As a child I used to come to a summer camp near to Caldes de Boí, and when I was a teenager I attended again as a summer camp leader. The hikes around the area are quite familiar to me and I feel like I belong in those mountains. Today I’m going to be talking about the full hike route to go to Gémena Lakes.
Location: Caldes de Boí, Catalunya, Spain
Altitude: Starts at 1500m above sea level. Finishes 2257m
Fitness level required: Medium
Estimated duration: 2h30 – 3h depending on shape and stops
We start at the parking lot about 2km past Caldes de Boí. From Caldes de Boí, exit towards the mountains on a tar road for less than 2km. You will leave the Toirigo information house on your right, then turn left to cross the river. After the bridge there’s a parking sign. From there on out it’s all walking.
From the parking lot to Llubriqueto
The first part of the hike is the hardest one. You will climb more than 800m in about 45min-1h. It is very steep and the path goes up in zigzags all the way. I find the start of the hike quite challenging as you literally start and must get into a good rhythm and breathing pace very quickly.
It also allows for most of the hardest effort to be expended at the beginning, which personally I prefer.
This path takes you mostly underneath leafy forest. It is a very shady path and that makes it better than being in direct sun.
The path is clearly marked and you just have to follow the yellow signs and cairns (groups of rocks that previous hikers have left on the path to be followed).
Once you are done with the forest you arrive at a river, which you will cross and turn off to your right and then continue up until you arrive at Pla de la Cabana, where you can find the Llubriqueto Fountain.
This area is very flat and the ideal half way stop. It has fresh water coming from the surrounding lakes and waterfalls.
From Llubriqueto to first Gémena Lake
To continue your ascent you will have to cross the river (wooden bridge) and follow the small path until you see a sign pointing to Gemena Lakes. From this point it goes up on a rocky path.
There is another steep slope where you will have to be climbing big rocks. Once you arrive at the top you will see the first of the two Gémena lakes.
The first Gémena Lake
This one is my favourite. It is breathtakingly beautiful once you see it for the first time. And when you repeat the hike, it gets even better.
The sight of this lake makes my heart sing and my jaw drop – a feeling only places that are close to my soul can give me.
I have spent not more than 5 days here during my life, but it has made a change in how I see nature, how I truly appreciate it and what I do to share my passion with friends and colleagues.
I have slept up here once, on my way to a longer route. Camping is not allowed but if you find yourself here while on a route you might decide to spend the night. It was hands down my favourite sunrise in the world.
The second Gémena Lake
A short hike from the first, the second lake can be found while circling the first lake and going a few more meters up. It is also very beautiful and if you are lucky there will be some leftover snow for you to slide yourself on!
If you want to continue the hike you can continue towards the Besiberri Summit.
Recommendations for hiking the Gémena Lake
Sleep the previous night close to the starting point so that you can start very early to have all day to enjoy by the beautiful sight. If you are an eager nature lover you can wake up at night to see the sunrise from the lake, I can guarantee the views are phenomenal.
Once you arrive at the first lake you can follow the river to a waterfall which has panoramic views of the Llubriqueto flat area.
Have you ever done this hike? Drop your favourite hike below!
Most people travel through Eswatini (Swaziland) without stopping or just adding one stop at a cultural village before they continue their journey through South Africa or Mozambique.
During a recent long weekend, I went on a road trip from Johannesburg to Swaziland with a group of friends. I got to see small game (like kudu and zebra) during the first two hours inside the country. On another note, a week after we travelled the King of Swaziland changed the country’s name to eSwatini Kingdom.
Swaziland is a small country in Southern Africa. It’s landlocked by South Africa on three sides and Mozambique on the East. Swaziland is known for its Swazi culture and they are now trying to position themselves as a wildlife destination as well. There are many different National Park and Reserves with diverse wildlife and there has been an effort to increase the wild animal populations.
