Hike Spain’s Pyrenees for three incredible weeks.
It’s a great set-up: great hiking plus a look into an ancient mountain culture. The Pyrenees are arid, rocky and remote, and the hiking is excellent. The mountain culture is a blend of Spain (which we’re in) and France (which is just over there). The trails are well-worn footpaths used by mountain dwellers for centuries (think shepherds with sheep or goats).
The hiking is challenging, but the rewards are many. In fact, the rewards are many because the hiking is challenging. It’s counter-intuitive, but at Overland—and in life—we have more fun and make closer friends when we’re challenged, when we have to pull together.
At every step of the way, two caring, responsible, adventurous and fun Overland leaders will be looking out for you, supporting you and encouraging you. It’s a great way to see the world, to push the boundaries of your experience, while at the same time having the support of two terrific leaders.
What’s it all add up to? Hiking and culture in one of the world’s most beautiful mountain ranges, and then, when we head out of the Pyrenees, we’ll celebrate with a dinner out in dynamic, exciting Barcelona—now that’s a great trip.
Ellie loved the group of kids and leaders and the bonding experience. She also loved the combination of backcountry and frontcountry camping as well as the huts. The leaders were incredibly knowledgeable, organized and great role models for the kids.
- Laura Page, Wenham, Massachusetts
Three weeks of hiking in Europe—one of our favorite things to do.
Days 1 & 2: Trip Start and Travel to the Pyrenees
After spending a night in a hostel outside of Barcelona, we’ll travel by bus to the Pyrenees where we’ll learn how to pack our backpacks and get to know one another. We’ll also use this time to adjust to the timezone and review basic outdoor skills—and maybe sneak a peek at one of the tranquil hamlets nearby.
Days 3-10: Hike the GR-11 Route
We’ll begin our trek along the GR–11 hiking route through the Spanish Pyrenees. Averaging just over seven miles each day, we’ll spend our nights camping in tents or staying in huts. We’ll pass through charming small towns to absorb European culture and learn the trekking lifestyle. The challenges we face each day will make us grow close as a group as we support each other on our journey.
Day 11: Restock in Benasque and Day Hike in Valle de Benasque
After eight days of backpacking, we will take a quick breather in the quaint mountaineering town of Benasque. Here, we will restock our supplies and take a break from our packs on a day hike to the French border or up the stunning valley north of Benasque.
Days 12-18: Hike the GR-11 Route
Back on the trail, we’ll enjoy diverse, beautiful views of the mountains. This section of hiking will take our breath away, as each valley contrasts with the next in ways words cannot describe. The rewards for our efforts will be vast—much like the views—and after hiking for seven more days with our packs, we will have hiked over 100 miles on the GR-11, a feat our group will bask in together.
Days 19 & 20: Travel to Barcelona and Trip End
Proud of our accomplishments, we’ll travel back to Barcelona where it all began, and have a delicious Spanish dinner to celebrate.
8 nights of backcountry camping with no access to facilities.
5 nights of frontcountry camping. Campground facilities will vary and may include toilets, showers and/or laundry.
4 nights in mountain huts. Huts will have toilets, running water and sleeping bunks.
2 nights in a hostel in Barcelona. Hostels are dormitory style accommodations.
Itinerary may vary by group and is subject to change.
We travel light at Overland.
- Internal Frame Backpack
65-85 liters or 4,000-5,100 cubic inches. Before purchasing a backpack, find your backpack size by measuring your torso length and your hips (instructions are available here). We recommend getting fitted at a store and trying on multiple packs.
- Navy Overland T-Shirt (1)
We will send every student an Overland T-shirt prior to the trip. Please wear this T-shirt to trip start.
- Synthetic T-Shirt (3)
- Synthetic Shorts (3)
- Fleece Pants (1)
Please do not bring cotton sweatpants (they are heavy and bulky and will not keep you warm if wet).
- Synthetic Hiking Pants (optional)
Lightweight and quick dry material. Non-cotton warmup style pants are acceptable.
- Synthetic Long Underwear Top & Bottom (1)
- Underwear (5)
- Wool and/or Synthetic Socks (4)
- Gloves or Mittens (1)
- Winter Hat (1)
- Hat with Visor (1)
- Swimsuit (1)
- Fleece Jacket or Pullover (1)
- Lightweight Synthetic or Down Jacket (1)
- Raincoat (1)
Waterproof material (e.g., Gore-Tex, or similar) is required. Your jacket should be large enough to allow layers underneath. Ponchos are not acceptable.
- Waterproof Rain Pants (1)
- Waterproof Pack Cover
If your backpack does not come with a cover, we recommend buying a cover one size larger than your pack.
- Synthetic Sleeping Bag
A lightweight, compact synthetic sleeping bag rated to 15 degrees Fahrenheit or less. A synthetic sleeping bag is required for this trip; down is not appropriate as it does not insulate if wet. Your sleeping bag should compress into a stuff sack no larger than 20" in length.
