If you’re lucky when hiking in the Pyrenees you’ll see a huge bird flying by overhead with beautiful rusty coloured feathers. If you’re even luckier, you’ll see it carry a large bone high into the sky and drop it to smash it into pieces before landing and swallowing them. What is this bid and why is it eating bones?
Bearded vulture or Lammergeier in the Pyrenees
With a wing span of nearly three metres, the enormous bearded vulture or lammergeier is one of the emblematic species of the Pyrenees. They live in the high mountains of Europe, Asia and Africa but the Pyrenees has the highest concentration in Europe of these magnificent birds.
The bearded vulture is the only bird in the world to live almost entirely on a diet of bones. It makes it’s spanish name of ‘Quebrantahusos’ – the bonebreaker – very appropriate! The vultures swallow bones of up to 20cm. Powerful acids in their stomachs then dissolve the bones and they digest the marrow.
For large bones the bearded vulture circles high in the air above stony sites called ‘rompederos’ – breaking places. They drop the bones breaking them on the stones below and then swallow the broken pieces. There are various feeding sites n the central Pyrenees where the vultures are left bones such as pigs spines by park rangers as part of the conservation program.
Read more about the bearded vulture…
Last week we ran our first snowshoeing holiday and it was a brilliant week with excellent routes, fantastic views and sunshine every day! We did five routes during the week – three in the Valle de Tena, one from Somport and one in the Ordesa Valley.
On the summit of Pico Canal Roya
There were five intrepid guests with varying level of snowshoe experience, but all did brilliantly so we got to do some great days and reached a couple of high summits.
Snowshoeing out from Portalet
The weather couldn’t have been better – clear blue skies all week, not a breath of wind and perfect temperatures. The snow line is quite high this year so all of our routes started from quite high altitude. The Portalet pass on the French/Spanish border in the Valle de Tena is perfect for this as it has an altitude of nearly 1800 metres and always good snow conditions.
The Central Pyrenees is considered to be one of the most stunning parts of the Pyrenees. You’ll find stone villages, flower filled valleys, stunning mountains and many interesting places to discover.
Visit one of the oldest National Parks in Spain
Established in 1918 the Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park was Spain’s first protected area and an is undisputed highlight of the Pyrenees. Covering an area of 156 square kilometres the park contains the stunning valleys of Ordesa and Añisclo. In 1997 it was made a world heritage site by UNESCO and it is also part of the Ordesa-Viñamala UNESCO Biosphere reserve.
Ordesa National Park highlights are its four deep canyons carved into the limestone. The Ordesa and Pineta valleys are glacial and the Añisclo valley and Garganta de Escuain were formed by rivers.
The Ordesa Valley is the most famous with cliffs rising over eight hundred metres on each side and Monte Perdido is perched majestically at the end of the valleys.
The Añisclo Canyon is over a kilometre deep and the high cliffs combined with the narrow, winding valley makes for spectacular views. The three peaks of Las Treserols – Monte Perdido, Cilindro and Pico Añisclo are the most recognisable in the park and form an impressive skyline for many walks.
The dates for the shuttle bus into the Ordesa Canyon from Torla have been published for 2019.
The bus operates from the visitors centre in Torla to the Pradera in Ordesa where the main hikes in the valley start. Private cars aren’t allowed into the valley during Easter, from the 29 June to the 15 September and from 12 to 13 October (2019 dates).
Since last year, there is also a shuttle bus that operates for the Añisclo Canyon that runs from the village of Buerba to San Urbez – they haven’t confirmed the dates for this yet but last year they ran on the same dates as the Ordesa bus.
2019 shuttle bus dates and times
Last days of June, July and August (29 June to 31 August) - first bus 6 am – last bus into valley 7 pm – last bus back to Torla 10 pm
September (1 to 15 September) – first bus 6 am – last bus into valley 6 pm – last bus back to Torla 9 pm
October (12 to 13 October) – first bus 6 am – last bus into valley 6 pm – last bus back to Torla 8.30 pm
2019 Bus prices
Standard fare: 4.50 € return ticket – 3 € single ticket
Older than 65 years*: 3,50 € return ticket – 2,50 € single ticket
Younger than 10 years*: free
Dogs: 2 € return ticket – 1 € single ticket
* it would be necesary to show your passaport to claim the discount.
The service works pretty efficiently with buses every 20 minutes (more in high summer).
Tickets can be bought at the small wooden hut outside the visitors centre and some hotels in Torla (such as Hotel Ordesa) also sell tickets at reception.
Please note that although they do allow dogs, they have to be put in a dog carrier in the luggage area of the bus. In the park dogs have to be on leads.
The spectacular canyons of the Ordesa National Park contain some of the best hiking in Spain. Its kilometre deep canyons are carved out of the limestone and have awe inspiring cliffs.
Hikes range from gentle walks in alpine meadows with the cliffs towering above you, to tough trails following narrow ledges high in the cliffs. There’s something for everyone in Ordesa!
The park is a UNESCO world heritage site due it’s biodiversity, and you’ll find the rare bone eating lammergeier here as well as ancient beech forests, beautiful orchids and lots of endemic flowers species.
Let our local guides show you the best Ordesa has to offer. We’ve three hiking holidays based in the Ordesa National Park – Canyons of Ainsa, Discover Ordesa and our Ordesa Self Guided itinerary. All have excellent hotels and each explores a different area of the park.
Read our full guide to walking in the Ordesa National Park.
With so many choices, you’ve no excuse not to come and discover the delights of Ordesa for yourself!