Mountain Walking in Southern Catalunya

Published on 03/05/2011 in Places of Interest

This relatively unknown hiking area is in Tarragona, the most southerly province of Catalunya. Most of the hiking routes are in the Els Ports natural park, the immense limestone crags overlook the broad orange and olive tree-clad plain of the River Ebro and, set apart, there are the satellite ranges of Montsia and Cardó.

The best time to visit

The area is ideal for walking from October to May. July and August are too hot for most, although local walkers are undaunted. They make use of the cooler early hours to get the ascents done and choose the shady, forested slopes to reach the rocky ridges. This is limestone country - unglaciated, water and wind-eroded rock.

Tarragona mountains

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the Els Ports Park. Deep ravines, multi-tiered cliffs, rock arches, pinnacles and serrated ridges form the landscape of the eastern slopes. They make for fascinating walking circuits, with a surprise around every corner. Passing through this forest of rock to reach the uplands, the landscape becomes surprisingly green and lush, with terraced fields, pastures and woodland. About the area

From the high peaks and ridges of the uplands, the views extend to the west, over to the high plateau of Aragon, with its vineyards and medieval hilltop villages. This is not wilderness country. There is much evidence of human occupation from stone-built terrace walls to the remains of lime kilns and tar pits. Griffon vultures and Spanish ibex are much in evidence, eagles and other raptors can be seen according to season and around the spring areas there are many small woodland birds.

Planning a trip

Els Ports offers the most extensive walking but the mountain groups to the east and south have their own charm. The Serra of Cardó shelters an old monastery and hermitages perched on rock pinnacles as well as forested ridges with views of the Mediterranean. The Serra of Montsia offers sunny and fragrant herb-covered slopes overlooking the coast and sea.

There is a 5-day waymarked walking circuit of Els Ports, called the Estells del Sud, with refuges and hostels for overnighting. But the area is probably best explored on day walks, using a hotel in the Medieval city of Tortosa as a central base. Alternatively, there is accommodation in a number of small surrounding villages or even on the coast.

Getting there

Southern Catalunya can be reached from Barcelona airport and Reus airport, both of which have rail links with Tortosa but really a car is needed to get the most out of the area.

Written by: Philip Freakley

About the author:

Philip Freakley lives with his wife Vivien in Southern Catalunya. They spend their time exploring the mountains, talking to local walkers, translating Catalan route descriptions and knitting together apparently unrelated scraps of footpath.

So, why not follow in their footpaths, and explore the Mountains of Southern Catalunya for yourself.

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