VAL D’ARAN

VAL D’ARAN

Some of the Catalan Pyrenees’ most dazzling peaks cluster around Val d’Aran, in the northwest comer of Catalufia. The Val d’Aran is best known for its chic ski resorts: the Spanish royal family’s favorite slopes are those of Baquiera-Beret. The Auberja Era Garona (HI) O, Ctra. de Vielha sn, a few kilometers away in the lovely town of Salardu, is accessible by shuttle bus (‚0.80) in high-season from Vielha. (973 64 52 71; eragarona@aran.org. Breakfast included. May-June and Sept.l6-Nov. ‚12, under-26 ‚11. Dec.-Apr. Sa and Su and Semana Santa ‚1916; Dec.-Apr. M-F and July-Sept. 15 ‚ 1613.) While you’re in town, don’t miss Salardu’s impressive 13th-century church, or the church’s incredible garden view. For skiing info, contact the Oficeria de Baquiera-Beret (973 64 44 55; fax 64 44 88).

The biggest town in the valley, Vielha (pop. 7,000) welcomes hikers and skiers to its lively streets with every service the outdoorsy type might desire. It’s only 12km from Baquiera-Beret; shuttle buses connect the two during July and August (schedules at the tourist office). Alsina Graells buses (973 27 14 70) also run to Barcelona (5!hr. 5:30am and 1:30pm, ‚24). The tourist office, C. Sarriulera 10, is one block upstream from the plaga. ( 973 64 01 10; fax 64 03 72. Open daily 9am-9pm.) Several inexpensive pensiones cluster at the end of C. Reiau, off Pg. Libertat (which intersects Av. Casteiro at PI. Sant Antoni); try Casa Vicenta 0 at C. Reiau 3. (973 64 08 19. Dec.-Semana Santa and July 15-Sept. 15 Singles ‚25; doubles ‚40. Off-season ‚ 1830. Closed Oct. and Nov.)

PARQUE NACIONAL DE 0RDESA. The beauty of Ordesa’s Aragonese Pyrenees will enchant even the most seasoned traveler; its well-maintained trails cut across idyllic forests, jagged rock faces, snow-covered peaks, rushing rivers, and magnificent waterfalls. Pay a cyber visit to www.ordesa.net for more info about the park. The Visitor Center is on the left, 1.8km past the park entrance. (Open Apr.-Sept. 15 daily 9am-l:30pm and 3-6pm.) The Soaso Circle is the most practical hike; frequent signposts clearly mark the 5hr. journey, which can be cut to a 2hr. loop. Enter the park through the village of Torla, where you can buy the indispensable Editorial Alpina guide (‚7.50). La Oscense (974 35 50 60) sends a bus from Jaca to Sabinanigo (20min. 2-3 per day, ‚1.30). Sabinanigo is also easily accessible by train; all trains on the Zaragoza-Huesca-Jaca line stop here. From there, Compama Hudebus (974 21 32 77) runs to Torla (55min. 1-2 per day, ‚2.50). During the high season, a bus shuttles between Torla and Ordesa (15min. 6am-7pm, ‚2). Off-season, you’ll have to hike the 8km to the park entrance or catch a Jorge Soler taxi ( 974 48 62 43; ‚12), which also offers van tours for up to

8 people. To exit the park area, catch the bus as it passes through Torla at 3:30pm on its way back to Sabinanigo. In the park, many refugios (mountain huts) allow overnight stays. In Torla, ascend C. Francia one block to reach Refugio L’Atalaya O, C. Francia 45 (974 48 60 22), and Refugio Lucien Briet O (974 48 62 21), across the street. (Both ‚8 per person.) Stock up at Supermercado Torla, on C. a Ruata. (Open May-Oct. daily 9am-2pm and 5-8:30pm; Nov.-Apr. closed Su.)

JACA. For centuries, pilgrims bound for Santiago would cross the Pyrenees into Spain, spend the night in Jaca (pop. 14,000), and be off the next morning. They had the right idea; Jaca is a great launching pad for the exploring the Pyrenees. RENFE trains ( 974 36 13 32) run from C. Estacion to Madrid (7hr. Su-F 1:45pm, ‚24) and Zaragoza (3hr. daily 7:30am and 6:45pm, ‚8.50). La Oscense buses ( 974 35 50 60) run to Pamplona (2hr. daily, ‚5.50) and Zaragoza (2hr. 3-4 per day, ‚9.50). The tourist office, Av. Regimiento de Galicia 2, is one block down from PI. de Cortes de Aragon. (974 36 00 98; www.aytojaca.es. Open July-Aug. M-F 9am-2pm and 4:30-8pm, Sa 9am-l:30pm and 5-8pm, Su 10am-l:30pm; Sept.-June M-F 9am-l:30pm and 4:30-7pm, Sa 10am-lpm and 5-7pm.) From the bus station, cross the park and head right past the church to the next plaza to find Hos-tal Paris , San Pedro 5, one of the best deals in town. (974 36 10 20; www.jaca.comhostalparis. July 15-Sept. 15 and Semana Santa singles ‚19; doubles ‚30; triples ‚41. Sept. 16-July 14 ‚182838.) Postal Code: 22700.

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