About Cascada de Ratera
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).
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Follow this driving route in reverse if you’re wishing to drive from Barcelona to Espot.
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.
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