Category Archives: Natural Parks in Catalonia

Serra de Montsant Natural Park

  • Region: Catalunya
  • Province: Tarragona
  • Declared a Natural Park: 2002
  • Park surface area: 11,755 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Cabacés, Cornudella de Montsant, La Bisbal de Falset, La Figuera, La Morera de Montsant, La Vilella Alta, La Vilella Baixa, Margalef and Ulldemolins

Points of interest

The most famous image of the park is the spectacular rocky walls of the Mayor cliff whilst the main peaks of the Serra de Montsant Natural Park are Roca Corbatera (1,163 m), Piló dels Senyalets (1,109 m) and la Cogulla (1,063 m).

This mountain region is also a famous red wine-producing zone and some of the best vineyards are located near the Cartoixa d’Escaladei, a Carthusian Order monastery.

As in most mountainous areas of Catalonia climbing is very popular here. So much so that new regulations were recently brought in controlling the numbers of climbers and climbing and routes (Vias ferratas) in the area. If you are climbing in the area then check in with one of the information centres first to find out about any new by laws and restrictions.

Fauna

The park has a wealth of fauna, with endemic and very rare species in Catalonia. Mammals such as greater horseshoe bat, wild cat and Spanish ibex. Birds of prey such as Bonelli’s eagle, golden eagle, peregrine falcon and kestrel as well as many other birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and fish.

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Flora

With regard to the vegetation, holm oak and shrubs dominate the majority of the landscape and there are also many Aleppo and Scots pine forests, as well as oak forests in certain areas.

Monumental trees

In the area there are four trees declared monumental and are well worth seeking out. The Encina del Mas de la Barba, the Alcornoque del Mas de Les Moreres, the Tejo de la Cueva and the Sabuco de Fontalba. (Only the latter two are within the boundaries of the Montsant Natural Park.

  • Tejo de la Cueva – Cave Yew (Taxus baccata L.)
  • Year of declaration: 1992 DEC. 29.075.01
  • Total height: 15.10 m

The Cave Yew is approximately 1200 years old. It is the yew with the largest crown measured in Catalonia. This female specimen is located at the top of the barranco de la Taverna in front of a cave known as the Cueva del Tejo in the municipality of Margalef.

  • Sabuco de FontalbaFontalba willow (Sambucus nigra)
  • Year of declaration: 1988 DEC. 29,157.01
  • Total height: 8.50 m

Normally shrubs, the Fontalba elderberry stands out for its trunk and crown dimensions. It is located in the municipality of Ulldemolins, where the Tagus stream joins the ravine of Fontalba. A short distance away is the Olletes sink hole, which is why it is also known as Les Olletes elderberry.

Hiking and biking

There are numerous routes in the Serra de Montsant Natural Park. Ask in the tourist office for maps detailing the eight simple flora routes, eleven municipal itineraries that take you through villages and five cultural routes that include the traditional shepherd routes (Caminos del Priorat), the via ferrata of Montsant and a cycling route. In addition, the GR 65-5, GR 171 and GR 174 trails cross the natural park.

Information/Visitors Centers

The main information centre of the Serra del Montsant Natural Park is in Carrer Major in the town of La Morera de Montsant. There are also information points in Cornudella de Montsant and La Vilella Baixa, and a tourist office in Falset.


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Macizo de Montserrat Natural Park

  • Region: Catalonia
  • Province: Barcelona
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1987
  • Park surface area: 3,630 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Bruch, Collbató, Monistrol de Montserrat and Marganell

Points of interest

The Macizo de Montserrat Natural Park is a multi-peaked mountain range near Barcelona. The main peaks are Sant Jeroni (1,236 m), Montgrós (1,120 m) and Miranda de les Agulles (903 m). This area is well known for the site of the Benedictine abbey Santa Maria de Montserrat and the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary.

Benedictine abbey Santa Maria de Montserrat
Benedictine abbey Santa Maria de Montserrat

The massif is about 10 kilometres long and 5 kilometres wide and reaches the limits of the regions of Bages, Baix Llobregat and Anoia. The Natural Park occupies 3,630 hectares of the municipalities of Bruc (Anoia), Marganell and Monistrol de Montserrat (Bages) and Collbató (Baix Llobregat), with almost 2,000 of these hectares as a nature reserve.

An additional area of 4,039 hectares is catalogued as a protected zone, with part of the municipalities of Castellbell and El Vilar (Bages), Esparreguera (Baix Llobregat) and Vacarisses (Vallès Occidental).

Flora

Montserrat mountain features typically Mediterranean vegetation that is complemented with different elements characteristic of cooler areas or of cliffs and rocky zones. Most of the mountain is predominated by evergreen oak forest. In the channels and at the foot of the cliffs on the northern side there are yews, holly and several deciduous trees such as the Italian maple, whitebeam and hazel.

