The Aran Valley
The Aran Valley is a region of Lleida, set in the Central Pyrenees, in the far north-west of Catalonia. Bordered by France in the north, with the Aragonese province of Huesca in the south-east, with the región of Alta Ribagorça in the south and to the east by the Pallars Sobirà. Its capital is Vielha.
It is the only region of Catalonia which belongs mostly to the Atlantic basin. The river Garona, whose source is in the valley and which crosses it, and flows into the Atlantic ocean after crossing Gascuña. A small region also forms part of the Mediterranean basin: the Noguera Pallaresa and Noguera Ribagorzana rivers have their source in this region. Thirty per cent of the territory is above 2,000 metres.
The Aranese economy is traditionally based on animal farming and forest logging. Today, however, it is tourism which drives the Valley’s economy.
Two factors have been fundamental in stimulating the boom of tourism in the region: the inauguration of the Vielha tunnel and the Baqueira Beret ski resort.
Like the rest of the Pyrenean valleys, people have lived here since prehistoric times, and it also formed part of the Roman Empire. When the Empire fell, the valleys were left to their own fate, and for centuries there were no references to the Aran Valley.
The first mention arises in the 10th Century when the Valley formed part of the county of Comminges, which held the High Garona region. In 1175 the Valley came under the Crown of Aragon for some years, before once again reverting back to the rule of the French counts.
In 1313, the Aranese chose, by popular vote, to belong to the Crown of Aragon, at the same time when Jaime II awarded the Valley a set of privileges known as the Era Querimònia, the Aran magna carta, and which was ratified by all successive monarchs until Fernando VII.
In 1411, the Aran authorities offered a free agreed Aran union with the Catalan counties, which was accepted by the parliament of Catalonia.
During the Napoleonic invasion of Spain, the Valley became part of the French department of Haute Garonne. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, it was returned once more to the Spanish Crown. In 1833, in the middle of the First Carlist War, the Aranese institutions were suspended, and the Aran Valley finally came under the new Spanish regime, forming part of the newly created province of Lleida.
In 1990, a part of the Aran Valley’s historical rights were restored, with the General Council and the Attorney as the main governing bodies, and Aranese became an official language in the Valley, along with Spanish.
Do you want to discover the largest lacustrine cirque in the Pyrenees?
Do you want to see where the waters from the Aneto glacier ends?
Do you want to discover Spain’s largest fir tree forest?
Do you want to go hill walking along safe and signposted paths or climb 3,000 metre-high mountains?
Do you want to discover the National Park of Aigüestortes and the Lake of Sant Maurici?
Do you want to discover the best Romanesque art?
The Colomers cirque
The Colomers cirque is a must-see in the Pyrenees and easy to get to. It forms part of the Aigüestortes National Park and is the largest lacustrine cirque in the Pyrenees.
It is made up of a group of lakes set among a circle of abrupt mountain peaks. Of special note are the Creu de Colomers, the Gran Tuc de Colomers and the Tuc de Ratèra- spectacular with its vertical cliff faces and steep canals.
From the top of any of these peaks you can enjoy breath-taking views, without doubt among them the lakes, all thirty-eight of them, which lend a fantastic touch of colour to the magnificent landscape.
To get to the refuge of Colomers, which is the starting point of the excursion, takes between half an hour to an hour depending on where you leave your vehicle. Start out by car from Salardú, taking the forest path going towards the Valley of Aiguamòg, with a total of 9.5 km. of asphalted surface and 3.5 km of dirt track, this last part being only accessible to taxis.
There are two circular routes, fully signposted, which are recommended: a shorter and easier route marked with yellow lines and a longer route, marked with red lines. Many of the lakes in the area can be reached once you leave the forest near the refuge.
The highlight of our excursion is the Còth de Pòdo, from which we can look down on a spectacular view of a large part of the route. In the Colomers refuge meals and accommodation are available, making this the perfect place to start and end our trip.
- Long route: Colomers refuge, Major Lake, Lakes Mòrt and Garguiilhs de Sus, deth Pòrt ponds, Lake of the port of Colomers, Còth de Pòdo, Pòdo Lake, Solet pond, Obago, Redon and Long Lakes, Coret deth Clòto, Colomers refuge.
- Short route: Colomers refuge, Major Lake, Mòrt, Garguilhs de Jos and Plan Lakes, Long Lake, Coret deth Clòto, Colomers refuge.
