A Walk Among Ghosts – A Norwegian on the GR1 Sendero Historico

A Guest Blog from Tarjei Næss Skrede
There’s a world of walking opportunities out there, but what led me to a remote pass in the Parque Regional de Picos de Europa in Spain? Some years ago, after walking the Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela, a spark was kindled inside me. Other trails followed, the GR20 on Corsica, the GR10 crossing the Pyrenees, the Baekdu Daegan in South-Korea, the list goes on. Always looking for new trails, until one day a series of pictures flickered across my screen. Pictures of abandoned and remote villages in Spain set in stunning locations.
At the start of the GR1 Sendero Historico, Puerto de Tarna
The abandoned villages were tempting and haunting at the same time, but best of all, they were all located next to a trail, the GR1 Sendero Historico. It did not take a long time before I sat with John Hayes’ guidebook between my hands, reading expectantly. Days went by, weeks went by, months went by. Thoughts, plans and concerns about things were all shuffling around in my head. And then one Friday in September 2016, I stood at Puerto de Tarna, ready for my adventure on the GR1. The air crisp and clear, not a cloud in the sky in the direction I was going, a tiny bit chilly. Expectations high.
Under El Ventanon, after Pedrosa de Valdeporres
Now there is always a degree of anticipation in taking the first step (of very many) on a long journey such as this. With an initial 1250km laying ahead of me, it is fair to say that I had some doubts of what I was really doing. However, I was soon immersed in the beauty of the trail, for good and worse. The trail started off in a stunning manner, within the magnificent limestone landscapes of the Picos de Europa, the views rich with contrasts. As I got further and deeper into northern Spain, the scenery changed. Not always exciting, but it was varied, and sometimes it was amazing. From remote forests and valleys, to flat and dusty plains, to lonesome ridges, through paths carved out of the mountains, beneath stunning cliffs, fields of sunflowers and more.
Passing by Salinas de Anana in fog.
On the forty-nine days it took me to walk to the trail, there was one thing that really stood out. It was how a solitary walk this was. Being so long, I had not expected to actually meet any other hikers walking the whole trail from west to east as I did. However, what I had expected, was to meet people doing sections of the trail or out for a day. After almost two weeks, I met the first other hiker on the trail, going in the opposite direction. It was a far cry from what I had experienced on my previous walks. It then felt ironic that the day I met the most other people, was the same day as I was passing by the most abandoned villages.
The semi-deserted village of Gallipienzo Antiguot
However, how solitary it was, it did not take away the wonders of the walk. To truly grasp the significance of what you see, you have to look back at the history of the places you come to. It is a trail lined up with history, a walk among the ghosts of Spain. I walked through narrow medieval streets in Sos del Rey Catolico, gazed up in marvel at the twin towers of Sibirana, explored the Castillo de Loarre, were haunted by the ghosts of Baigorri, got lost in the fairytale castle of Olite, drank a beer to the splendid views from the Castillo de Samitier and Ermita de San Emeterio with views of the Pyrenees and the sunken church of Mediano and crossed amazing bridges in Besalú and Oix. I could go on forever (almost).
The abandoned village of Bagueste
And still, it was the abandoned villages that gave me the biggest goosebumps. Walking through so many ruins and remnants of homes where people once had lived was truly amazing. With Nazare and Bagüeste making the biggest impressions, both set in marvellous locations with the Pyrenees as a backdrop. Just to think that in 1940 there were 32 people living in Nazare, in 1950 none and in 1960, 27 people lived in Bagüeste, none in 1970.
Through the ruins of the Castillo de Samitier, the Pyrenees in the background
Even though people a long time ago had abandoned these villages and I met few other walkers on the trail, I was not without human contact and hospitality. All those places where the people did their best to make me feel at home and comfortable. As in Navagos, where two women let me camp in their garden, and I afterwards were invited in for a shower and dinner, the next morning breakfast.
Eating breakfast in L’Entremon
A concert after dinner at the Fonda La Primitiva in Lluca
And of course, there were a lot of times when things weren’t that good, when I felt frustrated. When I felt I was almost walking on a dead trail. Some sections of the trail are badly waymarked, or isn’t waymarked at all, where it’s almost impossible to navigate without a GPS (my GPS for an unknown reason, did just display the first section of the trail, leaving me in the blank for the remaining six sections). Often I found myself stranded, with nowhere to go further, knowing I had taken a wrong turn and had to turn back. This led me to become more and more uncertain whether I was on the right way or not, and that was not a good feeling, but I persevered.
The Mediterranean in Sant Marti d’Empuries.
I arrived in Sant Martí d'Empúries to the sound of waves crashing against the shore. I was tired, my feet ached, but my reward were all the memories that I’d brought with me from the walk. With the sky blue and sun shining above me, I had to go swimming in the Mediterranean.
Read the whole story at: http://tarjeinskrede.blogspot.no/p/gr1-sendero-historico.html.


  1. HeyTarjei
    Just read your blog and great to know that you did the whole thing and got to the Med in one piece! It is an amazing route and, as you say, remote and unspoilt but bursting with history and interest. I have yet to do the whole end to end thing, unlike my dear husband :-)

    1. Hi Christine!
      Thanks, I was very happy to be able to complete the whole trail and arrive in one piece.

  2. Hi! I'm planning on doing a section of the GR1 in February. I plan on starting from Arguis and walk for two weeks, with no pressure where to end :) I will be wild camping most of the time, with some breaks for campsites or hotel to rest and shower :) Your description and photos excite me to plan all the details that are still left!

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    2. Hi Ioanna

      I hope you have a great trip, the stretch after Arguis is particularly beautiful and has some of the best examples of abandoned villages. Be prepared for cold weather in February.