Although Catalonia has a real visitor magnet with Barcelona, especially the countryside has been spared from the large tourist crowds of the capital. On a road trip through Catalonia you can therefore still explore really great spots: In this article, I’ll show you a few of my insider tips for Catalonia that I discovered recently!
Amazing ideas for a road trip through Catalonia
Whether you’re starting from Barcelona or if you are on a road trip through Spain anyway, these locations in Catalonia are worth a detour!
Congost de Mont-Rebei: The most beautiful gorge in Catalonia
The Congost de Mont-Rebei is probably the most famous gorge in Catalonia and is not without reason called by many the “Grand Canyon of Catalonia”. The gorge is located in the province of Lleida and separates Catalonia from the neighboring region of Aragon.
On a rather adventurous hike, you can explore the gorge (which, by the way, is only twenty meters wide at its narrowest point) on a narrow trail. Or you can choose a kayak tour and discover the fascinating wildlife of the Congost de Mont-Rebei from the water.
Here you’ll find almost untouched nature, because the gorge is located in a nature reserve. When we were in the middle of the gorge, suddenly a bearded vulture circled above us: an impressive experience! If you are very patient, you can even see otters darting through the water at sunrise and sunset: In the past they were hunted here for their fur, but now the population has recovered a bit. However, otters are very shy of people, so there are special vantage points from which you can observe the watercourse from above.
Unfortunately, the kayak tour was cancelled during my visit, because this year, due to the very hot summer, the riverbed was quite dried up and a crossing by kayak was impossible. I can’t even imagine how beautiful it might be here with much more turquoise water shooting through the gorge here! But even so, the hike through the Congost de Mont-Rebei was a real nature experience!
Fortunately, I am not particularly afraid of heights! The suspension bridge, which must be crossed in between, may otherwise cause an anxiety attack if you’re a not a fan of heights. But also the unsecured high trail through the gorge is no trip to Disneyland: Next to the narrow path it goes straight down for maybe hundred meters!
Tip: Don’t forget to wear sturdy hiking shoes or sneakers suitable for trail hikes! The trail is very rough and more than once I was thankful for my trail running shoes.
Wine tasting in Castell d’Encus
Did you know that Catalonia is the second largest wine region in Spain? In addition, the majority of all varieties of cava are grown here. Cava is, so to speak, the Spanish champagne variant, similarly protected and produced by means of vial fermentation.
Therefore, there are wineries in Catalonia like sand on the Costa Brava – and nowhere else wines can be tasted better than in an absolute wine region. Admittedly, I probably won’t become a real wine connoisseur in this lifetime, but I simply enjoy drinking a good glass of wine. Besides, winegrowing is a world of its own, and I am always fascinated by the dedication and enthusiasm with which small wineries produce their wines.
Very interesting, therefore, was my visit to Castell d’Encus in Talarn near Lleida, one of the many recent wine projects in Catalonia. In the 12th century already wine was cultivated by the monks living here. In fact, there was even a small village! All that remains from that time is a small chapel and a few ruins – and until the Castell d’Encus project revived viticulture a few years ago, there was simply nothing here.
Today, since 2001, wine has once again been grown here at an altitude of 850 to 1250 meters, as ecologically as possible and according to the latest scientific findings, but also with the help of ancient traditions of the monks . The grapes are also partially fermented in the large basins that were carved into the bare rocks for wine production back then. Pretty crazy, but as I experienced myself at the tasting afterwards, it doesn’t seem to harm the wine :)
The basins as well as the ruins can be visited during a tour – and the view of the landscape around is unique. Guided tours followed by a wine tasting take place from Monday to Saturday.
If you are hungry after the tour and tasting, I can recommend “L’Era de Balust” in the neighboring Salàs de Pallars. I would describe the cuisine as traditional Catalan home cooking and the ambiance in an old courtyard building is just too cozy. Be sure to try the Flam de ratafia: Ratafia is a typical Catalan herbal liqueur made from green walnuts and herbs and is served with sweet flan as a dessert.
Tip: Castell d’Encus is already located in the pre-Pyrenees near Lleida. It’s a good two and a half hour drive from Barcelona – if you want to travel in a relaxed way or are looking for a nice place to stay nearby, check out the Monestir des Avellanes further down in this article.
Visiting an olive oil manufacturer
If wine isn’t your thing, but you still want to get a taste of the countryside, then you should pay a visit to an olive oil producer like Olicometes. That’s where I learned that olive oil, just like wine, can have the craziest flavors. Or did you know that there are olive oil connoisseurs who can even taste banana or vanilla from olive oil?