The rocky slopes are home to saxifrage (Saxifraga catalaunica), which is endemic to Montserrat and Sant Llorenç del Munt, and Erodium foetidum ssp. rupestre, endemic to central Catalonia, and the Pyrenean violet which is a relict from glacial times.

Aleppo pine woods dominate the mountainside and before the devastating fires of 1986 (Article in Spanish) there were magnificent forests of black pine.

Fauna

Montserrats fauna mainly comprises species native to the Mediterranean environments of Catalonia. The most common species include the wild boar, fox, beech marten, genet, badger, squirrel and Spanish ibex which was introduced (re introduced) in the mid-nineteen nineties and has a current population of 200 or so individuals.

On the cliffs and in the skies look out for Bonelli’s eagle, Egyptian vulture, peregrine falcon, eagle owl, kestrel, blue rock thrush and wallcreeper. During winter sometimes you can observe both snow finch and alpine accentor.

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Hiking and walking

There are about thirty footpaths to walk through the Natural Park, organized into various sectors. Some of the most popular are:

  • The Needles of Montserrat (Bruc sector), From the Gran source to the L’Esquerrà source (Monistrol de Montserrat sector).
  • Romanesque hermitages (Marganell sector).
  • Els Degollats path (Montserrat sector)
  • Rural roads of Vinya Nova and Alzina Gran (Collbató sector).
  • In addition, the following long-distance trails cross or end in Montserrat: GR 4, GR 5, GR 6, GR 96 and GR 172.

Climbing

The Montserrat mountain is one of the most significant and historical climbing destinations in Catalonia and currently, there are more than 5000 climbing routes of different levels of difficulty and different modalities. Before climbing, check in one of the tourist offices as depending on the time of year climbing activities are regulated with the objective of conserving the nesting rock birds in the Natural Park.

Access

Train: Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya from Barcelona (Plaça Espanya) and Manresa to Montserrat by Cable Car and Rack Railway, with stops at Olesa, Montserrat-Aeri and Montserrat-Monistrol Enllaç.

Vehicle: from Barcelona using the A-2, C-55 and C-58 and from Manresa the BP-1101 and C-55.

Information/Visitors Centers

Head for the top of the mountain and the sanctuary of Santa Maria de Montserrat.

The sanctuary of Santa Maria de Montserrat is a Benedictine monastery, founded in the eleventh century, that for almost a thousand years has provided service to the visitors who come to venerate the Moreneta (Black Madonna), the patron saint of Catalonia. If you wish to learn more about the monks’ special way of life, you can visit the “Inside Montserrat” Audiovisual Centre.

There is also the Montserrat Museum, which has some interesting art collections.

You can explore the Natural Park further by taking the Sant Joan funicular to the top of the mountain and visit the Nature information Centre there.

Other information points can be found in the towns of Collbató, El Bruc, Casa de Fusta de Marganell (weekends only) and Monistrol.

This fantastic website is packed with useful information about the area: https://www.montserrat-tourist-guide.com/en/attractions/montserrat-natural-park.html

The official website (In Catalan but with integrated Google translate) is here: https://muntanyamontserrat.gencat.cat/ca/inici/


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Sant Llorenç del Munt i L’Obac Natural Park

  • Region: Catalunya
  • Province: Barcelona
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1972. The first management plan for the park dates from 1972. A second plan was approved in 1982 due to the excessive growth of the urbanizations that surrounded it. In 1987 the natural park was declared by a decree of the Generalitat of Catalonia and then In 1998 the plan was modified to expand the park limits by an additional 4,055 hectares to the current 13,694 hectares.
  • Park surface area: 13, 694 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Castellar del Vallés, Granera, Matadepera, Monistrol de Calders, Mura, Rocafort y Vilumara, Rellinars, San Lorenzo Savall, San Vicente de Castellet, Talamanca, Tarrasa and Vacarisas

Points of interest

Sant Llorenç del Munt i L’Obac Natural Park, the first Natural Park to be declared in Spain, is a largely rocky mountain massif in central Catalonia close to Barcelona. The highest summit (where the Romanesque Monastery of Sant Llorenç del Munt is located) is called la Mola at 1,104 metres. Montcau 1,056 metres is another important peak of the massif.

Rugged and rocky, the unique landscape of the area is due to the constant erosion that the rocks are subjected to, resulting in cliffs and monoliths of red conglomerates of outstanding beauty.

This area is also included in UNESCO’s Global Geoparks register.

