Route of the Shrine of San Úrbez

  • Estimated time :1 h
  • Distance :2 km
  • Total Climb-descent :Climb: 222 m ; Descent: 205 m
  • Altitude :Maximun: 1.008 m ; Minimum: 925 m
  • Type :Circular
  • Difficulty :Easy.
  • Itinerary :Fully signposted and defined
  • Track/road type :The entire route is covered on foot.



Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park, San Úrbez Bridge, Shrine of San Úrbez, Añisclo Canyon, River Aso Waterfall.


Shrine of San Úrbez, Los Moros Cave.


The path we are about to take leads into one of the largest gorges in the Aragonese Pyrenees, the Añisclo Canyon. Thousands of people make their way up and down the gorge each year, drawn by the grandeur of the landscape, the overwhelming presence of water and the variety of its woodland and forests. Few would imagine, however, that this secret spot that was formerly almost inaccessible is home to some of the oldest traces left by humans in Sobrarbe. The Shrine of San Úrbez and Los Moros Cave are repositories of the memory of the earliest settlers in the Vio Valley during prehistoric times. As we take this route, we will try to reveal some of their secrets.

Road directions to starting point:
- In Aínsa, take the A-138 highway in the direction of Bielsa and France. In Escalona, take the turn-off onto the HU-631 in the direction of Puyarruego. Climb the Las Cambras pass, where the River Bellós wends its way (the lower stretch of the Añisclo Canyon). Park your car in the San Úrbez car park. In the summer, this road is one-way only, upwards.
- If you are travelling from France, you must go through the Aragnouet-Bielsa Tunnel. Follow the A-138 highway and go through Bielsa and Lafortunada. In Escalona, take the HU-631 main road in the direction of the Añisclo Canyon.
- You can also come via the River Ara Valley. In Sarvisé, take the HU-63 main road in the direction of Fanlo. Carry on along the same road for 11 km till you come to San Úrbez car park.

Starting point: San Úrbez car park.

This is a simple and enjoyable circular route that takes an hour to complete. It makes its way through the Añisclo Canyon which, together with the Pineta, Ordesa and Escuaín valleys, form the backbone of Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park.
In 1997, the Monte Perdido massif, which straddles the border between Spain and France, was declared World Heritage by UNESCO in recognition of the beauty and character of its natural and cultural landscapes that are indebted to a socioeconomic structure that dates back far into the past and illustrates ways of mountain life that are disappearing in Europe.

The signposting is very clear along the entire route, as it is part of National Park network of paths. Various information panels along the way give insights into the various aspects of this special spot.

Once you have parked your vehicle in the car park, walk along the highway for some 250 m in the direction of Escalona till you come to the start of the path that leads to the Shrine of San Úrbez. An information panel and a chain that bars the way mark the starting point.

After a short descent, you come to the old San Úrbez Bridge, built out of limestone over the steep and deep course of the River Bellos. Alongside it is a modern bridge that carries people and vehicles today.

The path continues northwards alongside a stone wall, from where you will be able to see the confluence of the River Aso (straight ahead) and the River Bellós (to the right).

Fifteen minutes after leaving the car park, you come to the Shrine of San Úrbez. For centuries, this was a place of worship for all the residents of the Vio Valley. It was built by making the most of a natural cave situated 10 m above the track. Stop and enjoy the alliance of rock, water and tradition in this lovely spot.

Leave the shrine and continue along the same path. Pause when you come to San Úrbez Spring, as the start of the path that we must now take is in front of it. Hazelnut trees and box scrub line the way as you descend. Eventually you reach the floor of the canyon, where a bridge crosses the River Bellós.

The path continues on the right bank of the river. After a gentle climb, you come to a small vantage point that offers a new view of the spot where the River Aso flows into the Bellós. At this point, the path makes its way into the River Aso Valley, dominated by wild pine and oak woodland. Box remains the most abundant shrubby tree in the undergrowth. Until the mid-20th century, many families in the Vio Valley earned a living by making domestic utensils, such as spoons and forks, from its prized wood.

The route leads to another vantage point, from which you have an unexpected and magnificent view of Aso Waterfall and the old flourmill. Unfortunately, little has survived of that image immortalised by the French traveller Lucien Briet in 1910, when the waters of the river still powered the mill machinery.

A final descent brings us to the metal walkway over the Aso Waterfall. There are no words to describe the beauty of this place. The water rushes into the void down a deep fissure in the rock, making a deafening noise. In places such as this, the force of nature is overwhelming and makes humankind seem insignificant in comparison.

Still entranced, we must leave this place. Make your way back over the metal walkway and follow the path to the left. Before continuing, you also have the option of going to Los Moros Cave, but to do so you must pay careful attention not to miss the path, which heads off to the right, as there are no signposts to show the way. The path wends its way through thick box scrub and up a steep hillside. After a five-minute climb, you come to Los Moros Cave. As the ground here is slippery, be cautious. You must also be careful not to disturb the beauty and natural values of this place. The cave is of great archaeological value, since it was here in 1970 that a deer antler was found that showed clear signs of having been manipulated by someone who lived in the valley in Palaeolithic times (35000-10000 BC).

Retrace your steps back to the previous junction. The path continues along the right bank of the River Aso Valley, bringing us, after a gentle climb, back to San Úrbez car park.


Walking boots.