Andorra la Vella routes
Solà irrigation canal
So far, the Rec del Solà irrigation canal and the Rec de l’Obac irrigation canal (located on the shady part of Andorra la Vella) have enabled – and continue to enable – inhabitants to practice sport, take walks, view the town from a perspective suitable for understanding its growth or simply blow off the stress they accumulate in urban dynamics, all just a few metres from the city centre.
These irrigation canals have been and remain a natural lung that connects the town with the natural and cultural landscape surrounding it, and they generate endless elements for environmental education and for thinking about sustainable development.
Based on this fundamental idea, Andorra la Vella City Council decided to link the area of the two irrigation canals with other parts of the parish that are of high na tural, historical and cultural interest in order to establish a large peripheral band around the city of Andorra la Vella. This band, called the Anella Verda (“Green ring”), is intended to become a long track of around 15 kilometres that will encircle the whole parish.
Near the Sol? irrigation canal, you’ll find three interpretative routes: agricultural transformation in the valley, a short route that will enable you to appreciate agricultural and livestock activity; growth and urbanisation in the valley, a route that starts in the irrigation area but delves into the historic and traditional centre of the parish; and human beings and their adaptation to natural hazards, a route that will explain how people manage issues related with natural hazards.
Rec: From the pre-Roman word recu, meaning an open canal or ditch in the ground for conducting water captured from a river or stream by means of a dam. In Andorra, this is called an aixec, because it raises the water level (aixecar means “to rise” in Catalan). Recs are used to irrigate crops.
Solà: From the Latin solanu, “the sunny part”, which is the mountain slope exposed to sunlight.
Route through the Enclar valley
The route through the Enclar valley sets out from the town of Santa Coloma. The beginning, a picnic area, is dominated by willows, cherry trees and brambles. Wildlife native to the area is frequently found near towns, such as the crag martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris), the common swift (Apus apus), the black redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) and the serin (Serinus serinus). The path swerves to the right, between ash, Scots pine, oak and walnut trees. The undergrowth is full of boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), common dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) and common ivy (Hedera helix). The Iberian wall lizard and the thrush (Podarcis hispanica) run along the rocks (Podarcis muralis).
The Enclar path is one of the best places for watching birds of prey, especially in the migratory period, as there are rather open stretches of granite scree allowing you to glimpse black kites (Milvus migrans), vultures (Gyps fulvus), etc. As the road climbs, downy oak trees appear, accompanied by fly honeysuckle (Lonicera xylosteum). On the hill of Sant Vicen?, we find the castle of the same name among tilia and privet, a bush with leaves similar to those of the olive tree. The common horsetail (Equisetum arvense) grows in the wettest areas. At dawn and dusk, it is easy to catch roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), chamois (Rupricapra rupricapra) and wild boar (Sus scrofa) by surprise. The Enclar valley is one of the two parts of Andorra where this hoofed animal, the most important in the country, can be found. If visiting at dawn or dusk, you just may glimpse one of them. If not, you can always look for traces of them, such as footprints or droppings.
Enclar: If the etymology of this word is Latin, from claru, “that which lets itself be seen well”, it generally means “peeled” in the names of mountainous areas and may be of Celtic etymology.
Route to Prat Primer through the la Palomera forest path
The La Comella and Forn rivers descend from the slope where this forested and gently rising and falling route starts, along with Prat Primer river, opening a path through a fantastic glacial valley. All these rivers form part of the Gran Valira basin. The deciduous forests, green and exuberant in summer and reddish and brown in autumn, are one of the most important elements of the landscape along this route. Downy oak trees, drier and less gloomy than large-leafed oaks, cover much of this part of this parish.
The most dominant bush is boxwood (Buxus semprevirens), with oval leaves glossy on the front, but it is joined by many other, mostly deciduous species such as the snowy mespilus (Amelanchier ovalis), common dogwood (Comus sanguinea) and scorpion senna (Coronilla emerus).
The most prominent birds frequently found in this area include the robin (Erithacus rubecula), blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), blackbird (Turdus merula) and blue tit (Parus caeruleus), among others.
Palomera: Wide mountain pass; long, falling crest interrupted by rounded notches. This is an archaic form of the Catalan colomer, coming from the Latin columbariu, derived from palumba. Birds from the Columbidae family like to rest in these places. Sometimes, the toponym can come from the ashy colour of the neighbouring rocks.
