With over 200 peaks at over 3,000 meters, not to mention Ordesa National Park, the famous Tena and Benasque valleys and some of the best ski resorts in the country, you would think there is nothing left. to explore in the Aragonese Pyrenees. But you would be wrong. Beyond these well-known tourist spots, there are a myriad of valleys where you can still get a taste of traditional Pyrenean life and architecture. Here are a few.
1. BarrabÃ©s and Baliera – cornerstones of Ribagorza County
The BarrabÃ©s and Baliera valleys – the latter also known as the Castanesa Valley – are located in the far east of the Aragonese Pyrenees, bordering Catalonia and sharing its Noguera-Ribagorzana river as well as many cultural and linguistic features with her neighbor. Although these valleys are largely bypassed nowadays, they once played an important role in the ancient county of Ribagorza, founded by local nobleman Raymond I in 872 AD after he split from the French county of Toulouse. . At the time as today, region of breeding and forestry, its inhabitants were a power to be reckoned with in the 10th century AD when the Moors conquered the plains. Today the isolated village of LaspaÃºles, located at 1,431 meters and surrounded by the majestic peaks of El TurbÃ³n at 2,500 meters, El Gallinero at 2,800 meters and El Vallibierna at 3,000 meters, is the one of the few to be still inhabited at this altitude. Castanesa, another village that thrives on animal husbandry, features a handful of beautiful Pyrenean mansions, many of which have been restored, as well as quiet cobbled streets and two churches.
2. The Isabena Valley
The IsÃ¡bena Valley is nestled among the lower slopes of the Pyrenees which overlook the great peaks of the Benasque Valley. With its river flowing into the Esera, the valley was crossed centuries ago by a secondary Roman road. Now it is crossed by the road that connects Graus to CastarnÃ©, passing through the oddly named villages of Merli, Esdolomada, Riguala and Rin. All date from the Jewish, Roman and Visigoth periods, when the valley was prosperous and in the center of the ancient county of Ribagorza. But the real treat on this trail is Roda de IsÃ¡bena. When you leave your car in the parking lot at the edge of the hill and stroll through the calm and meticulously restored cobblestone streets, you will understand why this forgotten hamlet was chosen by the Counts of Ribagorza for one of the first and most elegant Pyrenean cathedrals. , which has become the heart of the culture and knowledge that helped to reclaim the territory further south.
3. The Gistau valley
The caravan of women brought in by young bachelors from the village of Plan in 1985 to repopulate the valley has put this remote corner of the Cinca River valley on the map. What were once just a handful of rural villages that lived off ranching and farming became headlines in the style of William Wellman’s 1951 film. Western women. Situated along one of the widest points of the Cinqueta River, the Gistau Valley is surrounded by the foothills of two towering mountains, Posets-Maladeta (3,369 meters) and Cotiella (2,910 meters), and is l one of the most preserved of the central Pyrenees. . Thanks to centuries of isolation, its traditions and unique architecture have been preserved. After a boom in the 16th century due to trade with France, it is now experiencing a second wind thanks to nature tourism focused on hiking and climbing. But although attracted by the excellent conservation of the valley, the tourist also inevitably contributes to the changes in villages such as Plan, San Juan and GistaÃn. To reach the valley of Gistau – or Chistau as it is called in the local language of Chistabino – take the A-138 road from AÃnsa towards Bielsa and turn right at Salinas de Sin following the Cinqueta river. It is a road that was only opened in the 1920s and the lack of previous access kept the valley almost intact long after progress shaped other areas of the region.
4. Borau, AÃsa and AragÃ¼es, the distant valleys of Jacetania
The two major rivers in the far west of the Aragonese Pyrenees – the Aragon River, which has its source in Somport, and the Aragon Subordan River, which has its source in the Hecho Valley – integrate other smaller rivers that flow through the largely forgotten valleys of Borau, AÃsa and AragÃ¼es. Surrounded by mountains and rarely seen in tourist brochures, these pastures and forests have retained their natural charm. There are no crowds and postcard towns in Borau and AÃsa, just pure nature and tranquility. The Borau valley is accessible from the road that connects Jaca to the Somport pass, making a detour via AratorÃ©s between Castiello de Jaca and VillanÃºa. Five kilometers beyond this crossroads is the capital and the only significant town in the valley, home to the Lubierre river and excellent examples of Pyrenean mansions. The AragÃ¼es valley, the smallest of the three, ends at the foot of BisaurÃn (2,670 meters), the last imposing peak west of the Aragonese Pyrenees and the first if you come from the Navarre Pyrenees. The majesty of this summit, which stands alone, and the beauty of the region are a well-kept secret among mountaineers, climbers and cross-country skiers.
5. The Hecho Valley
The Aragon Subordan River flows into one of the most cultural and historical valleys in the Jacetania region. Together with AnsÃ³, the Hecho Valley is located in the far west of the Aragonese Pyrenees and has had a paved road since Roman times. It also benefited from the construction of the Monastery of San Pedro de Siresa by the Aragonese counts, which has become a hotbed of culture and religion in the region. The Hecho Valley still retains its own language, architecture, tradition and celebrations, which have flourished thanks to its remoteness. With its stone houses with flat roofs and cone-shaped chimneys, Hecho is one of the most authentic towns in the Aragonese Pyrenees. Further into the valley, beyond the Boca del Infierno where traces of the Roman road can still be seen, the Aragon Subordan valley opens again to make way for the unique and unspoiled forest of Selva by Oza. The slopes of PeÃ±aforca, on the left, and BisaurÃn, on the right, are covered with beech, fir, rowan, hazel and pine, reminiscent of the flora of the Pyrenees from centuries ago.
english version by Heather galloway.