Five great road trips through Catalonia

Five great road trips through Catalonia


Road trips for enjoying Catalonia

Five ways to explore Catalonia on a road trip. All these routes combine culture, nature and great food, and can be completed in four or five days.

Route 1. From the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean

We suggest a route through the Catalan Pyrenees over five days, taking you through part of the provinces of Lleida and Girona. If you like hiking and outdoor activities, you’ll find plenty to interest you here.

Distance:475km Journey: By car / Duration: At least 5 days

Day 1 Val d’Aran – Vall de Boí: The route begins in Val d’Aran - the Aran valley. Places of interest in this stunning mountain landscape include Vielha village and the woodland tour at Baricauba (especially in spring and summer). The N-230 takes you to Vall de Boí, a valley known for its Romanesque churches. The churches make up a UNESCO World Heritage site, surrounded by spectacular scenery. Learn about them and how to visit them at the Vall de Boí Romanesque Centre.

Salardú, Vall d

Day 2. Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park: You could spend the whole day enjoying nature. For example, Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park is very close to Vall de Boí. If you continue along the N-260 road, you’ll come to Pallars Sobirá. This area is very popular among fans of white water rafting and other adventure sports.

Caldes Aigüestortes National Park, Lleida

Day 3. Seu d’Urgell - Ripoll: We suggest two cultural visits. On one hand, the route continues along the N-260 to Seu d’Urgell. This is the only wholly Romanesque cathedral in Catalonia. Further on, in Ripoll you can visit the Monastery of Santa María de Ripoll, with an outstanding Romanesque entrance and cloister. Halfway between these spots is La Molina ski resort, where you can enjoy a wide range of sports all year round.

Capital in La Seu d’Urgell Cathedral

Day 4. La Garrotxa - Besalú: The route heads into La Garrotxa, an area of striking volcanic landscapes, with over 40 craters now completely overgrown. The most spectacular way to see it is floating over the area in a hot-air balloon. We also recommend visiting some of the villages in the area, tranquil spots with medieval architecture where time seems to stand still, such as Besalú, Beget or Santa Pau.

Mediaeval bridge in Besalú

Day 5. Costa Brava - the Dalí Triangle: The end of this route brings us to the Mediterranean and the famous Costa Brava where you can experience the life work of the Surrealist genius Salvador Dalí. The “Dalí Triangle” consists of the Dalí Theatre-Museum (in Figueres, where the artist was born), the Salvador Dalí House-Museum (Portlligat, in Cadaqués) and the Gala Dalí Castle (Púbol).

Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres

Route 2. The Mediterranean Coast

We suggest a route along the Mediterranean coast over five days. The itinerary begins in Tarragona province and ends in northern Catalonia, in the province of Girona. If you like the sea, relaxing days on the beach and traditional fishing villages, this is the route for you.

Distance:350km Journey: By car / Duration: At least 5 days

Day 1. Delta del'Ebre Natural Park: Delta del’Ebre Natural Park is a good starting point, especially if you like nature and bird-watching. This is a vast wetland area, inhabited by six out of every ten European bird species. There are several ways to visit it: Cycle touring, guided tours, photo safaris, and boat trips are all options. The area is also an important rice-growing centre, with tours of the wetlands if you want to see the traditional farming method. Sant Carles de la Ràpita is probably the most tourist-friendly of the delta towns.

Cyclists along the Ebro River Delta

Day 2. PortAventura World - Costa Daurada: Just an hour’s drive from the Natural Park is one of Europe’s most enjoyable theme parks: PortAventura World. The park recently added Ferrari Land, with plenty of attractions for fans of speed and motor sports. The theme park is in the seaside town of Salou and close to others like Cambrils and the beaches of the Costa Daurada, perfect if you fancy a dip in the Mediterranean.

Shuttle bus for Port Aventura in Tarragona

Day 3. Tarragona: First, nature; next, fun; and on the third day, a cultural journey through the history of Tarragona and its epoch of splendour during the Roman Empire. Its archaeological remains are part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, and include a Roman theatre, an amphitheatre, a Roman circus, and the traces of the Tarraco forum. The Early Christian Necropolis and Museum are also worth a visit, and you could finish with a walk around the old town centre to see the Cathedral, the former Hospital of Santa Tecla, and the Jewish quarter. The city is just over 10 kilometres from PortAventura World.

