I bet if you happen to like football you have already heard the famous cheering of F.C. Barcelona: “visca el Barça i visca Catalunya“, meaning “long live Barça and Catalonia“. And yes, when we think about Catalonia as a potential travel destination, usually the first spot coming to everyone’s mind is its capital city: Barcelona. If we think further then normally we include Costa Brava into the plan, but an average first or even second time visitor rarely think further. What a pity! As Catalonia has many hidden and less hidden gems to discover. So let’s get lost in Catalonia! It’s time to review the 10 most picturesque non-coastal Catalan villages for future inspiration.
On the last week of December in 2020 we decided to explore inner Catalonia and our first stop was in Peratallada, one of – or maybe for some – the most beautiful Catalan medieval village(s). We arrived at lunchtime, and the restaurants were full, even though the village is ready to welcome tourists, we needed to book a table for the second slot in order to fit into the restaurant’s schedule. We used this additional time to walk around on the narrow streets, admire the very well-conserved stone walls and lovely stone houses all around. They still had the Christmas decorations and lights around, so the whole place had a super romantic and cute vibe.
The next day we decided to visit Monells, the famous village of the movie Spanish Affair 2. (Ocho apellidos catalanes). This medieval village was built around the former castle of which only the outer walls are still preserved. Even though its most emblematic point is the Jaume I square, the way there (Carrer dels arcs) under the uncountable number of arches is as lovely too. On the main square, a very important market was held during the medieval period. The charm and the excellent restoration of this square and of the streets of Monells attract a lot of tourists during normal periods, so they are very well prepared to welcome tourists with bars, cafes, restaurants, and rural houses.
3. Santa Pau
Santa Pau is located next to the Baixa Garrotxa Volcanic Nature Reserve in the Girona region of Catalonia. Situated within this conservation area, it retains its medieval charm and is surrounded by a stunning series of dormant volcanoes. The town grew in importance following the Roman and Arabic invasions. The site was chosen as a suitable location for a stronghold and following the construction of the Castle, the town developed around it within fortified walls. With much of the town retaining its original medieval buildings, Santa Pau was granted protected heritage and artistic status in 1971. Santa Pau is an ideal place to visit for a quiet, relaxing break, be that a day trip or a longer stay. It has numerous lovely walks in the vicinity, excellent sights to see and buildings to explore, and provides a delightful contrast to larger towns and cities. Of course, it springs into life for festivals, but in a quaint and relaxing manner.
Farena is actually a district of the municipality of Mont-ral, at an altitude of about 610 meters. Currently, the village of Farena is practically uninhabited, especially in the winter. In summer, on the other hand, it becomes a super touristy village. No wonder why, it looks like a real fairy tale! The village cannot be accessed by car. There are two parking areas at the entrance of the village where you are obliged to leave your vehicle. Afterward, you can walk around in the village freely, and due to its tiny size, it can be done perfectly within an hour.
Read our complete article about Farena here.
Siurana is a village of officially 27 inhabitants. Yes, 27. It lies 737 meters high, surrounded by cliffs from all around. This tiny, cute historical village of the municipality of the Cornudella de Montsant is located in the comarca of Priorat, Tarragona, Catalonia. It is often visited by tourists for its historical relevance, rock climbing conditions, and excellent views of the surrounding valley. The cliffs around the village are popular among climbers too due to the abundance of excellent climbs up. Next to the endless rocks and cliffs, you can find in this tale village many medieval houses, villas out of stones, cobblestones narrow streets everywhere. Also, a tiny shop with local goods and two restaurants are welcoming the tourists, out of one is functioning as a bar too with a big terrace in a cute square among the medieval stone walls.
Read our complete article about Siurana here.
Rupit is located in the natural region of Collsacabra and mixes attractive natural landscapes with medieval buildings of great architectural and tourist value in a very balanced way. One of the greatest attractions of the place is simply to walk through its streets and observe how on each corner we find a place where we would stop to take pictures. Rupit is a town of medieval origin, but its walls and castles have not withstood the passage of time very well. So what we admire currently in town are mainly stone houses dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. Several of the gates have an inscription on the stone lintel with the date of their construction and we have to say that despite the fact that many of these houses are already more than 400 years old, they are extraordinarily well preserved.
Read our complete article about Rupit here.
Tavertet is located just 12 kilometers from Rupit. Although the distance between the two towns is very short, the journey takes about 25 minutes as it passes through a section of rural road where the road is quite narrow, although its condition is correct for regular cars. Tavertet is a small municipality of just over 150 inhabitants made up of the urban centers of Sant Bartomeu Sesgorgues and Tavertet itself. Tavertet is an ideal town to enjoy its natural environment and a good starting point for excursions in the area.
Read our complete article about Tavertet here.
Montblanc is a fine medieval town and its historic center lies within well-conserved defensive walls. You should definitely leave your car outside the walls and enter by walking. through the Bover Tower, a defensive gate and entrance into the old town. You can wander around the lanes and old streets and admire the 13th and 14th-century buildings as you walk. You will be able to spot a number of Romanesque and Gothic monuments as well. Particular places to see in Montblanc are the Gothic church of Santa Maria with its ornate facade. Also the Romanesque Sant Miquel and the Sant Marcel which contains the Museu Marès. The 13th century Els Jueus building was once Catalonia ‘s parliament building. Outside of the medieval walls there is a lovely old stone bridge, a convent, and the old hospital of Santa Magdalena.
We decided to spend the last day of 2020 in Besalú. Due to the recent restrictions, everything was closed after 15:30. So we enjoyed our lunch, a perfect paella on the main square at NOX Arrosseria – highly recommended – and observed that afterwards every place, all terrraces, bars, stores, everything got closed. So we dedicated the remaining daylight to walk around and in-between the medieval walls of Besalú, crossing on the emblematic bridge, take a stroll on the riverbank, and observing this famous, in normal times very vivid town, now in these weird conditions. After in our hotel – not recommended at all –, we were told that their restaurant is not only closed for New Year’s Eve, but they refused to serve us even a single coffee after 15:30, we decided to go back to the main square and admiring the beauty of Monestir de Sant Pere during the night illuminated by Christmas lights and waiting for the midnight to eat our 12 grapes of luck.
10. Castellfollit de la Roca
All around social media you can find more and more breathtaking and spectacular pictures about Castellfollit de la Roca. Usually, all these photos are taken from above or definitely showing an areal or far-panoramic view. Why? It’s simple because this is the most catchy part of the village. If you have a drone, it’s one of the places you must visit and admire from above its special street structure built on a narrow cliff. Of course, it doesn’t mean that the rest of the village is a disappointment, but it’s better to be prepared that the most amazing view actually you will be able to have either from above or from the road down in the valley and unfortunately not in the village itself. Nevertheless, the stunning landscapes that embrace Castellfollit de la Roca are lush and mystical, and in the village are best seen from the viewpoint, set right on the cliff’s edge at the Josep Pla square.
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3 Replies to “Let’s get lost in Catalonia! The 10 most picturesque non-coastal Catalan villages – part I.”
Hi, Anna and Dani! Excellent selection. I think I would have chosen the same towns, more or less, except Farena, just because I haven’t heard of this place. So, thanks to this post I will propose to Maria José to visiit it quite soon.
By the way, I think one of the mos interesting places to visit in Besalú is “El call” (the Jewish quarter), whrere you can see a 12th century mikveh (jewish bath). Yes, it’s not a big quarter, but it’s quite interesting.