Cascada de Ratera

Espot / Parc Nacional d'Aiguestortes / Estany de Sant Maurici / Catalonia Region, Lleida, Spain

About Cascada de Ratera


Hiking Distance: 4.5km shuttle
Suggested Time: 90-120 minutes

Date first visited: 2015-06-19
Date last visited: 2015-06-19

Waterfall Latitude: 42.58655
Waterfall Longitude: 0.99854

Cascada de Ratera was kind of our waterfalling excuse to make the visit out to the lakes of the Espot side of Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici.

This waterfall was sourced by a creek fed from the natural lake called Estany de Ratera (from which the falls got its name).

Aiguestortes_292_06192015 - Cascada de Ratera
Cascada de Ratera

The creek ultimately emptied into the much larger man-made lake of Estany de Sant Maurici.

Given the presence of these lakes, I believe this was a permanent year-round waterfall.

Now while an interpretive sign by the Cascada de Gerber suggested that the Cascada de Ratera was 50m tall, this height figure might only pertain to the main drop (as you can see from the photo above).

That said, there was a long series of cascades that perhaps comprised the remainder of its overall height (and then some).

Logistics behind our visit to Cascada de Ratera

Visiting the Cascada de Ratera took a little bit of logistical planning requiring at least 5 hours (to be safe).

Espot_037_06182015 - Waiting for the 4wd jeep after having paid at the ticket window in Espot
Waiting for the 4wd jeep after having paid at the ticket window in Espot

This was primarily because the access road to the park from Espot was under a jeep taxi system, where private vehicles were kept out.

That meant that we essentially had to test our Spanish-speaking abilities (since we were hopelessly unable to communicate in Catalonia’s native language of Catalán) in order to arrange for a jeep ride up into the mountains along the L’Escrita River.

I’ll get into more of the transport logistics of this arrangement in the directions section below.

The bottom line is that there was a jeep ride to the Estany de Sant Maurici as well as a slightly more expensive jeep ride to the Estany de Ratera.

The less expensive ride to the first lake (Estany de Sant Maurici) was the most common approach because there was no minimum of jeep passengers for this ride to occur.

Aiguestortes_047_06192015 - View over the Estany de Sant Maurici (i.e. the 'first lake') from the mirador roughly 10 minutes walk from Estany de Ratera
View over the Estany de Sant Maurici (i.e. the ‘first lake’) from the mirador roughly 10 minutes walk from Estany de Ratera

This would result in a hike of about 1.6km each way (or 3.2km round trip; taking about 60 minutes total) to the mirador before the Cascada de Ratera.

That said, we wound up doing the more expensive ride up to the Estany de Ratera, which was the second lake.

Logistically, this option was more risky because there was a minimum of six passengers for this ride to even happen.

Once we were dropped off, we then hiked out to an overlook of the Estany de Sant Maurici before backtracking then descending to that lake by way of Cascada de Ratera.

This mostly downhill one-way shuttle hike (suggested by the friendly proprietor at the Roca Blanca in Espot) was about 4.5km in total.

Aiguestortes_159_06192015 - Looking over the Estany de Ratera, which was the natural lake (also referred to as the 'second lake')
Looking over the Estany de Ratera, which was the natural lake (also referred to as the ‘second lake’)

We’ll describe the hike from the perspective of this one-way shuttle hike further below in this write-up.

Some Linguistics of the Place Names

By the way, speaking of Catalán, the word estany (which I think is pronounced “es-TAH-nee”) meant lake.

Also the word aigüestortes meant “twisted waters” so the name of the reserve here might read like “the twisted waters in the lake of Saint Maurice”.

The language itself was an interesting mix of French and Spanish (e.g. sortie + salida = sortida in Catalán).

That said, a friend who had lived in Spain said the language might be closer to Italian.

Trail Description – The Optional Hike to the Overlook over Estany de Sant Maurici

Aiguestortes_036_06192015 - Julie and Tahia headed on the short walk from the Estany de Ratera to the overlook of the Estany de Sant Maurici
Julie and Tahia headed on the short walk from the Estany de Ratera to the overlook of the Estany de Sant Maurici

I considered this hike optional because it wasn’t on the route of the one-way shuttle hike down to the Cascada de Ratera.

