The largest monastery of the Cistercian Route, Unesco-listed Santa Maria de Poblet was founded by monks from southern France in 1150, and rose rapidly to become Catalonia’s most powerful monastery. Highlights include the mostly Gothic, herb-scented main cloister and the sculptural treasures of the 12th-century church's Panteó Reial (Royal Pantheon); the raised alabaster sarcophagi contain such greats as Jaume I (conqueror of Mallorca and Valencia) and Pere III.
A community of Cistercian monks moved back in after the Spanish Civil War and did much to restore the monastery to its former glory after decades of ruin. Today, 28 monks live here.
The monastery is well signposted 3.5km southwest of L'Espluga de Francolí, just off the N240 8.5km northwest of Montblanc. Its long lunchtime closure means it’s best visited early.