This is a driving route and takes you up into the mountains where they divide into two different countries. El Portalet Pass separates Spain from France on paper, but the landscape and its inhabitants have always had very close relations. They share the same culture and way of life connected to livestock farming which was nearly the only occupation of the inhabitants of this area until 30 or 40 years ago.
Take the A136 that goes from Biescas to the border in approximately 35 kilometres of spectacular scenery, going by the Saint Elena’s pass with a shrine to the same saint situated high up on a rise, and a dolmen, proving that this land was inhabited in prehistoric times. After that you start your drive through the Tena Valley.
We recommend that you slow down and take the time to enjoy the perspective: to the right is the Sierra Tendeñera with its rocky peaks dotted with mountain pine; to the left is the Telera mountain, at the base of which is El Betato beech wood. As you come out of the Escarrilla tunnel, the valley opens up in front of you providing panoramic views of the meadows and mountains.
The border crossing at El Portalet is at an altitude of 1,700 metres. It can snow here nearly every month of the year, and it’s not unusual for a few flakes to fall at the end of August! In the spring you can watch the cranes migrating; hundreds of birds cross the pass on the trip to the north of Europe where they go to breed.
In June and July you can walk through meadows that have been transformed into true alpine gardens, with a wide diversity of flora, including species of lilies, iris, orchids and alpen rose.
And in winter, first and foremost make sure that the road is clear. The scenery will take your breath away, with snow covering the fields and mountains for months on end. While you are out you can extend your walk over to the French side where you will see the amazing ancient glacial cirque at the iconic Midi peak, a result of the volcanic activity that took place in the area two million years ago.
El Portalet is a busy place almost all year round, with small shops selling Spanish products and alcohol, particularly popular among French visitors who are looking for the best prices.