Activities in Catalonia

As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to Catalonia, Paul Bloomfield picks out a selection of activities from the coast to the mountains of the Pyrenees.

Mountain high, river deep… not to mention delta, beach, sea and cycle path – Catalonia's roster of venues and activities is nearly endless. So in the Pyrenees you might try skiing, mountain-biking, hiking or canyoning, or simply immerse yourself in traditional farming life.

Along the coast the beaches lure sun-soakers, but there’s also stand-up paddleboarding, cycling, hiking, scuba-diving, fishing, bird-watching – even punting and rice-planting – to be enjoyed. And in the highlands of Lleida and the Terres de l’Ebre, sheer escarpments and dramatic gorges provide playgrounds for rock-climbers, paragliders, trekkers and kayakers – or, for something less energetic, the chance to soar above dormant volcanoes in a hot-air balloon.

Wine Tasting at Vins & Co, Barcelona

Vins & Co specializes in a wide but carefully selected range of Catalan wines, vermouth and Catalan cava, including wine appellations from Alella, Conca de Barberà, Costers del Segre, Pla del Bages, Priorat, Monsant, and Tarragona.

It provides pairings, tasting courses (there’s capacity for up to 40) and training for both amateurs and experts at its smart shop in the heart of Barcelona city centre. It also offers a ‘Personal Wine Shopper’ advisory service on how to choose wine according to your specific requirements, such as for a dinner or establishing a private cellar. barcelonanavaltours.com

Wine Tasting at the Catedral del Vi, Terres de l’Ebre

The magnificent modernist Wine Cathedral in the small town of El Pinell de Brai is a suitable venue for a veneration of vines and their fruits. A cooperative formed by 14 local families in the early 20th century commissioned renowned architect Cèsar Martinell, a disciple and friend of the great Antoni Gaudí (author of Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia) to create this masterpiece, with its bold and confident exterior, its cavernous interior supported by sinuous parabolic arches and packed with vast wine vats. catedralsdelvi.cat

Wine Tasting at Mas Igneus, Costa Daurada

An exemplary multi award-winning vineyard, certified organic, whose cellar is in a stunning setting at the solar-powered Costers de l’Ermita estate among the slate terraces and hillsides of Gratallops. It has two other estates (Finca Comellars in Poboleda and Finca La Salanca in Torroja) and also works will a small group of independent growers. masigneus.com

Accessible Walking Tour, Barcelona

Barcelona is one of the most accessible-friendly cities in the world. The city’s commitment to barrier-free travel is typified by Barcelona Zero Limits, a travel agency that specialises in inclusive travel. Its accessible walking tours through the city are specially designed for people with reduced mobility. Tours include Stories and Legends of the Gothic Quarter, Ghost Tour, and Literary tour of the city. barcelonazerolimits.com

Hiking at Montserrat Natural Park, Paisatges de Barcelona

The mountain of Montserrat, 50km north-west of Barcelona, is best known as the site of the historic Benedictine Monastery of Santa Maria, founded in 1025, home to the 12th-century statue of Our Lady of Montserrat (the so-called ‘Black Virgin’) that still attracts countless pilgrims today. But though the extensive main monastery complex is the big draw, the striking rock outcrops of the surrounding natural park provide a dramatic backdrop for hikes including the testing climb up to the highest peak, San Jeroni.

Numerous paths offer walks for a range of levels of experience and ability; the easy Tebes Trail visits the ruins of the ancient churches of San Juan, San Onofre and Santa Magdalena. Via ferrata and rock-climbing tours are also available. montserratvisita.com

Hiking the Camí de Ronda, Costa Brava

The Costa Brava (‘wild coast’) on the far-eastern region of Catalonia has beautiful craggy, forested shores, hidden coves, traditional fishing towns and wonderful flora and fauna. The 560km GR92 (Sender del Mediterrani) traces the entire Catalan coastline between the French and Valencian borders, but for a more compact hike try the stretch in the Costa Brava. camideronda.com

