One of 14 National Parks in Spain and the only one in Catalonia, the Aiguestortes I Estany de Sand Maurici was created in 1955. The central, most protected area of the park is 141 km2 (54.4 sq mi) and it’s surrounded by a 267 km2 (103 sq mi) buffer zone. Water is a key feature of this park, which contains nearly 200 lakes, many formed by glaciers, providing a thriving habitat for trout, grass frogs and Pyrenean newts.
Generally, the park covers a wild mountainous terrain, having an elevation range of 1,600 – 3,000 m (5,249 - 9,842 ft) with peaks rising to 3,017 m (9,898 ft). Vegetation is split among four very distinct zones: lower montane, upper montane, subalpine and alpine. At lower levels, there’s deciduous forest, becoming alpine as the land rises; and then above 2,300 m (7,546 ft) where trees can’t survive, the focus is on alpine flora.
Notable fauna include the ibex, marmots, chamois, ermine and roe deer. One of the commonly spotted birds is the bearded vulture. These live on the sheer rockfaces and nest in and around the ledges, crevices and caves. Other rarer sightings include Black Woodpeckers, Common Cross Bills and the Golden Eagle.
Bordering the park is the Vall de Boi, a narrow, steep-sided valley which has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its nine Early Romanesque churches, the densest concentration of Romanesque architecture in Europe.
Hunting and fishing are prohibited in the park, but trekking is allowed, and there are over 20 signposted trails to follow. Other mountain activities are allowed, but controlled, so check the regulations before you climb, snowshoe or ski in the park.