Swaziland/eSwatini still remains a fairly unknown country that gets overshadowed by its neighbours – established tourism countries in the south of Africa.
FAST FACTS ABOUT SWAZILAND/ESWATINI
Swaziland’s capital is Mbabane, which is also the biggest city
Their currency is the lilangeni (SZL) which has the same value as the South African Rand (ZAR)
English and Siswati are official languages. English is extensively understood, and Siswati is the language used in schools
If you want to explore Swaziland and are curious about their landscapes and people, here’s a list of important travel information you need to know
Getting to Swaziland/Eswatini
There are four main transport options to get to Swaziland:
Airport: There are two airports in Swaziland, although one is only used for the Swaziland Government and specific approved flights. King Mswati III is the International Airport. The airport is located in Manzini, 1h30min away from the capital.
Road/Car: there are different roads entering the country from Mozambique and South Africa. The most used road from South Africa to Swaziland is the N17. From Mozambique the MR7.
By mini taxi: Mini taxis (explained in this Cape Town post) are (usually) 12 people vans. In South Africa and Swaziland they are white. You can hail them and they cover most routes. There are mini taxis departing from Johannesburg Airport for about R200 one way.
Using a bus: There are a couple companies providing a service: Transmagnific or Translux
Entry requirements & health information
Like most countries worldwide Swaziland requires on entry a valid passport with a validity of at least 6 months and two blank pages. You can check in this list if your passport needs a visa before entering the country.
The East area of Swaziland is a malaria area, so visit your trusted doctor to talk about preventative pills. Yellow Fever is not a risk in the country so you will only be required a proof of vaccine if arriving from (or having travelled to in the past year) a country with high risk.
We used the Oshoek Border for entrance and exit. It took us two hours of queuing in the sun (arriving at 2pm) on our way in and about 10 minutes on our way out (at 7am to avoid queues). Keep that in mind for when you plan your drive – probably best to avoid peak hours.
They drive on the left. Since we were doing a road trip, we drove everywhere. We found the signage to be excellent, there were signs for major cities, towns and attractions that were easy to follow. The road condition was good on major highways. Some small tar roads had a few potholes, but they were non-existent compared to the ones on the N17 road from Johannesburg.
If you can take 1 thing out of this post should be the following: GPS is not reliable. We mostly visited the Ezulwini Valley, Mbabane and Maguga Dam as general areas. We found ourselves driving up and down the Ezulwini Valley taking the major highway (as per GPS directions) when we had already driven the same route for half the time using another road. If you are there for a couple days you will start recognising routes and roads – follow your memory!
Paying in Swaziland/Eswatini
This one is possibly a biased opinion as from 4 of us, 2 credit card details where stolen during our stay there. We had mostly cash with us as South African currency works in Swaziland and only some establishments like hotels or restaurants have ATM facilities. There are ATM’s everywhere, we saw at least 200 in 3 days.
Swaziland is a safe country to visit. It is safer to walk around than other neighbouring countries. It is still not advised to walk at night alone.
Culture in Swaziland/Eswatini
Throughout the country there are showcases of its traditional way of living, people can go to the cultural villages to see the structure of a home and learn about some of their histories and values. As someone who is somewhat sceptic about intruding on other people’s way of life (I wouldn’t like it if someone came to where I lived and wanted a house tour) I had never taken one of these tours. I found myself there as one of the waterfalls I wanted to see was right in the cultural village property and I was greatly surprised. Mostly because there are only rural places in Swaziland where people live in this traditional way and it is more of an historic village (no one lives there or has in the last 40 years). It was quite shocking to learn their perspective on different aspects of life, particularly regarding the roles of men and women.
Accommodation in Swaziland/Eswatini
Although the accommodation industry is developing, there are for now only a few options to stay around the country. There are some big hotels and a few smaller guesthouses and boutique hotels that you can find on the usual platforms, like booking.com. I recommend checking out the official Swaziland tourism board to check out accommodations that may not appear on other platforms.
