Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park

Routes along the Catalan coast and Pyrenees


We recommend a trip to a side of Catalonia that combines nature and culture particularly well. Objective: to enjoy two world class tourist icons: the Mediterranean Sea and Pyrenees mountain range The journey can either be completed in two weeks or slightly longer. It is always better to take longer and devote more time to the trip. Bear in mind that on this itinerary you will discover tiny rural villages and scenery where time stands still and you just want to linger and relax.

Step 1: Costa Dorada and Tarragona

It is the coast bathed by the Mediterranean Sea to the south of Catalonia. Coves and beaches where you can enjoy still waters, cities bursting with lively nightlife and fishing villages. We recommend a visit of at least two days, which can be enjoyed at any time of the year: combine the visits to cities such as Tarragona and Reus with a few hours by the sea.

Distance:20-50km Journey: By car / Duration: 1-2 days

Tarragona is a must-visit. You will be able to visit one of the best preserved Roman archaeological sites. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and includes a Roman theatre, an amphitheatre, a Roman circus, and the traces of the Tarraco forum. Before you leave take a trip through the city’s old quarters, sit and relax in one of the squares or terraces and visit the cathedral. To complete your day you can visit the famous Cala Fonda or visit Tamarit to watch the sunset next to the castle.Reus is known above all as the birthplace of Gaudí. You will have the opportunity to visit the house where he was born, to discover the church where he was baptised and learn all about the man and his art at the Gaudí Centre. On a trip through Reus you can also admire many Modernist buildings. Cambrils, Salou or Torredembarra are all good choices for enjoying the sea on this day.Useful information:The nearest airports to Tarragona are: Reus (10 kilometres) and Barcelona (approximately one hour by car)

The model room, Gaudi Centre

Step 2: Temples and fine wine

We start the itinerary towards the interior and make the journey following the Cistercian Route. The landmarks are its three great monasteries in Catalonia.  There are some wineries around the area that are very noteworthy due to their Modernist architecture. If you combine both proposals, we would recommend another two days to enjoy this stretch.

Distance:100km Journey: By car / Duration: 1-2 days

The monasteries on the Cistercian Route are characterised by their austere architecture, a style that is a transition between Romanesque and Gothic. Perhaps the most well known is the Poblet Monastery, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The triangle of temples is completed with Santes Creus (in Aiguamurcia, also in Tarragona) and Vallbona de les Monges (the only one in the province of Lleida).They are located in the areas known as Alt Camp and la Conca de Barberà. It was here that many architects built some of the Modernist wine “temples”. In fact, there are several examples between Aiguamurcia and the pretty medieval town of Montblanc. Their style is very individual: impressive shapes, lots of interior light and a combination of exposed brick, stone, rendering and ceramic.Useful information:The trail linking the three monasteries is approximately 100 kilometres. The nearest one to Tarragona is Santes Creus Monastery, located about 40 kilometres away.

Poblet Monastery and Vallbona des Monges Monastery

Step 3: Romanesque Pyrenees

This time we venture inside the Catalan Pyrenees, in the province of Lleida, to be overwhelmed by the spectacular scenery in the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park. We recommend that you reserve two days and devote one of them to visiting the Romanesque churches of La Vall de Boí and the other to exploring the nature in the national park.

Distance:200km Journey: By car / Duration: 2-3 days

The Romanesque churches in La Vall de Boí comprise one of Europe’s most valuable ensembles and are declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  There are nine churches in total and their artistic beauty is further enhanced by the surrounding environment of their location. We recommend a trip to the Romanesque Centre of La Vall de Boí, in Erill la Vall, at the start of your excursion. The churches of San Juan de Boí, San Clemente and Santa María de Taüll shouldn’t be missed on your route. The paintings they currently house are reproductions of the originals, which are displayed in the National Art Museum of Catalonia, in Barcelona.The Aiguestortes i Esntany de Sant Maurici National Park is a visual delight of landscapes of high mountains and crystalline lakes. More than 200 lakes (Estany), numerous meanders (Aiguestortes), torrents and waterfalls, and a large network of signposted routes for covering the park. It is also the perfect spot for enjoying adventure sports. The main accesses are in Espot and Boí, where you can find the visitors centres that organise guided tours. If you are only dedicating one day to this stage of the trip, then this is the better option.Useful information  There are around 200 kilometres between the Cistercian Route and La Vall de Boí, mainly on the N-230 highway, a journey that takes approximately two hours by car.

Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park

Step 4: Culture and rural charm

You can continue enjoying the Catalan Pyrenees on this stage. We suggest a small route to visit the two most important temples in the towns of Seu d’Urgell and Ripoll and combine it with some of the many charming rural villages in this area of the Pyrenees. You can cover it in one day, but we recommend allowing at least two so you can stagger the driving time more.

Distance:200km Journey: By car / Duration: 2 days

Next, you set off in the direction of the Mediterranean taking you through a combination of nature and culture, which is so characteristic of this area. In Seu d’Urgell you can find the only totally Romanesque cathedral in the region. 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. Moreover, the entire route is peppered with pretty towns with stone houses and slate roofs that you are sure to like. Some good examples are Prullans, Baga and Bellver de Cerdanya, located en route between Seu d’Urgell and Ripoll.Useful informationSeu d’Urgell is located between one and a half and two and a half hours from the area of the Aiguestortes i Esntany de Sant Maurici National Park. The journey between Seu d’Urgell and Ripoll is around 100 kilometres.

Ripoll Monastery and Seu D

Step 5: Volcano country

This itinerary leads to the unique scenic area of La Garrotxa, in the province of Girona. Did you know that it is formed up of more than 40 volcanic craters surrounded by vegetation? Flying over it in a hot air balloon is a truly fantastic experience but this time we suggest a one-day route around some of its most picturesque towns and villages.

Distance:100km Journey: By car / Duration: 2-3 days

Beget, in the north of Girona, frequently appears on the lists of the prettiest villages in the area. This is because, in spite of being small with very few inhabitants, it is an idyllic picture-postcard village nestled between the mountains and river with an interesting Romanesque church, two medieval bridges and cobblestone streets with typical stone houses.Castellfollit de la Roca is particularly impressive when viewed from the river Fluvià. The panoramic view takes in the town’s old quarter formed by the superimposition of two lava flows. Inside the town you will discover narrow cobblestone streets, the old church of Sant Salvador and some spectacular viewpoints.Olot popularly known as “the city of the volcanoes” because there are four volcanoes here surrounded by vegetation. It is perhaps one of the best areas to experience from a hot air balloon, but you can also enjoy some wonderful views of the city from the craters. The old town has an interesting cultural heritage with several Modernist buildings.Besalú is a must-see town and boasts one of the best preserved medieval ensembles in the region. Crossing the old medieval bridge is a prelude to the delight that the visit has in store. In fact, the town has been the location for many large film productions such as, “Game of Thrones”, “Westword” and “Perfume”.Useful information:Beget is located 40 kilometres from Ripoll, just under an hour’s drive. The trip around these four towns and villages is approximately 60 kilometres, less than an hour and a half by car.             

Hot air balloons and Castellfollit de la Roca

Step 6: Costa Brava

Once again you can feel the sea breeze as you are back on the Mediterranean coast. This is not just any old coastline, this is the coast that inspired the genius Dalí with alternating coves with deep blue water and golden sand beaches, dotted with small medieval villages and where the sun sets on this two-week route through Catalonia. We recommended that you save two or three days here to enjoy the sea and visit some of the cultural attractions.

Distance:200km Journey: By car / Duration: 3-5 days

Here you can find the so-called “Dalí Triangle”, consisting 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). This route can be covered in two days and combined with a trip to Girona.The old quarter of Girona is one of those places you will want to walk around. Don’t miss out on the chance to visit the Jewish quarter, the Cathedral or the Arab baths. Figueres is very close by and you can visit the Dalí Theatre-Museum on the same afternoon. And here's an interesting fact: Do you know why it’s considered to be the world’s largest Surrealist object?On the second day you can head out to Cadaqués. Its white-washed houses, its seafaring atmosphere, its tranquillity... These were all sources of inspiration for Dalí. To complete the “Dalí Triangle” you must head to Púbol and visit the castle that Dalí gave to his wife and muse, Gala.We suggest finishing the route with a relaxing day of sun and sea. In this regard, you have so many options close by and you can choose one according to your next destination. For example, from north to south, you are sure to enjoy Roses, Sant Pere Pescador, Begur, Palafrugell, Castillo de Aro, Tossa de Mar, Lloret de Mar or Blanes, among many others,Useful informationThe journey from Besalú to Girona takes a little over half an hour by car. If you plan to continue on to Figueres, you will need to allocate a similar time.The “Dalí Triangle” covers a distance of around 100 kilometres. The way we have planned the route, the drive between Figueres and Cadaqués is approximately 40 minutes. Between Cadaqués and Púbol, around one hour by car.The Costa Brava coastline is over 200 long but is very well communicated between all its places of interest.The nearest airports are Girona and Barcelona.

Besalú and Cadaqués