Artiga de Lin
A steep, narrow, asphalted road leads up to Artiga de Lin. This road can be reached from the villages of Es Bordes or Aubert, both located on the road that connects Vielha with the French border. The road runs along a narrow valley with steep sides covered in thick forest of fir trees and deciduous trees, specially beech trees. In autumn when the deciduous forests turn a myriad of hues (yellows, reds, brown, etc) the landscape offers a sharp contrast to the dark green of the fir trees. On our way up we can find picnic areas with tables and seats. Just before arriving Artiga de Lin, there is a well signposted parking area on the left-hand side, indicating the way to the Uelhs deth Joeu. Here is the source of an abundant river which emerges from among a group of rocks. It is in fact a river that emerges from the ground in the Valley of Benasque which is joined to the Artiga de Lin even though they are separated by imposing Peaks and Mountain Passes over 2,300 metres above sea level for the Mountain Passes and about 2,500 metres for the Peaks. The waters from the Aneto glacier meet in the Aigualluts plain (valley of Benasque) before disappearing into what seems like a giant hole (Forau de Aigualluts) and then resurfacing in the Aran Valley in the Uelhs deth Joeu as a tumultuous river which is also a tributary of the river Garonne, one of the longest in France.
La Mata de València Forest and Gerdar de Sorpe
This is Spain’s largest fir tree forest. Located just a few kilometres away from Baqueira Beret, in the Pallars district, this magical place has its own unique microclimate. A visit to this forest is without a doubt an unforgettable experience. Walk along several kilometres of forest paths or signposted ways, or if you prefer, enjoy a ride to the unspoilt valley of Cabanes, within the National Park of Aigüestortes and the Lake of Sant Maurici or to the village of Son del Pi, crossing the Pas del Coro.
Here we offer you the unique opportunity to enjoy hill walking in the Central Pyrenees. The Aran Valley boasts one of the top Hill Walking Centres in Europe, where you can choose circular routes crossing through numerous villages which still maintain today their particular architecture or climb peaks of over 3000 metres with the help of our qualified guides. The Romanesque route, Montgarri, Saboredo, Colomers, mythical peaks like Montarto, Besiberri, Mulleres, or walk along the old roads which used to connect the mountain hamlets, and which have now been restored, and which until just a few decades ago were still used by the local inhabitants.
Aigüestortes National Park and Lake Sant Maurici
This is the only National Park of Catalonia, and can be reached by various routes, located just a few kilometres from Baqueira Beret. This park is most famous for its over 200 lakes, the breath-taking cliffs of "Els Encantats" and its characteristic high mountain meanders (the aigüestortes). This is a real paradise for nature lovers: lakes, torrents, waterfalls, wetlands, boulders, rugged peaks and leafy forests of mountain pine, Scotch pine, fir trees, beech and birch trees constitute a home for a multitude of interesting plants and fascinating wild life of alpine or boreal origin.
For the surrounding area of the Park, the Middle Ages represented an unprecedented cultural awakening with the arrival of Romanesque art. This historic fact has allowed a unique artistic heritage to exist in perfect harmony with the surrounding landscape. The Boí Valley is home to one of the largest collections of Romanesque buildings in Europe, and the best preserved and spectacular of the Pyrenees, with churches such as Sant Climent and Santa Maria de Taüll, Sant Joan de Boí or Santa Eulàlia de Erill, to name just a few. On 30 November 2000 the group of Romanesque churches of the Boí Valley were declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. In the Àneu valley of special note are the churches of Sant Just and Sant Pastor de Son, Sant Joan de Isil, Sant Pere del Burgal and the watch towers of Espot and Escaló.
Here the ecosystems of the Pyrenean high mountain are represented and magnificent example of the work of the Quaternary glaciers can be seen. Its lakes and mountains form the habitat of the capercaillie, the black woodpecker, the bearded vulture, the Pyrenean mountain goat, to name just a few. Forests of fir trees, mountain pine and beech trees populate the Park. In the Alpine fields marsh gentian, buttercups, lilies, wild orchids and primroses are just some of the flowers on show.
Romanesque art and culture
There is no place in the world with so much first class world heritage set in so few kilometres. The Christ of Mijaran, a polychrome wooden sculpture in Romanesque style. The original Romanesque painting in the church of Unha (they are not copies), the House of Joanchiquet, in Vilamòs, a journey to the 18th century. Thirty-three bell towers. The public washrooms, a curious example of popular architecture. In the Tor deth Generau Martinhon, the history of a country. A prehistoric Necropolis (Beret plain, 1st and 2nd centuries BC) and paleo-Christian (Haro de Garòs, 4th and 5th centuries). Barroque carvings (18th century) in the church of Sant Pèir de Betlan. The magnificent Gothic bell tower of Sant Félix, in Vilac. The nights of San Juan of Les and Arties. The seven chapels that safeguarded Bossòst from the plague. Good and Evil depicted on the walls of San Juan de Arties. The Woollen Factory: from the tufts of wool to the skeins. An original Pantocrator original on the walls of Santa Eulalia de Unha...