Carros de Foc: Everything About Hiking in Aigüestortes

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Carros de Foc: Everything About Hiking in Aigüestortes
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There are a lot of opportunities for hiking in the Spanish Pyrenees, but does it get any better than the Carros de Foc? To be fair, it's also one of the best-known multi-day hut-to-hut hikes in the area. Rather obvious, because with 65 kilometers, over 3,500 meters of elevation gain, and 9 welcoming huts, an epic adventure awaits you on the Carros de Foc. Hiking in, quite a mouthful, Parc Nacional d'Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici doesn't get any better than this. Are you ready to discover the wild and adventurous side of Catalonia?

Once started as a joke by local hut wardens to visit each other, the Carros de Foc has now grown into a world-renowned multi-day mountain trek that is mentioned in many a guidebook as one of the most beautiful multi-day hut-to-hut treks in Europe. What makes the Carros de Foc so special? Why is it called "Chariots of Fire" in Catalan? Where do you start? Is the Carros de Foc something for you? Although well-known, one can still have a lot of unanswered questions about this epic trek. In this blog post, we'll answer them all for you!

What and Where Is Carros de Foc?

Carros de Foc is that epic hut-to-hut hiking tour that was not on your bucket list yet but will be after reading this blog post. No lies, there is no better way to discover the Catalonian Pyrenees. That answers one of your questions: You can find Carros de Foc in the Pyrenees, about 4 hours northwest of Barcelona, and because they are the Pyrenees after all, basically on the border with France. Carros de Foc is Catalan for Chariots of Fire and although no one knows why the trek carries this curious name, we dig it. The route was created in 1987 when the caretakers of the refuges in Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici Park decided to visit each other's huts, resulting in a beautiful circular hike, connecting all the mountain huts, "Refugi" in Catalan, in the area.

A great takeaway for Carros de Foc is that there is still this bond between the different refugis. The 9 huts are not only connected by 65 kilometers of trails, hikers are also able to collect stamps from each and every refugi, allowing for a great tangible memory to take home. The hike can be started at any of the participating refugis and you can choose your own pace and decide to stay in as many or few refugis as you wish. Having said that, it is of course to great to follow some sort of plan. If you keep reading, you will find one of the better self-guided itineraries for the Carros de Foc.

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Is The Carros de Foc For Me?

Traversing from hut to hut in the Pyrenees on the Carros de Foc may not be for everyone. This is a high mountain hike that does require a bit of experience and respect for the mountains. Having said that, because you are staying at refugis, you will have more comfort than for example when you are hiking the GR11 in the Pyrenees. The refugis offer you a chance to recharge your mental and physical batteries and you will never have to stay in a tent. Also, since the Carros de Foc is a circular hike, you can take it as fast or slow as you want. It is recommended to do the Carros de Foc in at least five days, but it is also possible to do it in six. You could even only do half of the route.

It is important to know that although the Carros de Foc is a well-known route, it is not a perfectly marked one. Reason for this is that the route is that the park authorities of Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici have their own trail marking policy which does not include marking for the Carros de Foc. However, the directions to the independent huts are marked and with maps and/or a guidebook you can easily find your way. Is the Carros de Foc for you? If you are looking for an epic adventure in the Catalonian Pyrenees, this is totally for you!

Is The Carros de Foc For Me?

Did you know that we can book all huts and refuges for the Carros de Foc for you? Check out all our options here.

Carros de Foc Accommodation: Staying in Refugis

At Bookatrekking.com we like to do things properly and when it's about accommodation on treks in the Alps and the Pyrenees, this means you should stay in mountain huts. Refugi is the Catalonian name for a hut where mountaineers can enjoy a bed, a meal, and in, most cases, even a fresh draught beer or a good glass of wine. In Carros de Foc you can find 9 Refugis and what all these have in common is their fantastic locations. In the most remote spots in the Pyrenees, you can check into these safe havens.