Once the 4wd jeep dropped us off near the Estany de Ratera, we then briefly hiked opposite the flow of the L’Escrita River towards the mirador over Estany de Sant Maurici.

In other words, we hiked away from the Cascada de Ratera to get to this mirador.

It only took us about ten minutes to get to the overlook, and another ten minutes to get back to the shores of the Estany de Ratera.

Aiguestortes_068_06192015 - Context of Julie checking out the view over the Estany de Sant Maurici from the mirador
Context of Julie checking out the view over the Estany de Sant Maurici from the mirador

That said, the view of the first lake (i.e. the Estany de Sant Maurici) was very impressive from the mirador.

After all, I always contended that lakes tended to be best experienced from above, which was the case here.

Trail Description – From Estany de Ratera to the Cascada de Ratera

Back at the taxi dropoff point by Lake Ratera, we then walk on the bumpy jeep road alongside the shores of the lake.

Looking across this natural lake, we noticed some segmented cascade spilling into the body of water from the notched mountains above.

Aiguestortes_189_06192015 - This was Estany de Ratera - the second lake up from Espot
This was Estany de Ratera – the second lake up from Espot

I don’t think that cascade had a name, but it certainly caught our attention as it was towered over by jagged mountains.

Such sharp mountains seemed to be one of the signature features of this national park in addition to the lakes.

Once we went beyond the Ratera Lake, we then briefly descended the 4wd road until there was a signposted trail cutting away from the road and towards the L’Escrita River.

After about 45 minutes from the drop-off point by Lake Ratera, we’d eventually get down to our first partial but misty glimpse of the Cascada de Ratera.

Aiguestortes_149_06192015 - Zoomed in look at the segmented cascade spilling into the Estany de Ratera
Zoomed in look at the segmented cascade spilling into the Estany de Ratera

Viewing the falls from here seemed like a somewhat impractical and dangerous proposition, and trying to improve the experience by closer to the falls required a steep scramble on very wet and slippery rocks.

Thus, we kept going downhill away from the falls where five minutes later, we arrived at the official mirador de Cascada de Ratera.

It was from here that we were able to capture the picture you see at the top of this page.

During our visit, the mirador was a little bit flooded (or at least the L’Escrita River was flowing partially over the area where the wooden railings were).

Aiguestortes_278_06192015 - Julie and Tahia carefully getting around some of the flooded sections of the mirador downstream from the Cascada de Ratera
Julie and Tahia carefully getting around some of the flooded sections of the mirador downstream from the Cascada de Ratera

Nevertheless, it was shady and cool enough that our morning views looking back up at the Cascada de Ratera were against a deep blue cloudless sky that contrasted the bright white of the water and the green of the vegetation surrounding it.

Trail Description – From Cascada de Ratera to Estany de Sant Maurici

When we had our fill of Cascada de Ratera from this mirador, we then slowly continued downhill on the main trail alongside the Sant Maurici Lake.

Throughout this walk, we caught plenty of photo ops of the big lake backed by jagged mountains.

Some of the photo ops included grazing cows, which again was kind of strange to us considering that we were supposedly in a national park.

Aiguestortes_374_06192015 - Context of Julie and Tahia walking on the trail along the shores of the Estany de Sant Maurici
Context of Julie and Tahia walking on the trail along the shores of the Estany de Sant Maurici

I guess the original intent of national parks in America (where whole ecosystems were to be protected and left intact) had a much different interpretation in Spain.

It wouldn’t be until about an hour later when we’d finally make it to a shelter where we could clearly see the dam that was holding up Estany de Sant Maurici.

Again, this was another instance of an infrastructure that seemed to go against what we were used to seeing in terms of National Park principles.

Regardless, the open area where we were supposed to meet the pre-arranged return taxi was actually a few paces further down the trail from the shelter.

Aiguestortes_421_06192015 - Looking back at the dam responsible for creating the Estany de Sant Maurici at the end of our one-way shuttle hike taking in the Cascada de Ratera
Looking back at the dam responsible for creating the Estany de Sant Maurici at the end of our one-way shuttle hike taking in the Cascada de Ratera

That pretty much ended our one-way shuttle hike, which seemed to take in the best of the area within a reasonable amount of time and effort.

