Vall de Boí – The route of the UNESCO World Heritage Catalan Romanesque Churches

We propose here the UNESCO World Heritage route in Vall de Boí, along the Catalan Romanesque Churches included in UNESCO World Heritage List on 30th November 2000.

According to UNESCO’s criteria, this set of churches of the Catalan Pyrenees shows significant developments in Romanesque art and architecture and testifies to profound cultural interchange across medieval Europe, and in particular across the mountain barrier of the Pyrenees. In addition, these churches of Vall de Boí are an especially pure and consistent example of Romanesque art in a virtually untouched rural setting. We invite you to follow us on a visit you will never regret. 

Get more routes in Catalonia and be inspired by our travel series: Let’s get lost in Catalonia.

Itinerary

We propose a 33 kilometers, one-hour-long route, within 8 villages and 10 churches, 9 of those declared World Heritage by UNESCO. Even if it is true that the whole route can be done in one hour by car, you may need at least two complete days to visit all the churches, enjoy nature and the local gastronomy.

Vall de Boí UNESCO World Heritage route
Vall de Boí UNESCO World Heritage route

Vall de Boí is a branch of valleys and ranges. The villages were very small some decades ago since they lost a lot of population that went to towns far away from the mountains. Those villages joined in only one town hall which includes Barruera, Boí, Cardet, Cóll, Durro, Erill la Vall, Taüll, Saraís and the residential complex of Pla de l’Ermita. Currently they have a common development strategy based in tourism and they have been widened with new apartment buildings which keep the traditional style and patterns. 

Barruera is kind of the main town of the municipality since it is very well located on the path of the main road, set down on the bottom part of the Noguera de Tor River Valley, in between Pont de Suert and Caldes de Boí. There are not many things to do in the villages besides visiting the Romanesque churches but they are excellent places for relaxing. This route itself is an excellent plan for a weekend which combines nature, gastronomy and local culture and history. 

During holidays and weekends, this is a busy territory, where you can find a lot of cars on very narrow roads and have some troubles finding accommodation even there are a lot of apartments to rent. One single regular road goes along the narrow valley from South to North. Only Barruera is on the path of the main road. The rest of the villages are in upper positions and you need to take specific narrow roads to arrive at each of those. 

Plan your trip

Get there and moving around

Vall de Boí is still a remote territory. From Barcelona is 280Km, from Lleida 145Km and from Tarragona 236Km. It can take more than 3 hours to arrive from Barcelona or Tarragona and almost 2 from Lleida. The best way to arrive and moving arund is by car even is possible to arrive by train to La pobla de Segur.  

Car

  • From Lleida: N-230 Torrefarrera – link with the A-14 variant towards Vielha – Toulouse. Exit at Alfarràs and N-230 towards Benabarre – El Pont de Suert, and finally take the detour towards Vall de Boí L-500
  • From Barcelona: A-2 motorway towards Lleida and take the A-14 variant Vielha – Toulouse direction, Exit N-230 Alfarràs – El Pont de Suert, and finally take the detour towards Vall de Boí L-500

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Bus

Alsa Bus:

  • Lleida and Barcelona to El Pont de Suert.
  • El Pont de Suert (departure 8.20 a.m.) – El Pla de la Ermita (arrival 8.55 a.m.)
  • El Pla de la Ermita (departure 3.05 p.m.)  – El Pont de Suert (arrival 3.40 a.m.)