On the Carros de Foc, not every Refugi offers the same standard. All of the huts have showers but only about half of them offer hot showers (against a small fee), only two can process card payments and not every refugi can be reached by car. Well, since you are on foot anyway, that's no problem. Now, in contrast to for example the Tour du Mont Blanc or the Alta Via 1, it is possible to not only have breakfast and dinner, but also lunch. This makes the Carros de Foc one of the only hut-to-hut trekking options with full board. This will save you a few extra grams in your backpack.

One clever way to both keep track of your visits and to have a tangible memory is the stamp card. For 30 Euros you get a high-quality map of Carros de Foc and a stamp card. Find a stamped example below.

Carros de Foc Accommodation: Staying in Refugis

What Is The Best Season for The Carros de Foc?

The Refugi on the Carros de Foc are open between June and October. This doesn't count for all of the Refugi, though. Some are only open between mid-July and mid-September, in line with huts in France, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland. No surprise then, that this is the best season for hiking in Aigüestortes. No huts, no refreshments, so you will be on your own. The best months are typically July and August, these are also the busiest. It’s peak season, so make sure to book as much in advance as possible. If you decide to go trekking in September, you’re still in for a treat and it’s not as busy on the trail. But this could also mean that some accommodations might be closed for the season already. Also, the days are shorter and the weather is significantly colder. If you want to set out on a long hike in a warmer area during this period, check out the GR221 in Mallorca.

Carros de Foc and Aigüestortes Hiking Map

There are plenty of maps and guidebooks that can help you do the Carros de Foc or any other trek in Aigüestortes. Below you can find a map with an overview of the Carros de Foc and Aigüestortes. If you are looking for a quality guidebook for the route, we can always recommend the Cicerone guide for the Carros de Foc. At Bookatrekking.com we make use of Cicerone guidebooks for the majority of our self-guided treks.

Carros de Foc and Aigüestortes Hiking Map

6-day Carros de Foc Itinerary: From Day to Day

On the Carros de Foc, you can find 9 huts and thus you can easily do a 10-day hut-to-hut-trek. We have designed a 6-stage Carros de Foc itinerary that allows you to make the most of your experience without having to spend more than a week on the trails. This itinerary was designed for hikers who are comfortable hiking for at least 6 hours per day. There is no need to rush your time on the Carros de Foc. Find some longer options here. 

Day
1

Espot - Refugi d'Amitges

Duration: 03:30 h
Distance: 11.8 km
Ascent: 1040 m
Today your adventure begins! You depart from Espot, it is all gradually uphill today. At first, you walk through the woods and cross the river. After about 7 kilometers, you will encounter beautiful Lake Sant Maurici, a highlight of today and a good spot to take a break. On the way to Refugi d'Amitges, you will see waterfalls and more lakes. Your destination today is Refugi d'Amitges, beautifully located with stunning views of the landscape. Time for a well-deserved beer!

Refugi d'Amitges

Info
Refugi d'Amitges
Day
2

Refugi d'Amitges - Refugi Colomèrs

Duration: 02:50 h
Distance: 8.4 km
Ascent: 310 m
Descent: 570 m
The day starts by walking past Lake dels Barbs, going uphill towards beautiful Port de Ratera. Here you can enjoy stunning views over the mountains. Along the way, you will enjoy even more lakes and stunning views. From here it's downhill toward Refugi Colomers, situated next to Lake Colomers.

Refugi Colomèrs

Info
Refugi Colomèrs
Day
3

Refugi Colomers - Refugi Ventosa I Cavell

Duration: 03:00 h
Distance: 7.89 km
Ascent: 570 m
Descent: 420 m
Today is a shorter hike, but it will still take you a few hours to cover the distance. Don't forget to enjoy the views today. The walk starts by climbing towards the highest point of the day near Port de Riberata, where you can enjoy panoramic views over mountain peaks, lakes and rocky terrains. Walking on, you'll pass multiple lakes, good spots to take a small break. Next, Refugi Ventosa I Cavell will come into view. A beautiful place to spend the night.

