We have visited and explored many parts of the beautiful Catalonia region, from the beautiful rugged coastline known as the Costa Brava, through to the stunning Pyrenees region that borders France.
In today’s post, we’re going to share with you one of our favourite parts of the Pyrenees region – the hidden away Vall de Núria.
We have visited the Vall de Núria a number of times in both summer and winter, and it’s a destination that is pretty magical all year round – especially if you love the outdoors as we do.
In this guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know to plan your own visit to the Vall de Núria, including when to go, how to get here, where to stay and what to do!
How to Get to the Vall de Nuria
There are two main options for getting to the Vall de Nuria, you can walk, or you can take the Rack Railway.
There is no road or vehicle access to the Vall de Nuria, which in our mind is part of the thrill of this location – once you’re here in this high up hidden valley, you really feel far away from the world.
Whilst both options for getting here are good, and both are equally breathtaking, our preferred option was to take the Rack Railway, which departs from Ribes de Freser and Queralbs, two of the towns in the lower valley, which are part of the El Ripollès region.
The rack railway runs year round with multiple trips per day, and you can buy tickets at the station before you depart. You can also buy them online, where you’ll also find the schedules for the trains. Note that these vary between summer and winter. Visit the official website here for more information.
It’s been operating since 1931 and the line has a maximum gradient of 15%. For the most part the railway runs near the footpath, so you get the same lovely views as the walk, with none of the blisters! The journey goes up over a thousand meters in total, and the views are incredible. We advise sitting on the right hand side as you go up for the best views, although they are good from both sides.
Of course, you can also walk up and/or down (perhaps take the train up and walk down?), and there is parking in both Queralbs and Ribes de Freser. The walk from Queralbs to the Vall de Nuria is regarded as one of the classic hikes in the Catalan Pyrenees, so definitely do this if you love a good hike.
When to Visit the Vall de Núria
The Vall de Núria is open year round, so you can visit anytime you like, however as it experiences all four seasons and is a ski resort in winter, you definitely need to plan ahead depending on your interests.
Visiting the Vall de Núria in Summer
In summer, the Vall de Núria offers a relatively cool respite to the heat of the Costa Brava coast and plains.
It’s the perfect place for hiking and other outdoor activities in the summer, which includes canoeing on the lake, mini-golf and pony rides.
Visiting the Vall de Núria in Winter
The ski season in the Vall de Núria runs from December through to April, although snow is possible from October onwards, so if you visit in October you’ll want to be suitably prepared, as temperatures will be much colder than in the towns in the valleys, due to the high elevation.
If you visit in the ski season, there’s a lot to do – beyond the obvious of skiing and snowboarding! There’s a snow-tubing and sledding hill for families, you can take a snow-shoeing tour, and you can even go ice scuba diving in the lake!
The Vall de Nuria is one of our recommended places to ski in the Spanish Pyrenees, but do check that post out for more recommendations.
What to do in the Vall de Núria
Whatever time of year you visit the Vall de Núria, there’s no shortage of things to do.
Our first visit was in the summer, and we have subsequently visited again in both summer and in winter. Here’s a quick overview of some of the activities you can take part in.
If you visit in the warmer months the main attraction is definitely the hiking. There are plentiful trails available to explore, all of which offer epic views of the surrounding mountains and landscapes.
You also don’t have to be super fit – there’s a gondola you can ride in the summer months to a higher viewpoint, and you can walk down from here. Beginners might also be interested in the guide-led three hour hike, which runs from June through to August. The pricing for this includes the Rack Railway tickets, and you can see more here.
Of course, if you love to hike, you’ll love the many options that the Vall de Núria has. Routes are well signposted and you’ll have no shortage of choice. Guides are also available for more experienced hikers, and they can take you up to the tops of the peaks surrounding the valley for a thrilling day out.
Explore The Cultural & Religious Sights
The Val de Nuria has lots of history to discover. From a spiritual point of view it’s an important place of pilgrimage, being as it was the home of Saint Giles back in 700AD.
