White Winter in Pyrenees

By Bryan | Published: 10th Oct, 2015

Barcelona experiences all four seasons but with mild winters and hot summers. Talk about mild winter seasons, temperatures here fall as low as 14 °C (57 °F) during the day on average. That's like spring in northern Europe.

Actually, Barcelona hardly ever gets snow. Slight frost is more common in the hills around the city, mainly at night. So yes, I've never really experienced winter with all the fluffy white snow. But one of the good things about living in Barcelona is its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea and the stunning Pyrenees Mountains on the border of Spain and France — the perfect spot to indulge in my white winter fantasies. Just 120 km from Barcelona, in the province of Girona, we headed to a glacial valley with an enchanting lake and sanctuary in the Pyrenees — Vall de Nuria.


High in the Spanish Pyrenees, Vall de Nuria or Valley of Nuria is a nature and hiking haven during spring and summer months and a ski resort during the winter. Situated in Eastern Pyrenees, it is about 2-hour trip by train from Barcelona center. The regional railway system (Rodalies de Catalunya) has a direct line from Plaza Catalunya or Estacio de Sants to Ribes de Freser (R3), where the rack railway awaits for a stunning ride all the way up to the mountaintop.


One could marvel from the spectacular gorges of Ribes de Freser through the highest part of the municipal area Queralbs, up to the Shrine in Vall de Nuria. You could take a hearty hike up the steep mountain path but in the winter, the only way to reach the valley is with the good old rack railway.


Passing the treeline, we've reached the gorgeous alpine valley wrapped in a snow blanket with the Shrine at the center. Considered as the spiritual heart of this mountain valley, the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Nuria is an old but well-preserved church drawing pilgrims to the area for many centuries.


Legend has it that the wooden carving of Virgen de Nuria in the shrine known as the "Moreneta" of the Pyrenees (or little morena due to the characteristic dark color of its wood) was hidden in Switzerland during the Spanish Civil War — until it was finally found in the valley in 1941. Since then, the Virgen de Nuria became the patron saint of Catalan skiers.


Surrounding the old church is a beautiful lake so serene, somewhat frozen in time. It perfectly completes the picturesque mountain view.


But Vall de Nuria isn't just about the historical shrine and lake. It is also home to a huge alpine complex which includes the Hotel Vall de Nuria, some nice museums dedicated to skiing, artisan produce and souvenir shops, plus the fantastic mechanics of the lifts and cable cars. The ski resort itself has 5 ski lifts and 11 slopes with a total of 7 km in length.


Standing 1,960 meter (6,600 ft) above sea level, it was my first time seeing snow ever and as cheesy as it sounds, it looked quite magical seeing almost everything around me in fluffy white snow.


The valley boasts a stunning view of a rich and diverse landscape of snow-capped mountain peaks. I could still remember that feeling — anticipating snowfall in the gust of chilly winds in the valley. So peaceful. Just. Perfect.


  • Elsa Schonle
    This railroad image is so stunning i was staring at it for few minutes, i really adore your work!
  • Bryan
    Thanks Elsa... One of the most stunning country views I've seen, plus the white winter feel tops it all!
  • Cat Nerizon
    I never wrote a comment before. But then, I have never been impressed like you did and how you're doing now. Really - A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step...
  • Bryan
    I couldn't believe it myself, Cat... But yes, it does take a small step into the big world. So when is your next journey then? :)
  • Karôl
    Sadly I have never been in the snow, even in the freezing winter on the breathtaking NYC where I lived. Nevertheless tonight I'm enthralled by your words and now I'm delighted about this wonderful, touching and thoughtful portrayed story!! and definitely I would love to be in the fluffy white snow for my next winter ("making the little angel") as well. God willing. P.S: by the way, brilliant Rapporteur and great photographer Bryan! =)
  • Bryan
    You're such a sneaky angel, aren't you, Karôl! How d'ya find out? Me has cogido desprevenido! haha Anyway, thank you and yes, seeing your pictures, I can tell you had a better white winter fantasies than I do! x)
  • Lesedi
    My experience in Valley De Nuria was quite short but very enjoyable. I stood for minutes watching the lake and was quite impressed by the serenity. I visited the hotel and a museum and got some souvenirs which constantly reminds me of my visit.
  • Bryan
    Thanks for sharing Lesedi... It's that peaceful vibe that I love most about the valley.

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