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Eight of the best hikes in Catalonia

Long-term Catalonia resident and hiking enthusiast Esme Fox shares her tips and knowledge of some of the best routes in the northeastern region, with stunning waterfalls, volcanoes and lakes on the itinerary. 

Eight of the best hikes in Catalonia
The 8 best hikes in Catalonia. Photo: rodolfo7 / Pixabay

Almost every region in Spain offers a great array of hiking routes, but perhaps some of the best and most diverse can be found in the northeastern region of Catalonia, where you have the Pyrenees in the north, the coast to the east and countless natural parks in the interior. 

Camí de Ronda
The longest and most picturesque of all the routes in Catalonia is the Camí de Ronda or Camino de Ronda. It runs all the way along the coast from the border with France down to the border with the Valencia region. Passing through quaint coastal villages, along clifftops and even through tunnels, the route was originally created by smugglers who used to take their loot from one bay to the next. Later, these routes were joined together to form one long one by the civil guard, in order to control and catch the criminals.

The trail runs for a whopping 583km throughout the whole region, but the most spectacular and well-known sections of the hike lie within the Costa Brava, which starts from Blanes and runs all the way up to Portbou on the French border. This part is around 220km long and can be done in 12 stages, taking a total of 12 days. It’s not necessary to do the whole route, however, you could easily take a single stage and make a day trip out of it. It’s best done in early summer before the crowds arrive or in September when it’s still warm enough to swim along the way, but all the holidaymakers have gone home.  

The Camino de Ronda takes you right along the coast. Photo: Esme Fox
 

Mont-Rebei Gorge
The Congost de Mont-Rebei gorge is one of the most striking in the whole of Catalonia, where incredible aquamarine waters run between dramatic ravines and lofty cliff tops and vultures soar overhead. It’s a popular route and is moderately challenging with several ascents and dips walking along narrow pathways or staircases clinging to the edge of the rock. It’s situated approximately a three-hour drive west of Barcelona on the border with Aragón. You can choose to hike longer or shorter sections of the route, but the main and most popular part is around 12km there and back.

Hike along the sides of a gorge at Mont Rebei. Photo: Ramon Perucho / Pixabay

Ruta dels 7 Gorgs
Near the small village of Campdevánol​​​ in the province of Girona, close to the foothills of the Pyrenees, you’ll find one of the most thrilling hikes on our list – the route of the seven waterfalls. It’s exactly like it sounds, a hiking route between seven different waterfalls. It’s best to go in summer as you can swim in each of the falls, letting the icy water from the Pyrenees cool you down on those hot Spanish days. It’s a circular route of just 10km, with an extra 6km if you’re walking from Campdevánol​​​ train station, but it could end up taking all day if you plan on swimming in each. The route is relatively easy, but there are some tricky steep parts getting down and up again from some of the waterfalls. Because it’s so popular, the number of people allowed in per day is limited and you must pay an eco-tax fee of €5 per person from June to November.

Take a dip in the Campdevánol waterfalls to cool down. Photo: Alberto-g-rovi / WikiCommons
 

Camí del Vi
Catalonia’s wine route lies within the Penedès, an area known for producing excellent wines and cavas and home to some of the best wineries in the region. It starts in the town of Vilafranca del Penedès, the capital of the wine region and runs for 3.5km, taking around three hours to complete in total, there and back. From the tourist office, you’ll walk through the town and then out into the vineyards themselves. Along the way are eight different stations where you will learn about wine production and the life cycle of the vine, as well as the different varieties of grapes that grow in the area. There are plenty of bodegas (wineries) near by where you can stop for a drink too. 

Hike the wine route in Catalonia. Photo: Esme Fox

Ruta de los 7 Lagos del Circ de Colomers
Between the National Park of Aigüestortes and the Vall d’Aran, just went of Andorra in the high Pyrenees lies the route of the seven lakes. It’s a total of 15km, but there are taxis that can take you from the car park to the beginning of the route and back, taking it down to just 7km. One of the most spectacularly beautiful hiking routes, as the name suggests, it passes seven glassy mountain lakes hemmed in by towering peaks and verdant forests. It’s of medium difficulty level, meaning it’s best if you have a bit of experience with hiking in the mountains.  