You can visit his chapel, which dates back to the 16th century. It’s pretty tiny, but it’s very cute, and there’s a shrine where you can write your wishes on a piece of paper and with any luck they’ll come true. My lottery numbers are still waiting to come up.
The pilgrimage aspect also means that the valley has a lot of religious iconography, generally in the form of crosses and shrines.
The Val de Nuria is also important as a historical place of refuge. Being so close to the French border meant that it wasn’t far from here that refugees from wars on either side would escape the various troubles in their lands and find a new life on the other side of the mountains.
Boating and Other Summer Activities
The large lake in front of the main sanctuary building offers boating (although I’d advise against swimming, the water doesn’t get much above 4 degrees C, even in summer!), and you can also do archery, crazy golf and also horse riding.
There’s even an animal park and a little wooden train to play on. So yes – something for everyone! See the full list of summer activities on the official website for the summer season here.
Skiing & Winter Activities
If you visit the Vall de Núria winter, then snow based fun is the order of the day! There are 11 runs to choose from, which cover 7.6km of slopes. Whilst this doesn’t sound like a lot, it is a great place to come as a family, or for beginner to intermediate skiers. We also love that you can stay on site and easily walk to the slopes.
As well as skiing, you can go snow-tubing, sledging and snow-shoeing, and the valley is just stunning to behold when blanketed in snow. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even go scuba diving in the lake in winter!
You can see all the activities for winter on the official winter version of the website here.
Where to Eat at the Vall de Núria
Depending on the time of year you visit, there will be different options for dining at the Vall de Núria, which has everything from snack / sandwich type cafe options through to a full service restaurant and buffet option.
In the summer, it’s also very popular to bring a picnic to the valley and enjoy it on the lovely grassy areas.
Day Tours to the Vall de Núria
If you want to visit the Vall de Nuria but don’t have transport, or would prefer to do a tour, you have a number of options. We’ve put together a few of these below as suggestions.
- This is a full day hiking trip in the Nuria Valley, which includes your Rack Railway ticket
- This private tour from Barcelona includes Camprodon and the Vall de Nuria
- Looking for some adventure? How about a day of canyoning in the Vall de Núria, with a departure from Barcelona?
Where to Stay in the Vall de Núria
There are two accommodation options in the valley itself. We stayed at the three star hotel, which can be found in the main building, and which offers a variety of accommodation types, from self-contained apartments through to more traditional hotel rooms.
You can also stay at the Alberg Pic de l’Àliga, a hostel found about 1km up the slopes above the main building. This is accessed by the gondola car, and it offers excellent value for money.
If neither of those works for you, another option is to stay in either Queralbs or Ribes de Freser, from where you can take the Rack Railway up to the valley. Here are some options to choose from.
This guide to visiting the Vall de Núria one of many we’ve put together on visiting this region of the world, which we’ve explored and returned to many times at different times of year. To help you further plan, we wanted to share some more of our guides that will let you plan your whole adventure to Catalonia!
- We have a complete guide to what to do in El Ripollès, which includes the Vall de Núria as well as many other beautiful towns and villages. We also have guides to the neighbouring regions of La Cerdanya and La Garrotxa
- If you’re visiting in winter, we have a guide to Skiing in the Spainsh Pyrenees
- We also have a year round definitive guide to the Spanish Pyrenees!
- Salvador Dali fans will want to take a look at our guide to finding Salvador Dali sites in Costa Brava which also includes a suggested 5-day Costa Brava itinerary
- We have a detailed guide to what do to in Palamos, a gorgeous coastal fishing town
- If you’re feeling active, we have a guide to some of our favourite adventure activities in Costa Brava
- We have a guide to visiting Besalu, a stunning medieval village
- If you’re headed to Barcelona, we have guides to spending one day in Barcelona, three days in Barcelona, and a guide to all the Gaudi attractions in Barcelona
- Jess’s has written a comprehensive review and guide to using the Barcelona Pass, plus we have a post comparing the main Barcelona discount passes, to help you decide which one will save you the most money
And that’s it for our guide to visiting the Vall de Núria! As always, if you have any questions or feedback, do let us know in the comments below.