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The Aran Valley ( ; ; ) is a small valley (620.47 km²) in the Pyreneesmarker mountains and a comarca in the northwestern part of Cataloniamarker (Spainmarker). Most of the valley constitutes the only part of Catalonia on the north face of the Pyrenees, hence the only part of Catalonia whose waters drain into the Atlantic Oceanmarker. The region is characterized by an Atlantic climate, due to its peculiar orientation, which is different from other valleys in the area.

The Aran Valley borders Francemarker on the north, Aragónmarker to the west and the Catalanmarker comarques of Alta Ribagorçamarker to the south and Pallars Sobiràmarker to the east. The capital of the comarca is Vielhamarker, with 3,692 inhabitants (1996). The entire population of the valley is about 7,130 (1996). The Garonnemarker river passes through the Aran Valley 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 Aran Valley which is one of the highest valleys of the Pyrenees. The Noguera Pallaresamarker, with its head only a hundred meters from that of the Garona, flows the other way, toward the Mediterraneanmarker.

The Aran Valley 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 guerrilla (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 language 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.

Maps and road signs in Spain use the name "era Val d'Aran" to refer to the valley, where era is the Aranese singular feminine article as a part of the name. The same practice goes for all towns and other locations in Aran, for example Aranese spelling Vielha is used instead of Catalan and Spanish Viella to refer to the capital of Val d'Aran.

Basque toponyms show that Basque was spoken further along the Pyrenees than today. An example is the Aran Valley since haran itself is the Basque word for "valley". However, the growing influence of Latin began to drive Basque out from the less mountainous portions of the region.

Government and economy

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The area is divided in six administrative divisions, called terçons (meaning "thirds", as the divisions were formerly three in number). The current arrangement of the divisions dates from the 15th century.

The main income is from ski resorts in the winter, and from tourism in the summer. Other primary sectors of the economy include forest products, cattle raising and apiculture, all of which have become less and less important since the opening of ski resorts.


These population figures are from January 1, 2006 (source: Spanish INE).


Many native animals of the Vall d'Aran are in peril of extinction. There are programs of reintroduction and/or protection for:


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