In the first part of this series, we have covered 10 beautiful inland villages in Catalonia. Take a look here, if you missed “Let’s get lost in Catalonia! The 10 most picturesque non-coastal Catalan villages – part I.”, as this article is a continuation of that.
Of course, the list doesn’t end here, as Catalonia has many things to offer. Please remember that the villages that we include are not in order of preference. So let’s continue the virtual journey now, and let’s get lost in Catalonia, again & again!
Once arriving at the village of Miravet, you will immediately notice, that the stunning Miravet Castle is located on a hill, providing exceptional views of the entire village. The hill doesn’t look high, but you need to walk a bit to get up there – approximately 15-20 minutes. The roads of this wild hill are rugged and overgrown with weeds. But worth knowing that there are options to get up there by car too. But in reality, it’s just a much better choice to walk up, and because of the lower accessibility of people, the air in the mountains is exceptionally fresh, and there is a layer of green moss on the side of the road. Not to mention the viewing points on the way, such as Església vella and the Mirador Isglesia Vella. And what an achievement when you finally see the castle on the top of the hill. The shape of the castle is quite unique and all the medieval walls are very well conserved. You need to pay a small entrance fee usually to get inside, but it’s definitely worth it. As the palace at that time, its defense performance is also very good. It has been witnessing the decline and prosperity of people for hundreds of years, but it still stands proud. The castle walls are not so high, letting us admire the beautiful scenery behind.
Horta de Sant Joan is a village and municipality in the comarca of Terra Alta. It’s famous for the fact that Pablo Picasso spent a year in his life here and learned a considerable amount of his artistic skills in the place. Manuel Pallares, friend, and companion of Pablo Picasso was born in Horta, and thanks to him, Picasso spent some time in Horta during his youth (1897–98). He is quoted as having said, “Everything I know I learned in Horta”. Picasso later returned to develop his Proto-Cubism style of painting (1909). During both visits, he made many paintings and drawings. There is a Centro Picasso (Picasso Center) that organizes expositions, symposiums, and publications about the artist.
It’s worth a visit even for those who have no interest in Picasso because it’s one of those places where you feel that time has stood still. It’s easy to imagine how life would have been a century or two ago, for the local people who depended so much on nature for their livelihood. The old part of the town makes you feel like you’ve entered a different period of history, with its medieval character, narrow streets, and beautiful stone buildings. The village is really charming and is idyllic for those who want to enjoy some peaceful rural tourism. Of course, if you have any interest in art generally, or particularly in Picasso, this is an experience not to be missed. It is hard to imagine not being touched in some way when you come here to sense how the young artist may have felt in these surroundings.
Read more about Horta de Sant Joan here.
Santa Coloma de Queralt is a historic town. Some of the main points of interest are the four medieval gateways that formed part of the walls that used to surround the old town. There are also the remains of the Castles d’Aguiló and Queralt, and the Palace of the Counts of Queralt is an imposing edifice. There are two squares surrounded by porticoed buildings, the Plaça Major and the Plaça de l’Església. The Casa de la Villa now houses the town hall, and the Jewish neighborhood has small twisting streets. The Gothic church of Santa Coloma was built in the 14th century. The Church of Santa Maria de Bell-lloc dates to the 13th and 14th centuries. It is built in Gothic style but with a Romanesque portal.
La Morera de Montsant is located in the mountainous wine-producing region of the Serra de Montsant thus named because there were many hermits living in the range in early Medieval times. The wines of La Morera de Montsant are also famous and belong to the DO Priorat. Almonds, hazelnuts, and olives are also grown in the municipality.
The places of interest include the parish church, with a Romanesque doorway dedicated to the Nativity of Our Lady – Iglesia de la Nativitat, and the Mas de Sant Blai, a large farmhouse on the site of the former convent of Bonrepòs. Not to mention the little abandoned Castell de la Morera de Montsant.
Natural attractions include various “graus“, the spectacular paths and scrambles that scale the cliffs of the Montsant: the Grau dels Barrots, Grau del Carabassal, Grau del Carrasclet, Grau de l’Agnet, Grau de l’Espinós, Grau de la Grallera and Grau de Salfores, among others.
Pratdip is a municipality in the comarca of Baix Camp, in the province of Tarragona. Most of the people of Pratdip work in agriculture in the pastures, fields, and forests around the village. Prominent local agricultural products are hazelnuts and almonds.
The territory that currently makes up the municipality of Pratdip has been occupied over the centuries by various civilizations. Proof of this is the existence of different archaeological sites such as the remains of the Castle, the Aufinac or the Castellet de les Mugues.
Thanks to its location among the beautiful mountains of The Sierra de Llaberia, which is part of the Catalan Prelitoral Range, more specifically the Mestral Mountains, it’s a very popular spot for hikers, climbers, and bikers too.
Torroja del Priorat is one of the tiny villages of Priorat area, in the province of Tarragona. In the center of the county, in the middle of the valley of the river Siurana, lies Torroja del Priorat; a village perched on a hill (Coll de la Serra) to the left of the river. Also worth mentioning that the streets of this picturesque village are paved with pebbles from the river Siurana.