Hiking or Mountain Biking the Camin Reiau, Val d’Aran

The long-isolated Pyrenean region of the Val d’Aran has a unique character and heritage (and language, more closely related to Occitan dialects of south-west France than to Catalan). The historic ‘royal road’ that linked the 33 villages of the region has now been waymarked as a wonderful and challenging hiking trail, the Camin Reiau, covering 150km and with ample ups and downs totalling some 12,000m altitude gain. caminreiau.cat

Cycling the Greenway with Esgambi, Terres de l’Ebre

Nearly half a century ago, the train line between Arnes, on the Aragon border, and Tortosa on the lower Ebro closed. But the failure of the railway has been a boon for bikers – the route has now been converted into a wonderful Green Way cycle trail, looping 49km around the dramatic rock outcrops of Els Ports Natural Park and past charming and historic towns and villages such as Horta de Sant Joan, where Picasso spent some years during his youth (“Everything I know, I learned in Horta”, he once said). esgambi.com

Cycling in Catalonia - self-guided

This gentle cycling holiday explores a culturally rich yet remote-feeling corner of Catalonia which is blessed by a truly Mediterranean climate. Mostly mainly along traffic-free vía verde (dedicated cycle paths) and includes a tour of Girona. inntravel.co.uk

Ecological sailing tour, Moll de les Drassanes, Barcelona

An eco-catamaran that runs 40-minute tours throughout the day from Barcelona’s Port Vell harbour. With a carrying capacity for 150 people, a lightweight, aerodynamic design that's powered by renewable energy, it is reputedly the largest ecological passenger catamaran in Europe, and a great way to see the city’s skyline from the sea. barcelonanavaltours.com

Birdwatching by Kayak on the Ebro River, Terres de l’Ebre

The Ebro is Spain’s longest river, flowing 910km south from the Cantabrian Mountains to the Mediterranean at the shimmering delta south-west of Tarragona. It’s also thriving with life, and a guided kayak trip with En Blau offers a wonderful opportunity to admire the colourful and charismatic species that throng its banks. enblau.cat

Climbing in Siurana, Costa Daurada

The tiny medieval stone village of Siurana north-west of Tarragona, perched precariously on the edge of a vertiginous cliff overlooking the eponymous snaking river and marsh far below, is one of the most picturesque in all Catalonia – against stiff competition. turismesiurana.org

Canyoning around Llavorsí, Lleida Pyrenees

If you want an inkling of what a river feels like, try canyoning – hurling yourself down rocky gorges, leaping off high rocks into deep pools, abseiling down cliffs and waterfalls, and sliding down smooth riverbeds… all in the name of fun. The Lleida Pyrenees offer an extensive menu of gorges to tackle, each with its own personality and level of challenge, but all ruggedly beautiful. rocroi.com

Discovering Traditional Farming at Mas la Coromina, Girona Pyrenees

Farming has changed enormously over recent decades – but at this bucolic spot in the volcanic region of La Garrotxa, the same family has been raising dairy cattle for over half a century, maintaining traditional methods and high standards of animal welfare. maslacoromina.cat

Vol de Coloms Hot Air Ballons, Girona Pyrenees

Get a novel perspective on the dormant volcanoes of La Garrotxa – float high above in a hot-air balloon, with far-reaching views across the Pyrenees and south over Montserrat to the Mediterranean, sipping a glass of pink sparkling cava and munching on coca de llardons, a traditional savoury cake. voldecoloms.cat

Paragliding at Montsec, Lands of Lleida

The sheer, southerly rock face of the Montsec massif isn’t just awe-inspiring – it’s also ideal for paragliding and hang-gliding, with reliable updrafts and thermals creating perfect conditions for aerial adventures above the long ridge and the turquoise waters of Carelles Lake and the Congost de Mont-Rebei gorge. zenithaventura.com

Rice Planting on the Ebro Delta, Terres de l’Ebre

As well as seafood, the wide wetlands of the Ebro Delta are famed for rice – since the late 17th century the flat lands flooded by the river’s freshwater have produced some of the highest-quality grains, as well as providing welcoming habitat for a variety of birds. deltapolet.com


For information on characterful places to stay, local food and drink, nearby visitor attractions, see our Green Traveller's Guide to Catalonia

Artwork for Green Traveller's Guide to Catalonia