The Vall de Núria in the eastern Pyrenees is only reachable by rack railway or footpath. Having packed for spending most of my time on Costa Brava’s coast, I opted for a ride up to Núria on the rack railway. And as I was swept 1000 meters up the mountain, I couldn’t help thinking how much Tim would have loved the hike up. Arriving at the mountain resort 2,200 feet above sea level with limited time, I immediately set out to explore.
As I walked along the path from the rail station to the lakeside chapel, a dad was leading a delighted child around on a miniature horse. Yes, a miniature horse! I practically squealed and jumped up and down like I was six years old myself.
My parents had two horses when I was a child: a Quarter horse and an Arabian. Unfortunately, my dad had a back injury that prevented him from riding regularly and my mom couldn’t keep up with exercising two horses. They had to sell them before I was old enough to help out with riding and caring for them. I begged and pleaded for another horse when I was old enough to ride. And after reading the book Smidgen: The Miniature Horse, I didn’t just want any horse. I wanted a miniature horse. No such luck.
I marched right up to the stable hand and pointing at a painted pony, said “I’d like to take that horse for a walk.” He looked at me and then looked around. Seeing no kids in tow, he raised his eyebrow at me and then slowly walked over to the horse I was pointing at and untied it from the hitch. I’m sure I left him chuckling after I even requested he take some pictures of me with the horse.
Having gotten my fix parading the miniature horse around, I visited the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Núria. According to tradition, Saint Giles arrived in the Núria valley around 700 AD and lived there for four years. During that time Saint Giles built a cross and cast a pot and a bell, the bell which he used to call shepherds to prayer. Keeping with the tradition, the carillon of bells atop the Sanctuary still ring out across the Núria valley, just as Saint Giles’ bell did over 1200 years ago.
Inside the Sanctuary, another bell has a bit of a different legend. The ritual says that whoever prays in front of the cross with her head inside the pot while ringing the bell gains the gift of fertility. Couples wishing to conceive visit Núria partaking in the ritual and always return to give thanks to the Virgin for their children after. I photographed the bell and pot, but made sure my head steered clear of that pot just in case.
I ended my visit to Núria by allowing the cable car to whisk me to the Peak of l’Àliga, with stunning views over the entire Núria valley and hiked back down past the Stations of the Cross to the railway station.
Know Before You Go
- 1 day packages are available and include round trip ticket on the rack railway, cable car, and lunch at the self service buffet for €41.35 for adults and €34.80 for children. Children under 6 years old are free.
- Rack railway tickets are sold round trip for €22.30 or one way for €13.90.
- Pony rides are available from 10am – 5:30pm and cost €8.15 per child. Horseback riding is also available.
- Hiking and camping are available in the summer season; skiing and snowboarding are available in the winter season.
- Both hotel and apartments, perfect for families, are available on site.
Thank you to the Costa Brava Girona Tourism Board for hosting me and to Vall de Núria for providing me with an excellent guide! As always, all opinions are my own.