In search of history in Catalonia
If you want to discover the history of Catalonia, we have the route for you. It is called the Grand Tour of Catalonia and it travels around Catalonia along 2,000 km (1,200 miles) of roads, divided into five sections. In a previous publication, we explained Section 1, from Barcelona to Tarragona and here, we will continue with Section 2 of the journey, which is divided into seven stages. It joins the legacy left by the Romans in Tarragona with the mediaeval past of Lleida, via the landscapes of El Priorat and the River Ebro.
The website of the Grand Tour of Catalonia includes a planner that will help you organise the journey for yourself. If you want to have your trip organised for you or to have the services involved contracted for you, you will find a list of travel agents specialising in this route on the website. Ready to start driving?
- Stage 1: The Roman legacy
- Stage 2: In the Terres de l’Ebre region
- Stage 3: The natural world of the Ebro Delta
- Stage 4: Pedalling along the Via Verde cycle route
- Stage 5: A glass of wine in El Priorat
- Stage 6: Poblet and the Prades Mountains
- Stage 7: Heading for Lleida
Stage 1: The Roman legacy
This section begins at a SIXT station in Tarragona, such as SIXT station Tarragona Downtown or Tarragona Ave (Meet&Greet). The city has one of the largest, best-preserved Roman archaeological sites in Europe and has been designated UNESCO World Heritage. You can still see the traces of ancient Tarraco: the amphitheatre, which rises up intact beside the sea, the city walls, and the aqueduct, among other constructions.
Just a few minutes from Tarragona, you will reach Reus. This is where Gaudí was born, and is one of the cities in Catalonia with the largest number of Catalan modernista buildings. Our SIXT station Reus Aeropuerto (Meet&Greet) also offers comfortable hybrid cars, such as a Fiat 500 Cabrio hybrid or an Opel Grandland hybrid SUV. You can follow a guided itinerary to visit them, with the highlights being the houses Casa Navàs and Casa Rull, and the Institut Pere Mata hospital. The route also includes a visit to the Gaudí Centre, where the latest audiovisual technology will show you the highlights of Gaudí’s architecture and the Modernisme movement. Finish the tour with a vermouth: this is wine flavoured with herbs and is characteristic of Reus. The best time to drink it is just before lunch.
The last stop for this stage is the fishing village of Cambrils. Spend the afternoon on a catamaran, enjoying the Mediterranean Sea. Cambrils is also known for its very varied cuisine. You have to taste suquet de romesco, a fish stew that is one of the staples of the cuisine in the area’s fishing villages.
Stage 2: In the Terres de l’Ebre region
The second day begins in L’Ametlla de Mar, another fishing village. It is a small gem in the Terres de l’Ebre region, located very near the Ebro Delta. It preserves the tradition of fishing, and is also known for water sports. In L’Ametlla de Mar, you will have the chance to participate in a remarkable activity: swimming among huge specimens of wild bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean. And afterwards, you can sample the fish, too.
Now get in the car and head for L’Ampolla. Why not take a boat trip from the port to visit the Bahía del Fangar bay and the mussel beds there. As well as seeing how these molluscs are cultivated, you will have the opportunity to try freshly collected mussels and oysters. With SIXT’s environmentally friendly and sustainable premium fleet, you can enjoy the ride in the comfort of a convertible or a spacious SUV.
Stage 3: The natural world of the Ebro Delta
El Delta de l’Ebre Natural Park is one of the most important wetland areas in Europe. Its rich natural environment has led to its recognition as a biosphere reserve. Bird-watching is one of the most fascinating activities to do in the area. There are more than 300 species to be found here, whether they are passing through or nesting. In a convertible like the Fiat 500 hybrid, you can feel even closer to nature.
Tortosa is just around the corner. It is well worth a visit to see the castle, the cathedral and the Jewish quarter, as well as the municipal market. At the market, you will find typical products local to the Terres de l’Ebre region, and you will be able to try them in situ. Winding mountain roads, for example, can be covered comfortably in an Opel Grandland hybrid SUV. SIXT’s Premium Service will be happy to advise you on choosing the right hybrid vehicle.