Internet in Swaziland/Eswatini
We found internet in all of our accommodations. It wasn’t the fastest speed but emails and WhatsApp could be checked reliably, and social media was possible in or near the main areas. They have wifi available in some restaurants too but not in all of them.
You will most likely struggle to find WIFI at monuments or attractions – most of them are located in nature so internet is not a priority. You can buy a sim card upon entry to the country (airport or after the border) if you need to stay connected.
Food and water
The typical foods are maize, corn, vegetables and meat is considered a luxury. Goat meat is the most common meat around. They do have a variety of meat available for visitors which I highly recommend, we ate Swazi braai (south African word for barbecue) and tried different animals – all of them delicious together with vegetables!
Water is safe to drink in the main cities and tourist areas like the Ezulwini valley. In rural areas it is recommended to ask for bottled water.
When is the best time of the year to go to Swaziland/Eswatini
Swaziland enjoys different temperatures depending on the altitude. The highveld (in the West) is characterised by a temperate climate with cool nights in winter. The middle veld(centre of the country) has higher temperatures, winter days are warmer and during summer it can get to 40degrees.
Lastly the lowveld (in the East) has warmer temperatures and summer can get unbearable, humid and hot. The coldest months are May to August. The rainy season happens from mid October to April and dry season April to mid October.
*This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated during 2018*
It was my first time at AfrikaBurn this year 2017 second time in 2018 going to AfrikaBurn. Because of the amount of preparation an event like that requires, I’ve put together a list of things to consider for everyone thinking on going there soon.
AfrikaBurn takes place in Tankwa Town, in the Karoo area in South Africa. The event has a duration of a whole week although it is up to you to decide how many days do you want to attend. For the last few years it happens at the end of April, at the same time of some public holidays.
How to get tickets for AfrikaBurn
Afrika Burn, as every other burn in the world, is gaining popularity. 13000 people (2017) are a lot of attendees. For that reason, tickets sell really fast. To buy one ticket you will first of all need a Burner Bio. Do the Burner Bio before the selling date so you are all ready at the exact time to buy tickets. It is better to be waiting in front of the laptop at the exact time the tickets start selling than to not have one.
How to get there
AfrikaBurn takes place in Tankwa Town. Tankwa Town is located in the Tankwa Karoo area, and it really depends a lot on your time for driving and road conditions to estimate the average distance in hours. Coming from Cape Town, you have approximately an hour and a half to Ceres (the last town before the long gravel road).
From there, you’ll start on the R355 for quite a long time. It is one of the longest roads in the country without any petrol station, so make sure to fill it up in Ceres or right before to make sure you have enough petrol for your way there and back. The road is a very long and straight gravel road. Like they say on the official website “it eats tyres”. It is true. You actually hear a lot of stories of people breaking down, and this year even though going prepared with a Toyota Fortuner and driving carefully, we had to change one tyre on the way there. Hey, in 2018 we only had to replace one of our trailers tyres, and because we didn’t have the right tools ended up driving 30km with only the rim until we found a shop (the only one in km).
What to bring
One of the principles of the event is radical self-reliance. That means there’s nothing on sale (but ice – will get there soon).
Ice is sold everyday. You have to queue for hours (literally) to get a bag. For 2017 we queued from 8:30am to 2pm to get one bag. In 2018 they had fixed and it was much better.
What you must bring to Afrika Burn
enough water (5L pp/per day)
chairs and camping tables
gas to cook
fridge or cooler boxes
Not necessary but will make your life better
lights to light up your camp and see at night
a stretch tent to make shade
Of course, the most important thing is your gift! Bring your gift! AfrikaBurn relies on the gifting community, so think on something you can make with your own hands or can give to people that sounds good. There is no organised entertainment but everyone (individually or grouping) makes something. How is it that every year there are places to eat, drink coffee, have a shower or dance? Because everyone participates. Your participation could be as easy as cooking barbecue meat one day and hand it around. Or take pictures with your polaroid camera and give them away. Or gift clothes you don’t need. Or make a group and create a cofffee shop that serves coffee every morning and payment are copliments. Make a theme camp where people can come and lay on the bean bags and watch a movie when it’s dark. Have a stage to play music every night. Make pancackes every morning. Make artworks (some will be burned, not all of them).
