VALL DE NÚRIA
Nestled among the Pyrenees in Girona’s Ripollès region, Vall de Núria combines striking natural beauty with adventure sports and history to make for a weekend to remember. This lush green valley with a sparkling lake sits 2,000 metres above sea level and is surrounded by soaring snow-topped peaks. It’s no surprise that this spot is popular for hiking, with trails of all levels of difficulty. Vall de Núria attracts pilgrims as well, who come to visit the shrine of Our Lady of Núria. It houses a wooden carving of the Virgin Mary, along with a pot, cross and bell said to belong to Sant Gil, who spent four years in Núria in the year 700. Don’t be alarmed if you spy someone placing her head in the pot, as the object is believed to increase female fertility.
The easiest way to reach Núria is to take the cremallera (zip rail) from the nearby town of Queralbs. A trip on the railway is an excursion in itself as you ascend over 1,000 metres and get great views of the area’s flora and fauna while winding your way into the valley. The picturesque town of Queralbs is also worth a visit before your ride. The narrow, cobbled streets meander through ancient stone cottages in this fairytale-esque village. The 10th-century Romanesque church of Sant Jaume, with its arched columns topped with carvings of fantastical creatures, particularly stands out.
Getting there: Barcelona-Queralbs. Car: 2 hours. Queralbs-Vall de Núria. Funicular: 12.5 kilometres.
Where to stay: Hotel Vall de Núria, Estació de Muntanya Vall de Núria: this three-star hotel at the Vall de Núria ski station is the only accommodation in Núria. You’ll sleep enveloped in nature and far from human civilisation.
Mas la Casanova, Queralbs: a rustic stone cottage just outside the village of Queralbs.
From the valley we move up to the mountains with another spring break possibility. The stunning Montseny mountain range, located in the Montseny Natural Park, is visible from many parts of Catalunya. The zone has been inhabited by humans since the Paleolithic age, proven by the discovery of stone axes and knives in several of the region’s villages.
Declared a biosphere by UNESCO in 1978, it’s possible to identify three different natural environments here, making for an extraordinary variety of habitats. At the base of the mountain range, you’ll find Mediterranean vegetation; halfway up is a central European climate; and at the summit, the conditions are subalpine. Each allows different varieties of flora and fauna to thrive, creating a wonderland of natural riches for visitors to encounter. The park also boasts luxuriant forests with streams tumbling through them, areas of open meadow, and rocky crags and cliffs, all of which are a treat for sore city eyes.
Getting there: Barcelona-Montseny. Car: 2 hours.
Where to stay: The quaint village of Montseny is a good place to stay, with several hotels, bars and restaurants tucked into its cobbled streets. It’s also the starting point of many hiking trails. Montseny Suites & Apartments, Carretera Santa María Palautordera, Montseny: apartments in the village of Montseny with all the modern conveniences you’d expect and warm, contemporary design.
Those who prefer to stay further out in the wilds can rent a masía such as Ca l’Agnès, El Baiés de la Costa, Montseny: a 17th-century country house that’s been renovated in cosy, natural colours and woods in keeping with an authentic, rural cottage.
DELTA DE L'EBRE
1 of 2
2 of 2
Our final spring break suggestion is the extensive flat plains of the Ebro Delta—the last port of call for the Ebro River before it joins the Mediterranean sea. In springtime, the flats are home to lush, green rice fields (paella made with the region’s homegrown rice is a must-try during your visit), shimmering lagoons, and fine sand beaches with undulating sand dunes and shallow, clear waters. The vastness of the level landscape creates desert-like mirages and exudes a sense of solitude and peace.
The area’s rich ecosystem has also been declared a biosphere by UNESCO due to its huge variety of plant and animal life—even the most experienced birdwatchers will be impressed by the abundance of pink flamingos, long-legged waders and dazzlingly colourful bee-eaters. One of the best ways to see this complex ecosystem and learn about the region’s history is by boat—trips start from Deltebre and Sant Carles de la Ràpita, among other towns.
Getting there: Barcelona-Deltebre. Car: 2 hours.
Where to stay: Rustic and charming fishing towns such as Deltebre, Amposta and Sant Jaume d’Enveja are popular places to stay when visiting. However, those who want to fully immerse themselves in the untamed wilderness of the region can stay in a cottage out in the countryside.
Barraca Gran, Carretera Marquesa, Deltebre: this whitewashed cottage has high, beamed ceilings and a thatched roof, giving you an authentic, rural experience.
Mas del Tancat, Camí de Panissos, Amposta: a whitewashed villa on the outskirts of town.
An activity for each destination
- Skiing in Vall de Núria. An exhilarating way to experience the natural surroundings of this area is from the Vall de Núria ski station. This small ski station is less well-known and therefore less crowded than others. As well as having a ski school, there are slopes ranging from easy greens to daredevil blacks.
- Hiking in Montseny. There are many walking routes within the Montseny Natural Park, including several GR routes that are easy to follow due to regular markers. One easy trail starts in the centre of the village of Montseny and takes you to the ancient Ermita Sant Martí del Montseny following the markers for GR-5.
- Kitesurfing in Delta de l’Ebre. One of the most adrenaline-fuelled sports to do in Delta de l’Ebre is kitesurfing, and there are several kitesurf schools in Sant Carles de la Ràpita. At Delta Kitesup, beginners can take classes while more experienced kitesurfers can hire equipment and go it alone.