The village of Arfa is located on the left bank of the river Segre, right in the middle of the shire of the Alt Urgell. The town is home to about 200 people, who share a natural environment that drink from the waters of the river.
Its millennial history, which dates back to the year 839 or further back, can be seen in its medieval architecture of narrow and steep streets on the rocky hill where there built from the middle ages; where his first builders found a strategic point of the path that led from La Seu d’Urgell to the south of the County of Urgell.
Within their historical architectural infrastructure, apart from the inevitable romanesque church of all European town, it should be highligth two: the medieval bridge and the ice well.
The bridge that crosses the river Segre margin to margin is dated around the 12th century. The bridge remained virtually unchanged for seven or eight centuries until the twentieth century, where it began a series of three major reforms:
- The first was during the Civil War of Spain for an extension of its width; although this work was very precarious and without seen the heritage value of the historic building.
- The second great reform it was caused for a natural disaster: the great flood of 1982, which caused catastrophic damage from Andorra to the shire of the Alt Urgell, and took a good chunk of the western end of the bridge of Arfa (see photo). The damaged section was remade with a new arc that was added to the existing ones, which bear that flood without problems as they had supported the many downpours with the Segre hit the bridge over the centuries. That reform does not respect much the general aesthetics of the bridge, then the addition was made with different stone sizes and look at the rest.
- The third, and so far the last, great reform took place in the year 2011, as a result of the detection of some structural problems in some arches of the bridge. This time the intervention is made,taking into account not only the functionality and safety of the bridge, but also with respect to its history and heritage value.
The medieval bridge of Arfa, therefore, continues to this day fully operational and in service, after being for eight centuries the main access to the village. An exceptional case in the entire course of the river Segre.
In the case of the ice well, refurbished by 2015 to allow his visit, was built in 1642 to store the ice of winter for its use during the summer months. During those years, the ice was a privilege of the canons (people in charge of the Government of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Urgell, a medieval ecclesiastical entity that still active). During the winter, the ice and snow was collected, stored and pressed in the wells of the ice so that it can be marketed during the months of heat. Build an ice well needed a strong investment in economic and manpower. Used to be plenty of structures, covered with semi-spherical dome work based on ashlars well cut and joined together with lime mortar.
The agriculture and the livestock were, historically, the main sources of income of its inhabitants. At present, although there are several plantations and farms in the village, the “arfencs” live from his work in the surrounding villages (La Seu d’Urgell and Andorra, mainly) or sectors such as Rural Tourism.
Nature and activities
Around closer to Arfa looks a landscape of forested mountains, crossed by the river Segre. In the nearby forests you can find a wide variety of trees (pine, oak, Hazel or chestnut) and wildlife (wild boars, pig deer, foxes, birds of prey, and so on).
With regard to the activities in the same village of Arfa, right next to “El Jardí”, there’s the company’s activities in the nature and ecotourism “Outdoor Pyrenees“, which offer numerous activities (zip, ponies, caving, hiking, excursions, etc.). Its activity it’s mainly in summer time.
In the nearby towns in Arfa you can find numerous options to enjoy activities in the natural environment; canoeing(La Seu), skiing (Andorra), paragliding (Organyà) and many more. Also noteworthy is the proximity of two natural parks: the cadi-moixero and the Alt Pirineu.
La Seu d’Urgell
Surrounded by the rivers Segre and Valira is located La Seu d’Urgell, capital of the shire Alt Urgell. With nearly 13,000 inhabitants is the municipality with the highest population of the area (not counting Andorra).
This also ancient city stands out for its medieval historic centre, with its impressive 12th century Cathedral (the only romanesque cathedral in Catalonia) as the most important element. We can also find the magnificent Parc Olímpic del Segre, where Olympic competitions were held during the slalom Olympic Games of Barcelona ‘ 92, which today still hosts international competitions during the summer and is one of the main headquarters of the national team of canoeing.
Only a 30-minute drive from Arfa we can found the country of Andorra, located in the heart of the Pyrenees. Andorra is a State with a population of 80,000 inhabitants and is one of the main poles of attraction of the Pyrenees. Among its valleys highlights we find an important commercial offer which, together with skiing, are the country’s main tourist attractions, which means that every year millions of people visit this small country in the Pyrenees.