We had been planning for a long time to do one of the greatest multi-day hikes in Europe, the Carros de Foc (Fire Chariots, the literal translation), a fantastic circular trail that goes through the most beautiful part of the Spanish Pyrenees, the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park. If you complete the full circuit in the recommended 5 to 7 days, depending on your physical form, you will have the chance to see the most beautiful lakes and mountains of the Catalan part of the Pyrenees mountain chain. Nevertheless, if you don’t feel prepared for such a long and exhausting trail, you have the chance to get a taste of this experience and cover part of the trail in a circular 3-day route. This way, you will have the chance to enjoy the fascinating landscape and the atmosphere of mountain refuge houses. Here, we will tell you all the details of this variant of this magnificent experience in the high mountains of the Catalan Pyrenees.

3 days in the Pyrenees, following the Carros de Foc trail

This circular variant of the Carros de Foc in 3 days starts in the small Pyrenean village of Espot. In order to get there you will need to take the C-13 road in the direction of Guingueta d’Àneu and then take the turn to the steep LV-5004 road.

Day 1. Espot – Refuge J. M. Blanc

Distance: 7 km, Slope: + 1025 m

We started the hike in Espot very early in the morning to have the full day to enjoy this wonderful natural environment. In addition, rain can always be expected in the Pyrenees in the afternoon, therefore it’s better to start the route as early as possible. The trail is well indicated with the red and white signs of the GR footpath that has to be followed the whole day.

After leaving Espot it’s easy to find the trail that follows the Peguera River that gradually ascends inside a pine forest, and although you will have to overcome quite a slope, the trail is not especially difficult. After the pine trees you will find yourself on a large meadow, while you get more and more deep into the valley.Small lake, Aigüestortes National Park, Catalonia | 3-day Carros de Foc, a route in the Spanish Pyrenees

The views start to become more astonishing and Espot becomes a small spot on the horizon. You will pass near a small lake called Estany de Lladres (Lake of Thieves), while from some other points of the trail you will have the chance to look down on other small lakes, sucha as Estany de Trescuro and Estany de la Cabana. Although this part of the route officially doesn’t belong to the Carros de Foc itinerary, you can already notice the typical alpine landscape of the Pyrenees and the Aigüestortes National Park.

After about 3 hours of hiking you will find yourself in front of your eyes the beautiful alpine lake of Estany Tort de Peguera and Refuge Joan Maria Blanc. This mountain refuge has probably the most amazing location we have ever encountered on a small peninsula surrounded by this beautiful crystal clean lake.  JM Blanc Refuge, Aigüestortes National Park, Catalonia

You can spend the afternoon having some rest before the exhaustive day waiting for you on the following day and simply enjoying this unique natural surrounding. It’s worth to climb some of the rocks near the refuge to have a great view of the lake, which is especially spectacular at sunset, when you will think that you have been transported into a real fairy tale. These are some of the most fascinating views of the Pyrenees that we have ever had the chance to see. View of JM Blanc Refuge, Aigüestortes National Park, Catalonia | 3-day Carros de Foc route

Day 2. Refuge J. M. Blanc – Refuge d’Amitges (a real stage of Carros de Foc)

Distance: 13 km, Slope: + 1125 m / -1020 m

We spent the night in the J.M. Blanc Refuge and really enjoyed the ambiance in a mountain refuge. It’s like a world apart: there’s dinner at 7 PM in large tables, where lot of excursionists share their stories and at 10 PM they turn the lights off. It’s not surprising that at 5 AM we were already awake to watch the magnificent sunrise on the lake. The lights and the colors made us cope with the cold temperature you can find in a refuge 2300 m above sea level, even in summer.Sunset at JM Blanc Refuge, Aigüestortes National Park, Catalonia

After an abundant breakfast, we continued with the main stage of our mini Carros de Foc. This is one of the largest and most difficult of the stages of the Carros de Foc trail. You will have to climb more than 1000 meters in total, just like the day before, but the climb is much steeper. The highest point of the track is the Coll de Monestero, one of the tallest mountain passes of the whole Carros de Foc trail with 2715 m altitude. Alpine landscape, Aigüestortes National Park, Catalonia | Carros de Foc Route

Before climbing the mountain pass, we walked near a series of pristine alpine lakes which reflected the peaks of the Pyrenees. We would never be able to get bored of this view. After leaving the crossroads where the ascent to the Coll de Monastero starts, we followed a steep trail crossing large blocks of stone. At the top, the weather was really cold because of the chilly wind, but the astonishing views compensate you for all the suffering. This mountain pass seems to be a border between two worlds: on one side there’s the view of so many lakes that we were not able to count and on the other side, you can enjoy the view of the Catalan Pyrenees mountain chain. Simply spectacular!Lakes from Coll de Monestero, Aigüestortes National Park, Catalonia