Have . I given you enough ideas? Bringing a gift to AfrikaBurn is a must! Start thinking..
Clothes for AfrikaBurn
Imagine being in a place where every outfit is possible and anything is crazy enough. Right, this is AfrikaBurn, you can now put together your outfits. Doesn’t matter if you mix fabrics and patterns, just be comfortable in your skin and look incredible! I’ve also never seen more people naked around, so if that is your thing, you are also welcome to go full nude!
You want to bring trainers, sunscreen, wet wipes and sunnies as basics for survival.
When the night arrives, the best outfit is the warmest one: you are going to the desert but at night it gets quite cold (Although 2017 is the best weather forecast they’ve had in Tankwa Town). Bring comfy pants, blankets and hoodies, and if you want your friends to see you in the dance floor have some type of fairy lights on you! Torches are also a good pick.
5. Leave no trace
AfrikaBurn is a Leave no trace event. Not only you are responsible for picking all your litter, but MOOP (Matter out of place) is also important. Pick up anything and everything that does not belong to the desert. That makes the list very long, as desert most likely is rocks, sand, dust and some plants.
Have you ever been? Planning for next year? Pin it!
Barcelona is a vibrant city full of activities and monuments that keep locals and tourists coming back for new, different or repeat experiences. After calling it home for the past 22 years, I’ve compiled a list for you to start ticking off, enjoy!
Looking for recommendations in Barcelona? Let’s get started!
101 things to do in Barcelona
Classic things to do in Barcelona
Visit Parc Guell and enjoy Gaudí’s mosaic dragon
Marvel at the impressive Sagrada Familia building both from outside and inside
Enjoy the best sunsets and sundowners from the Bunkers el Carmel
Experience the neighbourhood of Gràcia visiting the squares one tapa at a time (Plaça del Sol, Plaça del Diamant, Plaça de la Virreina, Plaça de la Revolució)
The Boí Valley has a very special place in my heart. As a kid I started going to summer camp from when I was only 2 years old and later on I became a summer camp leader. In fact, my favourite hikes of all time have been in the mountains surrounding Caldes de Boí. During those years of hiking and exploring, I had visited two of the churches located in the area, just because they were in the village where the hiking finished. But I had never done the romanesque churches in the Boí valley route.
My friend Miriam (also a summer camp leader) and I had been meaning to go on an overnight hike not that long ago but the day was cloudy and there were thunder storms. One thing you don’t want to do is find yourself on a mountain in the middle of crazy rain and a thunder storm, so we abandoned our hiking plans and instead decided to visit the Romanesque churches.
What is the Romanesque Route in the Boí Valley
The Romanesque Route in the Boí Valley is a Unesco Heritage Side formed by 9 Romanesque churches scattered between tiny villages on the slopes of mountains. They are all part of the municipality of Alta Ribagorça located in the Pyrenean mountains of Lleida’s region in Catalonia, Spain.
The Romanesque movement was very big in Catalonia around the 11th and 12th centuries and there are many different churches in the territory that fit into the Romanesque style. These churches are in an excellent condition and have been on the Unesco World heritage list since 2000.
Important information to note
How long it takes
This route can be done in one day. In fact, it will probably take you only half a day. It all depends on your level of interest and the time spent in each location.
Local pro tip: you should stop in some of the villages for a well-deserved drink and tapa.
What to pack
You don’t need to pack anything specific, nor make any reservations. You can check here for the opening times of the various churches and for the information centre so you can plan your day around that.
Depending on the season short rain falls are possible and quite common, so come prepared.
