Vall de Núria is a spectacular valley of unique views and landscapes, located in the north of Catalunya, in the Pyrenees, very close to the French border. It lies at 1.964 metres above sea level and it is surrounded by peaks of almost 3000 metres high from which multiple fountains and rivers are brought to life.
Travelling solo, with your couple, with friends, or with family and children, Vall de Núria is suitable for all audiences and it has a wide variety of activities to do.
How to get to Núria
Renfe, the national train company, offers a combined ticket of train+rack railway, that includes the train round trip from any train station in Catalunya to Ribes de Freser (R3 line). And then the rack railway round trip from Ribes de Freser to Vall de Núria.
Adults: 32.50€ | Children (7-14): 24.50€
Vall de Núria is only accessible via rack railway. Therefore you have to drive to one of the stations in Ribes de Freser or Queralbs (130 km from Barcelona) and then take the rack railway that takes you to Vall de Núria. There’s free parking area at the rack railway stations.
Vall de Núria historical Blue Rack Railway
The historical blue rack railway is the only means of transport to access Vall de Núria, besides the mountain trail. Inaugurated on the 22nd of March of 1931, it covers a distance of 12.5 km with an incline of 1.000 metres.
It has four stations: Ribes-Enllaç, Ribes-Vila, Queralbs and Núria. The whole journey from the first station to the top, takes around 40 minutes in which you enjoy great views through the windows.
In high season, the rack railway runs every 50 minutes and a little less during the winter. The price range varies with age, from 2.75€ the round trip for children between 4-6, to 22€ for a round trip for adults. More expensive for just a one way ticket.
For detailed information on tickets purchase and prices check the official website: http://www.valldenuria.cat
Núria is a very famous pilgrimage place, an idyllic landscape to organize spiritual recess, meditation and prayer.
The church dates back from 1911, and very soon after the hotel was built around it to accommodate the visitors.
The image of the Virgin of Núria that is nowadays worshiped, is a carving dating back from the 12th-13th century. It is a wooden carving in Roman style.
There are 3 important dates to celebrate in Núria:
- 29th of June: a mass commemorates the day the shepherds would bring their cattle up to the mountains.
- 1st of September: a mass commemorates Saint Gile’s.
- 8th of September: a mass commemorates the birth of the Virgin of Núria.
Where to eat in Vall de Núria
- Picnic: for me the best option when going hiking is to bring my own lunch, dessert and snacks and enjoy a picnic on the green grass, under the sun, surrounded by the beautiful landscape. In Núria you can perfectly do that, with lake views, or you can go inside the building where there’s a picnic area with lots of tables and microwaves at your disposal.
- La Caseta del Llac: translated as The Lake’s little house, is a small wooden stall between the lake and Saint Gil’s Hermitage. It is only opened during summer season and they offer sandwiches, hot dogs, snacks and drinks to have in the picnic tables or on the grass.
- Bar Restaurant Finestrelles: if you don’t really want to sit down and have a heavy meal, this café-bar with counter service is the fastest way to fill your stomach with a quick bite. You will stand in queue while deciding if you want a sandwich (hot or cold), a hot dog, a hamburger, a salad, pasta or pizza.
- The hotel’s restaurant: but if you really feel like having a satisfying meal, the hotel restaurant offers a much more comfortable dining hall, with choices between the menu: with a selection of dishes prepared with regional product, or a buffet with grilled meat.
In Ribes de Freser I would suggest:
- Busquets GDO Vins: Wide offer of wines and “cava” and gourmet tapas.
- Casa Lola: Homemade regional food.
- La Perdiu Blanca: Homemade regional food. Grill specialists.
Where to sleep in Vall de Núria
In the valley itself, there are two options of accomodation for those who wish to spend the night surrounded by such a beautiful scenery:
- Hostel Pic de l’Àliga
- Hotel Vall de Núria (3 star)
In Queralbs there is rack railway station.
