Barcelona Day Trips for Nature-lovers
When the Catalan capital overwhelms, head for the hills....or mountains, capes and lakes. The diverse landscape surrounding Barcelona offers a wide variety of outdoor activities in a natural setting, not to mention seasonal eats harvested from area forests and farms.
Lake of Banyoles, Girona, Spain
Explore Catalonia’s largest lake in Banyoles. Walk or jog around the rim, snap shots of friendly waterfowl, or jump in for a swim. Visitors can also kayo, canoe,or fish. Afterwards, dry off and take a turn around the city’s charming old town.
Estació de Muntanya Vall de Núria, 17534, Girona, Spain
If nature is a religion then Vall de Núria is mecca. Situated in a small valley with a lake in the heart of the Pyrenees mountains, not far from the border of Spain and France in Catalunya - it is best known as a ski resort but delights visitors year round because of stunning vistas in every direction and an abundance of activities to choose from no matter what month one visits. The resort now sits where once only a church stood. In fact, it is built around the Church of Núria. Accessible only by train, perhaps so as never to disturb the stunning landscape it is truly an escape from the more bustling cities of Girona and Barcelona. Ride horseback into the rocky terrain above the tree line for the best views of the natural surroundings and look out for native deer than roam the crags. At night, return to one of the many restaurants for a meal that is worth the trip alone.
Carretera de Montserrat
I broke off from my friends in Barcelona to go on a solo excursion to Montserrat, a short one hour train ride from the city. I wasn’t sure what to except but had only heard that it was beautiful with weird rock formations and good trails so knew that I needed to make it before my week in Barcelona was up. This view is proof that I made the right decision. After a fairly strenuous 2 hour hike to Sant Jeroni peak (1,236m), you are rewarded with a 360° view of the green Catalan countryside and the distant Pyrenees. It is absolutely breathtaking and a must-do for the adventure-hearted visiting Barcelona for 3 or more days. One bit of advice would be to get to Montserrat by 9am so that you can descend in time to watch the world renowned boys choir perform in the Basilica of Montserrat at 1pm (something that I wish I had known).
08600 Berga, Barcelona, Spain
Rent a car or hop an ALSA bus from Barcelona‘s Estació Nord to Berga for a 45 minute hike up Queralt Mountain from Berga’s Plaça de Sant Pere. Besides getting a healthy dose of fresh air and some light exercise, you’ll take in some of the best views Catalonia has to offer: clusters of terra-cotta roofs in the valleys, green mountains towering above it all.
Carrer Fageda, s/n, 17810 Can Blanc, Girona, Spain
Less than two hours from Barcelona, in car or via TEISA buses (during the week), La Fageda is a leafy green wonderland after too much time spent in Barcelona’s hectic city center. This beech forest is unique, growing at a much lower altitude than usual for the Iberian Peninsula.In the fall, the vivid red leaves on the trees are especially stunning. No motor vehicles are allowed in the forest itself, but you can hike, bike-ride, or explore the reserve on horseback or even in a horse and buggy for a reasonable fee (reserve ahead). Inside the reserve, visit La Fageda’s dairy farm--you can learn about how the yogurt and ice-cream is made (in Catalan or Spanish), pet the calves, and taste some of La Fageda’s products. Beyond la Fageda, in the larger area of La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park, there are volcanoes, Olot and Sant Feliu de Pallerols’ old towns, and a medieval castle to see, as well as numerous routes for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
Carretera Cap de Creus, s/n, 17488 Cadaqués, Girona, Spain
A short drive from the picturesque fishing village of Cadaques and Dalí's House Museum in Port Lligat, Cap de Creus is one of my favorite places in Spain when it comes to natural beauty. Sweeping views of the ocean from atop the cliffs are even better after a lunch of fresh seafood paella, the catch of the day-baked, grilled or fried, or the restaurant’s surprisingly tasty Indian eats. Burn off lunch with a hike down the steep incline to the waterline, or just cop a squat and settle in to write, sketch or meditate.
Ctra. les Feixes, 31, 17800 Olot, Girona, Spain
There once was a railway line in Catalonia that stretched from Olot to Girona and then finally toward the sea. The railway shuttled villagers, some of whom had never had access to the ocean, from deep within the region to the Costa Brava. But as Spain‘s economy began to boom in the 1970s, so did car sales. Train travel was no longer in vogue and eventually the old railway service was quietly put down. Years went by and weeds grew up around the abandoned railroad tracks. And then someone got an idea: hiking and biking trails. Today, you can walk the old route, sleeping and eating in villages along the way. I did this two years ago and was able to get a glimpse of a side of Catalonia few Barcelona-bound tourists rarely see.
Coastal views, beaches, and hidden coves await you on the Camino Ronda, a 220 km hiking trail in Costa Brava Spain. It runs from Blanes to the northern city of Collioure near the border of France. This extensive and well marked trail goes by many names – Camino de Ronda, Costa Brava Way, and GR-92 (Grand Randonee). It is mainly a coastal hike which takes you to the little coves and hidden beaches of Costa Brava as well as fishing villages and inland landscapes. There is lodging along the way and it appears to be very well marked and supported with resources. I walked a very small portion of it one day to get a feel for the trail. I started in Calella de Palafrugell and walked up to the Llafranc light house and then turned around and came back down. This was enough to get it under my skin and start planning to come back and walk the entire 220k in the next few years. The views are stunning, and the terrain varied, plus at any moment you can cool off in the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean! This is not a heavily touristed trail, so there are few English resources on it. The Tourism board does offer a comprehensive trail book that is wonderful. More Information and resources listed here: http://www.ottsworld.com/blogs/camino-ronda-hiking-spain-costa-braval/
Catalonians, particularly near the Pyrenees, love their mushrooms. So much so, hunting them in the forest where they grow wild, has become a beloved pastime. One of the best places to do so in the Pyrenees region is Montgrony. Arrive early in the morning so as not to find all the fungi already harvested. Bring a basket for gathering. Of particular note is the yellow mushrooms which look like coral. These, are a particular delicacy sought after by chefs all over Spain.
Would-be ghost-hunters will enjoy a tour of this abandoned village in Tarragona province a little over an hour’s drive from Barcelona. Left completely deserted after the end of the Spanish Civil War, crumbling homes, a church in ruins, and empty tombs are overgrown with weeds and brush in this isolated village located a half hour hike from the nearest paved road. While there have been rumors of strange goings-on for years, after a dead body turned up on the scene in the early nineties, Marmellar became an urban legend of sorts.
Puig Castellar, 08758, Barcelona, Spain
Hike up the hill from Turó del Pollo and get an eyeful of an ancient (6th century B.C.) Iberian settlement at Puig Castellar. This is best saved for a cool fall or spring day as at this height the sun can be fierce. Take a picnic lunch, or at least a bottle of water, so that you can relax and take in the sweeping views of Barcelona for as long as you like.