We spent 3 nights and 2 full days in Ainsa, Spain – a medieval town in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees – and y’all it was BEAUTIFUL. Ainsa is geared toward cyclists (primarily enduro riders, with lots of road riding and a little bit of cross country mountain biking sprinkled in) with opportunities for hiking and canyoning as well.
I tried to limit my packing on this trip so you’ll see my looks from Ainsa centered around Lysande’s “Indigo” Maxi wire headband, “Sangria” mini wire headband, “Jute” maxi wire headband, and a “Sunburst” mini wire headband that I embroidered in Ainsa with a sangria colored thread. These headbands are my absolute favorite travel accessory – they’re the perfect way to add style and color to every look, and they’re so comfortable that I can nap in them when I find myself getting sleepy in between adventures.
Find my top picks for Ainsa below, followed by our complete itinerary.
Where to Stay
- Hotel Apolo: This hotel was made for mountain bikers! The garage level has a large designated area where cyclists can assemble, maintain, and clean their bikes – complete with a water hose and compressed air – and a separate area accessible only by guests for bike storage. When the owner saw the bike bag in our stack of luggage he eagerly handed us a trail map!
Where to eat
My first time in Spain, the size and number of restaurant menus at each establishment was completely new and overwhelming for me. There are fixed price menus, a la carte menus, and then the unspoken menu where everything is available by request.
- Restaurante Braseria Alberto in Plaza Mayor.
- Pizzeria la Tea: If you’re suffering from jet lag and looking for an early dinner, put this spot on your list – it’s the only restaurant we found that served food before 8pm!
- Sabores de Pueblo: This is on the main drag in the new part of Ainsa – a great spot for pastries, chocolate, and savory market finds (ie veggies, cheese, and CHORIZO).
- Restaurante La Garnacha: This restaurant in the old town is LOVELY, and in a flower pot decorated alley just off of Plaza Mayor.
What to do
- Canyon: This was our first time and it’s kind of like rafting in that you enter and exit the canyon at different spots, except you’re repelling down cliffs the whole time! Exhilarating!
- Mountain bike: This is the number one reason folks come to Ainsa. We had a guide for one day. I rode in the morning on a rental bike and then Darrell and the guide went out in the afternoon for a more technical ride.
- Wander: There are lots of little hiking trails
- Museum in the old town
Where to shop
- We didn’t do much shopping but we found BEAUTIFUL pottery from the Aragon region at a small shop close to Pizzeria la Tea in Plaza Mayor.
We landed in Barcelona on Wednesday of Semana Santa at 6:30AM local time (12:30AM our time), and picked up our rental van before heading northwest to Ainsa. We had a scenic three hour drive through the mountains, and split the time so that we each had opportunities to nap. We got to our hotel around 11AM and since our room wasn’t available until 1, we went to the old town to eat a late breakfast at Brasseria Albierto and then to an adventure outfitter to schedule our canyoning outing for the following day.
After a much needed nap (Darrell spent part of the time putting his mountain bike together in the hotels amazing bike area), we went out on a hike by the river followed by an early dinner at Pizzeria la Tea – the only restaurant we found serving food before 8pm, despite many being listed on google maps as “open”.
After a trip to Sabores de Pueblo to get lunch for the following day, we crashed back at our hotel. Hard.
We were up at 7:30 to go canyoning because we had to meet our guide at 8:30. Our hotel served a delicious breakfast with croissants and chocolate filled puff pastries made IN HOUSE. They were perfection.
We met our guide and got outfitted with the appropriate gear – wet suit with jacket, boots, helmet, harness, gloves – and then got on the road. After a 40 minute drive we parked the car, got dressed, and then hiked for about 15 minutes to our starting spot. As soon as we started I realized that my idea of “canyoning” was completely wrong. I thought we were going to descend down rocks a few times and be done. What I found out was that canyoning is a majorly exploratory sport. It’s kind of like going river rafting but instead of the raft being the vehicle through the canyon, we were rappelling down cliffs, wandering through rocky trails, and descending down rock slides. It was totally amazing (and completely FREEZING).
We got back from canyoning around 3 and I took a nap and did some work in our room before we headed out for drinks at 7.
Another morning, another delicious croissant! We met our mountain biking guide outside of our hotel after breakfast around 9:30. The plan was for me to cycle with them in the morning and then for D and the guide to go off in the afternoon for more advanced and technical riding. The morning ride was okay. It was a lot different from what I expected – which was cross country mountain biking where we get on trails immediately. This was a long road ride with big climbs just to get up to the trails. Not exactly my cup of tea, but when we finally got on to the trails they were nice. I was happy to be done and Darrell had an AMAZING afternoon with the guide, while I took a nap and spent the afternoon exploring the nooks and crannies of the gorgeous old town.
We met up in the evening and ate dinner in the old town at Restaurants La Garnacha.
Be sure to check out my blog post where I show how I styled the “Sangria” mini wire headband 3 different ways in this one outfit – including video tutorials – over here.
We planned to be in Barcelona by the end of the day to meet up with Darrell’s relatives for the start of their family reunion. Of course, with a full day open we packed it to the brim and turned it into a bit of an adventure. Three years ago I found out I was French when one of my parents learned that their father was not their biological father; it was life changing in the best possible way. The back story is a little much for this blog post but when we found out we were spitting distance from the border we decided to road trip, as neither Darrell nor I had ever been.
We packed our bags, ate croissants at Hotel Apolo, and were on the road by 8:45! By 10am we had driven through the long tunnel in the Pyrenees to make it into France, and were meandering through small mountain towns en route to the main attraction: Marche de St-Girons. Now, while my Spanish is passable, (all of) my French vocabulary is:
Je m’appelle Michelle.
Ou est un croissant?
Je voudrais un croissant sil vous plait.
Voulez vous un croissant?
Merci pour le croissant.
Je suis un croissant.
Je ne parle pas Francais.
Je ne sais pas.
Darrell doesn’t remember much from French class so we were a bit of a mess.
But an excited mess!
The market was GORGEOUS and one of the biggest I’d ever seen (bigger by far than the San Francisco farmer’s market). If we spoke a little more French we probably would have made it a bigger shopping trip but the prices we saw were also 1.5-2 times more expensive than in Ainsa, so we were reluctant. We bought a pear tart, a loaf of bread, and asparagus. Since we arrived to town at 12:30, all of the patisseries were CLOSED and I never got to use my limited vocabulary.
We ate ham omelets at a beautiful spot on the river before driving back into Spain.
Stay tuned for the next installment of my Spain travel guide! Let me know where you’re traveling with your headbands in the comments below, and be sure to tag us on Facebook and Instagram @shoplysande so we can see how you’re styling your pieces.