Route along Fountain Circuit 1 (short route)
The beginning of the route runs through the Prat Primer valley and is dominated by hazel trees (Corylus avellana) and raspberry bushes (Rubus idaeus). The path climbs and the Scots pine tree (Pinus sylvestris) starts to appear more prominently than any other type of woody plant. It is distinguishable by its orange-coloured trunk. Some of them have a considerable girth, indicating that the forest is rather mature. Goat willow (Salix caprea) and birch trees also grow there.
A few metres above is the Ruta fountain, in a detour to the right of the path. This is a very wet area, with dense vegetation and the aspen tree (Populus tremula), which owes its Latin name to its trembling leaves when the wind blows, and some wild service trees (Sorbus torminalis), European rowans (Sorbus aucuparia) and firs (Abies sp.). The aspen is one of the trees that the black woodpecker uses to make its nest. Along this path, red fox (Vulpes vulpes) droppings give evidence of this attractive carnivore’s presence.
Some birds search for food among the pine branches, such as the coal tit (Parus ater) and crossbill (Loxia curvirostra), which has a twisted beak so it can remove seeds from pine cones. There are also raspberry bushes, willowherbs, common mullein and especially snapdragon (Antirrhinum asarina), an interesting species that has already become endemic in the Pyrenees.
Font: From the Low Latin word fonte, meaning “spring” or “fountain”. There are usually many natural springs in the high valleys of the Pyrenees and, generally speaking, in alpine settings with glacial cirques. There are nearly 150 recorded in Andorra, most of which have a high iron content.
Route along Fountain Circuit 2 (long route)
The long fountain circuit sets off from the same place as the short one. Once the route fountain stretch has ended and you have arrived at the green fence, follow the trail to the Bosc Negre fountain. From here, climb the path on the left-hand side of the trail that leads to the Bosc Negre path.
The wood is dense, with Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) and boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), which you’ll find along most of the route. Before reaching the intersection with the la Palomera path, you’ll find the Sansa fountain. The circuit continues on the left through the la Palomera path. Here you can see or hear the bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) and the Eurasian jay (Garrulus glandarius). After a while you’ll come to the limestone rocks of la Palomera, where saxifrage (Saxifraga catalaunica) and ramonda grow (Ramonda myconi). The site offers beautiful views. At the end of the climb you’ll see the fields of la Palomera, a dense forest of Scots pines bearing holes made by black woodpeckers (Dryocupus martius) and the rummagings of wild boars (Sus scrofa).
The path continues level through the Bosc Negre (“Black forest”). After a while, a path appears on the right, where there is a Scots pine with two branches. Follow the path until you reach the font del Cuc (“Worm fountain”), which you should not confuse with the fountain of the same name on the La Trapella pass path.
Palomera: From the Latin palumba. A wide mountain pass, this is an archaic derivation of the Catalan colomer, which comes from columbariu. Birds from the Columbidae family like to rest in these places.
Route to La Nou lake
At Prat Primer the vegetation is entirely alpine in nature, and dominated by grassy meadows. At this point, you’ll change slope and descend to the Claror refuge along a path on the left, slightly below the pass.
As you arrive near the Claror refuge, you may spot a marmot. The grassy meadows are dotted with individual juniper plants (Juniperus communis) and alpenrose shrubs (Rhododendron ferrugineum). Alpenrose shrubs are very low to the ground, with flexible branches that are covered with snow in winter.
Monkshood (Aconitum napellus) and houseleeks (Sempervivum montanum), are herbaceous plants that grow in this area. The citril finch (Serinus citrinella) and the northern wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) can be seen on granite rocks and branches of shrubs. The route follows the GRP signposting along the La Nou lake path. You will start to notice mountain pines (Pinus uncinata). At the end of the hike, near La Nou lake, you’ll see large clusters of them. This is a habitat to birds such as the goldcrest (Regulus regulus), the coal tit (Parus ater) and the crested tit (Parus cristatus). La Nou lake is rather interesting because, unlike most lakes in the Pyrenees, it receives river water.
It is fed by freatic water coming from underground streams, and one of these streams converges with the Perafita river, ensuring that it always maintains its level. It is the southernmost lake in Andorra, and the warmest. If you do not want to return via Prat Primer, you can do so through Perafita valley and the El Madriu valley.
La Nou lake: From the Romanesque noc, coming from the Latin naucu (derived from navis), related in this case with hydronomy. The nature of this lake and its water supply system lead one to think it is fed by subterranean water.
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