How much does it cost
The total route is about 30km long. Depending on the car you are using and the petrol costs the price range will be approximately 2.39€ – 4.54€ for the one-way route.
To enter the churches you can either pay each entrance or get a pass covering their combined entrances. There are different options:
Pay individually (€ per person)
Get a pass (€ per person)
Sant Climent de Taull entrance fee: 5€
Sant Joan de Boí, Santa Eulàlia d’Erill la Vall, Sant Feliu de Barruera, Santa Maria de Cardet la Nativitat de Durro and Romanesque information centre: 2 €
Visit 3 churches for 7€
3 churches + entrance to the romanesque centre of information for 8€
5 churches + entrance to the Romanesque centre of information for 10€
Boí Valley and entrance to MNAC museum (in Barcelona) 15€
If you want to have a guided visit the price is +2€ per person on top of the church price.
Doing the Romanesque churches Route in Boí Valley
First Stop: L’Assumpció Del Coll
The materials used for building this church are different, and the details visible on the portal are one of its main attractions.
Second stop: Santa Maria de Cardet
The first thing you’ll realise is just how beautiful the apse is on this one. Located inside the village, you can only access it through the main entrance. It’s the only one with a small crypt inside.
Third Stop: Sant Feliu de Barruera
Inside of the village of Barruera but not on a main street, it is surrounded by fields which makes it easier to appreciate from different angles.
Fourth Stop: La Nativitat de Durro
One of the biggest in the area which shows how important the village was in the past. Over the years it has been renovated and as a result you can find not only Romanesque features but Baroque and Gothic details as well.
Fifth Stop: Sant Quirc de Durro
This one was one of my favourites because of the incredible views of the valley you get to enjoy from the church. It is probably the smallest of the nine churches in the Romanesque route and located 1500m above sea level.
Sixth stop: Santa Eulàlia D’erill la Vall
Having one of the biggest bell towers in the Boí Valley, this church was used to have views of the surrounding area and to watch over it. Visit the information centre to learn more about the area and the churches.
Seventh Stop: Sant Joan de Boí
The restorations have aimed to leave it unaltered as it was in the 12th century and it is here where we can see the importance of all the mural paintings of that era.
Eight stop: Santa Maria de Taüll
This church is in the village centre, and is the only one of the route that has buildings surrounding it. This church has Romanesque mural paintings that are now on exhibition at MNAC museum, in Barcelona. Nowadays there are reproductions of the originals shown. The mural painting in this church is the Ephiphany scene.
Ninth stop: Sant Climent de Taüll
This church dates from the 11th century and has a basilical plan. The mural painting in this church was the famous Christ in majesty scene, the symbol of Catalan Romanesque. The Christ in majesty is also exhibited at MNAC museum in Barcelona. Inside the church they show video mapping of the paintings of the major apse. This is a new technique that provides added value to visitors.
Visit the Romanesque centre
If you feel that having more background or further information about the different churches in the Romanesque route of the boí Valley would help you, visit the centre, it is located in the village of Erill la Vall, and offers it’s visitors interactive maps, videos and leaflets to help understand the architecture.
You can shop for souvenirs, organise group or guided tours and get practical information on how to complete the route.
Wrap for the romanesque churches route in the Boí Valley
We did the route from north to South (that is starting on stop nine) as we were in the mountains already. Both ways of doing it are just as good as one another, and if you are anything like me, the main attraction comes from witnessing the churches themselves. Maybe because I have been to the Romanesque centre so many times the ins and outs of the architecture didn’t interest me as much (because I already knew some of them).
With the information you can read on the churches I had enough, but I would recommend a visit for first timer’s.
Do you have extra time? Do not miss the visit to Caldes de Boí thermal spa and hotels, and walk along the water route (singed inside the village) trying different water tastes!
Have I forgot to mention anything important for the Romanesque churches Route in the Boí Valley? Please let me know in the comments!
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.