Why visit Ainsa?
The medieval hilltop village of Ainsa, 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 and from its commanding position the panoramic views it affords, especially across the La Peña Montañesa, take the breathe away. The town is also a wonderful base, especially for those with a car and a love for hiking, due to its proximity to the 4 national parks: Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido, Parque Natural de la Sierra de Guara, Valle de Pineta & Parque Posets Maladeta.
Ainsa’s history traces its way all the way to the 8th century, as people took refuge in the hills following the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsular. Organised by national hero Garci-Ximenez, the rag-tag army pushed back the invaders at the Battle of Sobrarbe, where today the Covered Cross stands as a monument.
Subsequently, Ainsa became the capital of the medieval kingdom of Sobrarbe and is often identified as the birthplace of the Kingdom of Aragon. Today’s Ainsa owes much of its present appearance to the early Middle Ages, when in the 11th century, a castle was constructed as part of a series of military fortifications across Spain‘s north coast and the medieval town grew up around it.
As the Middle Ages progressed, Ainsa was superseded in importance as the Reconquista (Reconquest) of Spain pushed south and the town started its slow decline. People left in search of work and opportunity and the town’s population shrank. Nowadays, Ainsa is slowly growing once again, supported by the ever increasing tourism sector.
The climate in Ainsa is generally warm and temperate but there is significant rainfall throughout the year. The average annual temperature is 11.4oC, in the summer months 19.7oC and the winter 3.6oC
The town’s most important festival la Morisma takes place on last weekend of August and is a popular recreation of the reconquest of the village from the Muslims by the Christian armies, helped according to legend by the apparition of a flaming cross on an oak tree. Other local festivals include the local patron day celebrations St. Sebastián: 19-20 January and Fiesta of Ainsa which takes place on the 1st Sunday in August.
Ainsa Monument & Sights guide
Welcome to Hitch-Hikers Handbook‘s Ainsa Monument & Sights Guide, as we show you all the best places to visit in the beautiful medieval hilltop village of Ainsa (Spain)…
La Cruz Cubierta
(The Covered Cross)
What is it? Monument marking the spot of the Battle of Sobrarbe
Where is it? Located 1.5km north of the Castle
Information: The circular shrine of the covered cross was built in 1655 in commemoration of Ainsa’s reconquest from the Muslims. Inside the small structure is a cross that can also be found on the Aragon coat of arms.
What is it? Central square of the medieval town
Where is it? At the end of Calle Mayor before the Castle at the end of the old town
Information: Constructed in the 12th century, Ainsa’s main square is a wonderful example of medieval architecture which, in its heyday, was the home to numerous markets and fairs. Its defining features are the Romanesque arched porches surrounded the open area, all slightly different from each other, and decorated with Arabic tiles. Interestingly, the square is also the home to two communal wine presses.
Iglesia de Santa María & Campanil
(St. Mary’s Church & Belfry)
Monument Type: Church
Address: Plaza Mayor, s/n
Opening Times: Summer: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Winter: 10 a.m. – 6.30 p.m.
Price: Church: Free Belfry: 1 €
Information: The simple and austere Iglesia de Santa Maria was constructed in the 11th – 12th centuries in the Romanesque style and in addition to the church also contains a tower, a cloister and a crypt. For wonderful views across the town and surrounding countryside, climb up the Belfry, for the cost of a Euro.
Castillo de Aínsa
What is it? 11Th-16th century castle and defensive walls
Where is it? Extreme east of Ainsa old town
Information: Originally constructed in the 11th century against the threat of Muslim invaders, the castle we see today is mostly a work of the 16th century reconstruction. Today, despite having fallen mostly into disrepair, the Castle is home an ecomuseum on local fauna and is the main location of the town festivals. Climb up and around the walls for some nice views across the sprawling countryside below.
Eco Museo-Centro de Aínsa
(Eco Museum of Ainsa)
Monument Type: Museum
Address: Castillo de Aínsa
Opening Times: Jan & Feb: closed March – May: Wed – Fri: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sat & Sun: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. & 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. Jul & Aug: Mon – Sun: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. & 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. Sep: Mon – Sun: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. & 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. Oct, Nov & Dec: Wed – Fri: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sat & Sun: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. & 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Price: General Admission: 4 € Family & Groups: 3 €
Information: The Eco Museum of Ainsa is located in an 11th century building in the south-west side of Ainsa Castle and is dedicated to showing the diverse Fauna and Nature of the Pyrenees. It comprises of twelve rooms dedicated to raising awareness of sustainable development and conservation of the environment as well a bird sanctuary for birds of prey.
Espacio del Geoparque de Sobrarbe
(Sobrarbe Geopark visitors centre)
Monument Type: Museum
Address: Castillo de Aínsa
Opening Times: Easter week & Jun – Oct: Fri – Tue: 9.30 a.m. – 2 p.m. & 4.30 p.m. – 7.30 p.m. Rest of the year: Fri – Sun: 9.30 a.m. – 2 p.m. & 4 p.m. – 7p.m.
Information: Located in one of the towers of Ainsa Castle, the Geopark focuses on the geological history of the Earth over the last 500 million years. It consists of four rooms and has spaces dedicated to the history of geology, with special emphasis on everything geological about the Pyrenees.
Staying in Ainsa in Spain on a budget is potentially a little tricky. There is one youth hostel, but it gets busy very quickly in the summer and places are at a premium. The other budget alternative is camping. Be warned, though, that prices are higher in the peak season (summer months).
Search for Ainsa’s cheapest accommodation (hostels, airbnb, home-stays etc.).
Albergue Mora de Nuei (Portal de Abajo 2) offers dormitory beds at 15-17€ and facilities include a terrace, kitchen, and WiFi zone. Breakfast costs an additional 3€.
El Camping Peña Montañesa (Ctra. Ainsa-Bielsa, Km 2) is the closest campsite to Ainsa at 2km north on the Bielsa road and in 2011 for 2 adults and a tent it cost 18€. There is a bar & restaurant on-site and a supermarket to pick up essentials and they also give you a free bottle of wine when you arrive.
Camping Boltaña (N-260 km 442) is located quite far out of Ainsa along the national road N-260. The Tariffs stretch from 4.10-6.75€ for an adult and for a tent: 4.55€ – 7.60€. Bar & restaurant, supermarket and sports facilities for youngsters and a swimming pool.
Camping Aínsa (Ctra. Aínsa – Campo, km 1,500) is the most economical of the campsites around Ainsa. For an adult it costs 5.50€ – 6€ and for a tent 5.50€ – 6€ a night. On-site there is a bar, restaurant, supermarket and a swimming pool.
WiFi in Ainsa can be a little tricky to find, with only a select number of bars & cafes offering the service. If you are desperate most hotels have a connection but expect to pay high prices for a drink.
Buses travel from Bielsa in the morning and to Biela in the evening (€3.20, 45 minutes) between three and six times weekly and are run by Aurocares Bergua. They also offer services to Sabinanigo, Barbastro and Broto, check here for timetables. The nationwide private coach service Alosa also run lines to Torla, Barbastro and Broto.
There is no train station in the town and the nearest one is still a far distance away in Huesca. Hitch-hiking or buses this time, I’m afraid.
Aínsa is situated on the crossroads of the east-west running N260 and north–south country road A-138.
Ainsa Hitchhiking out
Hitchhiking out of Ainsa is very easy, just walk a little out of the town in the direction you are heading, look for a safe place where drivers can pull over and start thumbing.
written by: Jon