Refugi Ventosa i Calvell

Info
Refugi Ventosa i Calvell
Day
4

Refugi Ventosa I Cavell - Refugi del Estany Llong

Duration: 04:00 h
Distance: 8.8 km
Ascent: 640 m
Descent: 900 m
Another beautiful day awaits, shortly after starting the hike you come along a small valley with a few lakes, surrounded by rocky mountains. Maybe you'll even encounter a few cows or sheep here. Continuing uphill, you will reach the highest point of the Carros de Foc route at 2,748 meters, Coll de Contraix. A beautiful spot for a quick break, to enjoy the views surrounding you. After conquering Coll de Contraix, you'll go downhill towards Refugi del Estany Llong. This refugi has a relaxed vibe and is a good place to unwind after your walk.

Refugi del Estany Llong

Info
Refugi del Estany Llong
Day
5

Refugi del Estany Llong - Refugi Colomina

Duration: 04:00 h
Distance: 11.3 km
Ascent: 750 m
Descent: 350 m
After a few intensive days, you have deserved an easier one. After breakfast, you can take the entire day to cover the 4 hours of hiking that is planned for today. Still, you are climbing almost 800 meters today. That is the only way to reach Refugi Colomina, the highest of all Carros de Foc refugis. This refugi has been revamped not so long ago. It offers splendid views over the Southern section of Aigüestortes. An excellent place to spend your last night on the Carros de Foc.

Refugi Colomina

Info
Refugi Colomina
Day
6

Refugi Colomina - Refugi Josep Maria Blanc - Espot

Duration: 04:20 h
Distance: 13.8 km
Ascent: 240 m
Descent: 1330 m
The Carros de Foc is not done yet. You will have completed the full circuit once you check into Josep Maria Blanc for the second time. This hike will take you about two hours. On the way there, you will come across a few lakes like Estany de Mar and Estany de Saburo. Once you see Estany Negre de Peguera, you may recognize the same trail from a few days ago. Now you are well on your way to Josep Maria Blanc and, finally, Espot. Well done, you've conquered the Carros de Foc!
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Packing List for the Carros de Foc

It doesn't matter where you are going trekking or for how long: Carrying the right equipment with you is paramount. For a hiking trip in the mountains, you will need, first and foremost, a good backpack. Its size will depend on how many days you will be spending in the mountains, the season, and the clothes you will be taking with you. We have prepared a packing list with some essential clothing that you should include and some extras that you may find useful:
  • Essentials

  • Extras

Getting To and From Aigüestortes for the Carros de Foc

You can get to Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park in different ways. Also, you can start the Carros de Foc at every connected refugi. Not every refugi is easy to reach though. Also, Aigüestortes can not be accessed from every side. It is the easiest to enter Aigüestortes from the Espot side. This will bring you to Josep Maria Blanc and onto the Carros de Foc route.

By plane:

Espot is about 4 hours from Barcelona and 3.5 hours from French Toulouse. Both these towns have an international airport and are well connected with other key cities in Europe. Here you can either rent a car and drive to Espot, or use public transport.

By bus:

From Barcelona, you can first take a bus to La Pobla de Segur. From here you can take another bus to Espot. It's not easy, but if you plan at least half a day for traveling and want to travel on a shoestring, it is worth it.

By car:

The easiest way to get to Aigüestortes and Espot is to go by car. From Barcelona, it's about 4 hours and 260 kilometers. From Toulouse, you can count 3.5 hours. In Espot you can find various options for long-term parking.

Getting To and From Aigüestortes for the Carros de Foc

At Bookatrekking.com, we not only book your huts, we also send you on your way with a comprehensive hiking guide with the most important information for your Carros de Foc, including interactive Komoot maps. Browse all our options here and turn your dreams into reality.

How Much Does Hiking The Carros de Foc Cost?

The prices for hut-to-hut tours in the Pyrenees are quite varied. There are several variables to take into account when it comes to how much this trek costs: the type of accommodation, which can be in a shared dormitory or a private room in a hut, or also at a hotel in a town; How many days you will be spending on the mountain and whether you will be doing the full circuit or only a section; whether you will be doing it self-guided or with a guided group. The price of the trek will depend on your expectations for the tour.