- Sleeping Pad
¾-length or full-length closed cell foam (thin and firm) or self-inflating.
- Bowl, Mug & Utensils
6" to 8" plastic dish or bowl with top, insulated plastic mug, spoon, fork and knife. These don't need to be special camping utensils (a Tupperware dish and regular utensils are fine).
Please bring an extra battery/batteries.
- Water Bottle
One 1-liter bottle. A Camelbak or similar water carrier is acceptable.
- Adjustable Trekking Poles
To add stability, reduce strain on the knees and improve balance while crossing unstable surfaces.
- Kahtoola Brand Microspikes
To wear over your boots for traction on snowy and icy surfaces during hikes. Test the Microspikes on your boots prior to travel. Kahtoola microspikes are the only brand permitted.
- Gaiters (optional)
Calf-height, waterproof gaiters to protect your legs and feet when hiking through brush, across snow fields or streams.
- Waterproof Hiking Boots
Choose comfortable boots designed for hiking with a pack (i.e., mid to high cut for ankle support). Boots should be waterproof. Break them in before the start of your trip.
- Camp Shoes
Closed-toe shoes to wear around camp. Crocs or lightweight tennis shoes are ideal.
- Pre-Trip Training Calendar
Please bring your completed and signed calendar to trip start.
- Synthetic Camping Towel
A medium-size synthetic camping towel (synthetic camping towels dry much faster than regular towels).
- Travel Size Toiletries
- Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
- Insect Repellent
- Gallon Sized Ziploc Bags (10)
To organize and waterproof your gear and small items.
- Large Trash Bags (4)
To waterproof your gear.
- Package of Moleskin or Molefoam
To protect your feet from blisters.
- Camera, Charger & Extra Batteries (optional)
A digital or disposable camera.
- Personal Journal or Book (optional)
- Health Insurance Card
Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
Please bring a passport that is valid until at least six months after your trip end date.
- Passport Photocopies
Make at least four photocopies of your passport and visa (if applicable). Leave one copy with your family and put photocopies in both your checked luggage and carry-on luggage for the flight, separate from your original documents.
- Spending Money & Miscellaneous Expenses
Each student should bring a debit card, an ATM card or a prepaid Visa card to cover spending money and miscellaneous expenses. Spending Money: While all meals and activities are included in the trip fee, we recommend $25/week for spending money (for example: for souvenirs or an occasional drink or snack beyond what is provided to the group as a whole). Miscellaneous Expenses: Most Overland students will incur some expenses while traveling (for example: an equipment repair or baggage fees at trip end). Please add $100 to the debit/ATM/Visa card (in addition to spending money), to cover these expenses.
Things to know
- We travel light at Overland; please only bring the items on this list.
- Your group will have access to laundry periodically.
- Please do not bring your smart phone (or any other electronics).
Please visit the FAQ tab for more information on our cell phone and electronics policy.
- Do not bring any type of knife or multi-tool (such as a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool).
- If you are flying to your trip, wear your hiking boots and carry your sleeping bag and sleeping pad on the plane in case your checked luggage fails to arrive on time.
- Pack everything in your backpack or day pack. Do not bring additional luggage.
- There are no reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen items.
Please schedule expensive items—phones, cameras, bicycles, etc.—on your homeowners insurance policy.
Questions? Call us: 413.458.9672.
- What is the weather like on Pyrenees Expedition?
The weather on Pyrenees Expedition varies. Sometimes it is sunny and warm, other times it is rainy and cold. Typical summer temperatures in the Pyrenees range from the 50s to 70s during the day. It is cooler at night with possible snow and freezing temperatures.
- What are the arrival and departure airports for my child’s trip?
You will need to arrange transportation for your child to and from Barcelona-El Prat Airport (BCN) at trip start and trip end. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed your child on a trip.
- How often will my child have access to showers and laundry?
Groups typically shower and do laundry once a week.
- How is hiking in Europe different from hiking in North America?
Hiking routes in Europe are scattered with quaint towns which offer a taste of local food and culture. These hikes combine a wilderness experience with a cultural experience and are generally less remote than backcountry trails in Yellowstone or the High Sierras, for example.
- Tell me about the currency on this trip.
Spain uses the Euro. Our leaders can help students withdraw Euros using a debit card.
- Please tell me about safety at Overland.
Safety and risk management are at the forefront of our decision-making–from trip planning to leader training to supporting our groups in the field. We cannot guarantee absolute safety–no program can. All recreational activities include inherent risks. Therefore, we strive to manage the risks that we can, knowing we cannot eliminate them. We work hard to recruit, train and support our trip leaders so they can create the kind of trips that have made us successful for over 30 years. Please click here to read more about our approach to risk management and our accreditation by the American Camp Association.
- Does my child need to have previous experience?
