Aran Valley


Surely many of you have been to the Aran Valley, but do you know all the hidden corners? We are starting a new route with Cargoling to discover them!

The access to the Aran Valley from Barcelona is quick, by roads in good condition and with good views: first we go to Lleida where we take the A-14 to Almenar, and then the N-230 that will take us to the edge of the Canelles Reservoir. Once we leave the Mountain Bridge behind us, we only have to go straight upwards, passing over the Suert Bridge until we reach the Vielha Tunnel, and we will be at our destination.

We just come out of the northern mouth of the tunnel, there is no need for a welcome sign to remind us that we have already entered the Aran Valley from the depths of the mountains, we will notice it in the freshness of our skin and the smell of the air if we lower the window: the aroma of damp undergrowth, of ancient forests and hollow ferns.

We have left early from the Cargoling headquarters in Barcelona, and now we are on our way to Es Bordes, and from there, to Artiga de Lin. We leave the van in the car park, which is obligatory at this time of day and which is 2 km from the end of the road. Then we will take the motorised train that leaves every few minutes to do this section.

The arrival at Artiga de Lin is colossal and spectacular, guarded by the imposing Cuello de Toro, which rises above the valley where the refuge is located. This is where the path to Ojos del Judio begins, and it is precisely the excursion that we will propose to you next.

The place where we find ourselves, if we take something to eat, is a good place to recover from the journey, and when we have regained our strength, we can start the excursion. In five minutes we will be crossing an artificial entrance, which is a symbol of the Val d'Aran, made up of two stone pylons and an enormous trunk on top that welcomes us to the itinerary, or to the valley if we are coming from the other side. It is a very busy path and there is no way of getting lost. It will lead us through the fir forests to the Uelhs deth Joèu, the source of one of the tributaries of the Garonne, which appears as a great waterfall that skips over a large volume of rocks and hundred-year-old trunks that have been dragged down the mountain over the years. The excursion continues down through even more lush forests, worthy of Tolkien and his fables, until we arrive back where we had left the Cargoling.

Overnight stays in the Val d'Aran can be complicated depending on the time of year, so we will tell you some well-known places where we know you won't have any problems. This first night, we go to the village of Vilamos, a small village,not very popular, and where meters before reaching the entrance, gives us a small esplanade near the mountain road, known for being the viewpoint of Aneto, quiet and ideal place to spend the night.

The first nights of the day wet the great colossus in front of us, king of the Pyrenees and watchtower of the Valley, and with it we start to get active. We decided to make our way back to Artiga de Lin, this time before 10 a.m., which is when we closed the road to traffic, and once in the Artiga car park, we started to have breakfast in the camper until suddenly... A herd of cows from the valley came to inspect us! .

The excursion we wanted to do today is one that we had been waiting for years, and which is emblematic for being one of the natural passes in the Pyrenees between Catalonia and Aragon: the Cuello de Toro, guarded by its impressive Ibón and from where the "Pic d'Aigualluts", the Aneto, and the whole Maladeta glacier, observe us from in front.

The route is not to be missed, but there is a steep slope for almost the entire time, and some overpasses without difficulty, where chains have been installed to facilitate our ascent. We start going up the Artiga valley, and just when we are in front of a stone wall that culminates the large green esplanade where we are progressing, the path begins to climb relentlessly along a zigzagging path that seems to have no end, which we will not leave until we reach the top, where the Cuello de Toro is located, with Ibón de Toro. This oasis is one of the roofs of this great mountain range, with crystal clear water, which contrasts with the grey colour of the wild rock and the ice of the Maladeta massif just in front of us.

During the descent, we recommend, with great care and caution, that you approach the natural Forau where the torrent that descends from the neck of the mountain hides, which is immense, and reminds us, although it is smaller, of the "Forau d'Aigualluts". This one in front of us is wilder, more vertical and alpine, and from where we can see it, it seems to push us inwards. You have to bear in mind that, although it is August, there are still ice remains in the deepest part.

Once we arrive at "l'Artiga", it is impossible not to stop at the refuge, inaugurated this summer 2019, and where a hiker had slept when he was just a 3 year old rascal. He took it as an adventure to access one of the only two spaces in the cabin, climbing up a precarious vertical wooden ladder.

We spent the afternoon discovering another of the emblematic spots in these parts, which I'm sure you know by name: Montgarri. An old hermitage which we reach from the Pla de Beret along a very dusty but well-maintained track that leads us to the main door of this old building. It is a good place to cool off in the river and take a stroll around the surrounding area. In our case we have prepared a coffee in the kitchen of the Cargoling, and we have taken the opportunity to read a little while hurrying until sunset.

Wherever we slept, in the morning we set off for the small, bucolic village of Bausen, the starting point of our excursion: the Carlac Forest. But before we set off, we have to make an obligatory stop at the Therese Cemetery. This was its history:

At the beginning of the 20th century, Sisco and Therese, a young couple from Bausen, asked for ecclesiastical permission to marry but were refused because they were distant relatives. They decided to live as a couple without getting married because they could not afford the dispensation the Catholic Church asked for. Teresa died on 10 May 1916 of pneumonia. The village priest refused to bury her in the village cemetery because she had lived "in sin". It was then that all the inhabitants of Bausen agreed to build a cemetery for Therese. They worked night and day and within 24 hours the cemetery was ready for the burial of the body. Today the descendants still leave flowers, and there is still the grave, a description of love.

We can also see the giant tree before the cemetery, with a wooden swing and rope hanging from one of its long branches, which shows the Aran Valley from the front.

We won't spend too much time explaining the excursion to the Carlac Forest, as there are not enough words... We can only tell you that it is one of the most spectacular we have ever seen, that it is an excursion for all levels, and that the views you will have on the way down with the Aneto in front of you are impressive. A centenary forest full of ancient beech trees with immense and tortured vines due to the inclement weather, and stone walls that will guide you during part of the itinerary, covered with moss down to the smallest nook and cranny. In short, a forest full of magic, lush and damp, where every corner is worth enjoying and observing for a long time.

The Aran Valley allows us to discover places that seem to be taken from the Jurassic features, places where it seems that the hand of man has never had a place, and these are just some of them, but we believe that to know, enjoy and live the area, you can not miss them. Even so, as we always say, the essence of travelling in a campervan is improvisation, which will allow us to fill the adventure we are living with an enormous added value, the result of spontaneity and immediacy, which makes us never miss any place that is worthwhile, a moment we want to live, or a new experience that the road offers us...

From Cargoling we recommend the PARK4NIGHT app, a mobile application where you can check the nearest car camping areas. This application geolocates you and other users recommend you the places they have liked the most.


Written by

Úrsula 12/05/2022
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