The downhill through the Monestero Valley is even steeper than the way up on the other side, and you get to lose altitude in very short time between these giant rock walls. The descent is quite difficult in some places, and it’s hard to keep the equilibrium between the small rocks, therefore, major precaution is recommended. Monestero Valley, Aigüestortes National Park, Catalonia | Carros de Foc, 3 days in the Spanish Pyrenees

The most beautiful thing in the Aigüestortes National Park, in which it stands out from the rest of the Pyrenees is that the landscape gets to change and show you different colors in short time. A few minutes before we were in the middle of a rocky landscape, and then we almost immediately arrived in a totally different landscape of vivid colors with forests and green meadows.Flowers, Aigüestortes National Park, Catalonia

From here on the path is much calmer and doesn’t represent any challenge, at the end of which we arrived at the Estany de Sant Maurici, largest lake of the national park. There’s the Ernest Mallafré Refuge here, where you can spend the night, but our route didn’t finish here, since the climb up to the Amitges Refuge was still waiting for us. There are several alternatives to climb up to the refuge house, we chose the dirt road, which is probably not the most beautiful, but the easiest alternative, since we were already quite tired at this moment.

In the end we finished the second day of our Carros de Foc in the Amitges Refuge, situated at 2380 m altitude. It’s another refuge house situated in an unbeatable national environment next to the Estany Gran d’Amitges, a precious lake and the Agulles de Amitges, a mythical peak amongst rock climbers.Estany Gran d'Amitges, Aigüestortes National Park, Catalonia | 3 days in the Spanish Pyrenees

Día 3. Refuge d’Amitges – Espot

Distance: 12 km, Slope:  -1.120 m

The last day, after spending another memorable night in a mountain refuge watching the sky full of stars, was to be the easiest of our 3-day Carros de Foc route. It was actually a comfortable descent from the refuge to Espot, where our trail started. This time we took the longer trail in the forest, and got to visit some beautiful lakes in the area.Estany Obagues de Ratera, Aigüestortes National Park, Catalonia

First we visited a group of lakes, the first of which was the Estany de les Obagues de Ratera, one of the most picturesque lakes we found in the Pyrenees. Sometimes, we felt the temptation to take a bath, but we have to remind you that it’s completely forbidden to swim in the lakes of the Aigüestortes National Park. If you want to take a dip in Pyrenean water, you can go to visit some of the lakes of Andorra, there it’s not prohibited to swim.Estany Obagues de Ratera, Aigüestortes National Park, Catalonia | 3 days in the Catalan Pyrenees

Before getting back to the dirt road, we took a small detour to visit one of the most beautiful look-outs in the area, the Mirador de l’Estany. From here you can enjoy a wonderful view of the Estany de Sant Maurici, the largest lake of the national park and the double peak of Els Encantants, the symbol of the Aigüestortes National Park. Mirador de l'Estany, Aigüestortes National Park, Catalonia

After getting back to the main trail, we went along the edge of the picturesque lake called Estany de la Ratera, and later we left the trail behind to get into the forest till the Cascada de la Ratera, a beautiful waterfall. You can get to contemplate both the inferior and superior part of the waterfall.  Cascada de la Ratera Waterfall, Aigüestortes National Park, Catalonia | Carros Foc, a circular route in the Spanish Pyrenees

From the waterfall it takes a few minutes to arrive at the lake of Estany de Sant Maurici, and from there the descent to Espot is probably the most boring part of the trail, especially after 3-days of nonstop walking. When we arrived back in Espot, we were quite satisfied of completing this challenge, in spite of the fact that we were very tired.

We think that this mini Carros de Foc, covering part of the original the trail in the Aigüestortes National Park, the most beautiful part of the Pyrenees, was a fantastic experience, which also tried us physically. We loved every single moment of it, and we might come back once to do the whole track.

Map of the key points of the route

Useful information

Aigüestortes i l’Estany de Sant Maurici National Park

This part of the Catalan Pyrenees is the only national park in Catalonia. In a relatively small area, the park contains more than 200 alpine lakes, beautiful pine forests, waterfalls and impressive peaks.

How to access the park

The national park has several entry points, but you can’t enter the park in your own vehicle. The most important entry points are the Boí Valley (Valle de Boí) and Espot. From both places there are 4 WD taxis that take excursionist to certain points of the park.

From Espot the taxi service to Estany de Sant Maurici has a reasonable price, since the ride is always shared with several other passengers and part of the road is asphalted.

From the Boí Valley, there is also taxi service to Estany Llong for 5-6 € per trip. If you want to get to other refuge houses, the price of the trip comes much more expansive.

What is exactly Carros de Foc

The circular trail of Carros de Foc was created at the end of the last century to allow excursionists to visit most of the beautiful Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park, sleeping in comfortable refuge houses that are well maintained.

Although the total distance covered is only 56 kilometers, the accumulated slope of around 9200 meters represent an important challenge for any excursionist. In addition quite often the climbs are realized in steep terrain with large stone blocks and most of the year you will find snow in the highest points. To complete the Carros de Foc trail in 5 days is possible for people used to such hikes, but for less experienced hikers we recommend to do the trail in 6 or 7 days.

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