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History and Culture in the Pyrenees

If you have an interest in history and culture, the Pyrenees is a dream destination!

The Pyrenees form a massive natural barrier dividing the Spain & the Iberian Peninsula from France & the rest of Europe. These mountains have been inhabited since prehistoric times, creating human settlements, villages and towns in the multitude of valleys scattered throughout the territory.

The legacy of centuries of exploration, travel, trade, war, banditry, smuggling, commerce, friendship and cooperation between the peoples on both sides of the range has left a valuable heritage of rich culture and fascinating history as well as an excellent network of paths for use by modern day mountain travelers.

Hiking Experiences centered around History and Culture

Our unrivalled knowledge and experience enable us to specialize in bespoke private trips with custom-designed itineraries focusing on the highlights of each route that is personally adapted to suit your available dates and interests.…so let us craft one just for you!

Our guides introduce you to the historical and cultural highlights of each route, including:

  • Picturesque medieval villages and traditional architecture

  • Fascinating historic patrimony

  • Rich & diverse culture and art

  • Local customs and festivities

  • Excellent regional gastronomy and wines


Here is a short list of some of the many interesting themes focusing on the historical and cultural highlights found in the Central Pyrenees. These can be incorporated into one of our more traditional hiking trips together with other subjects of interest to you as well as any kind of adventure activity. If you have an interest in a specific aspect history or culture of the Pyrenees or northern Spain, just let us know and we'll find a way to make it part of your adventure experience with us!

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In Search of the Holy Grail

Explore the hiding places of the legendary chalice.

Hikes in the footsteps of the legendary chalice used by Jesus in the last supper. After being sent from Rome to Huesca in the 3rd century, when the Moors invaded Iberia in the 8th century, it was frequently moved for safety and kept in remote locations in the highest regions of the Aragonese Pyrenees.


Sites include Iglesia de San Pedro el Viejo in Huesca, Monasterio de San Juan de la Peña, Iglesia de Santa Cruz de la Serós, Iglesia de San Adrián de Sasabe, Catedral de Jaca, la Cueva de Santa Orosia in Yebra de Basa and Monasterio de Siresa in the Hecho Valley.

Cave Art & Megalithic Sites

Explore the Pyrenees' most ancient sites

Hikes to visit fascinating examples of ancient cave art and megalithic remains such as dolmens and cromlechs scattered around the mountains of the High Pyrenees. Highlights include the many examples of cave art in the Sierra de Guara (classified as UNESCO World Heritage) and the dolmens and cromlechs of in the Valle de Aguas Tuertas.

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“Freedom” Trails

Historic escape routes across the Pyrenees

in WWII, a multitude of “secret passes” were used by the French resistance to help hundreds Allied pilots, soldiers and spies as well as literally thousands of Jewish refugees and others to escape to Spain and then to freedom elsewhere or to return to fighting the Nazis. These same passes were also used during the dying days of the Spanish Civil War by Spanish Republicans fleeing to France to escape from the dictator Franco’s forces.

El Camino de Santiago

The Way of Saint James in the Pyrenees

Hiking with a focus on historical highlights of the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago de Compostela. There are endless possibilities for hikes on the multiple different routes used by pilgrims in the Pyrenees and to visit associated monasteries, churches and pilgrim’s hospitals scattered throughout the mountains.

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Pyrenean villages and towns

Quaint, beautiful & historic enclaves

The Pyrenees is home to some of the most beautiful towns and villages in Europe, such as Lescun, Bagnères-de-Luchón, Alquézar, Torla, Aínsa, Taüll, Roda de Isábena and so many more! We use many of these towns as bases for our hiking and trekking trips, since they are inevitably located in magnificent natural environments. Stone-built homes hundreds of years old, labyrinths of winding cobblestone streets and superb views are the norm.

Cathedrals, churches, chapels and hermitages

Practically every town and village has one!

There are a plethora of wonderful examples of religion-inspired buildings throughout the Pyrenees: including the fabulous UNESCO World Heritage ensemble of Romanesque churches in the Val de Boi, the superb Romanesque chapels in the Serablo of Alto Aragón, dozens of spectacular and primitive cliffside hermitages in the Sierra de Guara, the Gothic cathedral in Jaca  and the Romanesque cathedral in Roda de Isábena (the smallest town in Spain to have a cathedral!) and the tiny mountaintop hermitages in Tella. 

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Some other topics of cultural and historic interest in the Pyrenees

Castles and defense

Visits to interesting defensive structures in the Pyrenees, many built to protect Spain or France against invasion from the other side of the range, including castles, forts, towers, bunkers and walls. Sites include the 11th century Romanesque castle and abbey of Castillo de Loarre (used as a set in Game of Thrones), the 19th century Fort du Portalet, the 19th century Torre de los Fusileros (Canfranc), la Linea “P” (post-Spanish civil war) and the 16th century pentagonal citadel Ciudadela de Jaca.

​Towns with natural hot-spring baths

The healing properties of the hot spring waters of the Pyrenees have been known since Roman times and were even mentioned in writings by Julius Caesar. The central Pyrenees in particular, is rich in the number of springs as well as in the quality of their waters, with a variety of different mineral contents that heal and soothe a wide range of ailments. The 19th century saw the birth of medicinal water-based tourism in the area and the towns that grew up around the baths now have a long-tradition of offering their relaxing and healing waters to the public on both sides of the range, including Eaux-Bonnes, Bagneres-de-Bigorre, Cauterets, Luz-Saint-Sauveur and Bagneres-de-Luchon in France and Baños de Panticosa, Baños de Benasque and Caldes de Boí in Spain.

Smugglers and contraband in the Pyrenees

There is a long and well-documented history of smuggling from one side of the range to the other in order to avoid taxes and the import of prohibited products. The persons who undertook this dangerous work were brave and highly resourceful. Naturally, the trails used were often those that became known as “Freedom Trails”, but sometimes these professional traffickers took even more difficult passages in order to avoid detection.

Canfranc International Train Station 

Europe’s 2nd longest train station is nearly the size of the Titanic and located in a steep-sided valley at 1200 meters elevation in the high reaches of the Aragónese Pyrenees, it’s just 3 kilometers from the France-Spain border. It was inaugurated in 1929, after completion of the Somport railway tunnel under the Pyrenees, linking France and Spain.


During WWII, the station and the town around it was occupied by the Nazis (the only place in Spain), however thanks to the French station master, it became part of a successful network run by the Resistance to smuggle escaped spies, downed Allied pilots and Jewish refugees to safety via Spain. 

Hitler and Spain’s dictator Franco were “friends” and recently it has come to light that the Nazis had used the station to secretly transport at least 100 tons of gold from Swiss banks to Spain. Some was used to pay Franco in exchange for tungsten and grain, while the rest went via Portugal to secret accounts in South America.

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