Aínsa, Spain [travel guide]
The medieval hilltop village of Aínsa, looming high above the modern town below, is a stunning example of a place that time forgot. As you walk around its perfectly preserved stone buildings, it’s impossible to believe it isn’t the set of a period drama. From its commanding position the panoramic views it affords take the breathe away.
Situated 96km from Huesca and with just over 2000 inhabitants, Aínsa, according to its legend, was founded in 724 by Rey Garcí Ximénez after a vision of a burning cross. What is historical fact is that the Castillo de Aínsa (Aínsa Castle) dates back to the 11th century and formed part of the defence network on the borders of the Christian territories. The Iglesia parroquial de Santa María (Saint Mary´s Church) whose towers offer glorious views over the surrounding countryside, also dates to this period.
The best way to explore the town is simply to set out on foot, checking out the artisan shops on route, and delving into the hidden alleyways and corners. The old town is based around two parallel streets calle Major and calle Santa Cruz which run down to Plaza Mayor and onto the remains of the castle. There are steps leading up to the old town from Avenida Ordesa and parking on top for those with cars.
In July, a month long musical festival takes place in the castle grounds. The tourist information centre is in the new town and provides a basic map as well as hotel and camping information.
The town is relatively easy to hitchhike out from with one road leading north towards Bielsa and beyond that France. The road out west leads to Torla, an ideal base from which to hike in the nearby Parque Nacional de Ordesa. The road across the bridge leads south towards Barbastro onto Lleida. Simply walk until the edge of town, find a safe place, and start.
The campsite Peña Montañesa (tel – 974 500 032 email – firstname.lastname@example.org) is 2km north of Aínsa on the Bielsa road. For 2 people, with a tent and without a car it costs €18 with a free bottle of wine thrown in. There is a shop, bar and swimming pool facilities on the grounds.
written by: Jon