From La Guingueta d'Àneu or the Àneu Valley, Aran is entered along the Port de la Bonaigua road. At an altitude of over 2,000 metres, it is one of the highest roads in Catalonia. This mountain pass has traditionally been the link between this area and the rest of Catalonia. The view from the Mare de Déu des Ares hermitage is one of the most beautiful in the Pyrenees.
Val d'Aran county, with its Atlantic climate, is quite different from the other valleys in the Catalan Pyrenees. The Garonne flows through the heart of the valley, while the Noguera Pallaresa and the Noguera Ribagorçana, two tributaries of the Segre, also run through the county. The Val d'Aran formed part of the mediaeval county of Comenge, but in the twelfth century it became part of the lands of the House of Barcelona. In 1283, however, French troops conquered the Val d'Aran and France held it until well into the following century.
In 1313 the area returned to Catalan rule under James II. As a sign of gratitude the Catalan king granted the Aranese the privilege of the "Querimonia", a royal charter which, among other conditions, conceded important economic exemptions.
The villages of the Val d'Aran contain buildings which bear witness to their mediaeval history. Between Vielha e Mijaran and Arties, for example, along the route of the C-28, there are villages with a religious and secular heritage of mediaeval art that clearly merits a visit. In Betren we can see the church of Sant Estèue; in Escunhau there is the church of Sant Pèir (12th century); in Casarilh a Romanesque carving of Christ can be seen (12th-13th century), while in Arties the church of Santa Maria (12th-13th century) is notable for the beauty of its interior decoration. Salardú boasts a series of monuments, outstanding among them being the Romanesque figure of Christ in the Church of Sant Andrèu.
The villages between Vielha e Mijaran and Bossost (Gausac, Casau, Vilac, Betlan, Aubèrt, Montcorbau and Arròs) are all worth visiting for their Romanesque features. The centre of Vielha, which is on the left bank of the Garonne, still retains buildings that bear witness to its mediaeval past. They include the twelfth century parish church of Sant Miquèu. This church belonged to the former castle and contains a number of valuable works of art. To reach Ribagorça visitors must pass through the Vielha tunnel. On leaving the southern exit they can see the buildings of the old Vielha hospital, founded in the twelfth century, which used to provide shelter for pilgrims and other travellers going over the Vielha pass, one of the highest and most dangerous in the Pyrenees.
Val d'Aran Museum
C/ Major, 26
Tel: (+34) 973 641 815 bookings for visits to the Cò de Joanchiquet Eco-museum in Vilamòs