The roads we are driving along the Spanish French border twist and turn so much around the forbidding mountains its difficult to imagine we are going in anything but circles. Not much moves these monolithic pillars of Aragón, one of Spain’s most scenic gems. It is tempting to pull over on one of the narrow roads for a picture but the drops are too precarious.
Suddenly atop a smaller mountaintop we arrive to the panoramic village of Aínsa and it is as raw and authentic as its rugged surroundings. Cut straight out of the rock, it has a sense of authenticity and magic that is as old as its origins. Since it is a summer’s day it is a bit more overrun by tourism than we’d like, but that still doesn’t diminish the charm.
From the main roadway one might breeze by the modern part of Aínsa without ever knowing its fascinating charm. It sits at the confluence of two rivers that flow out from the Pyrenees: the Ara and Cinca. Simply follow the signs to the historic center and it is possible to find affordable parking atop the mountain outside the traditional walls.
Once you’ve parked the path into town is obvious and grand. A flat, stadium like area for festivals is surrounded by a lovely medieval wall. From this perch, you’ll have commanding panoramas of the mountains, particularly the great rock bastion of La Peña Montañesa across the valley.
It immediately becomes noticeable that there are two parts to the village: quiet narrow streets where homes and churches let summer breezes come and go from their windows and slightly rowdier restaurants where visitors take in the delights of Spanish cuisine while people watching and staying out of the high summer sun.
It is simply a pleasure to wander about the quiet streets and catch an amazing glimpse of a panoramic overlook. The restaurant offerings can be a delightful way to sample the local fare, but an equally inviting opportunity is to take up space on one of the many picnic areas and enjoy lunch at one’s own pace.