Freedom Trail Treks offers a wide variety of adventure travel tours, but we specialize in historic freedom trails.

A freedom trail is a trek that follows a route historically used by an individual or group to escape persecution. Many of these escape routes cross international borders, such as the French-Spanish border formed by the Pyrenees mountains. During World War II, over 33,000 Frenchmen alone escaped Nazi occupied France by crossing the Pyrenees into neutral Spain or Andorra.

Today, with stories of refugees fleeing war and persecution dominating headlines, tackling these classic freedom trails is a great way to combine a passion for history and adventure travel with an appreciation for the contemporary struggles of those crossing borders in search of safety. A Freedom Trail is also a way to commemorate those lost in conflict and the commemoration and connection with local communities transcends boundaries. En route you can feel connection with those lost on the Halifax bomber, people working in the escape networks and local communities. Multiple cultures can be involved with this and we have had visitors from the UK, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Canada, South Africa and USA .

Port Salau (and the Freedom Trail long weekend)

During the early years of the Nazi occupation of France, the Ariège region was still in the free zone. Although under the control of the Vichy police, many evaders managed to reach Spain on their own via a moderate (though still challenging!) route through the Port de Salau.

As such, we run the Freedom Trail long weekend via the port de Salau (2087m). In the war, the route was used before November 1942. It involves two days of trekking, stopping for a night at the Refuge del Fornet, at 1,600m. It makes a great introduction to cross-border escape routes and is located on the border between the Couserans and Catalonia.  In the middle ages, it was served by the hospital of Ste Marie de Salou which depended on the knights of St Jean de Jérusalem. At that time, pilgrims used it to return to St Jacques de Compostelle. It is also the site of an old tungsten mine, the grand arches of which remain there today.

The Andorra Freedom Trail

The Andorra Freedom Trail following the route of Durrandeu ascending the Aston valley and crossing over to Soldeu involves 4 days trekking with slightly easier high mountain terrain than the classic Freedom trail route. On entering Andorra walking above Encamp you will see the old building of radio Andorra pictured below from where news of escapes were transmitted via coded messages and songs.

Alas, in November 1942, the Nazis occupied the former free zone and surveillance increased dramatically along the Pyrenees. This forced escapees to take on more difficult crossings through the high mountains, where the help of local guides was a must.

The classic Chemin De La Liberté

Thus developed the most famous of these escape routes, the Chemin de la Liberté (Freedom Trail), which follows the path taken by at least 782 Allied airmen and Jewish refugees.

The six day trip involves four days of trekking, beginning in St Girons (our trip starts at at the freedom trail museum) before ascending to the Estagnous Refuge at 2,286m and descending into Spain to arrive in Vielha.

When above the Subera refuge, we commemorate those who died when seeing the Halifax bomber wreckage and experience the exhilaration of crossing the border into Spain over the col de Clauere. As the most famous of all freedom treks, it makes a great ‘bucket list’ adventure.

Coastal freedom trail (Walter Benjamin Escape Route)

This spectacular route along the Vermillion Coast commemorates the final, tragic journey of Walter Benjamin, a celebrated Jewish philosopher. In 1940 Benjamin was in poor physical condition and had heart disease, but he managed to obtain an US visa, and had only to escape from France to secure safe passage to America.

With great difficulty, thanks to the help of his guide Lisa Fittko, Benjamin succeeded in crossing the mountains, but was detained by Spanish police in Portbou. Fearing that he would be sent back to France, Benjamin took his own life in custody.

His companions were later allowed to continue on their route, suggesting that Benjamin’s tragical death was avoidable. As part of the Varian Fry escape line as depicted in the film Transatlantic where two Americans and their allies form a scrappy rescue operation in 1940 Marseilles to help artists, writers and other refugees fleeing Europe during WWII.

Our five-day trip follows this route along the Mediterranean coast from Collioure in France to Port Lligat in Spain. Combining spectacular beaches and mountain trekking, it packs a great deal of variety into a historical journey.

Children and the freedom trail

It is incredible to think that many escapees would have taken children with them.

As a leisure activity, the freedom trail is, in most cases, too challenging for younger children. As such we offer a family-friendly freedom trail experience.

Here, you can be in the mountains with your children, have a mini escape to the border with Spain or Andorra, draw an escape map, take on one of our blindfold challenges, discover the characters who operated as secret agents, see how people were transferred out of Marseille, navigate to a target to pick up some information…, all without long days of trekking. Suitable for 8 years plus and their family.