tThe Baqueira Beret ski resort is one of the biggest in the country. SUR

Val d'Aran winter attractions: snow, culture and food

Falling temperatures and the first flakes of snow mark the start of the season in the versatile Val d'Aran

M. AGUILERA

The Val d'Aran, located in the province of Lleida is a destination where subzero temperatures and snow slurries are embraced eagerly by snow sport and rural tourism enthusiasts.

The Baqueira Beret ski resort is one of the biggest resorts in the peninsula and probably one of the best due to its northerly location which means that snowfall is more abundant. Many consider it to be one of Spain's best winter resorts due to the variety of services, the abundance of lifts and the seemingly infinite ski slopes.

Located in Lleida, in the Catalonian Pyrenees, the resort is perfect for skiers of all abilities, as well as freeride and snowboard aficionados, sledging, hikers and cross-country skiers. It is also a great place for families thanks to its range of slopes which cater to all ability levels and its dedicated children's area.

This small but stunning Pyrenean retreat acts like a magnet, attracting thousands of visitors each year

Baqueira Beret is also famous for its lively 'après ski', the highly awaited moment at the end of the day when skiers abandon the slopes and kick off their boots to enjoy good food and evening entertainment.

The culinary offering, leisure and well-being facilities make it one of the most interesting winter resorts in Spain. It is without a doubt the best reward after an action-packed day of climbing, descending and slipping on the slopes.

A true paradise

Although Baqueira Beret's ski slopes are the main attraction in the Val d'Aran, the region has lots more on offer. The Aigüestortes i Estany de Saint Maurici national park is the only national park in the Catalonia region. It is known for having more than 200 glacial lakes interspersed between its mountain peaks, some of which reach nearly 3,000 metres. a true paradise for hikers and nature lovers.

Walking routes

The best way to explore the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici national park is by foot. There is plenty of choice for the keen explorer. This national park is packed with a variety of routes which cater to all tastes and abilities. There are easier routes which take only a few hours, such as the Nutria path, but also more complex courses that can take a few days, such as the Carros de Foc route.

In the Val d'Aran area, there are some of the most famous routes. The circular Circo de Colomers route around the lakes is an easy path which all members of the family can enjoy.

For those who are more experienced, there is the Estany de La Restanca and Lac de Mar route, a linear 12km route with some steep gradients and elevation.

Románico route

One of the best kept secrets in the Catalonian Pyrenees is the Románico route. This path allows visitors to discover the history of the valley through an exploration of its unique and beautiful architecture.

Culture

The 15 churches on this route are real gems, not just because of their construction, but also for the paintings, sculptures and wood carvings found inside the buildings. However, only five of them are considered true Aranese Romance masterpieces. The five include Sant Miquèu de Vielha, Santa Maria d'Arties, Sant Andrèu de Salardú, Era Mair de Diu dera purificación de Bossòst and the Santa Eulàlia d'Unha.

Although many of these churches have been reconstructed, the rich cultural and historical heritage remains intact with detailed sculptural decoration and bell towers, the stamp which seals the Romance identity of this Pyrenean retreat.

Gastronomic destination

The unique Romance architectural legacy and breathtaking landscapes do not overshadow the region's third main attraction: The Aranese cuisine. Known beyond the Catalan border, it uses traditional recipes to make mouthwatering dishes using local produce.

The most famous dish is the Aranese stew, a filling and warming dish made of meat, vegetables and sometimes a handful of noodles. The stew is perfect for recuperating warmth after a day out in the subzero winter temperatures. The rich lamb and beef stews, trout, mushrooms, and flame grilled game dishes cannot be left off the list of the region's finest delicacies.

This small but stunning Pyrenean retreat acts like a magnet, attracting thousands of visitors every year, seducing them with breathtaking landscapes, cultural heritage, food and plenty of fun.

There is no doubt that visiting the Val d'Aran is a good choice at any time of year, but in winter, it has an extra special charm that cannot be replicated anywhere else.