As the snow on the Pyrenees starts to melt, the rivers that flow down to the towns below begin to swell. It’s time to pack the ski boots away and don a wetsuit for an entirely different kind of adventure sport.
The Noguera Pallaresa river, with its fast descent, is one of most popular locations for whitewater activities. The river’s source is located at 2,000 metres, and it travels 146 kilometres before merging with the river Segre. Just 40 of these kilometres are navigable and here, by the little town of Sort, there are are a host of adventure sports companies offering every imaginable river experience. The season runs from March 15th to October 15th, but the best months to go are April, May and June, when the river is at its fullest.
RAFTING. For the uninitiated, there are a suprising number of ways to get down a river. The most popular is rafting which is usually done in a Zodiac-style dinghy that holds six to eight occupants as well as the instructors. Descents take place on several different stretches of the river, according to how experienced the participants are. The easiest stretch, suitable for beginners and children (over 10), is the 18 kilometres from Llavorsí to Sort which is fairly gentle and takes just a couple of hours to get down. The experienced rafter can opt for the more thrilling 42-kilometre descent from Llavorsí to Figuereta. This is done as a day trip including lunch or a picnic.
HYDROSPEED. For the very intrepid, hydro-speed has you taking the rapids headfirst on a ‘river bob’ (a kind of float) which you lie on with your upper body and grip firmly with your hands. Flippers on your feet help you negotiate the rapids while additional protective gear protects you from bumps and scrapes. Not for the fainthearted.
BUS-BOB. The bus-bob is a fun way to get down the river with a group of friends. It consists of an elongated pneumatic craft which holds four to five people, one seated behind the other. The key to a successful descent lies in keeping your balance, as there are no foot fastenings. The guide sits at the front shouting instructions to the crew, who are strongly advised to do as they’re told.
CANYONING. A different way to enjoy the river, canyoning (descenso en barranco) combines both mountaineering and potholing techniques with walking through water and some swimming. It’s hard work but also immensely satisfying and people are often hooked after one outing. With a wetsuit, helmet and tools such as ropes and harnesses, participants descend the walls of canyons and ravines, pass through narrow gorges and even cross small waterfalls as they follow the riverbed.
Other activities on offer in Sort include bungee-jumping, canoeing, kayaking and horseriding. All the companies listed here have highly-qualified guides and protective gear to ensure that whatever you try your hand at, you’ll have a good time and get home in one piece.
Sort itself is a small town with a population of just over 2000. It is best known for its lottery ticket shop, which claims to have a disproportionate number of lottery winners. Perhaps convinced by the town’s name—it means ‘luck’ in Catalan—people travel from far and wide to buy their El Gordo lottery tickets here. Friendly and welcoming, the town doesn’t have a lot else going on, but, if you’re here to enjoy the river sports, chances are that you’ll be too exhausted at the end of the day to want much more than a hearty dinner and an early night.
Rafting Llavorsí have all the river activities plus quads, climbing and trekking. They offer packages with different accommodation options, from campsites to local hotels. And, for anyone in your group who prefers to take things easy, they also offer spa packages in the area.
Turisnat have a number of packages available. The family weekend package for €99 per person (€66 for children aged 10 and under) includes two nights accommodation and breakfast in the rural hotel Borda de Ritort, plus either horseriding or rafting, and lunch. If you’re just going up for the day, they also offer a morning of rafting followed by lunch from €45.
La Rafting Company
More experienced rafters can enjoy La Rafting Company’s one-day rafting and picnic option for €€85. If one of your party prefers terra firma, they also offer guided treks and climbs in the nearby mountains, and mountain-bike tours.
Rafting Rubber River
Rubber River is run in conjunction with the Florido Hotel, a very welcoming two-star hotel in Sort with extensive gardens and an outdoor pool. They offer excellent value weekends such as the Relámpago, which includes one night in the hotel and a rafting trip from €75 per person. Or, Pallaresa Spirit, which includes two nights in the hotel plus a rafting trip and another activity (hidrospeed, canoeing, horseriding or canyoning). This package costs from€€125 per person.