But the story behind Olicometes is even more inspiring: the operating couple Martin and Neus fulfilled their dream a few years ago, bought a finca, ditched their jobs in Barcelona and are now olive farmers with heart and soul. Now you can visit them here on their finca and look over their shoulder at the olive harvest. Or you can just enjoy nature with a romantic breakfast or aperitif under olive trees, tasting the best olive oil in ecogical quality approved by Demeter.
By the way, the whole estate extends over a whole valley: 27 hectares belong to Olicometes. If you want to stretch your legs before or after the tasting, you are invited: For visitors, Martin and Neus have lovingly signposted a small circular route that leads past viewpoints and several caves across the finca.
➜ Register here for tours, harvest, breakfast or aperitif
Counting stars at the observatory in Àger
Incidentally, the Serra del Montsec mountain range is also known for its perfect astronomical conditions. On clear days, you have a dreamlike view of a clear starry sky at night here, completely free of light pollution. Even with the naked eye, entire constellations of stars can be easily seen here. It is also worth visiting the Parc Astronòmic Montsec with its observatory and exhibition.
Tip: Go in the evening and definitely take in the film screening! The content is interesting, but much more impressive is the finale: the moment when the dome opens to reveal the starry sky is simply magical! Absolute goose bumps!
By the way, you can find more tips for Spain here:
All articles about Spain
Where to stay in Catalonia
I always like road trips by car, because you are very flexible when it comes to accommodation. And it’s very easy to get to more remote locations, such as the Monestir de les Avellanes!
Monestir de les Avellanes
A really special place: the Monestir de las Avellanas, a protected monument, is actually a former monastery and a good choice if you love peace and seclusion. Embedded in a landscape that reminds you a bit of Tuscany, you can really come down here and find yourself. The rooms are simply furnished, and all parts of the monastery complex, such as the atmospheric chapel and the well-kept cloister, can be used by all guests.
In the hotel’s own restaurant (which, by the way, is also popular with locals on weekends and holidays as an excursion restaurant), you can enjoy typical Catalonian cuisine at a low price: a 5-course meal here, for example, costs only 30€. By the way, as a wine accompaniment I recommend the in-house wine, which is grown around the Monestir de las Avellanas.
➜ Check prices & availability: Monestir de les Avellanes in Os de Balaguer*
Hotel Finca Prats Golf & Spa
Want to treat yourself after a day outdoors? Then perhaps a wellness weekend at the Hotel Finca Prats Golf & Spa is something for you: In the wellness area with pool and sauna you can relax as much as you like and in the evening you can indulge yourself with a multi-course menu of culinary delights in the hotel’s own restaurant.
➜ Check prices & availability: Hotel Finca Prats Golf & Spa in Lleida*.
Info about Catalonia
Is Catalonia an independent country?
Catalonia is one of the 17 autonomous communities of Spain, located in the northeast of the country and bordering France. The capital is Barcelona.
In the last few years, however, there has been a heated debate about Catalonia’s independence from Spain – a very hot political potato that has its origins in the historically recurring cultural conflicts.
In many areas, Catalonia has a special status within Spain; for example, Catalonia has its own civilian police force, the “Mossos d’Esquadra.”
The whole issue is highly emotionally charged. Many Catalans who still lived under Franco’s regime, which ended in 1975, remember well how living out Catalan culture, for example, as a spoken language, was forbidden and severely punished.
What language is spoken in Catalonia?
In many official occasions, Catalan is given precedence, but Spanish is also an official language. I would argue that every Catalan is fluent bilingual and can easily switch to the respective language according to the situation. Non-Catalans are never actually expected to speak Catalan.
However, Catalan is also a Romance language and very similar to Spanish. If you have some knowledge of Spanish, you will certainly understand some things, even if you have trouble speaking. English is not widely spoken, especially in less touristy places, but personally I never feel it is a must-have on a trip – it just makes being on the road more exciting.
Catalonia map with route & all tips
Here you can find a map with all locations from the article. You can also download this map to your Maps account! That way, you’ll always have all tips at hand.
Tips for a road trip through Catalonia
Do you feel like going on a road trip through Catalonia now? The locations mentioned are part of the Grand Tour of Catalonia, which will take you to many other interesting spots in the region! On the website you will find route suggestions and excursion tips for tours with your own car, van or camper.
Are you traveling without your own car? Just pick up a rental car at Barcelona airport and jet off into the countryside from there!
Disclaimer: Catalonia Tourism invited me on this trip.