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Waterfalls in the Montseny natural park, Barcelona, Catalonia

Three getaways for enjoying nature near Barcelona

Barcelona

If you're visiting the city of Barcelona and feel like taking a trip to enjoy the countryside, we suggest these three nearby excursions to view landscapes in Protected Natural Areas. In addition to walking through forests or by rivers and marshes, you can take guided routes, see castles and manor houses and taste fine wines. All of these places are under an hour and a half from the city by car, so you can get there and back within a day. 

El Garraf, Olèrdola and El Foix natural parks

These three natural areas south of Barcelona are very interesting due to the contrasting landscapes that you can see. Garraf natural park is the most arid, and is characterised by its grapevines, fan palms (miniature palm trees) and Bonelli's eagles. You'll also find the fascinating Palau Novella there, an old casa de indianos which is now a beautiful Buddhist monastery. There are lots of original routes crossing this park, such as the Vallgrassa (Begues) art trail, the Pleta (Sitges) botanical trail or the Can Grau (Olivella) sensory trail.

Buddhist monastery in the Garraf natural park, Barcelona, Catalonia

This extends into the Olèrdola park, where the monument ensemble at the Olèrdola Castle is a must-see. This features a series of ruins and buildings that allow visitors to follow the history of El Penedès from the Bronze Age (some 4000 years ago) to the Middle Ages. You can walk through what remains of an ancient Iberian settlement which then became a Roman fort and then a medieval city. The impressive Sant Miquel church is sure to be your favourite part. This site is one of the locations of the Catalan Archaeology Museum (MAC). Finally, if you head a little further to the south, you'll be won over by the El Foix park, its river and its picturesque marshes. If you love birdwatching, then get your binoculars ready because there are some 150 different bird species in this area. Moreover, your trip has to include a visit to its two castles: Penyafort and Castellet, both of which were very important during the Middle Ages. There is a seven-kilometre walking route that takes you around both.

Sant Miquel d'Olèrdola Romanesque church in Barcelona, Catalonia

Remember: you're in a place full of fine wines, and so we would always recommend making a stop to enjoy them. They're also very close to the beaches of Garraf. 

Views over the Sant Llorenç del Munt i l'Obac Natural Park in Barcelona, Catalonia

To the north of Barcelona, this natural space is practically paradise, especially if you like caving – there are over 300 caves and chasms to be found here. The park is formed of two different mountain ranges, which come together in the north at Estellanes hill. Its highest peaks are La Mola (1104 metres) and Montcau (1057 metres). In fact, one of the most popular trips that can be taken in this park is a climb up to the summit of La Mola (this takes about one and a half hours). When you reach the top, you'll find the Sant Llorenç del Munt i l'Obac Romanesque monastery. The church is a Lombard-style building from the 11th century. It currently hosts a restaurant, and travellers can visit the shrine.

Views over the Sant Llorenç del Munt i l'Obac Natural Park in Barcelona, Catalonia

There are also neolithic and medieval archaeological remains in the area: manor houses, homes in the rock (Els Òbits, La Balma), ice houses and fountains.If you would like to follow a route, over 20 itineraries have been put together, catering for all levels. There are some very original guided tours like the Bandoleros Route, which features a mix of nature, history and legends. 

Montseny Natural Park

Some 50 kilometres north of the city, this area is a Biosphere reserve. You'll find it in the regions of Osona, La Selva and El Vallès Oriental. It's full of forests and fields that appear to have been taken straight from a postcard, with peaks over 1700 metres high like Turó de l'Home and Les Agudes, and the Congost, Tordera and La Riera Major rivers pass through it. You'll find surprising amounts of plant and animal life there, and it is the perfect place for hiking, mountain sports, cycling, horse riding and more. Don't miss enchanting spots like the Vallforners reservoir, the Santa Fe marshes and the Can Cuch chestnut tree, which has a circumference of almost 12 metres. 

Views of the Montseny natural park with the Les Agudes peak in the background in Girona, Catalonia

With regard to cultural heritage, you can visit the dolmens in Serra de l'Arca; countless castles, monasteries and medieval churches; the Montgròs Iberian Wall; the walled town of Hostalric and the ethnological park of Tagamanent. We would always recommend stopping in Masía Mariona first, a centre in the natural park that hosts the Universo Patxot exhibition about the legacy of a famous Catalan patron.Here, you'll find three routes to take by car through the park and different original guided tours. Finally, if you have a few days free and feel like doing a longer journey, how about this: Els 3 monts. This is an itinerary of some 106 kilometres from the Montseny massif to the famous mountain of Montserrat.

Views of the walled town of Hostalric in Girona, Catalonia

If you also want to travel through more areas in Catalonia, there are other protected natural spaces like Cap de Creus (Girona); Ter i del Freser natural park (Girona); Montgrí, Las Illes Medes and El Baix Ter natural park (Girona); the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone natural park (Girona); or the Delta del Ebro Natural Park (Tarragona).Other surprising natural areas? The Fageda d'en Jordà (Girona), the Llobregat delta (Barcelona) and the Sierra de Collserola natural park (Barcelona).Sustainable tourism that respects natural surroundings is possible. Interested?

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