By car in Catalonia: medieval cities and lava plateaus

By car in Catalonia: medieval cities and lava plateaus

Barcelona — Vic — Ripoll — Sant Juan de les Abadesses — Olot — Castellfollit de la Roca — Besalu

We have prepared for you an unusual driving route that runs through the volcanic region of Garrotxa. You will find charming small medieval towns with hanging bridges, fortress walls and narrow streets, extinct volcanoes and frozen lava flows. In addition, in each of the towns you can taste local liqueurs, wines and cheeses. So your trip will also be gastronomic!

Distance – 181 km. All roads on your way are free if you follow our route.
Travel time – 3 hours non-stop one way. With full stops in each city – 8 hours.

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By car in Catalonia: medieval cities and lava plateaus

1. Vic

The first ancient city on your way will be Vic, located 70 km from Barcelona. The famous Gaudi spent almost three weeks here, however, even during this short time he managed to leave his mark on the city’s appearance. In the city you need to do the following:

1.Be impressed by the huge central square (Plaça Major). Its peculiarity is the combination of various architectural styles dating back to different eras. The square is considered the main attraction of the city.
2. Buy delicious Catalan sausage at the market (Vic is famous for its pork products) and try all the local cheeses. The market takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the above-mentioned square.
3. Reach the pretty cathedral. Address: Plaza de la Catedral.
4. Admire the perfectly preserved Roman temple. Address: Carrer del Pare Xifré, 2.

By car in Catalonia: medieval cities and lava plateaus

2. Ripoll

40 km to the north is our next stop – the small provincial town of Ripoll. It is located in a very picturesque place – at the confluence of two rivers, surrounded by mountains. It is interesting that in the Middle Ages the city was a metallurgical center, which is explained by the presence of coal and iron ore deposits nearby.

40 minutes will be enough for you to get around the whole of Ripoll. Its main attraction is the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria (Santa Maria de Ripoll),

built in the Romanesque style in 879. It was around it that the city itself arose. We highly recommend visiting the monastery grounds and strolling through the covered galleries and well-kept garden.
Also noteworthy is the Gothic Church of Sant Pere de Ripoll,

built in the 12th century.

By car in Catalonia: medieval cities and lava plateaus

3. Sant Joan de les Abadesses

The next mandatory stop is literally 11 km to the north (about 15 minutes on the way). The town of San Juan de les Abadess is very tiny (it will take a little time to explore),

but very colorful. You need to do at least two things in it:

1. Visit the monastery of San Juan de les Abadesses, founded in the 9th century. Address: Placa de l’Abadia, S/N.
2. Cross the river on a very beautiful old bridge.

By car in Catalonia: medieval cities and lava plateaus

4. Olot

At 24 km is the next city on your way – Olot, which is the center of the volcanic region of Garrotxa. There are several volcanoes located near it, for which it is often called the “city of volcanoes.”

Olot was damaged by an earthquake in the 15th century, so there are not many ancient buildings here. The main attractions here are natural. In addition to walking around the center, in the city you can walk to the Montsacopa volcano (Volcán del Montsacopa). If you wish, you can climb up the slope of the volcano and look into the crater.

By car in Catalonia: medieval cities and lava plateaus

5. Castellfollit de la Roca

Just 9 km from Olot is the small town of Castellfollit de la Roca. It is notable for being located at the very top of a sheer cliff formed by lava flows.

In fact, there is only one street in the city, and the houses are located close to each other. Please note that almost all of them are made of volcanic rocks. There is an observation deck at the very edge of the cliff. Be sure to climb up here for breathtaking views!

By car in Catalonia: medieval cities and lava plateaus

6. Besalú

The final point of your journey will be the cozy city of Besalu, which is a monument of medieval architecture. To get there you will only need to drive 15 km.
To find yourself in the historical center of the city, you will need to cross the river on an ancient bridge.

1. Walk along the narrow streets and find an unusual sculpture of a chair with long legs on one of them. Try to climb it!
2. Pay attention to the peculiarity of Besalu – chairs are attached to the walls of some houses here. Which, of course, is explained by local beliefs (which friendly shop assistants will be happy to tell you about).

By car in Catalonia: medieval cities and lava plateaus

3. In one of the souvenir shops, buy some interesting handmade item to remember your trip.
4. Be sure to visit the World in Miniature Museum with an extensive collection of miniature sculptures. All exhibits here will need to be examined under a microscope. Address: Placa Prat de Sant Pere, 15.
5. Go to St. Peter’s Church. Address: Placa Sant Pere, s/n.

By car in Catalonia: medieval cities and lava plateaus

You can spend the night in neighboring Girona (located only 30 minutes away),

or return to Barcelona (1 hour 40 minutes on the AP-7 toll highway for 14.15 euros).

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