Le Canigou

 

Catalan's sacred mountain has an altitude of 2,785m. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Canigou was exploited for its iron ore. Nowadays, all the mines are closed.

 

On foot, you can reach the top in 5 hours from Vernet-les-Bains by one of several routes. For the less energetic, jeeps and drivers can be hired to drive you to the top. You can get at least part of the way up by car, as far as the Chalet des Cortalets (Phone +33 468 963 619) which has a restaurant, but is closed from November to April. From here it is an easy ninety-minute walk to the summit.

 

Although the ascent by this route is straightforward in good weather, you should be properly shod and clothed and have a good large-scale map. If you're not experienced and encounter frozen snow, turn back. Midsummer is a great time to do this climb. On the night of 23 June, which often coincides with the full moon, Catalans for kilometres around, including half the population of Barcelona, gather on the top to light the bonfire from which a flame is carried to kindle all the feux de St-Jean of the Catalan villages. The scene around the camp can be pretty horrendous, with tents, ghetto blasters and litter galore.

 

The Canigou is also famous for its race, Les Championnats du Canigou. The best athletes complete the 30km course in less than 3 hours, climbing from 650m to 2,785m.

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