For Pepo, our expert in the Pyrenees, it was always a dream to work in the mountains, a dream that came true nearly 25 years ago when he started working as a whitewater canoe specialist. His skill on the water took him as far as the 2009 rafting world championships where he captained the Spanish national team. After this incredible experience and working several summer seasons in the mountains, there's no doubt that Pepo has learnt to respectfully challenge the force of nature. A few years ago, Pepo channeled his experience into a new venture – an activity company made up of a small group of individuals who share his enthusiasm for this incredible destination. We talked to Pepo about what makes the Pyrenees the perfect summer destination for active travelers.
What's the climate like in the Pyrenees? Is it a year-round destination?
In springtime, the landscape is lush and green thanks to the rain and thawing of the snow, making it a great time for river activities and routes on foot or by bike. The summer climate is warm during the day and mild at night, which makes the Pyrenees the perfect destination to escape the heat of the cities and a great alternative to the coast. Autumn is the best time to observe wild fauna and the landscape is resplendent with red and yellow color. In winter, the snow comes giving you the chance to ski, snowboard, snowmobiling, snow-racquet trekking etc.
What makes the Pyrenees the perfect summer destination for families?
The Pyrenees are brimming with possibilities. They are the ideal destination to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, to relax and enjoy true tranquility and to be completely immersed in nature. But apart from this calm environment, there are countless experiences which combine nature, adrenaline, and fun, creating unforgettable memories for children and adults alike.
Sometimes it feels like my very own secret garden, but of course, I’m happy to share it with the clients!
What activities do teenagers generally like the best?
Teenagers usually love everything involving water and adventure, such as rafting, canyoning and mountain bike routes. For children, the mountains give them direct contact with an impressive natural environment, a different cultural environment and lots of fun.
Can families camp out under the stars?
Among the different accommodation we offer, families can choose to sleep in an exclusive mountain camp, set up in a remote area located in a nature reserve inhabited by different species of wild fauna, such as red deer and large vultures. The camp has spacious tents and all the necessary equipment to spend a really special (and comfortable!) night under the stars.
Does everyone have to be in great shape to consider a trip to the Pyrenees?
You don’t need to be super fit to enjoy the Pyrenees; and in any case we always adapt activities to fit the needs of our travelers. You can choose to explore the mountains in a relaxed way with walks through charming towns, sampling local gastronomy and doing adventure activities that don’t call for great physical effort or advanced technique.
Can you tell us a little more about the experience with a local shepherd?
One of the “insider experiences” that we enjoy setting up for Madrid & Beyond clients is the opportunity to meet a local shepherd in the small town of Gavàs in the Unarre valley, one of the most remote in the north of the region. We accompany him through the meadows to learn the techniques required to manage a herd of goats. It’s an activity that always delights and surprises families. They come in direct contact with local people and animals so can really feel the essence of the Pyrenees way of life. They also learn about the process of making cheese and of course, have the opportunity to taste different varieties.
What’s your favorite feedback you’ve ever received from a family?
Perhaps the most surprising thing that some families have told us is that in a few days in the Pyrenees they have shared more special moments with their teenage children than in the rest of the year. This is really satisfying for us – it shows that our activities can strengthen family ties and that the whole family can have a good time together.
Can you tell us about the 36-kilometer mountain bike descent you do with families?
One of the best mountain bike routes we do with families is a 36-kilometer descent from Pla de Beret. Beret is an enclave of alpine landscapes, located on the border with France where two great rivers are born, the Noguera Pallaresa and the Garonne. We start the route by following a track to the beautiful 12th-century chapel in Montgarri before continuing through the deepest part of the valley to reach the Refuge de Fornet, a perfect spot for nature lovers. From there we glide through ancient villages to Esterri d’Àneu. It’s a stunning route that lasts three to four hours and thanks to its continuous descent, is suitable for all ages and abilities.
It’s a stunning route that lasts three to four hours and thanks to its continuous descent, is suitable for all ages and abilities.
What's your favorite experience that you offer and why?
Whether it’s rafting or on an inflatable kayak, my favorite activity is sailing along the Collegats Congosto. In the last section of the activity, after the rapids, where the river is calm, we find ourselves surrounded by an extraordinary landscape and a magical environment.
What's your favorite place in the Pyrenees and why?
My favorite place in the Pyrenees is the Cardós Valley where I live. It’s a small valley where traditional life still continues. Part of the Alt Pirineu Natural Park, an area of great natural interest made up of a wide variety of landscapes, there are little corners and hidden paths just a few meters from my house where I go for peace and quiet. Sometimes it feels like my very own secret garden, but of course, I’m happy to share it with the clients!