Catalonia, also known as Catalunya (or Cataluna in Castilian Spanish) is at the north-eastern tip of Spain. Its capital, Barcelona is a vibrant city with superb museums and art galeries, many examples of the architecture of Antoni Gaudi, attractive shopping boulevards and a lively night life.
However whilst Barcelona is a must, the region as a whole is diverse and beautiful. With a beautiful coastline, mountains, plains and forests there is something for everyone.
The coastline ranges from long sandy beaches to small rocky coves. The Costa Brava to the north has some of the best beaches and beach towns and a more rugged coastline than the Costa Daurada to the south.
Costa Brava ("wild coast")
The Costa Brava is a beautiful strech of coast and this area has a rich medieval history, beautiful scenery and a great artistic heritage. It has been voted one of the "Best of the World Destinations 2012" by National Geographic Traveler Magazine and deservedly so.
The Costa Brava stretches 200km, starting at the French border and running to Blannes (60km north of Barcelona). This was the first coastal area in Spain to be developed for mass tourism but it is now changing direction and putting much more emphasis on the areas' cultural and natural heritage. The busiest resorts of Lloret de Mar, Tossa de Mar and La Platja d'Aro are to the South. Just north of these is the more fashionable Baix Emporda with some good stretches of coast and interesting villages to explore.
There is also a nature reserve, the Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de l'Emporda. This Park has been designated as both a RAMSAR site and an Important Bird Area. The Park is built on marshy land and shelters predominantly aquatic birds. More than 300 different species have been sighted here. At the northern end of the Costa Brava is the arty village of Cadaques. This village has in its time attracted Picasso, Man Ray, Thomas Mann and Salvador Dali. Salvador Dali and his wife lived nearby at Port Lligat where his house has been opened to the public. The Casa-Museu Salvador Dali is open from March to December.
South of the Costa Brava you get to the extraordinary coastal city of Barcelona.
Costa Dorada (Gold Coast)
Called the Gold Coast for its long sandy beaches the Costa Dorada (Costa Daurada) runs south of Barcelona to the Delta de L'Ebre, a large nature reserve. Salou is the largest of the resorts on the Costa Dorada. This is next to Port Aventura -one of the biggest theme parks in Europe.
Inland there is the beautiful mountain countryside of Catalonia's National Park the Parc Nacional d' Aigüestortes, various World Heritage Sites, several monasteries, many beautiful villages and several large towns and cities worth visiting;
Cities and Places to Visit in Catalonia
Begur, an attractive village and beaches on the Costa Brava.
Besalu, magnificent medieval town
Blanes, a must for garden lovers with the Blanes' Botanical Garden, the Jardi Botanic Mar i Murtra, designed by Karl Faust in 1928.
Cadaqués, one of the most picturesque villages in Spain and nearby Portlligat home of the Casa-Museu Salvador Dali.
Calella-de-Palafrugell is one of the most beautiful villages on the Costa Brava coast.
Cardona, the 13thCentury castle renovated in the 18th century is now one of the luxurious Paradors of Spain.
Castello d'Empuries - an interesting medieval village with a huge church.
Girona, ancient, walled city
Empuries, fascinating archealogical site containing a Greek and Roman colony
Figueres, Home of the Salvador Dali museum (Teatro-Museo Dali)
Jardins de Cap Roig, a beautiful garden in a beautiful cliff-top location with sweeping views over the sea.
L'Estartit, a popular resort on the Costa Brava.
Lleida, with a large ruined fort, La Suda, and an outstanding cathedral the Seu Vell
Lloret de Mar, one of Spain's most popular tourist resorts.
Montblanc, beautiful, walled town
Olot, attractive town in the Baixa Garrotxa volcanic region.
Palamos, an attractive port on the Costa Brava.
Pals, a lovely medieval town near the Costa Brava coast.
Platja d'Aro, popular Costa Brava resort.
Peratallada - a medieval village, one of the most beautiful villages in Spain.
PortAventura - one of Europe's biggest theme parks.
Pubol, home of the Casa-Museu Castell Gala Dali.
Roses, ancient Greek settlement which is now the biggest resort on the northern stretch of the Costa Brava.
Salou, the main resort on the Costa Dorado coast. Situated next to the Port Aventura theme park.
Santa Pau, medieval village in the Baixa Garrotxa volcanic region.
Sant Feliu de Guixols, a relaxed resort with a Benedictine monastery.
Sitges, highlight of the coastal towns south of Barcelona
Solsona, ancient town with remains of moated fortifications
Tarragona, the roman ruins here are now one of the World Heritage Sites in Catalonia
Tossa de Mar, a very attractive mid-sized resort on the Costa Brava.
Water World at Lloret de Mar is one of Catalonia's biggest water parks.
Museums in Catalonia
Salvador Dali Museum, Teatre-Museu Dali, in Figueres displays Dali artwork
Casa Museu Castell Gala Dali, in Pubol, a medieval castle Dali bought for his wife Gala and containing artworks and furniture Dali gave to Gala
Casa Museu Salvador Dali, near Cadaques, Dali and Gala's home created from a number of fishermen's huts
Monasteries in Catalonia
Monestir de Santes Creus
Monestir de Santa Maria, Ripoll
Monestir de Vallbona de les Monges
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Catalonia
Catelonia has a number of World Heritage sites:
- Archaeological Ensemble of Tarraco, Tarragona
- Catalan Romanesque Churches at Vall de Boí
- Poblet Monastery, Poblet, Tarragona province
- Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona
- Rock Art of the Mediterranean Basin on the Iberian Peninsula
- Works of Antoni Gaudi:
- Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
- Parc Güell, Barcelona
- Palau Güell, Barcelona
- Casa Milà, Barcelona
The National Park of Aiguestortes is the only National Park in Catalonia. It is a mountainous area in the Spannish Pyrenees and contains some of the most spectacular scenery to be seen in the Pyrenees. The park covers an area of more than 100 square kilometres. Lakes, tarns, waterfalls and forest of fir, silver birch and beech can all be seen.
Parc Natural de la Zona Volcanica de la Garrotxa
This park contains cones of thirty extinct volcanoes and is a beautiful and interesting area.
Skiing in Catalonia
Vielha, modern ski resort in the Vall d'Aran
Baqueira Beret, one of the best ski resorts in Spain
La Masella and Boi-Taull for intermediates and advanced skiers
Nuria, Port-Aine and Super Espot are best for beginners and famillies
Map of Catalonia & places nearby