The Pyrenees and the Terres de Lleida, located in the north-east of Spain in the region of Catalonia, have all the arguments to seduce travellers eager for wide open spaces and nature. National parks, parks and natural areas, the pre-Pyrenean and Pyrenean landscapes reveal sublime panoramas made up of mountains, meadows, wetlands, rivers and remarkable flora and fauna. The Terres de Lleida is also committed to leading visitors towards sustainable tourism, that is to say, tourism that respects the environmental wealth, heritage and the people who live in the area all year round. Sporting activities, star and bird watching, everything is done to ensure that slow tourism is practised and that everyone is overcome with a sense of communion with nature, whose beauty calls for contemplation and respect
Pyrenees and Lleida, the call of nature
A first step to enjoy the exceptional nature of the Pyrenees and the Terres de Lleida leads to the National Park of Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici, the only National Park in Catalonia. There are five itineraries to discover the high mountain landscapes. During the hikes, nature reveals the dizzying peaks of Els Encantats, before taking the time to take a breath of fresh air on the banks of the river. For water runs or stagnates in the area, with rivers, waterfalls and nearly 200 lakes. It is impossible to miss the magnificent Sant Maurici lake, which forms a natural mirror for the surrounding massifs and forests. Walking in the park means discovering in turn valleys whose shape is the result of the Ice Age, alpine meadows and pine and fir forests. Not forgetting the incredible fauna to be observed, consisting of marmots, heather roosters, isards and bearded vultures.
We now head for the nature parks, where we can also be surprised by nature's ever-present beauty. The Parque Natural del Cadí-Moixeró, created in 1983, whose two mountain ranges of Cadí and Moixeró, which meet at the Tancalaporta pass, form an impressive mountain barrier, shelter deep, steep valleys. Whether you walk at a height of 900 m or even higher, reaching almost 2,650 m, you should keep your eyes open to observe a vegetation that is still surprising for a Mediterranean region, but also to see Pyrenean bird species such as the Mountain Venturon, the Rock Blackbird or the groups of Alpine snowdrops. The park is a real ornithological paradise. The other natural park, the most extensive in Catalonia, is called Parc Natural de l'Alt Pirineu. Its creation is more recent since it dates back to 2003. It straddles the comarques of Pallars Sobirà and Alt Urgell, where natural treasures such as the glacial lake of Certascan, the Cigalera de l'Obaga de Baleran, one of the deepest gorges in Catalonia, and the Pica d'Estats, the highest point in Catalonia at 3,143 m above sea level, can be found. Deer, fallow deer and roe deer frolic here in large numbers, while the skies are the scene of the flight of birds of prey such as vultures and golden eagles.
One of the strong aspects of the Pyrenees and the Terres de Lleida is also the variety of landscapes in natural areas with a unique charm. For example, during a trip, it is possible to cross cliff-side footbridges in the narrow gorges of the Congost de Mont-rebei, located in the county of La Noguera, with the turquoise colour of the Noguera Ribagorçana River below your feet. Later on, by mountain bike, paragliding or on a fishing trip, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the impressive views of the Lord Valley in the county of Solsonès. Unless you prefer to walk or ride a horse around Estany d'Ivars i Vila-Sana, a pond located in one of the most humid areas in Catalonia where birds gather in large numbers. The species vary according to the seasons. Another alternative is to stroll along the paths that flood the Corb valley, which is located in the county of Urgell. In this green territory, you can walk along the river of the same name, cross vineyards, woods and fields before taking a break at the foot of almond and olive trees. The valley is also famous for the beauty of its medieval villages, which can also be found in large numbers in the neighbouring comarques of Les Garrigues and La Segarra
Activities to get drunk with nature while respecting the environment
The natural environment that is the pride of the Pyrenees and the Terres de Lleida offers the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of activities that allow you to better understand the landscape, enrich your knowledge and enjoy the great outdoors, all within the framework of sustainable tourism. Several places in the region have received certifications and awards for projects that make tourism a means of economic development, with the greatest respect for the environment and its riches. Thus, since 2014, Val d'Aran has been a Biosphere destination, a certification awarded by the Institute of Responsible Tourism, a body working in partnership with UNESCO. Whether you come here to hike or cycle in the summer or to practice winter sports when the ground is covered in snow, the tourist promotion of the site involves highlighting gentle activities, while respecting the indigenous fauna, as well as raising awareness about waste management.
The Pyrenees and Lleida Lands also have two sites certified as Reserves and Starlight Tourist Destinations. What does this mean? Well, that they are two places recognised as being among the best places in the world for their astronomical observation conditions! The Starlight certification was created by the Starlight Foundation, with the support of UNESCO. The two sites concerned are the Montsec mountain range, located in the Pyrenean foothills. This is where we find the Parc Astronòmic del Montsec, a planetarium that can be visited day and night to enjoy the purity of the sky and the beauty of the stars. The other place is none other than the Parc Nacional d'Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici, which was also awarded for its astronomical observation points and for the local measures that have been taken to keep the sky free of light pollution.
Finally, to all those who are keen on travel and nature and who have questions about the origin of the Earth and the formation of landscapes, it is worth noting that the Conca de Tremp-Montsec in the Pyrenees and the Terres de Lleida received the UNESCO World Geopark approval in 2018. Thus, the Geopark Origens al Pirineu Català is protected for its unique geological features. The diversity of reliefs, walls, rocks and soils make it a place of choice for outdoor activities that allow to study and better understand the origin and dynamics of the landscape, as well as to admire a rich geological heritage that needs to be preserved for as long as possible.