Val d’Aran in the province of Lleida is a valley in the Atlantic drainage basin whose main river, the Garonne, runs north and flows into the sea at Bordeaux in France. It covers an area of 620 km2 of which 30% is more than 2,000 metres above sea level. It has over 200 lakes, such as Mar and Tort de Riu, the largest in the Spanish Pyrenees. The high mountains form a natural barrier that affects its weather and generates high quality snow in winter.
The official language, in addition to Catalan and Spanish, is Aranese which is a form of Occitan. Besides being an official language in the valley, it has also been recognised as such in the rest of Catalonia since 2010.
In the early nineteenth century access to the valley during the winter months was virtually impossible. So in 1948 the Vielha tunnel was built and now there is a new tunnel which ensures easy access by road. Once in the valley, moving around the 33 villages that make up the Val d’Aran is very easy thanks to a network of roads in good condition.
Vielha (the capital), Les, Salardú and Arties are some of the most well-known towns in the valley. They are characterised by stone, wood and slate structures, seen especially in their numerous Romanesque and Gothic churches. The most important towns include Salardú, Arties, Vielha and Bossòst.
Set among all these mountains are Aigüestortes Park and Estany de Sant Maurici lake. The Park combines high mountain landscapes with an impressive relief and a great variety of fauna and flora, where water plays a prominent role.
Cuisine is another important element of the valley’s heritage. Because of its proximity to France it makes a number of varieties of cheese. There are also other traditional dishes from the valley such as Aranese stew or “truhada”.