Train

  • RENFE Train service to Lleida and Lleida – La Pobla de Segur

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Where to stay

There are plenty of options for accommodation in Vall de Boí. Recently many tourist apartments have been set up. We recommend especially staying in Barruera because of its strategic location or in Taüllsince it has the best offers and the nicest spots in the valley. Get the best prices guaranteed booking via our link

  • Hotel Farré D’avall (Barruera): Old school hotel to enjoy a classic way of tourism that is still alive while the model is changing. The rooms are clean and the food is good.  
  • Hostal Rural Sant Climent (Taüll): Nice rooms and apartments with views to Sant Climent de Taüll, probably the best spot in the valley.
  • If you are looking for more options where to stay along the route of the UNESCO World Heritage Catalan Romanesque Churches, take a look on the further options here:

The route of the UNESCO World Heritage: Towns and churches

Cóll

To arrive to Cóll you have to take the detour on L-500 road and drive up to the hill 2,4 km. The road is narrow and can be surprisingly very busy on some special dates since the village use to multiple its population on holidays (normally they are only 37 inhabitants in the village). 

It has no services at all. So plan to bring your own food and drinks if needed. The church is just before arriving the main village in Carrer Major. It is an excellent location for a quiet picnic. 

L’assumpció de Coll

This is a 12th Century church which has been partially renovated. In the 70’s the roof was rebuilt and in 2013 the gate and the bell tower were restored. In terms of its building materials, this church is quite different from the other churches in the Vall de Boí. The size of the ashlars and the decorative work in the façade are the most interesting parts of the church, especially the carved capitals representing struggles between men and animals. 

At the entrance gate there is a wrought iron bolt of Romanesque style, finished in the shape of an animal’s head. This a very common element among the churches of the valley.

Inside the church, we can still see the three Romanesque fountains, but unfortunately, the church is closed for visitors.

  • Good for 2 days trip
  • Free
  • 15 minutes visit
  • Closed for visitors

Cardet

Cardet has only 5 inhabitants but you could have problems to park during holidays. From the main road you need to take the detour and drive about one kilometer to arrive to the main village. There is only a small parking lot at the entrance of the village. The set of stone houses is cute and calm. On the other street, one minute walking you will be able to spot the entrance gate and the cemetery attached to the Church. 

There are no services at all in the village. 

Santa Maria de Cardet

The church of Santa Maria (s. XI – XII) in Cardet has one of the most spectacular apses in the Vall de Boí, but it is very difficult to admire since it is hung on a non accessible cliff. It was built on the steep mountainside, taking advantage of the slope to construct a small crypt inside, the only one of all the churches in the area.

One century after its construction they needed to rebuild the nave due to some problems with the structure. 

Unlike the rest of the churches in the Vall de Boí, in this case the bell tower is a belfry wall, as the result of some Baroque renovations. The last renovation aimed to restore the inside of the church to its appearance in 2005. Unfortunately, the interior it is closed for visitors.

  • Good for 2 days trip
  • Free
  • 15 minutes visit
  • Closed for visitors

Iran

Iran is a population of the municipality of Pont de Suert. It is 1288 meters above sea level, and has 11 inhabitants. Actually, we decided to go there because of its funny name and to discover something in the valley besides the World Heritage set of UNESCO. It was worth.

There are almost 4 km from Irán detour on a very narrow road to reach the village. There was no traffic at all during Eastern holidays in Spain. When you arrive in Irán you must park on the only space you can at the entrance of the village. Inside the cars don’t fit at all in the narrow streets. Surprisingly, there are two homemade signs showing you are not welcome to park in this only place. In town, there is Casa Joanot, as the only service to eat and stay. Maybe, they could explain why, 

The village is small and cute and the landscape around awesome. 

Sant Climent d’Iran

This is the only church in this article not included in the World Heritage set of UNESCO. It is a Romanesque church from XI – XII Centuries. The church has a small church with a single nave with a semicircular apse. It is not difficult to find since the village is small but it is almost hidden by the nearby houses and its level of preservation is improvable. It is a good example of what to be blessed by UNESCO could be and otherwise. 

  • Good for 3 days trip
  • Free
  • 10 minutes visit
  • Closed for visitors

Barruera 

This is the main town of the valley and the location of the town hall of the municipality. Since it is in the geographic center of the spread villages of Vall de Boí, it has been convenient to concentrate some of the most important services for locals in this town. So, if you need something from the civilization besides tourist services you may go there. 

