View of the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park. / TURISMO CATALUÑA

The Pyrenees, a fabulous destination, also in the summer

Temperatures have risen and the ski resorts are closed, but now's the time to enjoy these mountains differently: pure air, gastronomy, sport and spectacular scenery

MARTA AGUILERA.

The Pyrenees are more than just a region that skiers flock to during the winter months. The mountain range that separates the Iberian peninsula from the rest of Europe is a natural treasure and still impressive when temperatures rise and the white snowy mountains give way to green and brown valleys.

Outdoor activities, beautiful villages and excellent cuisine are just some of the attractions of these mountains that stretch for 430 kilometres across Navarra, Aragon and Catalonia.

The Pyrenees are an ideal holiday destinations for anyone wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Peaceful villages and valleys become a wonderful temporary home in which to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. High mountains, numerous rivers, abundant vegetation and hundreds of lakes provide the perfect opportunity to explore and experience somewhere truly unique.

From west to east, the Pyrenees are scattered with charming and very different villages where stone and chalk are the main features of the architecture. There is something for everyone here, from small towns like Ansó, Sallent de Gállego and Lanuza, in the Aragonese Pyrenees, to those in the Vall de Boí and Vall d'Aran, on the Catalan side.

If you find the tranquility a bit too much, you can always head to bigger places which haven't lost their charm. Jaca, Vielha and Puigcerdá are perfect, with plenty of culture and great food on offer.

Climbing, hiking, pot holing, mountain biking, rafting and canyoning are some of the outdoor activity choices that make this the perfect destination for mountain-lovers.

There are so many routes and tracks crossing this chain of mountains that hiking is the activity par excellence, especially in the summer.

And you don't need to be an expert mountaineer to enjoy the hundreds of lakes in the Pyrenees. The National Parks of Ordesa and Monteperdido, in Huesca, and Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici, in Lleida, are two perfect locations for those taking up hiking for the first time. And as well as getting exercise, you ought to be able to spot native species such as bearded vultures, grouse and chamois.

The Pyrenees are also wonderful to explore on two wheels, so if you are a keen cyclist, this is the place for you. If what you like is mountain biking, there are thousands of kilometres of signed routes in all the valleys to get the adrenalin flowing. And if your speciality is cycling on the road, put yourself to the test with the mountain passes.

Water sports such as rafting, kayaking and canyoning, are favourite options for those looking for some action in the Pyrenees in the summer. Navigating the white water in the Cinca, Segre and Gállego rivers will be an unforgettable and highly entertaining experience.

In the Pyrenees there are peaks more than 3,000 metres above sea level. Although some climbs are strictly for experts, to reach some of the summits all you need is to be in good physical condition.

El Aneto, standing 3,404 metres high, is the tallest peak in these mountains and is a popular challenge among experienced climbers. To reach the summit the Pyrenees, most people depart from the shelter at La Renclusa, cross the glacier and enjoy - if they can - the famous Mahoma Pass. This is, without a doubt, a unique experience if you are visiting the stunning Benasque valley.

Monte Perdido is another favourite place for enjoying these mountains. At 3,355 metres above sea level, the peak is reached by crossing the Ordesa National Park and using the shelter at El Góriz as a starting point.

Beyond the tallest and best-known peaks, there are others that are a bit more accessible but still over 3,000 metres high, like Los Infiernos (3,082 m) and Garmo Negro (3,051 m), in the Aragonese Pyrenees, and the Pica d'Estats (3,143 m), on the Catalan side.

These climbs are not suitable for people with no experience, but in fact they do not require great technique, although you do have to be in very good physical shape, to do them.

If the Pyrenees are the perfect destination for people who love mountains, they are also excellent for fans of good, hearty food.

This area boasts a whole range of wonderful dishes to try, including lamb, wild boar, steak, bean stews and vegetable casseroles, to name just a few.

Located in the beautiful Tena valley, the walk up to the Anayet lakes is one of the most famous, accessible and pretty routes in the Pyrenees. And if you dare to spend the night at the top, it will be an even more unique experience.

Although it is possible to do this excursion all year round, the months from May to October are the most popular. The absence of snow and the pleasant climate make it one of the best hikes in the area.

In winter, ice and snow can make things a bit more difficult and you will need to be better prepared in terms of fitness and technique.

The "ibones" at Anayet, as they are called, consist of three lakes of glacier origin which are at an altitude of 2,233 metres above sea level. They are in the municipality of Sallent de Gállego and can be reached from different areas:

This route starts in the car park in the Anayet area of the Formigal ski station and is 5.5 kilometres long. As it is part of the GR11 trail, it is well signposted so there is no chance of getting lost.

This route also follows the GR11 but at nine kilometres it is somewhat longer than the previous one. However, it is not technically difficult. It passes through the Canal Roya, which is a beautiful valley that separates the Astún and Formigal ski stations.

This six-kilometre route is probably the simplest way to get to the Anayet lakes. The trail goes up the Batallero hill, a classic if you know the Formigal ski station, and passes through the Culivillas ravine before heading upwards.

The Anayet lakes have one of the finest panoramic views in the area, because they are at the foot of two impressive mountains: the Anayet (2,545 metres high) and the legendary Midi d'Ossau (2,885 metres). Both rocky peaks are reflected in the water and if you are there as the sun sets it is one of the loveliest experiences you could hope for in this area.

If you think this route is too short and you want to carry on walking, you can extend it up to the peak, or summit of the Anayet (2,559 m).

It will take a bit more physical effort to get there, but the views over the valley, the lakes and the Midi d'Ossau definitely make it all worthwhile. Without a doubt, reaching the top of either of these two mountains is the best possible way to finish this beautiful walk through the Pyrenees mountains.