La Massana routes
Comapedrosa highlands route
Comapedrosa peak is the highest in Andorra and is located in the communal natural park of the Valleys of Comapedrosa, with a protected surface area of1,542.6 ha (15.42 km2).
At 2,942 metres above sea level, it makes for an excellent vantage point over the surrounding mountains and the rest of the Pyrenees. From the top, you can make out the mountainous massif of the Pica d’Estats in full detail, the highest mountain peak in Catalonia.
The valley’s cultural heritage is basically linked with traditional agro-fishing activities and includes huts, cabins, fountains, troughs, terraces, dry stone walls, etc. Very close to the natural park are the huts of Percanela, the farm at El Torner, the huts of Els Prats Nous, the huts of Les Agunes and the farm at La Coruvilla, all of which are linked with traditional agro-livestock activities, which used to consist of reaping and storing the grasses from the neighbouring plains and keeping livestock in stables. In this respect, the main activity today focuses on using pastures in summer for sheep, cows and horses to graze.
There are also two Romanesque chapels in the area: those of Sant Rom? d’Erts and Sant Andreu d’Arinsal, where you can also find two old flour mills: the Abaix mill and the Adalt mill.
The best time to visit the park is from the end of May until October, both in terms of access and the contrasting colours of spring (snow on the mountaintops and blooms in the valleys) and autumn (ochre-coloured deciduous trees and green conifers). Nevertheless, you’ll have to tread carefully depending on the amount of snowfall at the end of spring and the summer storms. Similarly, there is a certain degree of traffic in winter related with cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, but the risk of avalanches is a significant factor limiting winter recreation activities in the area.
Comapedrosa: Coma, from the Latin cumba, meaning “valley”, and pedrosa, from the Latin petra, meaning “stone”; thus “stone valley”.
Percanela-Les Fonts-Pla de l’Estany route
This hike sets out from the old centre of the village of Arinsal, one of the ten townships belonging to La Massana parish.
This parish is located in the extreme northwest part of the country and occupies a surface area of 65 km2. It borders with France and Spain on the north and west. To the south are the parishes of Andorra la Vella and Escaldes-Engordany, and the parish of Ordino is to the east. La Massana parish is located at 1,230 metres above sea level and has more than 9,500 inhabitants. In cultural terms, it must be said that La Massana contains true gems of Romanesque art, such as the architectural complex in the village of Pal, with the 12thcentury Romanesque church of Sant Climent de Pal and the Andorra Rom?nica (“Romanesque Andorra”) interpretation centre, or Sant Crist?fol d’Any?s. Other must-see buildings include Casa Rull, the Rossell forge and the Ferro (“iron industry”) interpretation centre.
On lower terrain, the vegetation in the parish mainly consists of herbaceous crops, grassy meadows, forests of deciduous trees and groves of sessile oak trees (Quercus petraea). In higher areas, you’ll notice many Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) and mountain pines (Pinus uncinata).
As for wildlife, especially prominent are the wall lizard (Podarcis muralis), which usually inhabits the communal natural park of the Valleys of Comapedrosa, the ptarmigan (Lagopus muta), the Pyrenean brook salamander (Calotriton asper), which only lives in very clean and pure waters, and the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), which flies over the highest points of the parish.
Percanela: From the Latin cannella, meaning “small cane”. It could be a compound form of pedra, meaning “stone”, and canela or canella (“fountain spout”).
Coll de les Cases route
This simple, two-hour route provides great views of the north face of Casamanya peak, located in the parish of Ordino, which you can visit with data sheet number 8 in this guide.
The most common animals in this area include the cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), the crag martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris), the common redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros), the coal tit (Parus ater), the chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), the citril finch (Serinus citrinella), the linnet (Carduelis cannabina) and the common crossbill (Loxia curvirostra). Mention must also be made of the European hare (Lepus europaeus), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and red fox (Vulpes vulpes), which you may spot very early in the morning, or the asp viper (Vipera aspis) and smooth snake (Coronella austriaca), among others, later in the day.
The cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) is widely present in the valleys on Andorra. Its highly characteristic, monotonous song is one of the most commonly heard ones in the country’s forests. This is a summer bird, and can be spotted mainly between the months of spring and summer. It generally arrives in April and leaves in August or September.
This small species lives in forest settings, such as forests of mountain pine (Pinus uncinata) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), as well as deciduous woods of Mediterranean holm oak (Quercus ilex) in exceptional locations (Padern peak).
Coll de les Cases: From the Latin collu, meaning “mountain, hill, of not very high elevation”. The Catalan word coll has come to designate a pass between mountains.
Anyós-L’Aldosa: route from El Solà
cortals d’Anyós - to l’Estall pass
The route from El Solà runs through the parish of La Massana, linking the townships of Anyós and L’Aldosa. On this hike you can enter local forests of birch, hazel and other wild trees. From 2,000 metres above sea level and up, the Scots pine is abundant. From L’Estall pass, you’ll be able to enjoy some extraordinary views of Casamanya peak and of Els Cortals de Sispony.
Along the way, you’ll find stone huts typical of mountain settings, once so important to the pastoral economy.
