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Just an hour and a half south of Barcelona, the landscape shifts into something altogether different. Gentle tree-covered mountains rise up along the horizon and the dry Mediterranean scrub leading down to the sea suddenly gives way to a wide, flat landscape of pure unadulterated green—the delta of the river Ebre. It is a breathtaking sight and one certainly worth the short trip to reach it. This large, flat region is made up mostly of rice plants, doing their gentle dance in the breeze against a backdrop of the Serra de Montsià mountains. Its unique landscape—from wide sandy beaches to the tranquil river and quiet harbours—makes it a welcome weekend getaway spot for nature enthusiasts and families alike.
Covering an area of 340 square kilometres, the Natural Park of the Delta de l’Ebre is a complex map of different natural features, including the Ebre river which runs into the sea, and the bays, beaches, dunes, woodlands, lagoons and rice paddies which surround it. The paddy fields not only take up a significant portion of the land but are the feature for which the region is best known and a beloved boasting right for locals. There are 14 varieties of rice grown in the area, several of which appear in the different classic rice dishes found throughout Catalunya. The earliest attempts to grow rice in the region failed, due to a lack of infrastructure, but the modern delta is an agricultural gem, owing its success not only to its rice but also to its citrus fruits.
Because of its unique natural features, the area is also home to a rich diversity of wildlife species, from fish, like bass and carp, to migratory and aquatic birds. Indeed, the delta is a birdwatcher’s paradise, boasting more than 250 species of birds, including egrets, terns, coots, Mallard ducks, gulls, and flamingos, pink from feeding on the small shrimps that live in the brackish waters. It’s worth bringing binoculars for a glimpse of one of these stunning species. La Punta de la Banya is the largest natural habitat in the delta and also an important breeding area for waterfowl.
If you’re not particularly interested in searching for local bird species, head for the shore where the windswept dunes lining the coast set it apart from the beaches along the Costa Daurada. La Punta del Fangar beach is a good place to spend the day, relaxing under an umbrella or walking the long wooden boardwalks that line its edge. And if it’s adventure you’re looking for, the wind rushing off the coast makes it a playground for watersports. Delta Natur, located on Darwing Beach, offers a variety of watersports including kayaking, paddleboarding, kitesurfing and windsurfing. If you prefer to experience the beauty of the delta by land, they also organise routes by 4x4 or bicycle.
Although the delta is a temperate landscape, its appearance shifts with the seasons, making it an enticing escape throughout the year. Summer is a particularly lovely time of year, when the warm winds blow off the coast and the rice fields turn a bright, almost electric, green. Autumn, too, is excellent for bird-watchers, since this is a migratory period for birds in Spain. One of the best ways to enjoy the delta is to simply see it, to take in the tranquil beauty of the rice fields, to lay on the wide beaches, and to appreciate the abundant natural landscapes. That said, there are lots of things to do in the area, from sport fishing and watersports to biking and hiking.
While visiting, it’s a near-must to take a boat ride along the river. There are several companies that offer sightseeing trips of either 45 minutes or an hour and a half. The guided tour, available in both Spanish and Catalan, teaches visitors about the region’s history as well as the features of the land and the various kinds of animals which make their home there.
Another place to learn more about the local fish is at the Sant Carles de la Ràpita market in the port. The market was established back in 1919, and while modernisation may have stolen the traditional cry of the fishmongers selling their stock, the trade is still going strong. Visitors can enjoy a walk through the market and purchase fresh live fish. Boats arrive from 3.30pm every Monday to Friday except during May and June. Prawns from Sant Carles de la Ràpita are one of the best known products from the Ebre region. You can find them on many of the local menus, simply grilled and topped with flaky sea salt. However, it is only one of the many fresh seafood dishes that can be found in the area.
The best way to travel to the Ebre is by car, but it is also possible to take the train (Renfe) to most of the major towns in the Delta de l’Ebre and the surrounding region, including L’Ampolla, L’Ametlla de Mar, Carmarles, and L’Aldea. Trains leave from central Barcelona stations.
WHERE TO EAT
The delta is best known for its freshly-caught seafood, and it’s also becoming a foodie paradise. Below are a few options of where you can have simple local fare or something a little more upscale.
- Albert Guzmán Restaurant. Sant Isidre, 255, 43540 Sant Carles de la Ràpita.
- Restaurant Les Moles. Carretera La Senia, Km. 2, 43550 Ulldecona.
- L’Antic Molí. Crta. Ulldecona-La Senia km 10, Ulldecona.
- Hotel Restaurant Diego. Ctra. de Galera s/n, 43570 Santa Bárbara.
WHERE TO STAY