Stage 4: Pedalling along the Via Verde cycle route
You will start this stage on a bike, following the Vía Verde or Green Way route along the Val de Zafán valley, an itinerary that will take you through the varied landscapes of the Terres de l’Ebre region. The route follows the old railway line through the impressive setting of Els Ports Natural Park before reaching the Ebro Delta.
And now it’s time for a bit of wine tourism, with a visit to the “Wine Cathedrals”. These buildings, constructed in the Catalan modernista style, belonged to the old wine cooperatives of the area. They were built in the early 20th century. The two that stand out are in Pinell de Brai and Gandesa. We kindly ask you to not drink and drive.
We would suggest a two-step ending to this very intense day. First, follow a stretch of the River Ebro in a kayak, which will take you as far as Miravet, a small village on a hill where the houses and the castle loom over the river. For the second and last stop of this stage, head to the Iberian city of Castellet de Banyoles.
Stage 5: A glass of wine in El Priorat
This stage will take you into an area with a rich tradition of quality wines that are famous around the world. El Priorat. The region has two designations of origin, the PDO Priorat and the DO Montsant. The zones of both designations are located at the heart of the Montsant mountain range, where the vines grow on steeply sloping terraces in soil with a high slate content, giving these wines their very special flavour. Discover the culture of wine in Catalonia with a visit to La Cartoixa de Escaladei and some of its wineries, for example the Falset-Marçà cooperative.
Prades is the last stop for this stage before we reach Montblanc. This municipality is known as the Red Village because of the characteristic colour of its buildings. The old centre is an extremely interesting historical site and its natural environment, the Prades Mountains, are an excellent spot for active tourism and mountain activities.
Stage 6: Poblet and the Prades Mountains
Montblanc is a municipality with extremely well-preserved mediaeval heritage. Visitors can see this in the streets and squares, along with the impressive walls surrounding the town. Legend has it that it was here that Sant Jordi (Saint George), the patron saint of Catalonia, killed the dragon to save the princess, just outside the city walls.
Poblet Monastery, listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, is very nearby. It is one of the three major monasteries linked by the Cistercian Route, and is one of the most important monasteries in Europe. It houses a large library, an archive, and the royal tombs. It is still in use as a monastery.
To complete this stage, head for L’Espluga de Francolí, where you can learn all about the way of life of the ancestors of today’s Catalans. First, you can visit the Museum of Rural Life to find out what life was like in the countryside, and then you can visit the Cove de la Font Major cave, where you will learn about the area’s geological and prehistoric past.
Stage 7: Heading for Lleida
You are reaching the end of Section 2 of the Grand Tour of Catalonia. You will start the day in the village of Guimerà. Don’t be alarmed if someone appears on horseback, or you meet a minstrel reciting poetry. This village and its imposing stone walls will make you feel as though you are in the Middle Ages.
After Guimerà, we suggest a visit to one of the other three monasteries linked by the Cistercian Route: the Monastery of Santa Maria de Vallbona. This religious centre houses nuns, and you will be amazed by the breathtaking beauty of its cloisters and the landscape that surrounds it.
The last stop of the day is the city of Lleida. When you arrive by car, you are welcomed by the monumental complex of La Seu Vella and the King’s Castle. Located on the summit of a hill, it defines the city’s skyline, which follows the River Segre. If you want to sample the culinary treats of the region, an absolute must is a very traditional dish, cargols a la llauna (land snails cooked on a tray in the oven, with aioli).
Go to the Grand Tour of Catalonia website and download the track for Section 2 of the route to your browser. Listen to the playlist we have put together to liven up your journey.
You can then return your environmentally friendly hybrid vehicle to the SIXT stations Tarragona Downtown, Tarragona Ave (Meet&Greet), Salou (Meet&Greet) or Reus Aeropuerto (Meet&Greet).
Ready to embark on the Grand Tour of Catalonia?