Mediaeval Lleida, a fascinating journey into the past
The most iconic view of the city of Lleida is the outline created by the Seu Vella, the old cathedral, and La Suda castle. Perched on a hilltop, it is as emblematic of the city as the Segre river that flows through it. To discover Lleida’s mediaeval history and enjoy a fascinating journey into the past, we recommend Section 3 of the Grand Tour of Catalonia, a route of over 2,000 km (1,200 miles) that travels around Catalonia in five sections. You can also enjoy the Romanesque cathedral of La Seu d’Urgell and the group of Romanesque churches in the Vall de Boí. Is your engine running? SIXT offers you a premium fleet of environmentally friendly hybrid and electric cars at numerous car hire stations in Barcelona and Tarragona. For example, book a spacious SUV such as the BMW 745 hybrid or a sleek Tesla Model 3 electric for your tour and enjoy the outstanding SIXT Premium Service.
- Stage 1: The starry sky
- Stage 2: Aigüestortes and the Romanesque heritage of the Vall de Boí
- Stage 3: Unique features of the Val d’Aran
- Stage 4: Walking through the Colomèrs Cirque
- Stage 5: Rafting on the Noguera Pallaresa River
Stage 1: The starry sky
The route begins in the city of Lleida, where breakfast features olive oil from the Les Garrigues Protected Designation of Origin – a fruity, dense oil made from Arbequina olives. And don’t miss the chance to try a Lleida pear, a fruit that also has Protected Designation of Origin status.
Once your stomach is satisfied, visit the monumental complex of Lleida, including the Seu Vella, which is the old cathedral and boasts an impressive bell tower, and La Suda castle, also known as the King’s Castle. Located on the summit of a hill, it defines the city’s skyline. Outside the centre, head for Gardeny Castle to round off your tour of the city’s mediaeval past.
Before the sun goes down, it is time to get the car and head towards Àger and the Montsec mountain range to enjoy a starry night. The low levels of light pollution here mean the conditions for stargazing are so perfect, the area has been designated a Starlight Tourist Destination and Starlight Reserve. To find out more about the sky you are looking up at, make your way to the Centre d’Observació de l’Univers (Universe Observation Centre), which is in the area. Start your tour, for example, in a BMW iX electric or a BMW X2 hybrid from the Tarragona Downtown SIXT branch or the SIXT stations Barcelona Sants Central Station, Centro Eixample or Barcelona Rambla Catalunya.
Stage 2: Aigüestortes and the Romanesque heritage of the Vall de Boí
Aigüestortes and Estany de Sant Maurici National Park, located in the Vall de Boí valley, is the only national park in Catalonia. This is where the second stage of this section begins. The national park is home to more than 200 glacial lakes, surrounded by peaks of some 3,000 metres high.
It’s the ideal place for hiking, with routes suitable for walkers of all levels. And after all that physical activity is the perfect time to discover the area’s cultural heritage. We recommend that you visit the Romanesque churches of the Vall de Boí, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a group of eight churches and one hermitage, including the church of Sant Climent de Taüll. Here, innovative video mapping has been used to allow visitors to see projections of the frescos that originally adorned the apse, one of which, the Christ Pantocrator, is particularly impressive.
Stage 3: Unique features of the Val d’Aran
The star of the show of this stage of the journey is the Val d’Aran. Located on the western edge of the Catalan Pyrenees, the valley is an Atlantic basin. The River Garonne flows through it, and it is surrounded by mountains of more than 3,000 metres high, giving it a unique climate and fauna. Until a tunnel was constructed in the early 20th century, bringing an access road to the valley, it was completely isolated. This has enabled the people of the valley to retain their own language.
Another highlight of the Val d’Aran valley is the architecture. You will see it in the villages, with their numerous stone houses grouped around churches or clinging to the mountainsides. An excellent example of this architecture can be seen in the hamlet of Bossòst, where you will also find Aranpark, a wildlife park containing the most characteristic species of the area. Drive particularly comfortably, for example, in an SUV such as the BMW 745 hybrid, which you can get at the SIXT stations Barcelona Aeropuerto, Fira Hospitalet, Francesc Macià or Barcelona Diagonal Hilton.
Stage 4: Walking through the Colomèrs Cirque
But the Val d’Aran has lots more villages that will win you over, for example, Escunhau, Bagergue and Tredós, or places like Arties, with noteworthy Renaissance houses in its old town, and Salardú, where you will see Sant Andrèu church, a gem of Aranese Romanesque architecture.
To really enjoy the area’s landscapes, head to the Colomèrs cirque. This route will take you among seven glacial lakes nestled in a natural landscape of stunning beauty. After so much activity, it might be time to relax a bit. And how better to do that than in the highest thermal spa in Europe, the Banhs de Tredòs?
Stage 5: Rafting on the Noguera Pallaresa River
The last day of this section is packed with adventure. With SIXT´s premium fleet, you can look forward to a reliable and sustainable vehicle. Environmentally friendly electric and hybrid cars such as the Tesla Model 3 electric are available, for example, at the SIXT branches Barcelona Paral.lel Port, Barceloneta or Passeig de Gràcia. So get in the car and head for the municipality of Llavorsí. This is one of the rafting capitals of Catalonia, thanks to the Noguera Pallaresa River. It is one of the best rivers in Europe for white-water rafting. If you prefer other types of adventure sport, you can also have a go at hydrospeeding or canyoning, as well as skiing in one of the nearby ski resorts.
Or, if you’re aiming for a more restful day, go to the Valls d’Àneu valleys. You can visit the Valls d’Àneu ecomuseum in Esterri d’Àneu to find out about the social and cultural history of the area, and the House of the Brown Bear of the Pyrenees in Isil, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of conserving this species. And when you reach the Vall d’Àssua, visit the Ecomuseu dels Pastors in Llesui, a museum dedicated to explaining the work of shepherds in the Catalan Pyrenees.
And finally, end the day in the last place in this section, La Seu d’Urgell. Before going for dinner, visit the cloisters of the Cathedral of Santa Maria, the only entirely Romanesque cathedral in Catalonia.
To find out more about the Grand Tour of Catalonia, take a look at Section 1, from Barcelona to Tarragona and Section 2, which takes you from Tarragona to Lleida. Remember, the Grand Tour of Catalonia website has a planner that will help you organise your journey and control your budget. You can also download the track for Section 3 to your browser and listen to the playlist we have put together to liven up your journey. Enjoy our premium service and return your hybrid vehicle in Barcelona to a SIXT branch of your choice in Barcelona or Tarragona.
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