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Exploring Catalonia

Lorna Roberts is undoubtedly a Parador expert having explored every nook and cranny of Spain and visiting almost all of the Paradors throughout her experience as their Irish Agent and leading numerous escorted tours across Spain using these wonderful hotels.

Here she shares her knowledge of the lively region of Catalonia and its Paradors:

CATALONIA (which may also be written as Cataluña or most commonly in Catalan as Catalunya) is a large autonomous region in North-East Spain made up of 4 provinces: Girona, Barcelona and Tarragona on the Mediterranean coast, and Lleida inland stretching up to the Pyrenees and the French border. 

AIRPORTS: There are flights from many UK airports to Barcelona El Prat on the outskirts of the city. You can also catch flights to the Girona and Reus airports.

GIRONA has something for everyone from the spectacular Pyrenees in the North to the Costa Brava – a combination of resorts and unspoilt coves and Mediterranean beaches. Large areas are covered with green fields and natural parks dotted with medieval villages, historic sites and the city of Girona, dominated by the Cathedral standing above the old town alongside the banks of the Ongar river. Salvador Dali is one of its best-known sons, remembered in his birthplace of Figueras and the coastal town of Cadaques. The area around Emporda is famous for anchovies, and close by are the museum and well-preserved ruins of the Roman and Greek settlements at Empurias.

The Parador de AIGUABLAVA sits on a headland surrounded by idyllic coves and beaches in the unspoilt part of the Costa Brava. One of the friendliest and most relaxing Paradors, all the standard rooms have sea views and balconies and as well as the hotel’s restaurant, the Parador also owns an award-winning restaurant, voted one of the Top 10 beach restaurants in Spain. A perfect week’s holiday is a combination of 3 very different Paradors – AIGUABLAVA on the coast and the two inland Paradors in the province of Barcelona.

The province of BARCELONA surrounds the city and stretches to the foothills of the Pyrenees, to the Costa Brava in the North and to the Costa Dorada south of the city. The works of Gaudi can be seen all over the city, on the hill of Montjuic and in his unfinished Cathedral of Sagrada Familia. The other Cathedral is surrounded by the narrow streets of the Gothic quarter leading to La Rambla, the mile long promenade filled with markets and stalls and links the Plaza de Catalunya to the statue of Columbus standing high above the port. Barcelona hosted the Olympics in 1992 and has been one of the liveliest tourist destinations since then, as it offers so much variety – historic buildings, large parks, a magnificent beach and numerous shops, tapas bars and restaurants. North of the city is a series of small towns with long sandy beaches and marinas. These are connected by a coastal railway so are easily accessible to the city, and an hour’s drive inland are the two Paradors in the province.

The Parador de VIC is a country house overlooking the reservoir of Sau in the foothills of the Pyrenees – a relaxing, tranquil place for those who want to get away from it all, and also a base for a walking holiday. 

CARDONA is one of the most traditional, historic and atmospheric Paradors as it is a Medieval castle, with views of the mountains and the Monastery at Montserrat. It is one of the Parador-Museums with a Romanesque church.

TARRAGONA is the most southerly province of Catalonia and apart from its coastline along the Costa Dorada it contains some magnificent mountainous country with vineyards producing some excellent wine in the Priorat area, also renowned for its olive oil. The Monastery at Poblet, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of four monasteries along the Cistercian route. The delta of the River Ebro is a wildlife sanctuary and fertile area producing almonds, fruit, vegetables and rice. North of the delta are small fishing ports and the city of Tarragona, the former Roman capital of Spain and principal port of entry for the Romans. It radiates out from a balcony overlooking a well-preserved Roman amphitheatre beside the sea.

There is only one Parador in the province at TORTOSA, a 10th century castle overlooking the River Ebro and surrounded by fertile plains. It can be combined with Paradors in two neighbouring provinces at Benicarló on the coast and inland in the castle at Alcañiz.

Inland province of Lleida & the Pyrenees

LLEIDA is one of the most dramatic of the Pyrenees provinces with pretty villages and vineyards in the foothills and scenic roads leading to three Paradors in the mountains at Vielha, Arties and Seu d’Urgell and one in the province’s capital of Lleida. Close to Vielha is the Vall de Boi, at the top of which is the highest ski resort in the Pyrenees at Boi-Taull. The valley was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 as it contains nine of the earliest Romanesque churches in Europe.

VIELHA, at the top of the Val d’Aran, is a popular town with skiers. The Parador sits overlooking the valley with a wonderful a spa and pool. The bedrooms with balconies and the restaurant have spectacular views down the valley.

At ARTIES, a picturesque mountain village beside the Aiguastortes National Park is a Parador built in the style of a mountain refuge with wood beams and a slate roof. There is a small gym and heated pool.

The Parador de LA SEU D’URGELL has been rebuilt as a modern hotel, with a heated indoor pool, beside the Cathedral in the historic centre of an attractive town close to Andorra. All three are popular for both Summer holidays, walking in the mountains and for winter sports.

Lleida is the province’s capital, a historic city that can trace its routes back to the Bronze Age. The cities main attractions include the Seu Vella (the Old Cathedral) a Romanesque-Gothic building which sits atop a hill in the town and was used as a military fortress in the 18th century and the Seu Nova (the New Cathedral) which is the current seat of the Bishop of Lleida). The Parador de Lleida is situated in the heart of the town in the 17th-century Convento del Roser.

If you  are interested in escorted tours to the Paradors, please contact us. Lorna can tell you virtually everything there is to know about the Paradors of Spain, and she will be very happy to arrange all your booking requirements.