Barruera is a vivid nice town, full of bars and restaurants, camping, street food and even a river passage full of people enjoying the views on holidays.  

Sant Feliu de Barruera

The church of Sant Feliu in Barruera contains architectural elements from the 11th and 12th centuries.

These two differences of construction are evident in the two apses conserved at the church. The 11th century apse decorated with rounded arcading and pilaster strips and irregular stonework is very different from the 12th-century apse made out of the ashlars. There are some renovations carried out on the church and its furnishings in order to adapt to the tastes and needs of the community that has used the temple since the 12th century uninterruptedly. From the 17th and 18th centuries, we find some Baroque elements which have been restored in the ’70s. 

Because of the limitations of COVID-19, it is better to book in advance.

  • Obvious must
  • Good for 1 day plan
  • 2 euros per person
  • 20 minutes

Open. Daily, except  25th December, from 2nd November to 26th November and 1st January. From 10:00 to 14:00

Erill la Vall

Erill la Vall is a very nice village, made out of stone like the others but with a special character. It is calm and real. It seems that there is someone still living and farming for real. The views to the mountains are really beautiful and you can eat open air in the garden of a very nice restaurant called La Granja. 

Santa Eulàlia d’Erill la Vall

Santa Eulàlia is awesome, you fall in love at the first glance. It has one of the best bell-towers in Vall de Boí. The church was built in the 11th Century and the nave was extended and bell-tower built in the 12th Century. It is six storeys high and is decorated in the Lombard Romanesque style with rounded arcading and saw-tooth friezes. 

Aligned with the bell-tower of Sant Joan in Boí and that one with Sant Climent of Taüll, it was used for communications and as a watchtower over the area. You can see from the road how those three towers were awesomely connected. 

Inside the church, there is a copy of the sculpture of the Romanesque piece of art called Descent from the Cross, which is the only whole wood carving sculpture group remaining from the Erill Workshop. The originals are kept in two museums: the National Museum of Catalan Art in Barcelona and Episcopal Museum of Vic. During the ‘60s the bell tower was restored and from 1994 to 1997 there were archaeological excavations and restoration work.

Because of the limitations of COVID-19, it is better to book in advance.

  • Obvious must
  • Good for 1 day plan
  • 2 euros per person
  • 20 minutes visit
  • Daily open except  25th December and 1st January. From 10.00 to 14.00 and 16.00 to 19.00 h. (July and August until 20.00)

Durro

Durro is 3,6 km far away from Barruera. It is definitely worth to go, It may be some traffic on the road on holidays since the village has some nice summer houses that keep the original style of construction out of stone. It is like a fairy tale village and the landscape around is stunning. Don’t miss the hermitage!

Nativitat de Durro

This is a church from the 12th century. During the 16th – 17th centuries two chapels were opened at the side and during the 18th century the chevet of the church and the porch were renovated. The size of this church, the large dimensions of the nave, the bell-tower, the carved portal and the porch are the proofs of the importance of the village of Durro in the Middle Ages. 

Inside the church there is the Romanesque image of Nicodemus, which originally was one of the sculptures of the Descent from the Cross of Barruera.

Because of the limitations of COVID-19, it is better to book in advance.

  • Obviously a must
  • Good for 1 day plan
  • 2 euros visit
  • 15 minutes visit
  • Open daily, except  25th December, from 2nd November to 26th November and 1st January. From 16:00 to 19:00 (July and August until 20:00).

Sant Quirc de Durro

This small building is from the 12th century with Baroque additions. The Sant Quirc Hermitage is in a privileged location on the Durro mountain at a height of 1,500 metres with spectacular views that justify a visit. It is not far away, only two kilometers from the main villages but going by car could be a mess since the road is narrow and many visitors go there to enjoy the views. 

