La Ribera d’Ebre is one of the four comarques that make up the area known as the Terres de l’Ebre in the south of Catalunya. The area as a whole takes its name from the Ebre (in English, Ebro) river, which enters La Ribera—the most northerly of the four counties —from the west and forms its backbone. The comarca boasts stunning scenery and many high points, including the Serra de Berrús, Rovelló and the Serra de Cardó. These mountain ranges offer great vantage points for panoramic views over the river, valleys and surrounding forests that characterise the landscape.
The Ebro river has always been a valuable resource and attracted settlers across the ages from pre-historic, Iberian and Romans times to the Moorish era and the Middle Ages. The river has also been witness to great tragedies in more recent times, most notably during the Spanish Civil War when many lives were lost in the Battle of the Ebro.
Today, in some towns and villages traditional ways of life are maintained; people still make their living working out on the land in the orchards and almond and olive groves, weaving baskets from reeds and palms or crafting ceramics by hand. But the region has always changed with the times and now power stations and hydroelectric and electrochemical industries provide many with a source of income.
What to see
The region’s most famous landmark is the magnificent Castell de Miravet, which stands on a rocky hilltop in the south, above the west bank of the Ebro. The castle is Moorish in origin and dates back to the ninth century; in the 12th century, it became the property of the Knights Templar who extended the original construction and turned it into a regional centre of command. The Templars were ousted after a siege (1307-1308) and the castle then belonged to another military order, the Hospitalers. Behind the outer thick walls, there are a number of different areas which can be visited including the armoury, rectangular towers and the Romanesque church of Sant Martí.
The town of Miravet, just below the castle, also has Moorish roots and a few sites worth a visit: the old stone houses lining the narrow streets, the Aljama, which is the former Judeo-Muslim quarter, and the old Baroque church are among the most representative. Miravet has a long tradition as a potters’ town, particularly around the Raval dels Canterers where pitchers, jugs and bowls are still produced by hand. From Miravet, the easiest way to travel to the other side of the Ebro is by taking the ferry across the river. Once on the eastern side and heading away from the river is another town that is worth visiting, Tivissa.
On the way there, there’s an interesting archaeological site that lies within its municipality, the Iberian settlement of Castellet de Banyoles. The settlement dates back to the fourth century BCE and is situated on a plateau overlooking the river. Three areas have been excavated there, including pentagonal towers at the entrance and living spaces. In the early 20th century, a number of artefacts were discovered, among them silver jewellery, coins and a set of ceremonial vessels.
The town of Tivissa itself is further east and has a lovely historic centre with some remains of the original medieval walls, the old entrance Portal de l’Era and winding streets. Among the buildings of interest is the town’s church, the Església de Sant Jaume, which was built between the 16th and 17th centuries. The church is eclectic in style, combining a Gothic interior with a Renaissance and Baroque exterior and because of this, is actually considered to be two churches.
Heading north leads to Móra la Nova where an arched bridge crosses the Ebro to the regional capital Móra d’Ebre. In the Middle Ages, like other towns in the region, Móra d’Ebre was home to many Moriscos (Muslims converted to Christianity) as well as Christians and Jews; places to visit include the partially-ruined Moorish castle and the 19th-century Convent de les Mínimes.
What to do
One of the best ways to explore the county is by following the hiking routes that cross many areas of natural beauty. One of the most challenging itineraries is the Ruta del Teix, which runs for almost 18 kilometres along the PR-80 in the south of the comarca; ancient yew trees, a Bronze Age settlement, a spring, caves and woodlands are among the many sights to see along the way. Other themed routes include the Camí de Sirga (Tow Path), which follows in the footsteps of the men who used to tow their loads along the river from its banks; the route takes in some charming traditional villages, as well as historic monuments. An area which is good for both walking and cycling is the Reserva Natural de Sebes, on the northern stretch of the Ebro, which is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna and a very tranquil setting.
There are also some good areas for climbers, such as on the limestone peaks above Tivissa where there are around 200 routes (average grade six) for classical rock climbing. Complete beginners may like to try climbing on a ‘via ferrata’, where cables and steps have been built into the rocks for added security. Water sports like canoeing, kayaking and sailing can be enjoyed on parts of the Ebro as well as in some of the reservoirs; there are sailing clubs at various points along the river. The Pantà de Riba-roja (Riba-roja reservoir) in the very north—where the church bell tower of the sunken town of Fayón protrudes eerily from the water —is also a popular spot for fishing.
What to eat
Savoury dishes range from simple grilled or roast meats (sausages, lamb and rabbit) and Catalan classics like escalivada to more inventive creations like clotxa, a piece of hollowed out bread stuffed with sardines and roasted vegetables.
The region is probably best known for its soft fruits like cherries and peaches, as well as plentiful cakes and pastries, made with locally grown produce, such as cherry cake, fig bread, the almond cakes capsetes and heavier offerings like the sweet pasties, pastissets filled with ‘cabello de ángel’ and flavoured with aniseed. Wine, fortified wine and olive oil are also part of the local output.
When to go
Religious events in the annual calendar include a number of romiatges (pilgrimages) and aplecs (gatherings) at hermitages, accompanied by traditional dances like jotas and communal feasts; those held at the hermitage of El Remei just outside the northern town of Flix on Dilluns de Pasqua (Easter Monday, this year on April 13th) and the hermitage of Sant Jeroni on May 1st in the capital Móra d’Ebre, are among the most well known. Miravet is hosting a few festivals in the coming months; in June there’s the Festa de la Cirera (Cherry Festival) and in August, El setge de Miravet, a theatrical re-enactment of the siege of 1307-1308 at the castle, as well as the Festa dels Terrissers (Potter’s Festival).
Finally, another summer event that’s worthy of a mention is the Móra Morisca which takes place in Móra d’Ebre in July; the town goes back to its Moorish roots with dancing and music, and Middle Eastern cuisine provides the gastronomic element for the festivities.