Thanks to its contrasting landscapes and sunny climate, Catalonia is perfect for walking holidays, from the alpine terrain of the high Pyrenees, across the abundant coastal plains dotted with olive groves, fruit orchards and fields of crops, down to the sunny coasts of the Mediterranean.
Catalonia has more than 9,000km of long- and short-distance paths, with a proud tradition of hiking. The wide variety of trails – long distance Gran Recorregut (GR), short distance Petit Recorregut (PR), and local Senders Locals (SL) – and range of difficulty ratings from tough down to easy, make it possible for anyone to pull on their boots and step out and explore the landscape.
In the natural parks of the Pyrenees you can walk through mountainous scenery, such as the wonders of the Parc Nacional d’Aiguestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici – Catalonia’s national park – which celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2016. The park is watered by almost 200 mountain lakes, and is a wildlife refuge for species such as chamois, capercaillie, marmot and the mythical lammergeier or bearded vulture.
Topping the list of Catalonia’s most legendary walks are the Gran Recorreguts, its share of Europe’s Grand Randonnes, which are long-distance walks that take in some of the most breathtaking scenery and cultural attractions. These include the Catalan section of the famous Camino de Santiago which is a perfect way to discover monasteries and explore the traditions, architecture and cuisine of cities such as Igualada, Tortosa, Tarragona and Cervera.
Another highlight, literally, is the Sender del Pirineu that spans the entire Pyrenean range (GR-11), while the Sender del Mediterrani (GR-92) hugs the sun-blessed coast from north to south.
Inland, one of the most emblematic of routes is the Cistercian Triangle, linking three medieval monasteries, whereas the Ruta dels 3 Monts joins three natural parks in a 106km route, starting at the holy mountain Montserrat.
If you’re taking on one of Catalonia’s best-loved walks as a multi-stage route over several days, or just a section with an overnight stop, a particularly special way to pass the night is in one of mountain refuges dotted throughout the region. This immersive experience enables walkers to sleep on the mountain and experience stunning mountain dawns and sunsets.
Refuges are a great resource when trekking and range from basic bivouacs, through simple unstaffed cabins to catered hostels, with communal dormitories or sleeping platforms. Washing facilities are usually unsophisticated, but there’s often a beautiful mountain lake nearby where the brave or hardy can take a refreshing dip!
Most of the Catalan ‘guarded huts’ are operated by the FEEC (Catalonia Excursionist Association Federation), which offers discounts to its members.