While no previous experience is required, we have high expectations of our students. We expect your child–with your help–to select a trip that is appropriate for their interests and abilities. You should spend some time familiarizing yourself with the details of the specific trip and help your child understand what to expect. We also expect our students to prepare ahead of time: to review the packing list, gather clothing and gear and complete whatever training the trip requires (for recommended training please see the Before You Go tab). Once the trip begins, your child should be ready–and excited–to contribute to a wholesome and enthusiastic group where each group member feels welcomed and valued.
- Please tell me about Overland's admissions process.
When we receive your application, if your first choice is available, we will: (1) call you to acknowledge our receipt of your application, (2) send you an email with a link to our enrollment forms, and (3) charge a deposit of $795 to your credit card. If your first choice is not available, we will call you to discuss options. For more information, and to access our application, please visit our Apply page.
- What are Overland’s policies on phones, electronics and communication?
To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our campers. Your child will call home on arrival and departure with our phones and assistance, and in the case of an emergency. If your child brings a phone for use while en route to Overland, please do not send an expensive smartphone. Instead, an inexpensive prepaid cell phone will do. All phones will be collected on arrival and returned at departure. While we will take reasonable steps to prevent damage, theft or loss, we take no responsibility for phones and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones.
Cameras are welcome but please do not bring any other electronics (e.g., iPods, iPads, Kindles or other readers, GPS or similar devices). All electronics (except cameras) will be mailed home on arrival (at your risk and expense).
We are committed to providing extraordinary support to you and your child. To that end, the Overland office is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week during the summer. Outside of office hours, our answering service provides emergency coverage. Our leaders in the field are in touch with our office regularly; they carry cell phones (and in some cases satellite phones). Anytime a camper is treated for an injury or illness by a doctor or other medical personnel, parents are notified by our office. A director will call the parents to explain the nature of the injury or illness, the sequence of events leading up to the injury and/or the steps leading to the treatment. Parents are typically able to speak with the medical personnel, with the leaders and with their child.
- Can I send mail to my child during a trip?
Getting a letter, card or postcard while on an Overland trip is always exciting. Please keep in mind that sending mail to your child on an Overland trip is different than sending mail to a traditional camp because your child will be on the move. Our experience has been that mail often does not arrive on time, and, sometimes, even when it does, post offices, campgrounds and other mail stops do not reliably deliver mail to our groups. For these reasons:
1. Please do not send anything valuable – please send letters, cards or postcards only. If mail is late, lost or misdirected, Overland’s leaders and staff are not able to return to the post office (or other mail stop) to collect it.
2. Please use the US Postal Service first-class mail only; do not use UPS, FedEx or DHL (many of our mail stops accept US Postal Service mail only).
3. Please do not send overnight letters: many overnighted letters arrive before or after we arrive and are then sent back. For this same reason, please do not send mail that requires a signature upon delivery.
4. Please allow one week for postal delivery to U.S. mail stops.
5. Please allow two weeks for postal delivery to international mail stops.
Get ready to explore Spain's beautiful Pyrenees.
Students going on Pyrenees Expedition should prepare for:
- Full days of outdoor activities led by two caring Overland leaders
- Day hikes to viewpoints and mountaintops
- A multi-day backpacking trip designed for first-time backpackers
- A fun, supportive and wholesome Overland experience
We expect you to arrive to your trip fully prepared for all activities.
Preparing for the Hiking
On Pyrenees Expedition, you will hike on well-established trails over a wide range of terrain, from meadows to hills to mountains. You'll start with day hikes where you'll carry just the essentials for the day (snacks and lunch, water, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, bug spray and a raincoat). As the group's skills and fitness increase, you'll set out on a multi-day backpacking trip. While backpacking, you will carry all of your belongings (clothes, sleeping bag and pad), some group gear, food and water. Typically when backpacking, pack weights average about 30% of a hiker's weight. In the month before your trip, you should break-in your hiking boots (wear them a lot!) and complete the pre-trip training (see below). Once on your trip, you'll find that enthusiasm and a positive attitude will help to make the trip a success for you... and for everyone in your group.
- 4 weeks before your trip: three 60-minute hikes or walks in your boots.
- 3 weeks before your trip: three 90-minute hikes or walks in your boots.
- 2 weeks before your trip: three 2-hour hikes in your boots with a backpack loaded with 20% of your body weight.
- 1 week before your trip: four 2.5-hour hikes in your boots with a backpack loaded with 30% of your body weight.
Preparing for an Overland Experience
Overland trips are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. You are expected to be enthusiastic, positive, helpful and supportive of your trip mates and your leaders. We ask that you leave your cell phone and electronics at home (cameras are always welcome), so you can fully engage with your group and your trip. Arriving ready for a challenge—and eager to contribute to an enthusiastic group—will go a long way toward creating a successful trip. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss preparing for your Overland trip.