Overall, this excursion took us 3.5 hours away from Espot starting and ending with the jeep rides.

Therefore, I’d recommend allocating at least five hours for this excursion to account for any unforeseen delays or unanticipated discoveries along the way.

Authorities

Cascada de Ratera resides in the Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici near the town of Espot in the province of Lleida, Spain. It is administered by the Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you may be able to get leads from this website.

Aiguestortes_004_06182015 - On the morning that we showed up to Lake Ratera, it was surprisingly cold with some fast-moving clouds obscuring some of the highest peaks in the area around Estany de Ratera
Aiguestortes_009_06182015 - Julie and Tahia in their jumpers were hiking up to the mirador over Estany de Sant Maurici before going back down towards Cascada de Ratera
Aiguestortes_010_06182015 - Looking across a section of the Estany de Ratera as we were making the brief hike to the mirador over the Estany de Sant Maurici
Aiguestortes_014_06192015 - Julie and Tahia still on the short 10-minute walk to the mirador over the Estany de Sant Maurici
Aiguestortes_025_06192015 - Overcast view over the headwaters of Estany de Ratera
Aiguestortes_033_06192015 - Julie and Tahia continuing the hike towards the mirador over Estany de Sant Maurici
Aiguestortes_043_06192015 - Julie and Tahia passing by a tiny waterfall that slightly flooded the trail to the mirador over Estany de Sant Maurici
Aiguestortes_046_06192015 - Julie and Tahia getting closer to the mirador over the Estany de Sant Maurici as we can already start to see the lake below
Aiguestortes_059_06192015 - Julie and Tahia making it to the mirador over Estany de Sant Maurici
Aiguestortes_123_06192015 - Approaching Estany de Ratera again as the fog was starting to burn off
Aiguestortes_146_06192015 - Context of a cascade in the foreground with another one way in the distance above the Estany de Ratera
Aiguestortes_167_06192015 - Direct look at a segmented cascade over the Estany de Ratera
Aiguestortes_170_06192015 - Julie and Tahia walking alongside the Lake Ratera as we followed the jeep road back down towards the first lake
Aiguestortes_190_06192015 - Looking back at a large kiddie group headed up beyond the Lake Ratera
Aiguestortes_216_06192015 - Last look back at Estany de Ratera before we continued further down the mountain towards Cascada de Ratera
Aiguestortes_220_06192015 - Continuing the hike down the 4wd jeep road after leaving Estany de Ratera behind
Aiguestortes_224_06192015 - Following a sign that had us leave the 4wd road and cut towards the Cascada de Ratera
Aiguestortes_232_06192015 - At an open part of the trail to Cascada de Ratera that afforded us this gorgeous view towards the jagged mountains that ultimately backed Estany de Sant Maurici
Aiguestortes_257_06192015 - Our first glimpse of Estany de Sant Maurici as we descended lower on the trail to the Cascada de Ratera
Aiguestortes_261_06192015 - This was our first glimpse of Cascada de Ratera, but we'd still have to descend further down the main trail before getting to its lookout
Aiguestortes_266_06192015 - Looking downstream along the cascades beneath the main drop of Ratera Falls towards the Saint Maurice Lake
Aiguestortes_267_06192015 - Looking in the distance at some thin cascade draining towards Estany de Sant Maurici
Aiguestortes_281_06192015 - Looking back up at the main drop of Cascada de Ratera from its mirador
Aiguestortes_298_06192015 - Contextual view looking back upstream towards the Cascada de Ratera from its mirador
Aiguestortes_316_06192015 - Julie and Tahia walking along a boardwalk leading from the mirador before the Cascada de Ratera and going towards the Estany de Sant Maurici
Aiguestortes_321_06192015 - Watching cows graze as we got closer to Estany de Sant Maurici, which I thought was a strange sight considering we were in a national park
Aiguestortes_336_06192015 - Looking across the Estany de Sant Maurici as we were headed towards the lake's mouth where we would end our one-way shuttle hike
Aiguestortes_360_06192015 - Looking over the Estany de Sant Maurici towards the dam on the lower left side of this picture
Aiguestortes_387_06192015 - Looking back at the trail alongside the Estany de Sant Maurici leading up to the Cascada de Ratera
Aiguestortes_389_06192015 - Context of Julie and Tahia continuing the hike along the shores of Estany de Sant Maurici as we were almost at the end
Aiguestortes_395_06192015 - Looking back across the emerald waters of Estany de Sant Maurici
Aiguestortes_412_06192015 - This view of the mouth of Estany de Sant Maurici proved that it was man-made or at least man-modified
Aiguestortes_420_06192015 - Looking back at the shelter towards the end of our one-way shuttle hike. Had we done the logistically easier option of being dropped off at this lake, this would've also been the starting point
Espot_044_06192015 - When we made it back to the town of Espot, we noticed this cascade as seen from near the Roca Blanca, where we stayed at

