Val d-Aran is a valley situated in the Spanish Pyrennes, in the northwestern province of Leida, Catalonia’s northern region. It has a rich heritage and a unique language called Aranese, a dialect of Occitan or the old romantic language of the south of France.
The architecture is very distinct with buildings made of grey stone, slate and wood, in a Gothic and Romanesque style. Val d’aran is also famous for its many churches. The church spires are prominent in the small villages that are huddled in the valley.
The valley is surrounded by mountains and peaks, some over 3000m metres and there are many lakes. It is a hidden jewel and a haven for hikers, bird watchers, mountain bikers and anyone that loves the great outdoors. The ski area of Baquiera/ Beret and Bonaigua is exceptional and a well kept secret attracting mostly Spanish tourists.
The gastronomy of Val dAran straddles Spanish and French mountain cuisine with a big emphasis on all the local products including meat, game, sausage, local trout and cheeses, all hearty and rustic. Gratefully welcomed after a days skiing. The local must try dish is ‘Olha Aranesa’ a warming winter stew of meat, sausage, vegetables and legumes.
Braseria Eth Triton Arties
A quirky restaurant with a wooden interior and Aranese ambiance, serving local specialities. Middle to high price range but worth the extra expense. The roomy upstairs restaurant contains artefacts from the surrounding area however the downstairs setting is much smaller and more intermate. Specialities include the Beef Chuleton from their charcoal grill or the local Duck breast. seafood options include seabass, mussels, or fish of the day baked in the oven. Warm attentive service and great attention to detail.
Taverna Urtau Arties
A meeting point and epi centre of Atries located in the centre of the village. The taverna serves local tapas known as Vasau Pintxos and other specialities. The long bar is laden with the different combinations of tasty morsels called pinchos. You will find all the usual suspects of a Spanish tapa bar such as ham croquettes, baby squid and the famous padrons peppers as well as local artisan cheeses such as Eth gran and Butifarra sausage other interesting combinations such as chorizo and quails eggs and more mountain specialities. The concept is to grab a plate and load it up with the bite size skewers. When you pay the bill the waiter counts up your sticks and based on an honestly system you are charged accordingly to what you have consumed.
All i Oli -Vielha
Cool, cosy and family run. The gregarious owner loves to entertain. The menu was typical of the region (no false advertising with a name like All i Oli). Hearty portions with respect to all the local ingredients. The menu gave credit to all the regional specialities. A must try is the local liquor Patxaran made with sloes and cinnamon, it is sweet and sticky and the perfect digestive after a hearty meal.
Casa Jimena – Vielha
Set in a 200 year old borda on the main street of carrer Mayor next to the fast flowing Garona river, Casa Jimena exudes the tradition of Val d’aran. The interior is as authentic as the the exterior. Visible to the public is a large Argentinian style charcoal grill which produces the in house speciality of Grilled Vegetables and Carne a la Brasa. Pan Cristal and Caracoles are two more recommended dishes. The wine list is extensive, the seating is intermate, well worth a visit.
La Pleta Hotel – La Pleta
The hotel is privileged to be situated right by the slopes and is constructed in the typical Aranese style of a stone building. There are four restaurants in the hotel, Del gel Al Foc for fine dining, La Pleta Sushi for sushi, tempura and Japanese food. La Petit Borda for casual continental dining and a Racletteria serving the traditional Raclette, it comes complete with sheepskin rugs for an authentic experience.
The breakfast buffet is by far the best in the valley, we were greeted by platters of Iberia ham, fresh baked breads, pancakes, churros and croissants. No Spanish breakfast buffet is complete without the manchego cheese station with the olive oil, garlic and crushed tomato to be rubbed onto toasted bread. Platters of smoked salmon, freshly squeezed juice and eggs to order were just some more of the things on offer. A Perfect way to start the day on the slopes.