Photograph by Rob Watkins, Alamy
Name: Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park
Date Established: 1955
Size: 40 square miles (102 square kilometers)
Did You Know?
• Catalan Park Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park is located in the mountainous heart of the Pyrenees, a landscape where jagged, rocky peaks tower far above fir and pine forests and clear waters tumble down rocky river courses—or lie mirror-still in some 200 mountain lakes or estanys.
• Twisted Waters Estany de Sant Maurici is the park’s largest lake and a must-see for visitors. Two rivers, Riu Escrita and Riu de Sant Nicolau, give the park its name—Aigüestortes, "twisted waters."
• Romanesque Trove Adjacent to the park’s western border is the scenic Vall de Boi, a steep, narrow valley boasting nine Early Romanesque churches consecrated in the 11th and 12th centuries—the largest concentration of Romanesque art in Europe. These stone masterpieces have been grouped together as a UNESCO World Heritage site representing “an especially pure and consistent example of Romanesque art in a virtually untouched rural setting.”
• Aquatic Ecosystem Water dominates much of this mountain park and sustains an extensive aquatic ecosystem. Cold mountain streams and lakes teem with trout and provide habitat for grass frogs, common toads, and Pyrenean newts. Muskrats and otters prowl the banks.
• Wildlife Wild goats and marmots are among the park’s mammalian inhabitants; birds include the capercaillie and the bearded vulture known as the lammergeier. The vultures live on the heights, clinging to sheer cliff faces and nesting in cracks or cornices.
How to Get There
Reach the park by car or taxi from Boi, in the west, or from Espot in the east. Each town has a park information office ideal for planning a visit.
When to Visit
Winters are cold and snowy; though they offer excellent opportunities for hiking or snowshoeing be aware that their effects can linger well into spring. Mountain passes are often snow covered in June.
How to Visit
A wide array of hiking routes showcases the best of Pyrenees scenery, from peaks to mountain pools. The Regional Tourist Board of the Diputació de Lleida has created virtual tours of the park’s iconic walks.
Medieval seaside villages, soaring mountains, and rich artistic and culinary traditions: Experience northern Spain on an 11-day journey aboard the private train El Transcantábrico.
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
Submit your best shots for a chance to be featured in our weekly galleries and to win a grand prize trip for two to Alaska.