Tarragona cathedral

Days 4 and 5. Barcelona - Costa Brava: The route continues north to the ever-popular Costa Brava. Along the way, you have the option of spending a day in the city of Barcelona (about 100 kilometres from Tarragona). If you just have a few hours, we advise spending them strolling along the Ramblas, the Gothic quarter and Passeig de Gràcia, and visiting the Sagrada Familia. If you have more time, we have a guide to two days in Barcelona and more information on the destination. On the Costa Brava, beaches alternate with pretty coves edged by pine woods that grow practically at the water’s edge. Some of the best towns and villages to visit are Palamós (just over 100 kilometres from Barcelona), Begur (around 20 kilometres further north), Roses (another 70 kilometres from there) and Cadaqués (about 15 more kilometres) where you can really experience the enviable Mediterranean lifestyle of Catalonia.

View of Barcelona - View of Roses

Route 3. World Heritage sites

We suggest a four-day tour, starting in Barcelona, crossing Tarragona and ending inland in Lleida.


Day 1. Barcelona: Barcelona means Art Nouveau, and especially, Gaudí. Park Güell, Palau Güell, Casa Milà “La Pedrera”, Casa Batlló, the Sagrada Familia, Casa Vicens and the Crypt of the Colonia Güell (about 20 kilometres from the city centre) are the seven works by Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona making up a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau are the city’s other UNESCO sites.

Barcelona Cathedral

Day 2. Tarragona: The route continues south, about 100 kilometres along the Mediterranean coast, to Tarragona. Its archaeological remains are part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, including a Roman theatre, an amphitheatre, a Roman circus, and the traces of the Tarraco forum. The Early Christian Necropolis and Museum are also worth a visit, and you could finish with a walk around the old town centre to see the Cathedral, the former Hospital of Santa Tecla, and the Jewish quarter.

Roman remains in Tarragona

Day 3. Monastery of Santa María de Poblet - Mediterranean Arc: The region’s Roman past can also be explored in the areas around Tarragona city. You can visit Roman villas in Centcelles (about 10 kilometres from Tarragona) and Els Munts (around 15 kilometres). They both form part of the Tarraco archaeological complex, a World Heritage site. You could spend the rest of the day visiting the Monastery of Santa María de Poblet, around 40 kilometres from Tarragona. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the finest examples of religious architecture in Catalonia, and guided tours are available.Another option is visiting some of the caves with prehistoric art which form part of the Rock Art of the Mediterranean Basin World Heritage site. These include Cabrafeixet cave, in El Perelló, and the rock shelters of Abrics de l'Ermita in Sierra de la Piedad, Ulldecona (around 70 and 100 kilometres respectively south of Tarragona).

Poblet Monastery, Tarragona

Day 4. Vall de Boí valley: The N-230 road takes us inland to Vall de Boí, a mountain valley famous for its Romanesque churches, around 200 kilometres from the Monastery of Santa María de Poblet. The churches make up a UNESCO World Heritage site of great artistic value, surrounded by spectacular scenery. Learn about them and how to visit them at the Vall de Boí Romanesque Centre. We especially recommend visiting the church of Sant Climent de Taüll to enjoy a video mapping recreating the original internal murals, now in museums.About 125 kilometres from here is the cave of Vilars (in Os de Balaguer) with prehistoric art. If you want to visit it, bear in mind that it only opens on Sundays for guided tours in all-terrain vehicles.

Church of Sant Joan de Boí

Route 4. Going inland

We suggest a five-day route combining rural getaways, beautiful nature, a relaxing day at a spa, and plenty of culture.

Distance:300km Journey: By car / Duration: At least 5 days

Day 1. Medieval villages: The route begins on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in the village of Begur. The historic town centre is dominated by its medieval castle. A good option to start your tour could be a visit to some of the tranquil medieval villages in the area. As well as Begur, we can recommend Pals, Peratallada and Monells, for example, which are all close together.


Day 2. Exploring Les Gavarres massif: As you travel inland on the C-65, your route takes you past the massif of Les Gavarres. This area is rich in megalithic monuments, left by the earliest settlers in the area (from 3300 to 1800 BCE). You can easily organise a route to explore it, via Fitor, Calonge, Romanyà de la Selva and the surrounding area.