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Flora

The base of the massif is occupied by pine forests (Pinus halepensis, Pinus sylvestris, Pinus nigra) and in many areas they mixed with holm oaks (Quercus ilex) and Mediterranean shrubs such as heather (Erica sp) and strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo).

Holm oaks are the most characteristic and extensive forest with undergrowth species such as rowan (Sorbus), box (Buxus) and kermes oak (Quercus coccifera). Hazelnut groves (Corylus avellana) can be found in the shadiest valleys.

In the rocks and on the cliffs there are plants of great interest, adapted to extreme conditions. Typical of places with little soil and facing north are Pyrenean-violet (Ramonda myconi), the endemic limestone saxifrage (Saxifraga callosa ssp. Catalaunica ), the polypody fern (Polypodium vulgare ), aromatic thyme (Thymus vulgaris), wolf’s eye (Onosma tricerosperma), St Bernard’s lily (Anthericum liliago ), wild tulip (Tulipa sylvestris ssp. Australis) and narcissus (Narcissus dubius and Narcissus assoanus).

Fauna

One of the mammal species that has seen its presence increase greatly in recent years is the wild boar (Sus scrofa) and also present are squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris ), rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), stone marten (Martes foina), genet (Genetta genetta), fox (Vulpes vulpes) and badger (Meles meles) There are also colonies of schreibers bat (Miniopterus schreibersii ).

Birds represent the largest group of vertebrates in the massif. The most common are blackbird (Turdus merula), wood pigeon (Columba palumbus), jay (Garrulus glandarius) robin (Erithacus rubecula), goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), hoopoe (Upupa epops) and thrush (Turdus philomelos).

From time to time some birds of prey appear in the sky, such as Bonelli’s eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus) and goshawk (Accipiter gentili ). occasionally there are sightings of griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and eagle owl (Bubo bubo).

Some of the reptiles present are montpeliers snake (Malpolon monspessulanus), ladder snake (Elaphe scalaris), latastes viper (Vipera latastei) and ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus). In sources and streams look out for different species of frogs and toads, salamanders and newts.

Castles and ruins

There are quite a few castles and fortified towers that were built between the 9th-12th centuries in the area of the Sant Llorenç del Munt i L’Obac Natural Park. Some examples are the castles of Mura and Pera (whose first written references date from 978) or Rocamur (cited in 1055), built on steep rocks around Montcau and currently in a very dilapidated state. other interesting examples are those of Castellar del Vallés, Rocafort, Talamanca and Castellbell.

Information/Visitors Centers

There are three main information centres for the Sant Llorenç del Munt i L’Obac Natural Park.

  • Centro de Información in the town of Mura
  • Centro de Información in the town of Rocafort
  • Centro de Información in the town of Coll d’Estenalles
  • The Punto de Información at the Monasterio de Sant Llorenç de Munt is well worth a visit on the peak of la Mola
These smaller information points are located in some of the closeby towns and villages
  • Punto de Información in Marquet de las Roques
  • Punto de Información in Granera
  • Punto de Información in Casa Nova de l’Obac
  • Punto de Información in Monistrol de Calders
  • Punto de Información in Rellinars
  • Punto de Información in Sant Vicenç de Castellet
  • Punto de Información in Talamanca
  • Punto de Información in Sant Llorenç Savall

The official website for the Sant Llorenç del Munt i L’Obac Natural Park is here: https://parcs.diba.cat/es/web/SantLlorenc and a PDf in English can be downloaded from here: https://parcs.diba.cat/es/web/santllorenc/benvinguts-idiomes


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Macizo del Montseny Natural Park

  • Region: Catalonia
  • Province: Barcelona and Gerona
  • Declared a Natural Park: Biosphere Reserve 1978. Natural Park 1987
  • Park surface area: 50,166 hectares. Expanded from 30,000 hectares in 2014)
  • Towns and villages: Aiguafreda, Arbucias, Breda, Brull, Campins, Cánoves y Samalús, Figaró-Montmany, Fogás de Monclús, La Garriga, Gualba, Montseny, Riells i Viabrea, San Esteban, San Felíu de, Buxalleu, San Pedro de Vilamajor, Seva and Viladrau

Points of interest

The Macizo del Montseny Natural Park (Just 50 kilometres from Barcelona) is the oldest in Catalonia and is also one of the most important because in a relatively small area there are typical plant communities of the three major European biomes : the Mediterranean (holm oak, cork oak and Aleppo pine), the Eurosiberian (Scots pine, beech and white fir) and boreoalpine (alpine meadow). The Montseny natural fir forest is the southernmost in Europe and this was the main reason that in 1978 UNESCO declared the area a protected Biosphere Reserve.

