Looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Barcelona? Head to the mountains – to Vall de Núria in the Pyrenees. This off-the-beaten-path destination is one of the most scenic places in Spain. Use this guide and add Vall de Núria to your Barcelona itinerary. Here is everything you need to know to plan your day.(Updated November 2022)

Where is Vall de Nuria Spain

Vall de Núria is located in the most iconic valley of the Catalan Pyrenees mountains within the municipal area of Queralbs. This hidden gem is located 3 hours directly north of Barcelona. It sits above one of the highest points of the Ribes Valley and is surrounded by peaks of almost 3,000 metres. What makes this so incredibly special is the only way to get there is by rack railway or by foot, a 3-hour hike up the old pilgrim’s road. Either way, you’ll be afforded some amazing views of deep narrow gorges, rocks, rivers and trees.

pyrenees mountains

How to get to Vall de Núria

We experienced Vall de Nuria through Get Your Guide small-group tour. And, it was one of the best group tours I’ve taken while travelling. There is no easy way to get to Vall de Nuria from Barcelona. Travel is only by car, so joining a small-group tour was our only option. But we are so happy we did.

You can catch the rack railway to Vall de Núria from one of 3 places: Ribes-Enlaac, Ribes-Vila or Queralbs. For us, we took the Nuria rack railway from Queralbs, a picturesque alpine village that’s worthy of a quick look about. You can see just how pretty this village through my 17 Photos to inspire you to visit Queralbs.

Núria Rack Railway

Take the rack railway called Cremallera de Núria through a beautiful route that runs 12.5 km and ascends about 1,000 m from Queralbs. You get to admire the unspoiled panoramic mountain landscape views from the Núria rack railway windows. This in of itself was a highlight of the tour.

The Núria rack railway brings you to the location of the original church sanctuary and hostel to house the Pilgrims from centuries ago. Today what stands is a large building that includes a hotel, restaurant, information center and gift shop. Immediately you are taken aback by such a large complex, in this remote high valley of the Pyrenees. It’s an incredibly scenic area – framed by the mountains with a large grassy area and a small lake in the foreground.

The Ancient History of Vall de Núria

Vall de Núria has a fascinating legendary tale. Here’s how the story goes. Saint Giles or San Gil arrived in this area from Athens around 700 AD. He lived the life of a hermit, living in caves and spending his time with the local shepherds. He was thought to have carved the painted image of the Virgin Mary. For safekeeping, he hid the carving in a cave when he had to flee from prosecution.

The Shrine of Núria

In 1072, some would say by divine inspiration, a pilgrim named Amadeu was called to this area to help build a chapel and search for the Virgin Mary. He and the local shepherds discovered the image and carried it to Queralbs. However, many believed it needed to remain in Núria. So, a procession was organized to bring the carving back to Núria. Thus, this is how the Shrine of Núria came to be.

The religious symbols of Vall de Núria are the cross, which San Gil brought with him to the valley, the cooking pot which he used to cook the meals he shared with the shepherds, and the bell with which he summoned them at meal times.

Hiking in Vall de Núria

The top things to do in Vall de Nuria are hiking and skiing. There are so many hiking trails you can choose from, all starting at Vall de Núria. Clear descriptions of distance, altitude, estimated walking time and experience level are clearly marked. 

The Shrine of Núria, a popular pilgrimage route, is the same path that the Pilgrims took from the town of Queralbs to Núria. Here, you will find stone crosses, churches and artifacts littering the route. This was our starting point, before branching off to another route, Cami de les Coves, which reached a maximum altitude of 2,134 m.

A day trip from Barcelona is great hiking in Vall de Nuria Spain | www.DreamPlanExperience.com

Many of the trails have connecting points with the Santiago el Camino, the famous pilgrimage route. The flag signifies a main intersection and marker for hikers.

A day trip from Barcelona is great hiking in Vall de Nuria Spain | www.DreamPlanExperience.com

This is the high Pyrenees, close to the border with France, and you can see the path that people used during the Spanish civil war to pass from France to Spain.

We also did Cami del Bosc trail. Based on time, we opted to take the cable car ride up to the summit of 2,122 m and walk down. This is a popular hill for skiing.

Why you should visit Vall de Nuria Spain

Where history and outdoor activities collide. It’s pretty special to know that you are hiking one of the most iconic hiking routes in Catalonia. Where for centuries, pilgrims used this very path to the sanctuary. It’s a path full of history and legends.

Get Your Guide From Barcelona to Vall de Nuria Tour

The meeting point is in a central location in Barcelona with a very early start time. This tour is about 10 hours, and makes for a long memorable day.

The small-group tour includes:

  • Transportation in an air-conditioned minivan that seats 8 people
  • Núria Rack railway ticket
  • Guided hike (optional)
  • Hiking poles (if required)
  • Typical Catalan snacks and bottle water
  • Personal insurance
  • Lunch is not included, but there is an on-site restaurant

Other helpful tips when visiting Vall de Nuria

What to bring with you

  • Dress for the elements (e.g., hat, sunglasses)
  • Warm clothing as you reach the top the temperature drops at least by 10 degrees
  • Wear hiking shoes, the trails are steep and rocky
  • Sunscreen
  • Snacks (or packed lunch)
  • And, your camera!

If you opt out of hiking the steep elevation (which range from beginner to advanced) you still can enjoy the grounds and easy footpaths, or take the cable car up (and down) for the panoramic views a the top.

