the summer months only. Even quite small villages have municipal pools with lifeguards, cafeteria facilities and open areas to make ‘camp’ so are suitable for long days, especially useful for children. Swimming in the lakes and rivers is free, naturally, ane there are beaches on Lake San Antoni. Typical is that at the Xirunguito, a beach bar reminiscent of a Greek taverna! It’s customary to have at least one drink even though the beach itself is public, but the Xiruguito also makes a great day for families as there is table football games, etc., plus excellent food! A couple of hotels in the area also open their pools to the public in the mid-seasons, i.e. May/June and September. NB. Bathing in the rivers and lakes is entirely at ones own risk – the rivers especially are for strong swimmers only!

There is a public ramp for launching boats and dinghies on Lake San Antoni, and several companies there offer boat hire of the more gentle, messing about, variety!

Phew! We are constantly undating this page as more and more sports and activities come on-stream. Meanwhile, if you don’t find your particular ‘thing’ here just ask and we’ll find out if something is available nearby!

Stepping out on Montllobar, just above Fígols

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