Val d’Aran is located in the Central Pyrenees and it has the characteristic of an Atlantic slope valley; due to this, its main river, the Garona, makes its way through Aquitaine lands and flows into Bordeaux (France).
Val d’Aran has an extension of 620 km and 30% of its territory is above 2.000 m of altitude. It borders France to the North (Ariège), Alta Ribagorça and Aragón to the South, Pallars Sobirà to the East and once again Aragón (Benasque) and France (Haut Garonne) to the West.
The high mountains that surround the valley form a natural barrier conditioning its climatology and also defining both the relationship with other towns and its own history. The constant flow of the Garona waters to France, through the less mountainous landscape of Baish Aran, has been, during centuries, the only real open passage that has maintained and consolidated the Occitan language and culture in this valley, which is administratively integrated in Catalonia.
In the 14th century the Aranese people finally decided to stay under the Catalonian-Aragonese crown, whose King (James II) granted the privilege of the Querimònia in return, by means of honouring its administrative and organizational autonomy with “conselhers” (counselors) and its “Sindic” (trustee). Another example of the close relationship with the neighbouring country is that, in spite of the above mentioned, Val d’Aran continued under the ecclesiastical dominion of the Bishopric of Comenge (France) until the end of the 18th century.
We can’t forget that the mountain passes connecting the valley with Catalonia and Aragón were both inaccessible during the harsh winters and very difficult to pass during the rest of the year. The road to the Bonaigua mountain pass was open in 1924 and it allowed the connection with Catalonia. Nevertheless, it was in 1948 when the tunnel of Vielha opened a massive passageway for vehicles, thus allowing a connection with the Spanish territory the whole year round.