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17 julio 2024

The Pyrenees, beyond the snow: tourism for everyone in a unique space

The Pyrenees is snow, but it is also much more than that. Although one of its most popular attractions are still its ski resorts, which each year attract thousands of visitors to the area, the mountain range has many more attractions to enjoy throughout the year and adapted to all tastes. A bet that, moreover, in the current times of uncertainty in the face of climate change, is intelligent and shows the richness of a unique environment.

An example of its potential -and its reality- is that, a few months ago, Huesca La Magia, the tourism promotion brand of the Provincial Council of Huesca, received the award for best adventure tourism destination in Europe at the World Travel Awards, considered the ‘Oscars of tourism’, which were held in October.

Those who know the Pyrenees, however, will not find this recognition strange, given the possibilities it offers to visitors looking for adventure. Circuits for mountain biking, hiking, paragliding, water sports, a National Park such as Ordesa and Monte Perdido, the Aneto and the rest of the ‘three thousand’ high Aragonese … In addition to other projects that are incorporated into the range of the province.

A slide in the mountain

One of them is the slide of three kilometers long and 700 meters of height difference that is designed in Panticosa. This municipality, widely known for its ski resort, is an example of adaptation to a tourism that transcends the snow, without losing sight of the wealth offered by its winter enclave.

Its mayor, Jesús María Uriz, tells Go Aragón that the toboggan is a “star project” for the municipality, bringing to the Aragonese Pyrenees a type of installation that already works successfully in countries like Austria or Switzerland. Of the initiative, currently in public exhibition, he hopes that construction will begin this year, in the months of April or May, and that it can be ready before the end of 2024 or in the spring of next year. “It is going to be very important,” Uriz emphasizes about this project included in the Pyrenees Plan, with which the autonomous Executive seeks to socially and economically revitalize the valleys of the four northernmost regions of Aragon.

Footbridges in Panticosa. PHOTOGRAPH: hormigas_x_elmundo

The Panticosa toboggan will thus join the catalog of an environment that, according to the alderman, has been seeking to diversify its offer for years. The hiking trails designed for the area, its walkways or downhill mountain bike circuits are some of these attractions. The latter, in addition, use the gondola lifts of the winter resort to make the ascent, which is an advantage compared to other places where you have to climb the equipment with an all-terrain vehicle. “There are a lot of fans of downhill mountain biking who come to Panticosa because of the great advantage of being able to go up in the gondola lift,” Uriz points out. In fact, the town has already hosted national competitions and now aspires to hold a world championship.

The summer operation of the gondola lifts, by the way, is also an attraction for summer tourists who want to enjoy the lakes that await in the heights. And, beyond that, the beauty of the town itself or its spa are other surprises awaiting the newcomer. “We have a very diversified offer; here the tourist can come and in three or four days not repeat each of these experiences, which is very interesting,” summarizes the mayor of a municipality that seeks to continue in the line of offering alternatives and experiences throughout the year.

The floating stage of Pirineos Sur.

Music as a lure

In addition to nature, the cultural offer is also on the tourism agenda in Alto Aragon. One of the most paradigmatic cases is the Pirineos Sur festival, held in Sallent de Gállego in the middle of the summer season, which in its thirty editions has brought the best world music to the Lanuza reservoir. The mayor of the municipality, Jesús Gericó, defines this festival as “the best showcase that Sallent can have”. A musical and natural proposal that, among other virtues, has a unique floating stage.

Gericó also highlights the town’s readiness to welcome visitors in summer and the range of possibilities it offers: a privileged location, very close to the border with France, the excursions that can be made in its natural environment, such as the Balaitús peak or the Anayet, water activities to practice in the reservoir … “It is a place to enjoy family vacations perfectly,” he says.

In his story, the alderman brings up an issue increasingly present, the marked heat in summer and how many people seek climatic shelters to spend their vacations. In this context, the Aragonese Pyrenees is postulated as a perfect option, thanks to its nature, its climate and its preparation to receive visitors. On this issue, Gericó recalls that it was from the pandemic when many people knew the mountain as an alternative to the beach to enjoy the summer. “They realized the charm of the Pyrenees as such, it has been a discovery,” he adds.

Sallent de Gállego. PHOTO: Lorena Gonzalvo

The treasure of Alto Aragonese gastronomy.

A discovery that adds to other possibilities in the area, such as its gastronomy, with establishments like Vidocq, in Formigal, very close to Sallent. In this culinary offer, the province has four Michelin stars, two of them in the Pyrenees. One, the one held by El Callizo, in Aínsa, and the other, the one recently achieved by Canfranc Express, the restaurant of the mythical Canfranc train station, which is, by the way, another of the great Pyrenean attractions.

Entrance to the Canfranc International Station.

That taste for the good cuisine of the province also expands to the capital, which has two Michelin-starred businesses (Lillas Pastia and Tatau) and a sweet route with professionals such as Raul Bernal, elected best master chocolatier of Spain in 2023. A success to which has recently been added the one harvested by the chef Iris Jordán, who has won the first prize in the Official Spanish Catering Championship – Tapas and Pinchos held in the context of Madrid Fusion. The chef, precisely, works in the heart of the Pyrenees, in the restaurant Ansils, in the municipality of Anciles.

Gastronomy, historical heritage such as the one that awaits in places like Jaca or Aínsa, and natural, adventure, snow… the Pyrenees is, in short, a place to enjoy at any time of the year, both for foreigners and locals, because, as Gericó says: “The potential of Aragón is much more important than we Aragonese believe”.

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