Route: Vielha – Vielha Tunnel -Hospital de Vielha - Conangles
CAR TRIP + FAMILY WALK (Bosque de Conangles and Cascada de Molières)
TYPE OF LANDSCAPE:
This is the only Aranese valley whose waters flow into the Noguera Ribagorçana, and also one of the largest beech and fir forests on the Iberian Peninsula.
The combination of different shades of green creates unique light effects in summer, while the oranges and browns of autumn are a photographer’s dream. The route begins near the southern exit of the Vielha Tunnel, close to Hospital de Vielha and the Conangles mountain hut, with the Noguera Ribagorçana river winding its way among the thick trunks of hundred-year-old firs. Looking up, you’ll see the Tuc de Molières (3010 m) towering over the idyllic landscape: it is one of the Val d’Aran’s most popular summits among serious mountaineers.
This area is the start point for many walks to areas of exceptional interest, including the buffer zone that surrounds the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park.
· The Hospital de Vielha refuge, also known as Sant Nicolau deth Pontelhs, which stands at the southern end of the tunnel, was once the last habitation before travellers set out to cross the Viella pass.
· Another local landmark is the Ermita de Santa Quiteria, where a popular pilgrimage takes places every year on 22 May.
· 2.5 km from the southern exit of the Viella Tunnel, on the N-230, you’ll find a large and fully equipped picnic area, called Conangles, at the head of the Noguera Ribagorçana river, with plenty of tables, barbecues, etc.
Other worthwhile walks from Conangles include:
1.- Pòrt de Vielha: (2423m): HIGH MOUNTAIN WALK
The “Camino Natural” of the Pòrt de Vielha revives a natural route that was used by the local population in the past to travel and transport goods between the regions of Aran and La Ribagorza.
The start of the route is the southern end of the Vielha tunnel, on the N-230, where signposts indicate the path. It follows the waymarks of the GR-211-5, making its way over the pass for 16,5 km and gaining and losing height dramatically, until it reaches Vielha after passing through some of the most characteristic ecosystems of the Catalan Pyrenees.
2.- Cascada de Molières:
TYPE OF LANDSCAPE:
A lovely walk suitable for all the family, which reaches the Molières waterfall in only 30 minutes.
3.- Waterfall and high lakes of Besiberri, flanked by Besiberri Norte and Besiberri Sur, two of the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park’s 3000 m peaks.
4.- Pòrt de Rius above Hospital de Vielha heading north.
In July 1924, the people of the Val d’Aran took advantage of a visit by King Alfonso XIII of Spain to make a formal plea for the construction of a tunnel that would improve communications to the valley: during the winter, they would be completely cut off.
Work began that same year, but before long it ground to a halt, and it was not until 1941 that it was resumed, using the forced labour of Republican prisoners after the Civil War.
Finally, in 1948, the tunnel was completed, with an altitude gain of 200 m and a total length of 5 km. The people of the Val d’Aran would continue to use the Port de Vielha to transport goods to the rest of Spain.
The new, modernised tunnel was opened in 2007.