What about taking advantage of the summer to discover some of Catalonia's natural parks? This is a plan that can offer something for everyone: for one, those visiting Barcelona or holidaying on the coast but looking for a change of scene, but also, those who live in Catalonia - but probably in a town - and crave a break from August heat and urban noise. Either way, if you have a free day or two, an excursion to one of Catalonia's many stunning natural parks is an excellent option. See the land, discover the hidden corners of Catalonia and spend the day in the great and often spectacular outdoors.
Not only that, but a trip to a natural park is a very versatile option, as it appeals to both young and old and is great for spending a day with the family or friends, with plenty of adventurous options for those who seek it and just as many relaxing ways of enjoying the beauty of nature. So, pack a lunch, get hold of a good water bottle, comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and choose which natural park in Catalonia you will visit. These are the proposals we make to you from La Gandula, the summer section of ElNacional.cat.
Let's start with the one closest to Barcelona, the Collserola Natural Park. It is a perhaps less exotic and rather urban option, but the city's big green lung is a luxury you can enjoy with just a few hours to leave the city and depending only on public transport. The park consists of a mountain range of more than 8,000 hectares, right there behind the city, full of large forest spaces with a great diversity of species. The park's website offers a variety of different possibilities to get the most out of it, with options for routes on foot and also by bike. If you already know Collserola well, another option near Barcelona is the Delta del Llobregat natural park.
2. Aiguamolls de l'Empordà
One of the favourite areas of Catalonia for a summer holiday - especially for Catalans themselves - is the Empordà, the coastal region in the far north of Catalonia. In this area we find one of the most spectacular natural parks in Catalonia, the Aiguamolls de l'Empordà. A wetland paradise where children will be able to get close to mangificent storks - which are just one of the more than 300 species of birds in the park. The ideal park for birdwatching fans.
3. Delta de l'Ebre
On the other hand, those who find themselves in the southern coastal region of Catalonia, can enjoy other proposals without going too far from their base. The best-known is the delta of the great Ebre river, which comes all the way across the Iberian peninsula from Cantabria to flow out to the sea in a delta of 320 km², the largest wetland in Catalonia and one of the most photographed places in the whole territory. In this natural park everything revolves around the mouth of the river: lagoons, beaches, islands, rice paddies... a wonderful spectacle.
There are few things more Catalan than climbing Montserrat, but of course, you don't have to be Catalan to enjoy it. It is best known for its abbey with its sacred virgin, but the surroundings of the most iconic mountain in Catalonia are also a natural park. Montserrat is remarkable for its rock formations shaped from conglomerate stone, but it also has remarkable flora (notably the oak groves) and fauna. In fact, in some parts of the mountain, where different routes can be taken after visiting the abbey, the density of the forest makes it almost impassable off the trails. There's a rack railway and a cable car to get there (from the FGC train) and there are further funiculars to help you get even higher.
5. Sant Llorenç del Munt i l'Obac
But if you've already been to Montserrat and want a variation, the natural park for you could be Sant Llorenç del Munt i l'Obac. This massif is located north of Terrassa and is known for the large number of possibilities it offers: signposted routes, guided tours, exhibitions... a little bit of everything so you can choose (on its website you have all the information - here's the pamphlet in English) whatever takes your fancy in this natural park. And if you're too lazy to prepare a lunch box, you won't have too many problems, since it also has its restaurants, including one on the top of the famous Mola.
6. Cap de Creus
It's close to the northernmost point of the state, but better known as absolutely the easternmost point of the Iberian Peninsula, and hence labelled the primer sol of both Catalonia and Spain, although the latter is not entirely true because the sun rises first over the island of Menorca. But never mind that - the natural park of Cap de Creus has both wild beauty and heaps of charm. The area includes the municipalities of Port de la Selva, Selva de Mar, Llançà, Cadaqués, Palau-saverdera, Pau, Roses and Vilajuïga. Its landscape reflects the persistent Tramuntana, the famous northerly wind, with eroded cliffs and wind-blown pines, which are part of the beauty.
7. Zona Volcànica de la Garrotxa
To tell the truth, this is a natural park that is more famously visited in the autumn - because of the beautiful fiery tones that the deciduous forests acquire - than in the summer. But for this very reason, the natural park of the Garrotxa volcanic area is also a good option to visit in August. In total, there are forty volcanic cones, ten craters and lava flows, it is a truly unique landscape in Catalonia. Although don't expect eruptions - while not extinct, there's been no activity in the volcanic field for over 11,000 years. The area covers 11 municipalities and 28 nature reserves and is a good option for a family trip. The best-known area is the Fageda d'en Jordà, but it is by no means the only one worth visiting.
8. Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici
For those who need to escape the heat that this year scarcely lets us sleep in many parts of Catalonia and seek the cool of the high mountains - there are, in fact, many options along the length of the Catalan Pyrenees. This park of one of the most distant from Barcelona - scarcely a daytrip - but as such, one of the most remote and beautiful: the national park of Aigüestortes and l'Estany de Sant Maurici, with peaks of more than 3,000 metres. Although very far from the sea, water is ever present: mountain ponds, streams and waterfalls. It is a unique landscape, not only in Catalonia but in southern Europe, a national park since 1955 that cannot be missed.
As you can see, there are natural parks in Catalonia to choose from and, more importantly, for all tastes: sea, mountain, inland, near Barcelona, in the Pyrenees... our country offers all kinds of possibilities for outdoor activities, you just have to choose the one you like best!