The parish has a surface area of 65 km2 and around 9,000 inhabitants. It is formed by seven quarts (Pal, Arinsal, Erts, Sispony, Any?s, L’Aldosa and La Massana, its capital). It also has six small townships: El Pujol del Piu, Esc?s, Els Plans, El Mas de Ribafeta, Xixerella and El Pui.
Anyós: From the Basque angio-a, meaning “pasture”, and a pre- Roman ending which, according to Coromines, could pertinently be related to the Basque adjective otz, meaning “cold”.
El Cardemeller peak-Bisbe fountain route
This simple hike is ideal for completing with the whole family on a hot summer afternoon. Given that the route passes only 800 metres from the idyllic village of Pal, it is well worth paying a visit. You can also see the church of Sant Climent and the Romanesque interpretation centre.
The village of Pal is one of the best preserved rural settings in Andorra and forms part of a special plan to protect traditional architecture since 1997. The church, which is the most important exponent of the architectural heritage, dates from the end of the 11th century or beginning of the 12th century, with additions from modern times. The building has a rectangular nave and conserves a significant set of Romanesque walls. The bell tower, in Lombard style, has three floors of twin windows, the last of which has the only double twin windows in Andorra. Inside are a granite baptismal font; a 13th-century Romanesque statue of the Blessed Virgin of Remei; two processional, multicoloured wooden crosses; and an altarpiece dedicated to Pope Saint Clement, for whom the church is named (1709).
In less than an hour, the route will enable you to enjoy the typical Andorran huts of El Cardameller, a testimonial vestige of the pastoral life of yesteryear. In addition, you’ll pass through grassy meadows and forests of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) until you arrive at Bisbe fountain, a resting place with a barbeque grill and a fountain where you can drink pure and fresh mountain water.
PAL: From the Latin palu, meaning “stick”. This village is close to the western border. In previous times, people could get disoriented when great snowfalls and storms hit. High and thick perches were set up to avoid this. The Catalan word pal forms part of many place names in the Pyrenees.
Erts: Jou-La Cauba rock route
Along this eminently botanical hike, you’ll ascend all the way up to La Cauba rock. It is a simple hike, but you’ll need to be careful when you get to the top, as there is quite a cliff.
The beginning of the route is dominated by hazel trees (Corylus avellana) and boxwood (Buxus sempervirens). This shrub is typically found in calcareous locations, and although you won’t see any calcareous strata, it is a result of the rocks higher up, whose carbonates were washed and carried here by rainwater. Up above the terrain is shaded and cool, and you’ll see many plants typical of damp mountain floors, such as tower cress (Arabis turrita), water avens (Geum rivale), liverwort (Hepatica nobilis) and wild strawberries (Fragaria vesca), in addition to other species of herbs that thrive in shaded areas.
Before ascending to the pass, you’ll enter a forest of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), a tree you will see in abundance until the pass itself, where, bit by bit, some mountain pines (Pinus uncinata) will gradually appear. The vegetation is typical of a pine forest, but you may also see some plants typical of pebbly soil, such as white stonecrop (Sedum album), some globularia species such as cordifolia (Matted globularia), included on the Red List of Andorran plant life as vulnerable, and the Montpellier milk-vetch (Astragalus monspessulanus), a small clumpy plant with compound leaves and pink flowers.
Erts: From the Basque ertz, meaning “nearby”. This village lies very close to the Arinsal river, on top of the bank in such a way that the plinth upon which it rises forms a sidewalk, or pavement. Jou: From the Latin lugu, meaning “which has a round profile”.
Sispony: Muntaner pass-Enclar peak
Located squarely in southwest Andorra, the Enclar range is a mountainous feature very different from neighbouring massifs and ranges. It is bordered by the Muntaner river on the north, the Valira del Nord river on the east and the Gran Valira river on the southeast.
A stretch of mountains from Enclar peak to the banks of the ?s river marks the political boundary between Andorra and Spain. Specifically, it is delimited by the ?s river on the south and west and the Muntaner river on the northeast, in the lands of Alt Urgell. In fact, the Enclar mountain range would be a mountainous island if it weren’t for Muntaner pass, which links El Cubil peak in the north with the group of mountains surrounding the village of Pal.
The fact that the massif in the area is bordered by an old glacier basin highlights its abrupt appearance. The slope on the northern side is not particularly steep, but glacial activity has given it a unique look when compared with the neighbouring mountains. According to the side, the symmetry of the vegetation is spectacular. To the north, it takes the form of a dense and uniform cover of alpine and Euro-Siberian species, mainly mountain pine (Pinus uncinata), fir (Abies sp.), birch (Betula sp.) and alpenrose (Rhododendron serrugineum). The southern side has greater diversity, since the distribution of species varies according to the relative position they occupy on the slope (gullies, rocky areas, mixed areas, etc.). Some Mediterranean species are promiment, such as the holm oak (Quercus ilex), which probably reaches its greatest height in all of Andorra here. The upper reaches of the mountain range are covered on both sides with alpine meadows of fescue and scrublands of genista (Genista balansae) and juniper (Juniperus communis).
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
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