The Montseny massif is formed by the peaks of Turó de l’Home (1,706 metres), Les Agudes (1,703 metres), El Matagalls (1,697 metres) and the plain Pla de la Calma (Mount Drau, 1,344 metres). The major rivers in the area are the Congost, Tordera and Riera Major rivers. A combination that means that the vegetation is extremely lush and is home to an abundance of wildlife.

Among the cultural heritage there are the megalithic constructions in the Arca mountain range, the Roman villa of Can Terrers, many mediaeval churches, castles, fortified houses in the towns of Bellver and La Sala, the village of Tagamanent and the Sant Segimon hermitage.

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Flora

The Macizo del Montseny Natural Park is a botanists heaven as in a relatively small area one can find major habitats such as mediterranean forests, central European forests, meadows and moors, rivers and streams, rocks and cliffs, arable fields and croplands. Botanist visiting the area often describe it as travelling from “Southern to Northern Europe in just one day!”.

Fauna

Even being close to a major Spanish city, the Macizo del Montseny Natural Park holds an extraordinary wildlife diversity with around 270 species of vertebrates recorded. The forested habitat pretty much determines the fauna that inhabits it such as deer, wild cat, wild boar, fox, genet, hare, common dormouse and water shrew.

There are several types of amphibians such as the vermillion frog and the Montseny newt (endemic to Catalonia). Amongst the reptiles are the European green lizard (Lacerta viridis) and the asp viper (Vipera aspis)

Main places to visit

Aiguafreda de Dalt

Catalogued as a Local Cultural Heritage Site, this group of monuments is possibly Catalonias birthplace. It boasts architectural elements and heritage from the 7th to 18th centuries. Funerary remains from the 5th century were recently discovered and it is one of the stop off points on the signed PR-C 200 footpath.

Tagamanent Ethnological Park

On the westernmost side of the Pla de la Calma plain, the park is home to the group of monuments of the Tagamanent hill (with the Romanesque church of Santa Maria at the summit), the L’Agustí House
Museum and the El Bellver farmhouse, a restaurant and park information point.

The Iberian Fortification of the Hill of El Montgròs

South-east of El Brull, we find the Iberian fortification of the hill of El Montgròs with a magnificent defensive rampart from 5th century B.C. This strategic settlement built by the Ausetani Iberians guaranteed control of the Plain of Vic. It was occupied from the Bronze Age until the Medieval period.

Gualba Stream

The Gualba stream flows from the waters of the Santa Fe reservoir until it meets the Tordera river. Follow the signed PR-C 211 footpath from the Gualba train station and this will take you to the reservoir and the spectacular beech forest.

Sant Elies

The small hermitage of Sant Elies stands majestic at 1,000 m altitude at the summit of the hill of the same name. It has a crowned nave with a barrel vault, a bell gable and a small apse. Every 25 April, the feast of Saint Mark is honoured with a mass, an offering of bread and a communal meal.

Montsoriu Castle

Visiting allows you to envisage how life was in a great Medieval fortress. The building, abandoned around the 16th century was the residence/palace of Bernat de Cabrera, one of the most distinguished men of the Kingdom of Catalonia and Aragon in the 14th century.

Sante Fe Valley

The Santa Fe valley is one of the most charming areas in the El Montseny massif, as well as being one of the entrances to the Turó de l’Home hill and a land of marshes, magnificent beech forests and fir woods. Several footpaths lead off in various directions from here.

Collformic Viewpoint

Collformic, in El Brull, situated at 1,145 m altitude, is characterised by its intense green grassy landscape and its spectacular panoramas. Many excursions leave from here, such as the trail up to the Tagamanen hill via the Pla de la Calma plain, or the GR 5-2 itinerary, which goes to El Matagalls, and the SL-C 85, which descends to El Brull.

Information/Visitors Centers

Oficina del Parque Natural de El Montseny. Masia Mariona

Address: On the BV-5119 road at km 2,5 in Mosqueroles close to the town of Fogars de Montclús

This is the main information centre for the Macizo del Montseny Natural Park (Though there are quite a few other information centres in various towns and villages in the area). There is an excellent ethnographic museum with audio visual displays.

This is also the headquarters for the exhibition on the scientific work and patronage of Rafael Patxot: The Study on the Catalan Farmhouse, The Popular Songs of Catalonia and his relationship with hiking, meteorology and astronomy. (Read his biography here https://thebiography.us/en/patxot-i-jubert-rafael)

This is also the main headquarters and administrative centre of the natural park.

Hours: weekdays and holidays from 9.30 a.m. to 2 p.m. from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The official website for the Macizo del Montseny Natural Park is here: https://parcs.diba.cat/es/web/montseny (Spanish and Catalan) and you can download a guide for the area in English here https://parcs.diba.cat/es/web/montseny/benvinguts-idiomes


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