Val d’Aran, “The Essence of the Pyrenees”, is the only Atlantic facing valley in the Central Pyrenees and is the source of the Garonne River. Val d’Aran has an extension of 620km and 30% of its territory is above 2,000m of altitude, with peaks reaching 3,000m – features that make it the perfect location for nature lovers. Bordering with France, it has a unique climate, eternal snows, exquisite gastronomy, the uniqueness of its own language and a strong cultural heritage. About 95% of the valley’s territory is pure nature, much of which is located in the National Park of “Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici”.
Val d’Aran means “Valley of Valleys”. A place full of possibilities to enjoy the mountains.
Culture and traditions
Closely related to the Occitan culture from the South of France, Val d’Aran is formed by 33 villages that accommodate more than 10,000 habitants. It is characterized by an architecture based on stone, wood and slate, Romanesque buildings, narrow streets and is surrounded by an intense nature. This valley offers plenty of cultural treasures, including an important monumental artistic collection, composed primarily of a large number of Romanesque churches.
Originally founded on a farming and forest based economic structure, when the industrial revolution happened, numerous mining companies landed in the valley for the exploitation of zinc and iron deposits. One of the most deep-rooted traditions of the valley, in the villages of Les and Arties, includes the burning of a fir tree on the shortest night of the year; the Summer solstice, a millenary custom of Celtic origins.
The valley offers a huge gastronomic experience based on products from the land, hunting and fishing, where “olla aranesa” is the most popular local dish.
Once the snow disappears, wild nature emerges giving rise to endless routes, trails and paths which traversethe territory from one side to another. Thanks to these endless possibilities, the valley has become a key location for trail running races. Running through these mountains demands a high level of technique and physical condition, which makes it very attractive for visitors.
Cycling is another activity that stands out in Val d’Aran, and the region is full of signposted trails both for mountain and road bikes. The terrain that characterizes this valley allows people to enjoy adventure activities in a unique environment, from climbing to rafting and canyoning, among others.
One of the biggest ski resorts in Spain and the Pyrenees is found in Val d’Aran; Baqueira Beret. At more than 165km, during Winter season this resort gives life to the valley bringing more than 870,000 skiers from all over the world.