Aran Valley

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The Val d'Aran (Occitan: Era Val d'Aran; Catalan: la Vall d'Aran; Spanish: El Valle de Arán) is a Spanish valley (620.47 km²) in the Pyrenees mountains and a comarca (county) in the northwestern part of the province of Lleida, in Catalonia, northern Spain. Most of the valley constitutes the only part of Spain, and of Catalonia, on the north face of the Pyrenees, hence the only part of Catalonia whose waters drain into the Atlantic Ocean. The region is characterized by an Atlantic climate, due to its peculiar orientation, which is different from other valleys in the area.

The Val d'Aran borders France on the north, the Spanish Autonomous Community of Aragón to the west and the Catalan comarques of Alta Ribagorça to the south and Pallars Sobirà to the east. The capital of the comarca is Vielha, with 3,692 inhabitants (1996). The entire population of the valley is about 7,130 (1996). The Garonne river passes through the Val d'Aran after rising on the slopes of nearby Pic Aneto and passing underground at the Trou de Toro. It then reappears in the Val dera Artiga as a resurgence and flows into the Val d'Aran which is one of the highest valleys of the Pyrenees. The Noguera Pallaresa, with its head only a hundred meters from that of the Garona, flows the other way, toward the Mediterranean.

The Val d'Aran used to be without direct communication with the south side of the mountains during winter, until the construction of the Vielha tunnel, opened in 1948. Spanish Republican guerrillas (supporters of the Second Spanish Republic, the losing side in the Spanish Civil War) controlled the area from the end of World War II until the opening of the tunnel.


Name and local language

Aranese is the standardized form of the Gascon variety of the Occitan language. The name Val d'Aran is Aranese. "Val d'Aran" itself is a pleonasm, as it means Valley of the Valley (val in Gascon and aran from Basque haran), a combination that reflects its unique geography. Aranese has been regularly taught at school since 1984. Like several other minority languages in Europe that recently faced decline, Aranese is experiencing a renaissance.

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