Key information: Eastern Pyrenees
This can be tough walking in high, remote mountains. Come prepared.
- Walkopedia rating87
- Natural interest16
- Human interest6
- Negative points0
- Total rating87
- Length: Variable
- Maximum Altitude: 2785m
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
The Eastern Pyrenees (which covers roughly the same ground as the Pyrenées-Orientales department) are increasingly dry and Mediterranean, in climate and vegetation, the nearer you get to the coast. While they don?t have the grandeur of the central stretches of the range, they are lovely and interesting and often very historic and, with easy access from the coast, and Perpignan in particular, they provide great walking to fit into a wider-ranging expedition.
The Alberes ridge, the border between France and Spain, rises high above the last valley in France, the Tech or Vallespir. It is generally thickly wooded with lovely mixed deciduous trees, but affords great views toward the sea and 2,785m Canigou inland.
Its high point, the Roc de France (1,450m) is a fine day walk, accessible from the hamlet of Montalba on the GR10.
A particular joy is the Pilo de Belmaig Ridge, south-east of Arles-sur-Tech and west of the Roc. This is accessible up the GR10 from Arles or Montabla to the east, but is a long, steep, forested ascent. We walked it from the hugely atmospheric Can Rigall eco-hotel. Its grand circuit (our term not theirs) climbs through beautiful and varied forests to meet the GR10 on a col in the ridge, then up the ever lovelier high ridge, with superb views all round and stunning mixed vegetation, to the Pilo de Belmaig. Then it is on along the high ridge to another peak, then drop back down on excellent forest tracks.
Another superb and thrilling 4hr walk is the circuit from Lamanere (south-east of Prats de Mollo) of the Towers of Cabrens, spectacular and remarkable 9th Century towers crouching on a border hilltop.
The Gorges de la Frou, near Arles, is an absurdly high-and-narrow (narrow enough to lodge boulders and get almost blocked by stalactiteish deposits) gorge. It has a fascinating dark-and-dank-world ecosystem, with plants clinging to the tiniest crevices. It isn't really a Walkopedia walk, on metal walkways throughout and thoroughly touristy, but you should walk its 1.5 km return length if time allows.
The next valley inland from the Tech is the Tet, which again provides some fine walking, including the Tour des Tres Esteles (3 days), a circuit of the Mont Coronat area (4 days) and the truly spectacular (and vertiginous) Caran?a Gorge, with it's walk ways over 400m cliffs and (effectively) via ferrata sections. The Gorge de Nyer is also dramatic.
Canigou - the last great eastern bastion of the Pyrenean range, the 2,785m Canigou massif more than merely dominates its surroundings: it has a special place in the Catalan imagination. It makes for fine and varied walking, its lower slopes forested but its peaks all rock, scree and cliff. Unsurprisingly, you get huge views (Andorra to the Med) from its peaks on a good day.Sitting between the Tech and Tet valleys, Canigou can be climbed from many directions, but all require a night in a refuge. The routes are many and varied, so plan carefully. There are many day walks you can do on the massif. See more
The Capcir: a slightly strange high plateau (making for interesting and relatively easy walking) with mountains around, including the magnificent Carlit massif. Bare and less enthralling than the high range, it is nonetheless beautiful and rich in animal life and flowers. There is a 4 day Tour de Capcir. This area deserves its own page, which we will work on. Please help us with ideas and photos.
The furthest major river from the sea is the Aude, famous for its (road-occupied) gorges. It boasts fine walking in its surrounding hills.
Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Books and Maps
Books on this walk
A fantastic book for local walks in the Alberes/Canigou area is Le Guide Rando’s Canigou, Vallespir – Conflent. (It is in French.)
The Rough Guide to the Pyrenees – Rough Guides: a really good guide to the area, with much excellent focus on walking, and thoughtful coverage of cultural and historical aspects.
Maps can be bought locally, fairly easily. They are not always entirely reliable or up-to-date, so handle with some care.
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
Much of these hills can be walked year round, although the upper reaches are better outside winter.
Avoid high summer (July-August) if you can.
Much drier than further west. The Tech valley is said to get 300 days of sunshine a year, although iconic Canigou is frequently cloud-cloaked.
Many airports. Coastal Perpignan is the biggest city.
Those on organized expeditions are likely to be transported from/to arranged start/departure points.
See Walk Summary above.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
- Mountain weather: rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year on the higher ground, and the weather can change rapidly, on the highest areas. Come prepared.
- Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
- Heights: can be dangerous; not for those who have difficulties with heights.
- Harmful animals, including snakes, boars, stinging/biting insects and plants. Take all appropriate precautions.
- This can be remote country: food and other supplies may not be readily available and help may be hard to get if things go wrong.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and problems can arise on any walk. Many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks and possible problems. This website cannot, and does not purport to, identify all actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to a walk or a country. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Guided or independent?
You can do all these walks independently, but you will need to be self-sufficient, so come fully prepared.
Some people form or join organised/supported expeditions.
Expedition organisers include:
· Pyrenees Walking - www.pyrenees-walking.co.uk have a big eastern Pyrenean selection as well as the high range.
· Inntravel – www.inntravel.com
· Exodus – www.exodus.co.uk
Accommodation varies from hotels and inns to gîtes and camping in the valleys. The guidebooks have a selection of possible accommodation.
Once on the high ground (Canigou), the various refuges are the best option – although they are not open all year (so check carefully when planning) and get busy, so book well ahead if coming in the popular months. Camping is very restricted in the high country, so check out the current requirements at the planning stage.
See what the commentary on Tripadvisor is on possible places to stay – although do take their reviews with a pinch of salt, as they can be “interested”.
A good range of hotels can be found on the unimaginatively but effectively named Hotels.com.
Expedition organisers will usually organize accommodation, some from their own houses or hotels.
We cannot recommend the hugely atmospheric Can Rigall eco-hotel ((www.canrigall.fr ; or via www.basecampexplorer.com)) highly enough: it is perched high to the south of Arles-sur-Tech, with gorgeous views straight across to the Canigou massif. It has fine walks from its front door, including the Pilo ridge as described above, and is a good base for wider exploration.
Other information and tips
Useful websites and information
There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
- www.wikipedia.org – As usual, a good starting place.
Other things to do in the area
See our Pyrenees page for a huge variety of great walks.
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
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