The best hiking trails in Catalonia

Leaving your deluxe Catalonia villa rental might not be high on your list of things to do on holiday (especially if you’ve opted for a luxurious villa with private pool in Spain!), but it really is worth taking some time to get out and enjoy the country’s stunning natural beauty. While many people choose to rent a car, there are much better ways to enjoy the sights and sounds of the region; taking a bike ride in Catalonia, for example, or perhaps even donning the walking boots and heading off on the hiking trails.

Here are some of the best walking routes in Catalonia.

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  • Sant Jeroni Trail, Montserrat

Taking just over one hour in total, this is an excellent hiking route for people of all ability levels. There’s a sharp ascent up to the summit, but it’s worth the effort for the breathtaking views over the Llobregat valley. If you’re staying in a Barcelona accommodation, it’s easy to get to the start of the trail; take a train to Montserrat-Aeri, and then the St. Joan funicular.

  • GR92, Blanes – Lloret

The GR92 long-distance walking route covers a whopping 362 miles between Portbou and Vilanova, but there’s a very manageable and stunning coastal section for leisure hikers between Blanes and Lloret. At just over three miles one way, it’s even good for kids, and it’s a handy and convenient option for those with a holiday rental in Costa Brava. The beach at Lloret is stunning, so spend some time there if you can!

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  • Footpath 1, Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park

If you fancy heading a little bit inland, there’s nowhere better than the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park. There are more than 20 different trails in the park, but footpath 1 is arguably one of the best. A loop trail covering just over six miles, this path takes you to the Santa Margarida crater, which is much more lush and green than you may think. It’s a tiring walk, but it will be a highlight of your vacation in Spain.

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Catalonia: Land of Castles?

There’s a great deal of debate over exactly where the name ‘Catalonia’, or ‘Catalunya’, came from. There are some who say that the region is named after the Katelans, an Iberian tribe. Others say that the name has Celtic origins. Perhaps most interesting, however, is the belief that Catalonia means ‘Land of Castles’. While we don’t know for sure, what we do know is that the region has an abundance of fortresses and magnificent, castle-like mansions that make this a very historic and stunning place to visit.

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The beauty of the ‘Land of Castles’ is that there’s a lot of diversity in both the architectural styles and the current status of the buildings. Some luxurious manor-style constructions have now been converted into villas in Spain, for example, allowing visitors to enjoy a truly luxurious vacation experience. Others, such as Castell de Montsoriu in Girona, are open for tours by appointment only, while some, like Castell de Santa Florentina located in the Barcelona area, are known as popular Catalonia wedding venues.

When it comes to design, Catalonia has a lot of variation, which means that travellers can visit many different styles of castles from their Spain vacation rental. Santa Florentina Castle is probably what most people think of when they hear the word ‘castle’; it’s the classic fairy-tale fortress that makes us feel like children again. Castell de Montsoriu, on the other hand, has a bit more of a raw, rugged, almost Moorish feel to it, and while it now lies largely in ruins, many aspects of its former grandeur still shine through.

Castle-like interior of one of our villas
Castle-like interior of one of our villas

With so many castles, there are also heaps of myths and legends! From the Lady in Red to Guilleuma the witch, and from General Mauser to whispers of secret treasure, there is a lot of history to delve into in Catalonia. For a region that’s most famous for its breathtaking coastline, its shopping, and its golf in Barcelona, there’s much more to this part of Spain than meets the eye. Whether you love a bit of history, or simply want to visit some castles during your holiday, Catalonia is the place to go.

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Understanding the Catalan language

Travellers looking to rent a villa in Spain may be wondering how they’ll communicate with their hosts. The good news is that most locals who operate vacation rentals in Spain will have some command of the English language or will be happy to communicate in their native Spanish. However, if you’re considering a villa in Barcelona, a villa in Costa Dorada, or in any other destination in Catalonia, keep in mind that many people in this part of the country speak Catalan; a language similar to, but different from, Spanish.

Practice the language using items in the home
Practice the language using items in the home.

Catalan was the language of the Catalan rulers, and it went wherever they did. Saturation reached its peak between the 13th and 15th centuries, with a number of historically important works of literature being published in Catalan around this time, most notably the romance novel Tirant lo Blanch and the poetry of famed Valencian author Ausiàs March. However, the Spanish influences soon took over.

Despite Catalan falling out of favour, the language has done very well at retaining relevance. Today, it’s not only an official language of Catalonia and Andorra, but it’s also spoken in some areas of Southern France, Sardinia, and the Balearic Islands. Although there are six distinct Catalan dialects, a basic understanding of the language should be enough for you to chat with the host at your Barcelona villa.

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Paella means paella!

If you already have some knowledge of the romance languages, then you’ll find Catalan quite familiar. ‘Mat’i (morning), for example, is ‘matin’ in French and ‘mattina’ in Italian. In fact, even if you’re not confident in your language abilities outside of English, there are still a few similarities you may pick up on, such as ‘aubergine’ and ‘albergínia’, and ‘paella’ which is exactly the same in both languages!

When you’re relaxing at your villa in Spain, you’ll realise that the country is so laid back that it doesn’t matter if you speak the local language or not. However, it never hurts to brush up on your skills before a trip, and the residents are sure to appreciate your efforts to learn more about their language and culture.

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How to make a tasty Spanish gazpacho

If you have ever been on holiday in Spain you may have encountered gazpacho, the delicious chilled tomato-based soup comprise of a combination of rich, refreshing flavours. The perfect starter for a summer barbecue in your villa in Catalonia, it’s simple to prepare and quick to serve. Here is one of our favourite recipes that you can recreate at home or while staying in your vacation rental in Spain.

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To concoct a tasty gazpacho, you will need approximately 1 kilogram of vine tomatoes. Remove the vines and with a knife, carve across on the skin of each tomato at the base. Pop them into a pan of boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds. Remove and plunge them into a bowl of cold water, and the skins should come away effortlessly.

Try next to remove the seeds from the tomatoes, then chop the leftover pieces and put into a blender. If there is any juice remaining, chop two slices of white bread and soak in the tomato juice for 5 to 10 minutes.

Next, finely chop a green pepper and place it along with garlic into the blender with the tomato soaked bread, a couple of tablespoons of sherry vinegar and olive oil, 1 teaspoon of light brown sugar, and, if you prefer, add a dash of tabasco. Blend all ingredients until they are smooth and add a few teaspoons of cold water.

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By now your soup should look slightly thicker than usual soup but not too lumpy. Add salt and pepper to season then chill in the refrigerator for 2 to 2.5 hours.

To prepare the garnishes, first boil an egg, simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, then place in cold water. Chop a red and yellow pepper and some cucumber and place them in the fridge. Chop 3 to 4 slices of almost stale bread and blend with olive oil. Season lightly and then place it in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. Peel your now chilled egg and chop into pieces and pop them in the fridge.

Once your gazpacho is suitably chilled, place all garnishes into separate bowls so that your guests can help themselves. You can opt to serve the soup with a few ice cubes if the weather is really hot, although this will decrease the thickness. Now sit back and relax in your villa with private pool in Spain and enjoy your sumptuous creation!

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