The parish church of Sant Miquel (St. Michael) has a Baroque organ built by Jean Pierre Cavaller in the 18th century, considered one of the historic organs of Catalonia. Every Summer the Catalan organ season includes a concert here. Besides that, it’s worth mentioning their Jocs Florals literary competition, which is held on the Saturday before the second Sunday in May. It features poets from all over the Catalan-speaking lands. The main village festivity is held on 29th September, Saint Michael’s day.
Alcover is a municipality in the comarca of Alt Camp, Tarragona. The Prades Mountains are located in the vicinity of this municipality. In Alcover there are several monuments declared cultural assets of national interest, but the most remarkable is the Església Vella o de la Puríssima Sang.
This old parish church of Alcover retains only part of its structure, due to the fire that suffered in 1936 and the collapse of the following year, when the building of the old hospital, which acted as a buttress. However, it had already lost its status as a major church since the construction of the new church in the 15th and 17th centuries. The preserved remains have been restored and consolidated modernly.
The first document that mentions the church is from the year 1060 although it is a moment previous to the Christian repopulation. There is no other mention until the year 1154. The present building was built in the middle of the 13th century, still under the Romanesque style. Of a single nave, divided into two sections by a toral arch, topped by a semicircular apse, which was covered with a barrel vault. The device is made of reddish saulón ashlars, well-cut, and of considerable size. A magnificent radial rose window is preserved on the frontispiece, considered one of the most notable in Catalonia in the Romanesque style. The door consists of two archivolts supported on two columns with smooth capitals. The interior sculptural decoration is remarkable, with bevelled capitals with very marked and deep shapes, of various motifs: a reclining male figure, an eagle, a crane, a dragon and plant elements.
Banyoles is a city of 17000 inhabitants located in the province of Girona in northeastern Catalonia. The town is the capital of the Catalan comarca “Pla de l’Estany“. Although an established industrial center many of the inhabitants commute to nearby Girona (12 km to the south). Banyoles is most famous for the Lake of Banyoles, a natural lake located in a tectonic depression. It has a super calm and charming vibe, friendly ducks and kingfisher birds around, and a nice promenade for running, cycling, or just walking. It was the venue for the rowing events in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics as well as the “negro of Banyoles“, a controversial piece of taxidermy.
The main reason why we went to La Bisbal d’Empordà was that it was simply on our way and we could find a reasonable last-minute option to stay there for a night. But even when we arrived at the town we realized that it has a unique and very authentic vibe. Since it was still before lunchtime when we got there, we took a short walk in the old town and noticed that regardless of not being the most unforgettable place in terms of architecture, the people are out on the streets, the main square – Plaça Major – that used to be the old market square, was full of cute terraces, and some sellers were offering their vegetable and fruit selections, and all these details gave such a cute and vivid atmosphere to the old town, that we were both surprised. La Bisbal d’Empordà is famous for their Pastisserias, worth admiring these little pastry and candy stores even from the outside. And the most hipster and coolest bar in town is also located at one of the corners of the main square: Ca la Pilar Dumingu.
We booked a table in a random restaurant in advance, as during Covid-19 times it’s highly recommended, especially on the last week of 2020, when we were there. The restaurant was called El Teatret and it overwrote all our expectations about daily menus. It was simply fantastic, for a very reasonable price we received such a menu, that even the overpriced, super posh, fancy places could envy. The food, the flavors, the service, and the place itself are all high standard with a lovely outdated and romantic vibe, that made the whole experience homey and cozy. Since that day we are dreaming about their black rice. Super highly recommended!
And if all these wouldn’t have been enough, it’s worth knowing that La Bisbal d’Empordà is historically a center of ceramics production. Wherever you go in the center or in the subburbs, you will see nicer and nicer ceramics sellers, stores and factories. Definitely recommended to get into at least one and try not to buy anything.
20. La Vilella Baixa
La Vilella Baixa lies in the east of the Priorat region, nestling beneath the Montsant massif, and two rivers meet right in the middle of the village: the Montsant and the Riuet d’Escaladei. The Catalan writer Josep Maria Espinàs, in one of his first travel books, renamed the village of La Vilella Baixa to the Nova York del Priorat (New York of the Priorat), which has made his a fortune. He was amazed and surprised by the height of the local houses overlooking the coasts of the two rivers, hence the comparison. But apart from the high buildings, if you think about it, both La Vilella Baixa and also New York City are located in the confluence of two rivers. The Montsant and Escaladei for La Vilella Baixa, and the Hudson & East Rivers in New York. Let’s face it, besides the fancy name, this village is extremely small, with approx. 200 inhabitants and therefore the possibilities are also limited. Still thanks to the beautiful natural surroundings, the interesting architecture and the amazing Priorat wine it’s indeed a nice destination for a day trip!
Read our complete article about La Vilella de Baixa here.