Safe hiking tips for the Carros de Foc

When you go on walking holidays it is wise to be aware of a few points. Even if this is not your first time, you should never underestimate the mountains. Good tour planning and compliance with the regulations on the mountains will significantly increase safety. To ensure that your hiking holiday is a safe and enjoyable experience, here below you can find a list of 8 recommendations for safe hiking in the mountains:
  • Know your limits

    Hiking the Carros de Foc is the perfect outlet to escape from daily life. It is an endurance sport along with a beautiful nature experience with a positive effect on body and mind —as long as one is in good shape and has a realistic picture of one's possibilities and limits—. Never overestimate yourself or underestimate the route. Don't overdo it! Always choose the slower variant and take more time for your plans. Hiking under time pressure is not fun and at too fast a pace it can be dangerous. Be wise!

  • Plan carefully

    Good planning is half the work! Hiking maps, literature, the Internet and expert advice are invaluable when planning the route in the Carros de Foc and enable you to determine the length, altitude difference, difficulty and conditions of the hike. When planning group treks, the itinerary should always be planned for the weakest member of the group! The weather in the mountains can change incredibly quickly and rain, wind and cold all increase the risk factor. For this reason, always check the weather forecast beforehand and contact our trekking experts to find your way around before you start.

  • Be fully equipped

    Equipment is everything. In the most extreme case, it makes the difference between life and death, and in any case, it definitely makes the difference between having fun and having a bad time. Food and water, sunscreen and waterproof and warm clothes must always be in your backpack, as well as a first aid kit and a mobile phone with a full battery (in case there is an emergency). However, packing light makes walking easier, so don't take too much extra luggage with you. Your equipment should always be suitable for the terrain you'll be hiking on in the Carros de Foc.

  • Wear suitable footwear

    Good walking shoes protect your feet and provide a better fit. Shoes with a good fit, with non-slip soles, water-resistant and lightweight are a must for additional walking pleasure during the Carros de Foc. Trail running shoes are great for a weekend in the mountains, but on longer hikes or more technical trails, you'll want at least A/B hiking boots. That means it is recommended wearing high mountain shoes that are water-repellent with extra ankle support to prevent sprains.

  • Stay on marked trails

    Carros de Foc has endless marked hiking trails, which are controlled and maintained and should not be deviated from. It may be tempting, but it's not a good idea to take shortcuts or alternative routes through unmarked terrain. It increases the risk of disorientation and you're more likely to get lost and have accidents or fall in the mountains. Even steep slopes of packed old snow are often underestimated and dangerous. Are you in doubt? Better don't do it. For easy navigation we work with our trusted partner Komoot, whose interactive maps, also available offline, provide you with the necessary digital means to get from A to B. As a backup, make sure to bring a hiking guide or a paper map with you. FYI, 75% of stumbles occur due to carelessness on marked paths or roads, not in open terrain!

  • Take regular breaks

    Remember you're on a hiking holiday. Timely and regular breaks not only provide welcome relaxation but also make it possible to enjoy the Carros de Foc. The body needs a regular food and drink intake to maintain performance and concentration. Our advice is that if you have little time, it's better to follow the short itinerary than to speed up the long one.

  • Stay reachable

    If you are hiking solo or in small groups it is advisable to inform people back home about your plans, what route you are taking and when you plan to return. Even small incidents can lead to unpleasant emergencies so make sure you are available at all times. Bring a charged phone containing at least the phone numbers of immediate family members, your accommodations en route and the emergency phone numbers operating in the Carros de Foc.

  • Respect nature

    Leave no rubbish behind, prevent noise, stay on the marked trails, do not disturb wildlife or grazing animals, and respect protected areas.

Where Can I Book the Carros de Foc?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book the self-guided Carros de Foc and many other treks. We take care of all the details for you, including arranging accommodations and providing you with relevant information well in advance of your trek. Find our offers here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of trekking experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is the Carros de Foc not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our following blog posts:

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