In the past, it was a territorial marker, connected to the social area used by the community and to the pagan tradition of “fallas”. In this tradition, the local people descend the mountain at night by the light of flaming torches, specially in Sant Joan’s night.

Inside there is harmony between its different artistic styles, with a copy of the Romanesque frontal of the altar, the Gothic style image of San Quirc and Santa Julita and the Baroque altarpiece. The building was restored in 1996 but unfortunately it is closed for visitors. Even that, this is the perfect location for a picnic.

  • Perfect for a 2 days plan
  • Free
  • 15 minutes visit
  • Closed for visitors

Boí

Boí is small but nice, kind of of authentic if you compare it with its neighbours. Anyway it is an important centre to organize routes to Parc Nacional of Aigüestortes and to hunt and accommodation near Taüll. You can explore its few narrow streets and catch up with some real life from Pyrenees range. There is a nice restaurant with terrace just in front of the church. 

Sant Joan de Boí

The church of Sant Joan de Boí has the largest number of architectural elements from the early Romanesque building work that took place in Vall de Boí in the 11th century. Its basilical layout, like in Sant Climent and Santa Maria de Taüll, is the mural paintings decorating the interior of the naves with scenes such as The Stoning of Saint Stephen, The Minstrels, and The Bestiary.

The last restoration aimed, as far as possible, to take back the church to what it must have looked like in the 12th century. The interior was darkened and they made a copy of all the fragments of frescoes currently conserved at the MNAC in Barcelona.

Because of the limitations of COVID-19, it is better to book in advance.

  • Good for 1 day plan
  • 2 euros per person
  • 20 minutes visit
  • Daily open except  25th December and 1st January. From 10.00 to 14.00 and 16.00 to 19.00 h. (July and August until 20.00)

Taüll

Taüll is a real gem. It has been widened, it has been spoiled, but it is still the best town in the valley. Taüll has two churches in the World Heritage List of UNESCO and probably the most famous and the most beautiful one which is Sant Climent. You have here plenty of options to eat, drink and stay. We recommend to book in advance since it can be quite busy in some periods of the year. Even though the town can seem sometimes overcrowded by tourists and visitors, you will find some quiet corners where to rest calm and enjoy the landscape. 

Sant Climent de Taüll

The church of Sant Climent was built in the 12th Century on an earlier church dating from the 11th Century. It has three naves separated by columns and covered with a wooden gable roof. The chevet of the church has three apses and the bell-tower is high and spectacular. The church is completely iconic as a sample of the purest Lombard Romanesque. 

The  figure  of  Christ in Majesty (Pantocrator) of Taüll has been the most frequently used emblematic image to represent Catalan Romanesque art. The original is kept in the National Museum of Catalan Art in Barcelona.

The church has been restored in 2013 for the third time recently looking for the recovery of original Romanesque painting and a new project of musealization that includes the projection by video mapping of the paintings of the major apse. This video mapping shows how the church of Sant Climent of Taüll was in s. The XIIth, presenting the paintings integrated to the own architecture of the building. The show is interesting for all kinds of visitors.

Because of the limitations of COVID-19, it is better to book in advance.

  • Obvious must
  • Good for 1 day plan
  • 5 euros per person
  • 45 minutes visit
  • Daily open except  25th December and 1st January. From 10.00 to 14.00 and 16.00 to 19.00 h. (July and August until 20.00)

Santa Maria de Taüll

The church of Santa Maria was consecrated on the 11th of December 1123, one day after Sant Climent. The lords of Erill provided the funds to build both of them. This is the only church in the valley that seems to have been built in the middle of a medieval village. 

Like those along the UNESCO World Heritage route in Vall de Boí, most of the mural paintings inside the church were removed and taken to Barcelona between 1919 and 1923. The church currently has a reproduction from the central apse but currently, unfortunately, the church is closed for visitors. If you want to take a look you can join a mess.

  • Good for 1 day plan
  • Free
  • 15 minutes visit
  • Closed for visitors

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