This hiking route takes you past seven mountain lakes. Photo: rodolfo7 / Pixabay

Ruta por los volcanes de la Garrotxa
Just north of Girona lies La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park, which offers one of the best examples of volcanic landscapes on the Iberian Peninsula, featuring 40 ancient volcanic cones and around 20 old lava flows. One of the best ways to explore it is via the various hiking routes throughout the park. The best is the circular hike from La Fageda d’en Jordà to the Santa Margarida volcano and on to El Croscat volcano, which is 12km and takes just over four hours complete.

Hike through the land of ancient volcanoes in La Garrotxa. Photo: Carquinyol / WikiCommons

Subida al Pedraforca
The most challenging hike on our list is the ascent of Mount Pedraforca, located in the high Pyrenees, just below Andorra. It’s one of Catalonia’s most iconic-looking mountains – resembling a pitchfork with a small dip in between two soaring pointed peaks, one measuring 2444m and the other 2506m. The starting points generally begin at the Mirador de Gersolet viewpoint, but there are several routes to reach the top. It takes between five and seven hours to complete, depending on your experience but is best avoided in winter and early spring from December to April when the snow can make it even more difficult.

Challenge yourself with the ascent of Pedraforca. Photo: Josep Monter Martinez / Pixabay

Ruta de Carros de Foc
Another hike within the mighty National Park of Aigüestortes is the grand Carros de Foc or Chariots of Fire. It’s a circular route of 65km and takes between five to seven days to complete between nine different mountain refuges, where you can stay the night. The route is characterised by high mountains and large granite boulders, as well as several sparkling mountain lakes. You’ll need some experience and stamina to complete this one. 

Hike the Ruta de Carros de Foc. Photo: Ferran Ventura / Unsplash

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POLITICS

Spain opens ‘terrorism’ probe into Catalan separatist leader

Spain's top court said Thursday it was opening an investigation into Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont on "terrorism" charges over protests linked to the failed 2017 Catalan independence bid.

Spain opens 'terrorism' probe into Catalan separatist leader

In a statement, the Supreme Court said it had decided “to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute” Puigdemont “for terrorism offences in relation to the Democratic Tsunami case”.

Democratic Tsunami is a secretive Catalan protest group behind a string of protests after Spain jailed 13 pro-independence leaders, two years after their botched bid to break away from Spain.

The independence bid had sparked the country’s worst political crisis in decades.

On the day the sentence was handed down in October 2019, thousands of activists blocked access to Barcelona airport for several hours, prompting the cancellation of over 100 flights.

During clashes between police and protesters, 115 were injured.

In its decision, the court referred to the crime of “street terrorism”.

The aim, it said, was to “undermine law and order, to seriously breach the peace, to cause causing serious harm to the functioning of an international organisation or to cause a sense of terror within the population or part of it”.

There was “evidence pointing to Carles Puigdemont’s participation in the events under investigation”, the ruling added, referring to his involvement in the creation of the group whose aim was “to subvert law and order and to seriously destabilise democratic institutions”.

READ ALSO: Judge in Spain extends probe into Catalan separatist’s ‘Russia ties’

Puigdemont unmoved

Puigdemont, who lives in self-exile in Brussels and is a member of the European Parliament, reacted drily on X.

“The same day they accuse me of receiving a 7,000-euro Rolex watch, they charge me with being a terrorist. All I need now is a secret bank account in Panama,” he wrote on X.

He was referring to an article published in El Confidencial newspaper which said he had been given a Rolex watch by a company behind a string of separatist events, including the Democratic Tsunami protests.

The court’s decision will complicate life for Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, whose minority left-wing government relies on Puigdemont’s hardline separatist JxCat party for parliamentary support.

Spain’s government is currently in the process of drawing up an amnesty law that was demanded by Puigdemont’s party in exchange for crucial parliamentary support in a November vote to reappoint Sánchez as premier.

The draft law, which was shot down by lawmakers in late January, is currently being reformulated but will essentially offer an amnesty to those wanted by the justice system over the failed independence bid, notably Puigdemont.

The move has sparked fury among Spain’s right-wing opposition, which sees Puigdemont as public enemy number one.

It has also stoked opposition from within Sánchez’s Socialist party.

Puigdemont is already wanted in Spain for his role in the secession bid, and the courts will need the European Parliament’s permission to question him in this latest case.

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