Getty Images/Westend61

Val d'Aran

Catalonia’s northernmost region, famous for its plunging valleys and snowy peaks huddled up against the French border, is an adventure playground for skiers and snowboarders. The Baqueira-Beret-Bonaigua pistes and Arties' luxe hotels lure the winter-sports jet-set, while charming villages like Salardú enchant hikers with views of cloud-scraping mountains. Walkers can head over the mountains in any direction, notably southward to the Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici.

The Val d'Aran was inaccessible until the 1948 completion of a 5km tunnel connecting its main town, Vielha, to the rest of Spain. A surge in tourism development followed, enabling the world to explore this spectacular region of tumbling valleys, stone-and-slate villages and notable Romanesque churches.

Thanks in part to its geography, the Val d'Aran’s native language is not Catalan but Aranese (Aranés), a dialect of Occitan or the langue d’oc, the old Romance language of southern France.