As a holidaymaker…

Enjoy the break from Barcelona and go to Vall de Núria for the day. Discover the beauty of the Pyrenees mountains on a hike through the Nuria valley. It is such a peaceful place. Whether you are a spiritual person or not, it will leave you feeling inspired, grateful and longing to return.

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  1. I love the idea of heading out of Barcelona for a day and going hiking. Especially to a spot like Vall de Nuria which requires travel by rack railway! I would not be hiking up. It looks like a great scenic spot when you get to the top. Great to know that the different paths are well marked.

  2. These photos are stunning! I ended up going on a day-trip to Andorra when I was in Barcelona and had planned on going back there to hike next time, but this looks so beautiful I might have to go here instead! Plus getting the rack railway up sounds like a lot of fun.

    1. Thank you Sarah for your kind comment. I definitely recommend doing this if you return to Barcelona.

  3. What a beautiful place! The photos of the hike look great
    I can’t believe that I’ve never head of Vall de Nuria before. I just might plan a day trip there when I visit Barcelona again

    1. Thank you for your comment. We are so glad we heard about it while there. It was fantastic hiking.

  4. These pictures look amazing!

    Its crazy that when I think of Barcelona this is definitely not what I think about but guess I got a few additional hikes to add to my list!

  5. What a gorgeous place, those views are incredible. I’m defibrillator going to look into this place more if I get back to Barcelona and Spain. I had no idea there were such great places to do day trips to from there. I love the old stone structures

  6. What a gorgeous spot! I love the views and that you can get our in nature just outside of Barcelona. I think I would also opt for the railway instead of the three hour hike. And I like the sound of riding a cablecar up and then hiking down – definitely more my speed!

    1. Thank you, glad you like it! It’s such a great experience when in Barcelona and wanting to get out of the city for even just a day.

  7. I would never have imagined that there is such a beautiful valley to hike near Barcelona! Spain is indeed full of surprises. We drove around scenic mountainous roads in Zahara de la Sierra and Grazalema – just a short drive from the historic places like Cordoba. Your pictures are stunning! 🙂

    1. Thank you Jan for your kind words. It was incredible to hike a small part of the trails that connect with the Camino de Santiago.

  8. Wow! Those views are incredible. I’ve never heard of this place before but loved that it is on the Santiago el Camino travelers’ route. 😉 That was one of my most special trips ever. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful place.

    1. Thank you Melody for taking the time to visit the post and commenting. Yes, while we were there, many hikers we came across stop in this area for a rest and/or overnight stay. I was in awe of their commitment and stamina! Thank you for stopping by and reading the post!

  9. Vall de Núria looks so enchanting. A hike here definitely sounds like walking through a magical land. Would love to hitch a ride on the rack railway too. Sounds such a romantic experience. Finally, the fable of Vall de Núria makes for fascinating reading and adds to the mystical aura of the place.

    1. Thank you so much Sandy, glad you liked reading about this magical place. I hope you get to visit it one day.

  10. I never knew that there are beautiful mountains nearby Barcelona. Though I never hiked so much but definitely try. Thanks for sharing a beautiful and offbeat destination to us.

  11. Actually, I do like the hustle and bustle of Barcelona. But, hiking the Shrine of Núria looks fantastic and I wouldn’t mind leaving Barcelona for a few days to enjoy all the gorgeous scenery, fresh air, and the company of mountain deer, marmots, mouflons, and wild sheep in Nuria area.

    1. Completely agree! I love big cities too, but I also enjoy a good escape! We just went for the day and it was a great break.

    1. It was amazing. The great part of visiting here is it offered hiking trails for all levels- whether you are a beginner or with a family or have been hiking for years- there was truly something for everyone. The great part is that you could take a ski lift up see the views and then back down again. Many people just walked around the lake and then had a picnic on the grounds. Hope you get there one day!

  12. We were in Barcelona and did not discover this wonderful area. What a shame! Your pictures are great, I can imagine how beautiful it is there and would love to get on the plane and explore the area.

    1. All the more reason to return to Barcelona! This place is a bit unknown, and that is why it is so special.

  13. I do a lot of hiking in Europe but never in this region of Spain. And to be honest after reading this post and seeing the photos, I would very happily swap the hustle and bustle of Barcelona for the stunning countryside and mountains.

    1. Yes, you are right Danik. What is better than scenic landscape and mountains? Thanks for commenting.

    1. I agree! I would love to hike the Santiago del Camino one day too. This was just a little taste of that. Thanks for commenting.

  14. Wow I did not know there was an hiking place so close to Barcelona and it is such a welcome change to see this instead of the typical touristy photos. This is great find and your photos are lovely.

    1. Thank you for the kind words. I am always on the search for non-touristy things to do. I will be writing an upcoming blog about another place we visited for hiking, but have to say there is nothing that compares to hiking in the Pyrenees.

  15. What a beautiful place! I went to Spain years ago, but we did not go to Barcelona. As a hiker and lover of nature, this would be my kind of day trip, or overnight at the hotel and really have lots of time to soak up more of those views.

    1. Yes, definitely we would have loved to stay longer and be able to do more hiking routes. It is not something you want to rush. Hope you get to visit one day. Thanks for stopping by Lara.

    1. Thanks so much Tabitha for reading the post, and your kind words. I hope you get to visit this place one day soon.

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