- Queralbs El Puigmal Apartments
- Cottage Ortiga Blanca
In Ribes de Freser
Ribes de Freser it’s a 15 minute drive from Queralbs and there is also rack railway station.
- Hotel Prats (1 star)
- Hotel Sant Antoni (3 star)
Trekkings in Vall de Núria
There’s a lot of different options of treks in Vall de Núria, from all levels of difficulty and suitable for all kinds of people. Here I suggest a few that I’ve done myself:
Hike Queralbs (1200m) – Núria (1958m)
Distance: 7.23 km
Total incline: 848 m
Time: 3h 22’ according signs / 2h my time
Don’t forget to bring: water and sunscreen.
This trek along the “Camí Vell” is probably one of the most popular mountain hikes of Catalunya and the Pyrenees. Either way, ascending or descending, it is a wonderful way to combine sport and nature.
The walk starts either at Queralbs Rack Railway station (where you can park your car for free), or at Queralbs main square, Plaça del Raig. The trail is very well indicated with lots of signs along the way, there’s no possible loss to get to the top on this trail. It’s a fairly easy trek, not technical but steep during all the way up. It’s a very rocky land and you’re going to have to cross a few scree.
You can walk both ways or you can go back with the historical Blue Rack Railway. This trek is suitable to do with children, they enjoy it a lot.
Highlights along the way:
- Queralbs Rack Railway Station (1180m)
- Plaça del Raig, Queralbs (1201 m)
- Corbell Scree (1457 m)
- Sant Pau rock shelter (1460m)
- Cremal’s bridge (1495m)
- Sant Rafael rock shelter (1553m)
- Salt dels Sastres detour (1650m)
- Salt dels Sastres lookout (1691m)
- Cua de Cavall and Sant Pere rock shelter (1735m)
- Pla de Sallent (1775m)
- Torrent de la coma de les Perdius (1935m)
- Creu d’en Riba (1983m)
- Núria, Saint Gil’s Hermitage (1960m). Dating back from the 17th Century, rumour has it that the image of the Virgin was found here.
Virtual race 3.0: Queralbs – Núria
A race with no specific date or schedule, to do on your own or with company, competing with nobody and with everybody at the same time.
Skitude has implemented a mobile application (available both for iOS and Android) in which hikers and/or runners can take part in a virtual competition, and checking everyone’s result on your phone.
The operation is as simple as reading a QR code at the beginning of the race and again at the end of the trail so that the application can calculate your timing. You will find the initial QR code at Plaça del Raig in Queralbs centre and the last QR is on a sign that you will find on your right, just after passing the lake little wooden bar.
Update: I think that the App is no longer available 🙁 . However, the video of the virtual race is worth watching to have an idea of what you’ll see along the way from Queralbs to Núria:
Hike Fontalba (2050m) – Núria (1950m)
Total incline: 130m
Time: 1h 10’ according signs / 1h 30’ my time
Don’t forget: water and sunscreen
Fontalba-Núria is a beautiful and easy hike, great to do with kids. The only means of transport to reach Fontalba is by car, on a forest track that borns in Queralbs town, just after passing the rack railway station to the right. The road is paved just for a few metres, and then it becomes a forest track with an okay state for 11.4km. It is suitable for a normal car (I went with my VW Polo) but if you really appreciate your car it is preferable and faster if you’re driving a 4×4 SUV. It took me 45 minutes to get to the car park, I really love my Polo.
When you get to the end of the road, you’ll find a car park and from where you’ll start your trek. On a busy day the car park will be soon full and people start parking down the road. We had to park 1 km down the road since it was a long weekend with amazing weather and probably late (we arrived around 10:00h).
From here there are two well distinguishable trails: one on the left going up, goes to Puigmal (2913m) and the one on the right, going down will get you to Núria (1950m).
It is a beautiful hike of about 1 hour and a half more or less, in which you start by soon crossing the Fontalba Waterfall. There’s a beautiful sight of it from the other side of the valley, after walking for about 20 minutes.
