Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park ( Catalan: Parc Nacional d'Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici, Spanish: Parque Nacional de Aigüestortes y Lago de San Mauricio ) is one of the fourteen Spanish National Parks, the second in the Pyrenees and the only one in Catalonia.
A wild mountain region in the Pyrenees, with peaks rising to 3,017 m (Besiberri Sud) and with nearly 200 lakes, many of them of glacial origin, the park comprises a core area of 141 km² and a buffer zone of 267 km² surrounding the park. The park has an elevation range from 1,600 to 3,000 metres and contains four major vegetation zones: lower montane, upper montane, subalpine and alpine. It has a great variety of alpine vegetation, including dark-coniferous mountain forest ( fir, mountain pine ) and subalpine pine forest. The fauna includes Pyrenean chamois, marmot, ermine, roe deer, among other mammals and numerous birds (Black Woodpecker, Common Crossbill, Lammergeier, Golden Eagle).
The park was created in 1955 after Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park, first spanish National Park in the Pyrenees in 1918. Its administrative seats are in Espot and Boí. The park is mainly located in the comarques of Pallars Sobirà and Alta Ribagorça. The National Park has 40,852 ha. divided in two different levels of protection: the core area and the buffer zone surrounding the park. This buffer zone creates a gradation from the inner side, more strictly protected to the external parts of the park. The core area is located in the comarques of Pallars Sobirà and Alta Ribagorça, and includes the main entrances of the Park: In the west side, from the village of Boí, there’s the Aigüestortes plain. Aigüestortes means "winding waters" and it’s a very flat place where the river flows slowly in meanders. This places, more or less common in the area, indicates the existence of and old lake, today absolutely full of sediments. From the east, up to the village of Espot, we found Sant Maurici lake, one of the most famous of the region, from where you can see the spectacular twin peaks of the Encantats. This picture is one of the simbols of the Park and is the logo of the Park. In the buffer zone also we can find very beautiful places with great natural values, as the forest of la Mata de Valencia, Gerber and Cabanes valleys, Colomers and Saboredo valleys, the Besiberri valley, the lakes of Cabdella, Montardo peak and some else.
Tourist activities are regulated. Walking access is free, but is forbidden the camping, to collect any rocks, plants, flowers and mushrooms; hunting and fishing. It’s not allowed to enter by private cars. In Espot or Boí exists a public transportation service (taxis 4x4) which allows the visitors to go to the most emblematic places: Aigüestortes plain or Sant Maurici lake. During summertime, at the Val d'Aran entrances are also a taxis service that allows a more easy way to the Colomers or Restanca shelters. At the Vall Fosca, the southern entrance of the Park, a cableway connects Sallente with estany Gento, where begin some nice day walks. Summertime is a good time for trekking. There are a lot of possibilities, but it’s necessary to know what some of the paths are difficult to find or requires some experience and to be in good form. The transpyrenean path, GR-11 marked with red and white lines, cross the park from one side to other. At the information points are hiking brochures available (also in English) where are very recommended and easy paths with some explanations. Some of them are: A very interesting tour for several days Other mountain activities as rock climbing, alpinism, snowshoes or backcountry ski are also allowed (with some regulations) in the National Park. The mountain shelters, the only places where are allowed to spend a night into the park, are very good places to stay if you like to complete higher objectives. Bicycle it’s only allowed on paved routes inside the park strictly protected (just to Sant Maurici Lake or Aigüestortes plain). Some routes are available in the peripheral area, most of them with medium or hard level. Trekkers can find up to 10 guarded refuges in the park and its peripherical area. These are open during four months (end of spring and summer). During the winter, every refuge has its own opening calendar (usually around Christmas and Easter). It's necessary to book them in advance. The refuges are the following: Additionally, there are two unguarded but well-equipped refuges (Mataró and Besiberri).
Close to the park there is a rich architectural heritage, including the Catalan Romanesque churches of the Vall de Boí. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in November 2000. A good example is the Sant Climent de Taüll church.