The Pyrenean landscape offers breathtaking views. While the mountains stand as the true queens of this area, in the valleys, the charm of the small villages clustered on their slopes brings life to one of the most spectacular locations on the peninsula.
The fertile valleys torn by leaden peaks dress up in winter with mantles of fluffy snow. Nature gave the Pyrenean landscape some wild mountains irrigated by streams pouring with life at every turn. In contrast to the inhospitable environment of these parts hides a welcoming temperament, with small stone houses and smoking chimneys that sprinkle the snowy valleys with color.
In the middle of the Catalan Pyrenees, the Aran Valley offers countless dreamlike views of fairytale scenery. Impossible streets wrap themselves around the picturesque surrounding villages and, accompanying every step, the unmistakable aroma of the famous Aranese pot.
Thirty-three villages dot this beautiful landscape. Vielha, the capital, houses an outstanding ethnographic and bread museum, the church of Sant Miquel and several stately homes, proving that nature and tradition have ruled the lives of its inhabitants.
Nearby, Artís boasts a noble past sprinkled with Gothic and Romanesque churches. For many, its interesting urban center and being one of the entrances to the Aigüestortes I Estany de Sant Maurici National Park make it the most beautiful town in the Aran Valley.
The life of the valley goes on between the river Garonne and the Baqueira-Beret ski resort. After over half a century of experience, the white sport has become the leading economic resource of the area to abandon the work of the past, which has lost its function, but not its essence.
The whole valley reflects an ancestral culture that appears to be linked to its traditional stone architecture of steep slate roofs, an unmistakable sign that the snow is present every year.
The impressive landscape of the Pyrenees is home to the only remaining glaciers on the Iberian Peninsula. In recent years, its emaciated shape provides a dramatic appearance. In fact, it’s no longer possible to save the glaciers. We can only talk about their extinction. Of the fifty-two glaciers in the Pyrenees in 1850, thirty-three have disappeared, most of them after 1980.
The Monte Perdido glacier appears as an ancient figure among the mountains’ immensity. This spectacular mass of ice has been clinging to the summits for millions of years, moving its tongue like a creature full of life. The scientific community studies it with reverential fascination.
The Monte Perdido and Maladeta-Aneto glaciers are the last in the Aragonese Pyrenees. Although Aneto’s is more extensive, Monte Perdido is the one that best reflects the retreat of the ice in the Pyrenean mountain range, as scanner measurement campaigns monitor its movement.
Since 2011, a team of scientists from the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology of the CSIC (Spanish National Research Council) has been measuring the heartbeat of this colossus. The data obtained in 2019 reveal what is already a fact: in approximately twenty years, it will be gone.
In 2016, the glacier was 38 hectares long. Every year it loses one meter in thickness and advances three centimeters a day. Last year it lost 1.56 meters in width, a figure that, if added to the measurements accumulated since the monitoring program began, gives the dramatic figure of 7.2 meters of mass loss, the equivalent of a two-story building.
In the last decades, it has broken into two unconnected pieces. In 2011, a limestone outcrop emerged in the ice of the lower glacier. The stones, together with the dust from the Sahara, which comes in vast clouds, act as a radiator that accelerates the melting of the ice.
Paradores at the Pyrenees
At the foot of Monte Perdido, in the heart of the Huesca Pyrenees, you will find the Parador de Bielsa, a welcoming hotel where the views give away canvases of infinite color.
The sound of the rivers and the dynamic nature can also be felt in the Paradores de Vielha and Artíes, located in the heart of the Aran Valley, very close to the Baqueira-Beret station.