Let’s go and climb the Canigó!

It’s the sacred mountain of the Catalans: from its height of its 2,784 metres above sea level, the Pic du Canigó (pronounced ‘Canigou’) dominates the plain of Roussillon and the Mediterranean Sea. A classified ‘Grand Site’ of France, the Canigó massif offers many kilometres of hiking. Here are five reasons to visit.

Admire the sea from up high

Ever seen the sea from 2,784 metres high? A true maritime lookout over the Mediterranean, the Pic du Canigó offers a breathtaking 360-degree view of the surroundings from its summit.

To contemplate the sea, you can choose to climb to the top of the Pic du Canigó from the Cortalets refuge at 2,150 metres – it’s a guarded refuge accommodating up to 100 people. From the refuge, it’s an eight-kilometre hike up to the Pic, with an elevation of 650 metres.

Cortalets refuge (External link)

Witness the Troubade

If you climb the Pic du Canigó in June, you may encounter a strange procession. On the weekend preceding St John’s Day (15-16 June 2019), the Catalans bring small bundles of wood to the foot of the Canigó Cross, surrounded by paper on which they write a wish.

On foot, sometimes with donkeys, this joyous procession is called the Troubade. On 22 June at midnight, all the wood bundles are lit with the ‘flame of Canigó’, which burns all year in Perpignan and reaches the summit once a year with a relay. The flame then goes down again to light the St-John fires in 350 surrounding villages. An unforgettable folk festival!

Trobada del Canigó (External link)

Feel the burn on a bike

The Balaig trail, which provides access to the Canigó Mountain Bike Peak, has been in existence for over 100 years! From the village of Fillols, the track passes the Col de Milleres (934 metres) before climbing to the Cortalets refuge: enough to pull a little on the calves! At this point you leave the bike, and complete the last 600 metres on foot.

Rental companies offer mountain bikes for the day or for several days – but the ascent is reserved for experienced cyclists.

Go from refuge to refuge

Want a real mountain experience? Opt for the Canigó Tour: five days of challenging hiking, covering 84 kilometres and 4,450 metres of elevation!

Five guarded refuges offer shelter for the night: Cortalets, Mariailles, Batère, Conques and Sant-Guillem. The tour promises a variety of landscapes, Mediterranean to the north and green to the south. In Esquerdes de Rotja, as in Pla Guillem, it’s a guaranteed change of scenery.

Canigó Tour (External link)

Get close to the donkeys

They’re part of the landscape: on the slopes of Canigó, Catalan donkeys are kings! These indigenous animals, sometimes claimed as the Catalan symbol, travel the trails of the Canigó massif to accompany walkers and carry their bags.

It’s possible to rent donkeys, with or without muleteers, for the ascent of the Pic du Canigó and for the complete five-day tour. As well as making the hike less tiring, it’s also more fun – and there’ll be new friends for the kids!

Caravanigou: trecking with donkeys (External link)

The Pic du Canigó in the Pyrenees