San Pedro de Roda Monastery at the Port de la Selva

Day 3. Sant Hilari Sacalm: Did you know there is a place in Catalonia which is so rich in mineral waters and spas that they call it “the town of a hundred springs”? This is Sant Hilari Sacalm, your next stop on the route (about 70 kilometres from Les Gavarres). It’s the perfect moment to enjoy a day of self-care and wellness in one of the town’s spas. If you’d like to end the day in a natural setting, just 15 kilometres away is a woodland with the tallest trees anywhere in Catalonia, including sequoias. This is the Masjoan Arboretum.

Sequoia at Masjoan

Day 4. Rupit i Pruit-Vic: An hour and a half on the C-25 leads you to one of the best-kept secrets on this route: Rupit i Pruit. It’s one of the most charming rural spots in Catalonia. This peaceful medieval village seems to have been carved into the stone of the mountains. Its pedestrianised cobbled streets, the quiet main square, the balconies full of flowers, the castle and the excellent restaurants all make it easy to forget your plans and just enjoy the moment. If you manage to tear yourself away, you could spend the afternoon visiting Vic (less than an hour’s drive on the C-153). On a walk around the old town centre you can see the Cathedral of Sant Pere, the Bishop’s Palace and a Roman temple from the 2nd century CE.

 View of Rupit i Pruit in Barcelona

Day 5. Montserrat Natural Park: The route ends at Montserrat Natural Park, about an hour away on the C-25. The area is extraordinarily beautiful, and the mountain’s strange shapes are very striking. The main attraction here is the Monastery of Montserrat, one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in Catalonia. You can enjoy guided tours of the monastery, visit the museum and enjoy the views in comfort if you take the cable car.

Montserrat cable car in Barcelona

Route 5. Wine and culture

The suggested route takes four days to tour the wine-making areas of Penedès (Barcelona and Tarragona) and Priorat (Tarragona), alternating visits to wineries with small inland villages, the route of the Cistercian monasteries, and the area around Horta de Sant Joan.

Distance:400km Journey: By car / Duration: At least 4 days

Day 1. The Penedès wine and cava route: The two most important stops on the Penedès wine and cava route are Sant Sadurní d’Anoia and Vilafranca del Penedès. Sant Sadurní is known as Catalonia’s cava capital, and Vilafranca as its wine capital. With so many wineries in the area, it’s easy to find interesting tastings, vineyard tours, and many other wine-related activities. You can reach these towns from Barcelona on the AP-7 toll motorway in less than an hour.

Plaza Jaume in Villafranca del Penedés

Day 2. The Cistercian monastery route: The Cistercian monastery route is about 150 kilometres and can be reached easily from Vilafranca del Penedès. Its main stops are three Cistercian monasteries, open to visitors, characterised by their austerity and by an architectural style in transition from Romanesque to Gothic. Poblet Monastery (in Tarragona province) is a World Heritage site. The other two are the Monasteries of Santes Creus (Aiguamurcia, in Tarragona) and Vallbona de les Monges (in the town of the same name in Lleida). Another nearby place worth a visit is the medieval village of Montblanc (Tarragona), just over 10 kilometres from Poblet.

Poblet Monastery

Day 3. El Priorat: Following the route southwards, we come to another of the best-known wine-making areas of Catalonia: El Priorat (Tarragona). You can spend a pleasant day here, combining exploring some of the villages in the area with winery tours and tastings. Some of the best-known villages, made even more attractive by their mountain setting, are La Morera de Montsant (with the interesting Escaladei Charterhouse), Siurana, Porrera, Gratallops, Bellmunt del Priorat, Cornudella de Montsant and Falset. Some of the wineries feature Art Nouveau architecture, popular in the region at the turn of the century. For example, Pinell de Brai and Gandesa.The total tour will be a little under 200 kilometres.

Escaladei charterhouse

Day 4. Horta de Sant Joan - Tortosa: The route ends with the landscapes that inspired the artist Pablo Ruiz Picasso: the area surrounding Horta de Sant Joan. You can visit the Picasso Centre to find out more about the relationship between the painter and the village, and discover works by different artists who also found inspiration here. Horta de Sant Joan is about 25 kilometres from the Art Nouveau wineries recommended on the previous day.You could round off your tour with a visit to Tortosa, 40 kilometres away, the former capital of the Terres de l’Ebre region. The town’s attractions include the Arab castle of La Suda, the Jewish quarter and Santa María Cathedral.If you want to keep exploring, you could extend your route with a day in the nature reserve of Delta del’Ebre Natural Park or visit the coastal town of Sant Carles de la Ràpita, for example.