We had soooo much fun exploring the Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park in Aragon, Spain. However, I realize that some folks prefer to have a more relaxed holiday; And that hiking for 10+hours each day might not be everyone’s cup of tea! Well, if you fancy a more relaxing way to explore the area near the Ordesa Canyon or you like visiting picturesque Pyrenean villages you should take a look at Aínsa, Broto and Torla-Ordesa. These beautiful medieval villages are all located in Huesca province, in the Aragon region of Spain, surrounded by the Pyrenees. You don’t have to choose between them. It is easy to visit all three villages, even on the same day.
Torla-Ordesa is the closest village to Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park. So it is the perfect place to stay if you’d like to go for day hikes in Ordesa. The village is at an elevation of 1033m and is centered around a church, Iglesia de San Salvador. The church has a tunnel right under it so you can cross the village without climbing through all the small winding roads. We loved that view of the Mondarruego cliffs from the village. In the late afternoon, those cliffs look incredible because they glow as the sun sets.
Torla-Ordesa’s Chruch – Iglesia de San Salvador
The church was damaged during the Spanish Civil war. It was then reconstructed in the 1950s, and finished off in the 1990s. When we visited it was closed and locked, but there is a pretty garden with fantastic views for the surrounding valley.
Ermita de Santa Lucía
We found a second church, Ermita de Santa Lucía, at the top of the hill in Torla. This one is up near the farms so has fabulous views.
Over the years Torla has adapted itself to cater for tourists, with plenty of hotels, campsites and places to eat. Still, it is a really charming place to explore, with thin alleyways, plenty of cats and even a stream running right through the center.
Just be aware if you stay here, you might get woken up very early in the morning by cow-bells as the cows walk through the village. The photo below is the view from our patio when we stayed in Torla-Ordesa. Pretty good eh!?
We first visited Broto on our second day of epic hikes near Ordesa. The first thing you’ll notice about this village is the massive waterfall, Cascada de Sorrosal, that cascades down the canyon behind the village. Broto is a little larger than Torla-Ordesa. To us, it seemed slightly less touristy, and a bit more lived in. We visited on a Wednesday morning, and the center was filled with a market selling tasty-looking cheeses and meats.
Broto’s Church – Iglesia de San Pedro
The center of Broto is a bit of a maze, with this church, Iglesia de San Pedro in the middle. The church tower doesn’t look too imposing from afar, but when you stand in front of it, it seemed massive!
Like in Torla-Ordesa, Mondarruego mountain looms above Broto, making a fantastic back-drop for any photos you take of the village.
Walk between Torla-Ordesa and Broto
If you have a little extra time, there is a really pleasant walk between Torla-Ordesa and Broto, along the Camino de Torla, by the river. The path is just over 3km. So it’s relaxing (not too long) with pretty views of both villages. Just be aware, if you’re not a fan of hiking, it is less effort to walk from Torla to Broto, (compared to the other way) as that direction is downhill most of the way.
Cascada de Sorrosal
The highlight in Broto was the gorgeous waterfall, Cascada de Sorrosal. We parked in the huge car park on the edge of Broto then walked over. The walk is less than a kilometer, with just over 100m elevation gain. It would be easy for children (or grannies) right up until the via ferrata viewpoint. When we visited a rock-fall had destroyed the stairs, but you can still clamber over to the waterfall.
I loved looking at the rock formations! You can really see the fault lines where the rocks have been folded to create the Pyrenees.
Via Ferrata in Broto
If you’d like to get even closer, you can try via Ferrata climbing in Broto! After we’d finished exploring the waterfall, we spent some time watching people climb up the amazing-looking via ferrata route next to Broto’s waterfall. It looks pretty scary, but apparently it is a good route for beginners – just if you want to give it a try, go with a guide who has all the correct equipment!
When we drove through the beautiful medieval village of Aínsa, we HAD to stop and look around. We could see there was a castle on top of the hill, and it all looked too pretty *not* to take a peek. It was only later that I realized that before our trip, Marc’s dad mentioned that on our drive to Ordesa, we should definitely stop at the beautiful medieval village of Aínsa. We stopped here on a whim before we realized we were already planning to stop here!
We parked on the far side of the village, crossed the Río Ara and then hiked up the hill to the castle. Marc and I both needed to stretch our legs, but if you don’t like walking up hills, you can drive up and park at the castle.
I loved all the medieval alleyways, doors and signs in Aínsa. Most buildings have been restored, keeping the original style of the village, so it is beautiful. I imagine it is full of tourists in the summertime, but it was peaceful and quiet in September.
Iglesia Parroquial de Santa María church
Once you’ve made it near the top of the hill, Aínsa opens out into a large market square, with Iglesia Parroquial de Santa María church as the focus point.
In the summertime, several of the restaurants put umbrellas and tables out in the square, so it is a pleasant place to relax, watch the local cats and grab a bite to eat. We loved it so much that we came back a few days later so my parents could see it too. Apparently this historic area of Aínsa was mostly abandoned in the 19th-20th centuries, as most residents lived at the bottom of the hill. That is why the medieval buildings are so well preserved.
Castillo de Aínsa – Aínsa Castle
My favourite part of Aínsa was the castle on top of the hill, mostly because it is the highest point so has fab views of the surrounding mountains. Most of the castle is in ruins, but you can walk around the ramparts.
I loved this view from the end of the ramparts over to another church tower on top of a hill.
We didn’t spend a huge amount of time in any of these Pyrenees villages (as we were so keen to be out hiking) but hopefully my photos will give you an idea about how charming they all are. Which one would you like to visit most?