A mountainous playground for hikers, climbers and nature lovers alike, Montseny natural park is under an hour from Barcelona and makes an energising escape from the city.
With a myriad of different trails, there’s something to suit every mood and ability.
Of the three main routes, we headed off on the GR 5, on a sharply ascending path from the town of Aiguafreda, for a 9.7 mile circular loop.
With UNESCO recognition, the Montseny massif is one of the best conserved natural environments in Catalonia, and focuses on maintaining a harmonious relationship between man and the environment. The area has actually been inhabited since prehistoric times, with a number of remaining megalithic structures still present.
Indeed, the man-made structures that we encounter on our hike do nothing but accentuate the beauty of the natural setting.
Of these buildings, the church of Santa Maria is the most striking.
Sat astride the windy outcrop of Tagamanent hill, the shrine dates back to the 12th century and is the crowning glory of the surrounding area.
The views from this spot are also some of the best in the park, and are well worth the detour from the main track. A clear day like ours allows vistas all the way to Barcelona’s Tibidabo and makes a fab place for a pitstop and a picnic.
If you’re in the mood for something heartier, continue to Restaurant El Bellver – a handily located old masia offering organic food in a stunning setting.
We chose hot chocolate before pushing on, but you could easily spend hours cosying up in this beautiful restored farmhouse. The tasting buffet (€35 adults) / €10-15 kids) is served from 2- 4pm on weekends (timings change seasonally) and is worth booking ahead.
From here, the trail is relatively straight forward, undulating between an elevation of 1055 and 404 metres and plunging us from stark mountainous plains back into densely wooded greenery.
Our route takes around 5 hours total and brings us back to town in perfect time to glug some red wine in front of the fire at another traditional eatery, Les Alzines d’Avenco. If like us, you’re here from January to March, then take full advantage of their house speciality, calçots.
These charred sweet and sticky onions are the stars of a Catalan culinary ritual, and are served here smothered in aioli and a nutty romesco sauce.
Sounds strange, yes, but wow are they finger lickin’ good!
Natural Park of Montseny, Catalonia
Few places allow you the level of bio-diversity that Montseny does.
And with so many different routes to explore, there’s never been a better excuse to head to the hills!
We hiked the Montseny stretch of the GR 5: Sender dels Miradors, but there are a few more to be aware of too.
GR 83: Camí del Nord (also known as Camí del Exili)
Running between Mataró and the French border, this trail retraces the steps of the exiles who escaped from the Civil War to France in 1939.
The 21km trail begins in Riells, passing though the Montseny as far the town of Arbúcies.
GR 2: Del Pirineo al Montseny
The GR 2 reaches from La Jonquera on the French border and ends in the Montseny. The Montseny stretch passes through Seva, El Brull and Aiguafreda.
Of medium difficulty, the trail covers 14km and takes approximately four hours.
ARRIVING BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT
We took the train from Placa Catalunya to Sant Marti de Centelles, from where the GR5 was easily accessible.
If you fancy making it more than just a day trip, then towns such as Gualba, Viladrau, Arbucies and Aiguafreda are conveniently located for hiking and have plenty of options for both accommodation and eating.
Story by Katie Jennings