Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain
With only 4 nights in Barcelona, why go to Montserrat? Normally I wouldn’t venture out of a city on such a short stay, but we’d been to Barcelona before and this part of our 10 Days in Barcelona, