There are plenty of ways to be enamoured of the mountains of the Catalan Pyrenees. There are people who look for little villages which still preserve stone houses and old traditions. And others who are passionate about the nature and the natural parks. There are also sports people who enjoy doing outdoor activities. And then there are those who enjoy trying out the local gastronomy in situ. Enjoy the Catalan Pyrenees your way!
The nature of the Catalan Pyrenees can be found in capital letters in its natural parks. Far from the city, the pace is quieter, so you can enjoy them. They are examples of nature with very different characteristics depending on their geographical location.
Villages that are concealed in the immensity of a valley, small paradises where painters such as Picasso found inspiration, or mediaeval centres that have preserved their stone houses intact. Take a route through the most beautiful villages of the Catalan Pyrenees.
An MTB route through the Val d’Aran, a journey along historic trails such as the one that goes to Núria, or paragliding near the Cadí-Moixeró Natural Park, among many other offers. If you are an open-air sportsperson, the Catalan Pyrenees are waiting for you!
A trinxat (chopped potatoes, cabbage and pork) or a hearty soup known as olla aranesa, combined with game and accompanied by high mountain cheeses. A Pyrenean menu which, after visiting the Romanesque churches and taking part in the traditional festivals, will satisfy the most demanding visitors.
Eight days travelling the Pyrenees. With an open mind and looking forward to adventure, culture and, above all, getting to know its people. They have taken lots of photos and have a very long list of places they want to visit. They definitely want to come back. But now is the time to start the journey with them. How about it?
Marta and Kai are starting out on a spectacular adventure: the Mont-rebei Gorge in the Montsec Mountain Range. The constant erosion of the River Noguera Ribagorçana has opened up a way through the mountain and created a gorge with vertical walls of more than 500 metres. In its narrowest part, it is only 20 metres wide. Mont-rebei is the largest gorge in Catalonia that has been unspoiled by civilisation. There are no roads, no electrical lines, no railways. There is only a path excavated into the mountain that enables you to cross it on foot. A word of warning for hikers: it is not recommended for people who are frightened of heights.
Mont-rebei (Pallars Jussà)
All year round
Getting to the Catalan capital was easy because it is very well communicated. And the most important thing for our couple is that in two hours by car they will have left the sandy beach behind and will be in the heart of nature, among mountains at an altitude of more than 2,000 metres, enjoying the green landscape of the Pyrenees.
Marta, who is in love with the sea, wanted to go to the beach. Once there, in addition to swimming in the sea, she did standup paddleboarding for a while, which is one of the activities you can do off the Barcelona coast. They didn't stop laughing: Kai didn't manage to stay on the board for more than one minute!
Later, they charged up their batteries in a nearby restaurant, right on the beach: anchovies from L’Escala, Mediterranean sand eels and a little ham will keep them going. When they get back to the Pyrenees, they will go to one of the most innovative restaurants recognised with a Michelin star —of which there are 25. Their friends have asked them to upload lots of photos to make them a little jealous!
They were both surprised to see that many people in Barcelona get around the city on bicycles, a choice that respects the environment. With a mutual look at each other and a telepathic message, there was no need for words: “let's hire some bicycles to visit the city!”. Just minutes later they were pedalling through other districts further from the city's cosmopolitan centre and had left behind the narrow streets of the Gothic Quarters with more than 2,000 years of history.
They went along the Passeig de Gràcia, using the cycle lanes, until they got to the Sagrada Família. They were surprised about the large number of Modernist-style buildings in the city. A kind person told them that Barcelona has nine buildings that are UNESCO World Heritage.
Before taking the car and leaving the sea behind them, they went to a market in Gràcia, one of the many ones that there are in Barcelona, to buy fresh fruit to eat during their journey to the Catalan Pyrenees. Do you want to go with them?
All year round
It's time to take a stop inside the Romanesque church of Sant Climent de Taüll and travel back to 1123. A spectacular mapping of the original frescoes of the apse and of the impressive Pantocrator, which are currently preserved in the National Art Museum of Catalonia, are projected. The audiovisual representation amazes visitors, who discover the magic of the artistic technique that was used to create this mural. Marta and Kai are surprised by the beauty of this work of art that has become a point of reference in European Romanesque painting.
The Vall de Boí is impregnated with Romanesque art. Therefore, with every step you take, keep your head well up to see the bell towers and click the button on your camera because these monuments are unique. As the area of the valley is small, we propose you to visit the entire architectural site, which has been declared World Heritage by UNESCO. If you don't have time, you will have to choose from the eight churches and the hermitage that are in the valley. Sant Climent de Taüll, Santa Maria de Taüll, Sant Joan de Boí, Santa Eulàlia d’Erill la Vall, Sant Feliu de Barruera, the Nativitat i Sant Quirc de Durro, Santa Maria de Cardet and the Assumpció de Cóll. At the Romanesque Centre in the Vall de Boí, they can help you make your choice.
It is a great excuse for losing yourself in the Vall de Boí. Marta and Kai were really impressed and have decided to come back soon.
Vall de Boí (Alta Ribagorça)
All year round
Marta and Kai are quite clear that they don't want to miss the Falles d’Isil Festival. It is St John's Eve and the mountain is alight. The local people involved start to come down the steep mountains with enormous torches in flames. From below, visitors watch on in surprise and Marta and Kai discover that it is even more spectacular than they had been told. It looks like a snake of fire dragging itself down the mountain.
Be careful, because when the fire gets down to the village, it's time to join in the party and accompany the locals through the streets of the town. Help them to place the logs in the main fire, thereby creating a large bonfire. Our protagonists are fascinated by the dances done around the bonfire and upload masses of photos to the social networks. A magical night, without a doubt, that lasts well into the early hours with traditional dances and lots of partying.
For the people of Isil, this is the most important festival of the year. Imagine the nerves and the excitement of the inhabitants just before sunset. Other villages in the Vall de Boí and the Alta Ribagorça comarca (Durro, Senet, Vilaller, Llesp, El Pont de Suert, Barruera, Boí, Erill la Vall and Taüll) also bring down burning logs from the 23rd of June through to July. All these fire festivals in the Catalan Pyrenees are recognised by UNESCO as World Heritage.
Marta and Kai have decided to do a short MTB route which is not particularly complicated, to make the most of the day. The route around the village of Bagergue will enable you to make your first contact with nature in the Val d’Aran. If you go there in springtime, the countryside is very colourful, with flowers hanging off most of the houses, typical of high mountain areas. Marta and Kai have done a good part of the route. It consists of 3.1 kilometres of asphalted and of unmade-up paths that have taken them half an hour.
The excursion starts in Bagergue, the highest village in the valley, at an altitude of 1,500 m, following an urban section and then goes into the valley of the River Unhòla. It is a gentle descent. When you get close to Santa Margalida Hermitage you will be astonished: it is a delightful place surrounded by beautiful views.
The entire area is ideal for MTB routes because of the changes of level in the land. Great to do in a group, with your partner, with friends or with the family. Why not take your bicycle and make the very most of the nature in the Val d’Aran? You'll be able to find information about the routes and get any advice you might need at the Val d’Aran MTB Centre, which is in the Palau de Gèu in Vielha.
On the way back to the village of Bagergue, you'll probably be feeling hungry. Don't worry! There are lots of proposals to keep you going. If you would like a little bit of culture, at the Museu eth Corrau, you can find out what rural life used to be like in the valley. You can also take a look at the Romanesque church of Sant Feliu de Bagergue. Where will Marta and Kai’s next stop be?
Bagergue (Val d’Aran)
spring, summer, autumn
José Antonio and Òscar Tarrau are the two brothers who have undertaken the adventure of bringing back the traditional cheeses that their grandmother Genoveva made. “We want to bring back the typical cheese of Aran with the quality of the milk of Pyrenean cows. And we've managed it” say the Tarrau brothers. They just need to ask Marta and Kai if they enjoyed the recipe for cheese from Aran. They had great trouble leaving the shop! If you like cheese, you may have the same problem!
These master cheesemakers from the Val d'Aran have been working hard for ten years. They have been dedicated to finding the best formula to make a cheese with the same appearance, texture and taste that their grandmother made. It's been a huge success. Òscar and José Antonio love their work, which is why they have opened their cheese shop to the public.
You can take a guided tour of the establishment, get to know the traditional preparation process and discover how they mature cheeses with a mixture of Armagnac (distilled from dry white wine), virgin olive oil and vinegar. In the workshop, the cheeses are moulded, pressed and shaped into rounds before leaving. And underneath the shop, they stand for at least two months before going on sale.
The final result is a luxurious variety: caviar cheese, blue cheese, cow’s cheese, cheese spread macerated with rum and a variety that matures in the cellar for between six months and one year. With this great selection of gourmet products, it is unlikely that people will leave the Era Hormatgeria having purchased just one cheese. Marta and Kai have bought several of them.
Bagergue (Val d'Aran)
All year round
Marta and Kai were looking for the best way to feel the natural spirit of the Val d’Aran and have discovered the most suitable proposal: following a section of the Camin Reiau route. It is a round route that will take you to the 33 villages of the Val d’Aran. It follows paths that were previously the main communication channels between the various inhabited nuclei. The itinerary is divided into 10 stages of some 15 kilometres that can be done all year round, whenever you want.
Our two protagonists have chosen the section from Salardú to Vielha. It starts in the centre of Val d’Aran and goes up the left-hand side of the River Garonne taking you into Naut Aran. The Romanesque churches will be the main attraction along this section, they will go past stately homes and remains of former castles, following the unforgettable tracks of the haulers who were responsible for transporting goods using carriages pulled by beasts of burden.
The Val d’Aran is a labyrinth of 620 kilometres, full of valleys and picturesque places. Did you know that it was practically isolated to transit until 1948? The inhabitants of the valley are aware of the charm of this mountainous place, in which 30 percent of the territory is at an altitude of more than 2,000 metres, and Marta and Kai are now aware of it too. They were greatly impressed by the large natural barrier that surrounds the Val d’Aran.
Vielha (Val d’Aran)
All year round
After an energy-giving breakfast of cold meats and cheeses from Pallars, the water adventure starts: it is time to do Rafting in the Noguera Pallaresa. The river, with more than 40 navigable kilometres, contains a lot of water from thaws. The way down will be fun!
After putting on the helmet, wetsuit and lifejacket, in case they fall into the water, the instructor gives them the basic instructions. How they should row, what they should do when they come to the rapids, and so on. He will guide them on the descent and will explain the landscapes they come across along the way, in the Collegats Gorge. Will they have time to take it all in?
If you feel like doing it, don't trust the quiet water, you will always end up coming to a rapid. And although it might seem that the water will win against the boat, you are in no danger. The Pallars is one of the best places in Europe to enjoy rafting. Marta and Kai have said that they will come back next spring and they want to try another part of the river, in Llavorsí. How about you? Do you feel like going this weekend?
Noguera Pallaresa (Pallars Sobirà)
Spring and summer
An orchid in the Pyrenees! Marta and Kai are astonished by the finding. The guide accompanying them tells them that they don't just live in the tropics, but that there are many that are endemic to the Pyrenees. Interesting, isn't it? After the day of rafting, they have decided to go on a trip: a guided route to get to know the flora of Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park.
As one can imagine, they found plenty. This is hardly unexpected, bearing in mind that more than 1,700 species of different flora have been listed in the park. Now, they are looking at a round-leaved sundew. The guide tells them it is a carnivorous plant. It feeds on insects which are attracted by the red colour of the leaves and the bright drops of mucilage, a sweet sticky substance that covers them. Kai has already uploaded a photo to Instagram.
The route is a panoramic view of the plants that can be found in different parts of the park. It starts in the higher part, at 1,800 metres, and goes down through a rocky area, around a lake and through a forest area. There are also other ones that leave from Espot and that focus more on the giant trees in the park. If you love botany, you should add Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park to your list of visits.
Boí (Alta Ribagorça)
Night falls in the Pallars and Marta and Kai head towards the Boumort Mountain Range, where the company that organises the activity has set up the camp. Tonight, they will sleep under the stars in very comfortable tents.
As night falls, the animals rest and you can only hear the hooting of some boreal owls. The silence in the mountain surprises Marta and Kai, who are used to the sounds of the city. The shape of the Ursa Major is made up of seven stars. Kai tells Marta that it is a boreal constellation and that from Catalonia it can be seen very close to the pole star. After going over the stars lying on the damp grass, our couple go to sleep, because there is still a long way to go in the Catalan Pyrenees.
If you want to go there by day, the Boumort is a National Hunting Reserve in the Serra del Boumort Space of Natural Interest. It is an extremely interesting area for observing animals. There are a lot of herbivores: deer, chamois, roe deer, fallow deer and so on. In fact, the people from this area say that the Boumort deer are the largest ones in Catalonia. If you're interested in ornithology, there is a large variety of birds, vultures, peregrine falcons, golden eagles, bearded vultures and boreal owls, like the one that woke Marta several times during the night.
Boumort (Pallars Jussà)
All year round
Nature is found in capital letters at the Cadí-Moixeró Natural Park. There are 1,400 species and subspecies of plants with flowers and ferns that grow there, which represent around a third of the Catalan flora. The park has more than 400 kilometres of paths. Marta and Kai have taken their backpacks to do a section of the GR-107, popularly known as the Camí dels Bons Homes (Good Men's Path) and to discover the natural wealth of this protected area.
With more than 40,000 hectares of surface area, Cadí-Moixeró Natural Park is halfway between the Alt Urgell, Cerdanya and Berguedà comarcas. The horizon of the park is divided into two main mountain ranges: Cadí and Moixeró, which are joined by the Tancalaporta mountain pass and which make up a 30-kilometre long mountain barrier. The cliffs on the northern side of the Cadí mountain range are particularly impressive, as well as the Pedraforca Massif, which is an emblem for excursions in Catalonia.
For your interest: the black woodpecker is the park's symbol. As well as this bird, you will easily see boreal owls, European pine martens and chamois, the lords and masters of the mountain. Kai can't help sharing photos on the networks and they all have the same hashtags: #visitpyrenees #withoutfilters.
All year round
The fact that it is the only Romanesque cathedral in Catalonia makes it an essential visit for history lovers. Marta and Kai are no exception. They have gone to the La Seu d’Urgell to visit Santa Maria d’Urgell. Marta tells Kai that there is something magical about walking inside it and feeling the echo of your footsteps against the stone walls.
The temple responds to Occitane and northern Italian architectural models. Its influence can be felt in certain nearby constructions, including the church of Santa Maria de Covet, in the neighbouring comarca of Pallars Sobirà. Its huge size and the austerity of the architectural design, combined with a large number of sculptural features in the cloisters and on the main façade are what define it as the only example of a Romanesque cathedral in Catalonia.
The current cathedral started to be built between 1116 and 1122 on land that had previously been home to up to four places of worship, including a Visigoth cathedral from the 9th century and the Cathedral of Sant Ermengol. Before leaving, our pair of adventurers have decided to visit La Seu d’Urgell Diocesan Museum to finish off their cultural immersion in the Alt Urgell region.
La Seu d'Urgell (Alt Urgell)
All year round
After their visit to the Seu d’Urgell, our two protagonists headed to Solsona: they want to see the despenjada del ruc (literally the taking down of the donkey), the emblem of Solsona Carnival, which was declared a Festival of National Tourist Interest in 1978. Legend has it that the people of Solsona wanted to send a donkey to eat the grass that was growing in the bell tower of the Tower of the Hours. The problem was that the donkey could not get up the stairs of the tower, therefore it was decided to bring the animal up by means of the rope tied around its neck. The donkey died in the intent, but the people of Solsona converted it into a festival that they repeat each year at Carnival, but with a donkey made out of papier-mâché.
Quite apart from this event, the Carnival is different from all the others. The popular fancy dresses have been replaced by smocks in many colours that are worn by the various groups and by the crazy giants, that dance to the sound of the “Bufi”. This carnival hymn is one of those kinds of melodies which, without knowing why, you suddenly start humming at any time.
Marta and Kai make the most of the fact that they got to Solsona early to take a stroll through the city. They left the centre, which was buzzing with the Carnival, to go to the Modernist-style building of Hotel Sant Roc, they carried on walking to the Gothic cathedral, the Episcopal Palace and they walked up to the Main Square to join in with the melody that ends the celebration: “A Solsona, bona gent, si no haguessin mort el ruc” (The people of Solsona would be good people if they hadn't killed the donkey”)
Fat Thursday every year (the last Thursday before Lent)
The slight mist there was at dawn gradually disappears in the Pyrenees, while Ricard prepares an anthological shepherd’s breakfast for Marta and Kai: grilled lamb, bread and tomato, cold meats from the region and wine. Essential fuel to be able to cope with a day in the pastures. Ricard is a shepherd so he can reveal all the secrets of this traditional trade to them, such as how to pack a good haversack, how to teach the sheepdog to guide the flock, how to decorate a collar, etc.
At around ten thirty in the morning they lead the flock towards the pastures. This is one of the most authentic moments of the day, this sheepdog starts to work and gets all 730 sheep out. Did you know that there is a Catalan breed of sheepdog? It is a very restrained dog which is lively and intelligent and highly devoted to the shepherd. They set off and Ricard tells Marta and Kai that “being a shepherd is not just a traditional trade, being a shepherd is a feeling, a different way of living.”
When they reach the pastures, our two protagonists are fascinated by the environment of the Cadí-Moixeró Natural Park. The steep cliffs, the green pastures and the circular flight of the vultures. Here the flora and fauna are sovereign, only the sound of the bells breaks the silence. Marta and Kai feel far removed from civilisation and they like this sensation, because they have very rarely felt this close to nature.
Do you fancy doing a Master’s in shepherding?
from June to September
Marta and Kai are extremely interested in history of Catalonia. The visit to the Vall de Boí enchanted them and they want to carry on exploring. They are doing so in the literal sense of the word. They have put their hiking boots on and taken their backpack to travel the Berguedà region. Now you'll find out why!
They are doing the Colony Route – signposted as PR-C 144–, a 33-kilometre itinerary that follows the course of the River Llobregat, between Cal Rosal and Balsareny, to discover the textile colonies that flourished along the riverbank of the Llobregat. This route combines two of Marta and Kai’s passions: hiking and culture.
You can see up to 15 different textile colonies, the first of which is the Cal Rosal colony. The path starts here. This colony, which did the spinning, weaving, finishes and dyeing of the fabrics, left its mark in the Berguedà region. Not only because it was the first one there, but also because it was the one with the greatest number of workers. The route continues to the Vidal colony, having passed the Viladomiu one, where you can visit the Colònia Vidal de Puig-reig Museum. They want to get to know what life and work in the colonies was like in great detail.
Culture is a great excuse for putting on your hiking boots, don’t you think?
All year round, Berga prepares for this celebration of a mediaeval origin. The roots of La Patum can be found in the ancient performances that were given during the Corpus Christi processions which were aimed at educating, moralising and teaching the public to broaden their knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. More than 600 years ago. It is a celebration that has gone beyond Catalan borders and in 2005 it was declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO
Marta and Kai are quite clear that they don't want to miss it. As soon they get to Berga, they can feel the 'patumaire’ passion of the people of the town. The narrow streets of the old centre of the town thunder to the unison singing of the melodies that the musicians play for the dance of the Giants. It is a very festive atmosphere.
The highlight is the Salt de Plens. Sant Pere Square is packed, the fire illuminates all the façades in red and creates an almost supernatural atmosphere with the smoke of the gunpowder in the fireworks and the shadows. Kai, with his eyes like saucers because he has never seen anything similar before, takes endless photos of the moment. They have managed to find a place that is high up, on the stairs of the square, to get a good view.
It is a festival to be enjoyed by the whole family, particularly the children’s Patum on the Friday. It is the same as the adult’s one, but scaled down in size. If you can't get there for Corpus Christi, you can get a taste of what it's about all year round at the Casa de la Patum.
From Wednesday to Sunday of Corpus Christi
Next time you go to La Molina, you shouldn't be surprised if you come across people on bicycles. The Bike Park is one of the star facilities of the resort during the summer. There are 13 downhill slopes designed for riders with a high to medium level, a cross-country circuit, a wood park and the Txiqui Bike Park.
The starting point for the 13 downhill slopes is at an altitude of 2,400 metres on the way out of the Alp 2.500 gondola lift or the higher level of the Trampolí chairlift. You can enjoy the landscape on the way up, which is unique in Catalonia, on mechanical ski lifts, and on the way down, you can raise your adrenaline level.
Marta and Kai are not expert cyclists, but this is not a problem, they just need to be a little careful. La Molina Bike Park has circuits for medium level cyclists and there is even a beginner’s area. Everything prepared so that you can enjoy the mountains on two wheels.
They didn't even need to take their bicycles, they have rented two of them there and have started to peddle the 27 kilometres of routes that join the area of Tossa with the parking area of the gondola lift, particularly indicated for dual suspension bicycles. They go through green areas such as the Coll de Pal, La Molina Lake and forests of mountain pine, which are characteristics of the area and which in winter, are covered in snow. Discover a new side to the Pyrenees in the summer.
La Molina (Cerdanya)
Núria is like a small island surrounded by a sea of mountains. This is where the former name of the Set Valls (Seven Valleys) got its name, from the valleys that come together: Fontalba, Embut, Finestrelles, Elna, Noufonts, Noucreus and Fontnegra, and that keep it isolated. Legend has it that in around 700, a hermit, St Gil, was the first inhabitant of Núria. He lived there for four years until he had to flee leaving behind all his belongings, including a carving of the Mother of God, the cross, the bell and the cooking pot, the symbols of Núria.
Three centuries later, an angel appeared before an inhabitant of Damascus, Amadeo, asking him to travel to Núria to find St Gil’s objects and to build a chapel in honour of the Mother of God. This is what he did. The path he took to get to the sanctuary was the old Queralbs path, the route taken by Marta and Kai.
Nowadays, it is a very popular itinerary in the Pyrenees. It is a 7-kilometre section with a climb of 800 metres which takes about three hours to do. The route follows the course of the River Núria, with its waterfalls and pools. Another legend says that “water women” have been seen swimming in the Cua de Cavall cascade. This route could be renamed the route of legends, don't you think?
Spring, summer, autumn
If the authors of the television series Game of Thrones were to discover the Ripollès region, they could write a whole season based on the history of the comarca. It is a land of counts, abbots, legendary characters, large monasteries, castles and so on. The roots of Catalonia are closely linked to this Pyrenean region.
In the Ripollès region there is one of the largest concentrations of Romanesque art in the Pyrenees and one of the most important ones in Europe. There are some 100 monuments distributed among the 19 municipalities of the comarca. However, Marta and Kai wanted to start discovering the Ripollès region by visiting the Monastery of Santa Maria in Ripoll. In the Monastery Interpretation Centre, they discover that the monastic site was built in the 9th century and they learn about the essential role it played in shaping Catalonia.