These are the views on your arrival to Vall de Núria:
Trek Fontalba (2050m) – Puigmal (2913m)
Total incline: 863m
Time: 2h 45’ according popular / 1h 20’ my time
Don’t forget: water and sunscreen.
Most consider the ascend to Puigmal the alpinism baptism. With its almost 3000m of height, it’s quite a fairly easy hike if climate conditions are on your side. Fortunately for us, we had the best day ever, not a single cloud in the sky, not a breath of wind, 15 degrees in late September according to our phone, but it felt like 25 in such great heights, with such sunny day. The sun certainly burnt the parts where I forgot to apply sunscreen.
As I mentioned in the previous trek, in order to reach the car park from which you’ll start your hike, you have to take the Fontalba forest track in Queralbs. From here, take the trail on the left this time, the one going up the green pastures.
There are no signs along the way, but it’s very easy to see the trail. Since it’s a very popular hike, you’ll always find people to follow, so there’s no way for you to get lost. On the first section you walk along green pastures, quickly ascending.
Soon enough the landscape changes, the green grass disappears and gives way to rocks and grey colours. On the following picture you see the first “resting” area, the first flat ground in which one can sit and rest enjoying the spectacular views.
Take a deep breath because here starts the second and hardest section. Between 2700 and 2800 metres the incline is about 25%. The trail draws a zig-zag on the crest, the most difficult part for me. Right after you overcome the zig-zag, there’s only a few 100 easy metres left to reach the top, which I considered section 3.
The top of Puigmal is quite a wide, circular, flat area. That day it was crowded, it felt like the Ramblas in Barcelona. I didn’t feel very special for topping my first 3000, I was just one more, but still I did it!
We had breakfast with spectacular views over the rest of 3000’s that surround Vall de Núria.
You can walk your way back down to Fontalba, or you can descend on the other side and complete the following trek.
Circular trek Fontalba – Puigmal – Núria – Fontalba
Total incline: 1000m
Time: 6h 15’ according popular / 4h 10’ my time
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Don’t forget: water and sunscreen.
If you’re feeling lucky (and fit), a great way to spend your day in Vall de Núria is to walk this 15 km circular itinerary spanided in three stages:
- Fontalba (2.050 m) – Puigmal (2.913 m): 1h 20’ / 4.5 Km. Where you can have a home made breakfast with fantastic views.
- Puigmal (2.913 m) – Núria (1958 m): 1h 20’ / 5 Km. Where you can enjoy a cosy picnic on the grass with lake views.
- Núria (2.000 m) – Fontalba (2.050 m): 1h 30’ / 5 Km. Where you can have a snack while watching the beautiful sunset behind Puigmal.
Núria Ski Resort
Núria becomes a Ski Resort in the winter. It’s not a big resort, I’d say it’s cosy and familiar with the possibility of spending the night at the feet of its slopes at the Hotel Vall de Núria (3 star) or at the top of the gondola lift at the Pic de l’Àliga Hostel.
The resort counts with 11 ski slopes spread over 7.6km, it has 2 ski-lift, 1 chair-lift, 3 ski carpets and a gondola lift. It’s a friendly ski resort for beginners, as half of the slopes are categorized green and blue.
Day passes range between 22.50€ for children and 30€ for adults
Map of the ski slopes in Núria
Ski slopes in Núria
Vall de Núria with children
Vall de Núria is an excellent choice to come with children. It doesn’t matter the season of the year, winter or summer there are endless possibilities for children to enjoy Núria and have a fun experience.
Núria has a playpark in an area located behind the Sanctuary/hotel, with activities such as trampolines, bouldering areas, slack line, zip line, slides and mountain karts.
Other possibilities are pony riding, archery, miniature golf, canoeing, hiking, visiting the farm (free access to see chickens, rabbit, horses…).
During the winter children can also practice all the above activities except for canoeing if the lake is frozen. They can also sledge slide, ski, etc.
For detailed information on activities opening hours and prices check their website.