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Cascada de Ratera was reached by jeep taxi from the town of Espot.

We’ll first cover the jeep logistics in this section before getting into the driving routes.

4wd Jeep Logistics from Espot

As for the logistics of the jeep taxis from Espot, this was what we did.

We first walked to the jeep taxi kiosk a few paces south of the center of town.

There were four main options to choose from.

The first was to get to the first lake, the second was to the second lake.

The other options were to get up to the higher lakes.

Aiguestortes_002_06182015 - Looking back at the jeep driving off after it had dropped us off by Lake Ratera
Looking back at the jeep driving off after it had dropped us off by Lake Ratera

The cheapest and easiest option (because there was no minimum number of passengers) was obviously to do the first lake as an out-and-back.

Taxis frequently showed up at the end points between that first lake and the kiosk in Espot (it was 10.20 euros round trip per adult and 6.30 euros for a kid under 11 years as of June 2015).

However, we did the second option in the “combined” manner.

This meant we’d go up to the second lake, then get picked up at the first lake.

We were very fortunate that the jeep taxis accommodated us as there were only four out of the minimum six people that wanted to go to the second lake.

Aiguestortes_423_06192015 - The jeep waiting to pick up the next batch of passengers waiting at the Estany de Sant Maurici
The jeep waiting to pick up the next batch of passengers waiting at the Estany de Sant Maurici

It turned out that the last couple to fill out the jeep only wanted to go to the first lake.

Nonetheless, that costed us 16 euros per adult and 13.50 euros for our daughter in order to do the transport arrangements this way.

They only accepted payments in cash.

The jeep taxi up to Lake Ratera took about 35 minutes.

The jeep money was well-earned because the road was a true 4wd one once we went above Estany de Sant Maurici.

However, the drive up to the first lake was very tame.

Espot_040_06192015 - Julie and Tahia walking back up to the Roca Blanca, which was where we had parked our vehicle while we were on our excursion
Julie and Tahia walking back up to the Roca Blanca, which was where we had parked our vehicle while we were on our excursion

The return from the first lake back to Espot only took us 20 minutes.

Overall, this entire excursion took us about a little over 5 hours.

Driving from Espot to Barcelona

Since the route to Espot from Torla was already described on the Cascada de Gerber page, we’ll punt you over there for the way we self-drove to that town.

However, for the route connecting Espot to Barcelona, we’ll describe it briefly here.

Follow this driving route in reverse if you’re wishing to drive from Barcelona to Espot.

Espot_023_06182015 - Looking back at the town center of Espot, which was the main town where we did our Cascada de Ratera excursion
Looking back at the town center of Espot, which was the main town where we did our Cascada de Ratera excursion

From Espot, we drove 7.5km on the Lv-5004 road back to the C-13 road.

Turning right onto the C-13 road, we then followed it south for about 26km until we turned left onto the N-260 road.

We then followed the N-260 for about 83km east to its junction with the C-16 road.

We then turned right onto the C-16 road and followed it for about 137km into the heart of Barcelona as this road eventaully became an autovía with lots of tunnels and hence lots of tolls as well (i.e. it wasn’t a very cheap stretch of road).

This drive took us roughly on the order of 3.5 hours.

Top down sweep of the main waterfall from its lookout before zooming out to examine the flooded lookout itself


Left to right sweep of some cascades on the main river before zooming into the upper cascades above Ratera Lake

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Tagged with: espot, puerto de la bonaigua, lleida, aiguestortes, parc nacional, national park, estany de sant maurici, catalonia, spain, waterfall, pyrenees, bonaigua pass, ratera, maurici, lake



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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