Costa Daurada & Around
‘Costa Daurada’ (Golden Coast) instantly conjures the scent of sunscreen and salty air. Along this ravishing coast, which extends south and west from Barcelona, you'll find sleepy resorts and sandy beaches galore. But the Costa Daurada is a surprisingly multi-faceted destination.
Catalonia's Pyrenees are more than an all-season adventure playground. Certainly, the Val d'Aran draws skiers and snowboarders in winter, with resorts ranging from red-carpet to family-friendly. Summer and autumn lure hikers to the jewel-like lakes and valleys of the Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici and the climbing terrain of the Serra del Cadí.
Northern Catalonia’s largest city is a jewellery box of museums, galleries and Gothic churches, strung around a tangle of cobbled lanes and medieval walls. Reflections of Modernista mansions shimmer in the Riu Onyar, which demarcates the historic centre on its right bank from the gleaming commercial centre on the left.
In this effervescent port city, Roman history collides with beaches, nightlife and a food scene that perfumes the air with freshly grilled seafood. The biggest lure is the wealth of ruins in Spain’s second most important Roman site, including mosaic-packed museums and a seaside amphitheatre.
Just 35km along the coast southwest of Barcelona, Sitges sizzles with beach life, nightclubs and an enviable clutch of festivals. Sitges has been a resort town since the 19th century, and was a key location for the Modernisme movement, which paved the way for the likes of Picasso. These days it’s Spain’s most famous gay holiday destination.
Cerdanya, along with French Cerdagne across the border, occupies a low-lying green basin between the higher reaches of the Pyrenees to the east and west. Although Cerdanya and Cerdagne, once a single Catalan county, were divided by the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, Catalan is spoken on both sides of the border and Spain flows seamlessly into France.
Lleida’s battletorn history has faded into memory, replaced by a pacey, workaday vibe. During the 14th and 15th centuries, this arid, inland city was a centre of economic activity, fed in part by Jewish and Muslim communities. Culture and art flourished, thanks to surrounding monasteries and a university founded in 1300.
Parc Nacional d'Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici & Around
Catalonia’s only national park extends 20km east to west, and only 9km from north to south. But the rugged terrain within this small area sparkles with more than 400 lakes and countless streams and waterfalls, combined with a backdrop of pine and fir forests, and open bush and grassland, bedecked with wildflowers in spring and fringed with scarlet leaves in autumn.
Tossa de Mar
Tossa de Mar curves around a boat-speckled bay, guarded by a headland crowned with impressive defensive medieval walls and towers. Tourism has bolted a larger, modern extension onto this picturesque village of crooked, narrow streets, though its old town and clifftop views retain their magic.
Penedès Wine Country
Some of Spain’s finest wines come from the Penedès plains southwest of Barcelona. Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, located about 35km west of Barcelona, is the capital of cava, a sparkling, champagne-style wine popular worldwide, and glugged across Spain, particularly at Christmas.
Cadaqués gleams above the cobalt-blue waters of a rocky bay on Catalonia’s most easterly outcrop. This whitewashed village owes its allure in part to its windswept pebble beaches and meandering lanes, and the easy-going atmosphere that draws throngs of summer visitors. But it’s the artist Salvador Dalí who truly gave Cadaqués its sparkle.