The monumental portal, from the mid-12th century, placed on the western façade is one of its most important features. The carefully worked iconography on stone narrates passages from the Bible, such as the story of Cain and Abel, the delivery of the Tables of the Law to Moses or the Judgement of Solomon.
They also go to Sant Joan de les Abadesses Monastery and to the Abbey Palace, one of the most important Catalan Romanesque monuments. In Sant Joan de les Abadesses, they discover the settings and the legends of Count Arnau. Because of his sins he was condemned to ride for eternity as a lost soul on a black horse that shot flames out of its mouth and its eyes. Watch out! You may come across them at night!
Do you still have any doubts that the history of Ripoll could provide a season of the series?
All year round
“In the heights of Olot, above the plain so far, you will find a place the deepest of green the like of which nowhere else shall be seen:”, the poet Joan Maragall wrote about the beech forest known as La Fageda d’en Jordà. It is one of the most magnetic places in the Garrotxa Volcanic Area Natural Park. The verses of the beech forest are also a faithful portrait of the entire park. The form of the land, the type of soil, and the climate all favour exuberant plant life. In all, there are 15,000 hectares of protected space.
Marta and Kai have also gone there, attracted by the volcanic richness of the park. With some 40 volcanic cones and more than 20 lava outflows, it is the best example of volcanic landscape on the Iberian Peninsula. Experts situate the creation of these volcanoes between 350,000 and 10,000 years ago and each one was formed from a single eruption. The largest one is Croscat, which is 160 metres high.
There are 28 routes for discovering the Garrotxa Volcanic Area Natural Park. Most of them are signposted, apart from some of the longest ones which can be followed using the plan-guide of the park. Would you like to get a general idea? You can choose Marta and Kai’s option, the route covering the three essential places: the Jordà beech forest, Santa Margarida volcano and Croscat volcano. In less than four and a half hours you will see the most popular places.
Today is self-homage day. Marta and Kai want to taste the gastronomy of the Garrotxa region and have gone to one of the restaurants of the Cuina Volcànica Group. The dishes they prepare produce an explosion of sensations on their palate, and they are all made using products from the Catalan land of fire. One of the star products is Santa Pau haricot beans, with a protected origin denomination. They are highly appreciated for their delicate taste and the short cooking time they require.
The nine restaurants in the Cuina Volcànica Group also propose a special pairing. Up until now they had prepared volcanic cuisine menus with traditional, creative dishes made using products from the land, but now they complete it with their own drink: traditionally brewed Cuina Volcànica beer made using basalt water, barley malt, yeast, hops and buckwheat, an autochthonous plant in the Garrotxa region that gives the beer a special tang.
Marta and Kai can choose from pork loin stuffed with truffles and penny bun mushrooms with red fruit sauce, or knuckle of locally-reared lamb with chanterelle mushrooms, or cod stewed with calçots (a local kind of long onion) and tomato jam from the beech forest with this new, explosive volcanic beer.
All year round
The magic of the Middle Ages can be found everywhere in Besalú. Marta and Kai would not be surprised if a knight on horseback, perfectly attired in armour, a helmet and chainmail, were to trot over the mediaeval bridge. The <a href="http://www.visitpirineus.com/en/experiences/places-cultural-interest/besalu-bridge">bridge</a> consists of seven angular arches supported by pillars sitting on the stones of the river. It is 105 metres long and has a 30-meter high tower. The first view they get of Besalú is highly impressive.
The narrow mediaeval streets lead the couple through the architectural heritage of the town: the Casa Cornellà, considered to be one of the best-preserved examples of Romanesque civil architecture in Catalonia; the Cúria Reial, a noble building constructed between the 13th and 14th centuries; the Monastery of Sant Pere, with the ambulatory reserved for the pilgrims, where they worshipped the relics of Sant Prim and Sant Felicià. This takes them to the <a href="http://www.visitpirineus.com/en/highlights/jewish-bathhouse-besalu">Jewish Mikveh</a>, Besalú's hidden treasure.
The Jewish Mikveh was the first Jewish bath site that was discovered on the Iberian Peninsula. There are only three more in the whole of Europe. It is a Romanesque-style underground room, constructed from carved stone, with a barrel vault and a pool that was filled naturally with water from a spring and that was designed to purify the soul through the total immersion of the body.
All year round
The museum itself is a work of art. The Dalí Theatre-Museum was the great creation of the surrealist genius. Salvador Dalí himself was responsible for designing the building so that visitors could have complete immersion in his universe. “Where, if not in my city, should the most extravagant and solid piece of my work last, where if not here?” Salvador Dalí asked.
His work can be seen, starting with the façade, decorated with cottage loaves, framed by phantasmagorical figures supported by crutches and crowned by a huge glass dome. The selfie taken by Marta and Kai with the building in the background was a “must”. Inside, they will see paintings, drawings, sculptures, engravings, installations, jewels, holograms, photographs, stereoscopics, etc. The permanent collection in the museum covers the painter's artistic career, from its beginnings to his last works, passing through futurism, Impressionism and of course, surrealism.
Kai is very moved by seeing the Mae West room for himself, one of the works that Dalí made with the express purpose that it should be permanently exhibited in the museum. In this group, there is also the Wind Palace room, the monument to Francesc Pujols and the Rainy Taxi. The Theatre-Museum is yet another example of Salvador Dalí's creative versatility.
Figueres (Alt Empordà)
All year round
It offers one of the best panoramic views of the Cap de Creus. Sant Pere de Rodes Monastery is in the highest point of Port de la Selva, on the top of the Verdera mountain range. It is one of those places that captivates you due to its majestic nature and the subtle harmony with which nature and the hand of man coexist. Marta and Kai decided to go there after visiting the Dalí Museum.
The most notable feature of the monastery is the church, one of the most spectacular pieces of Catalan Romanesque architecture. It was built between the 10th and 11th centuries to welcome pilgrims. The central nave is very high and is supported by a system of immense pillars and double columns. The caliphal-style capitals are in Corinthian tradition and are considered to be among the best sculptural pieces of the 11th century.
Although the real origin of the monastery is unknown, during the guided visit, Kai and Marta are told some of the legends about its founding. They are told that some monks disembarked in the area with the remains of St Peter and other saints, to prevent them from being profaned by the barbarians who were threatening to attack Rome.
El Port de la Selva (Alt Empordà)
All year round
Marta tells Kai about it and daydreams that, in fact, the Cap de Creus lighthouse was created to guide ships but, above all, so that during the night, sailors could see one of the natural marvels of the Costa Brava. The Cap de Creus Natural Park will make a lasting impression on your memory due to the views of its wild coast, dotted with little islets, with steep cliffs and remote bays. The effect of the north wind known as the tramuntana has caused some of the rocks to be eroded into whimsical shapes. The wind has transformed the landscape in a very special way. With a little bit of imagination, you can make out lions, dragons and other figures in the rocks.
The park has two differentiated protected areas: the land and sea. The part on land includes three natural places of national interest: the part that goes from Cap Gros to Cap de Creus, to the north, which has an integral natural reserve (that of Cap de Creus with the islets of Maça Major and s’Encalladora); the part from Punta Falconera to Cap de Norfeu, to the south (which is also an integral natural reserve) and that of the Serra de Rodes mountain range. All the islands and islets in the maritime area of Cap de Creus are also a Natural Place of National Interest. There are more than 13,880 hectares of protected habitat.
With the map in their hands, our protagonists have decided to discover it by following one of the signposted itineraries in the park. They have chosen the one that connects all the municipalities of the park and will take them to emblematic places such as the Coll de Sant Genís, which is spectacular due to its views over the Gulf of Roses, among others. Little by little, Marta and Kai understand why the beauty of Cap de Creus has inspired poets, singers and painters, such as Salvador Dalí.
El Port de la Selva (Alt Empordà)
All year round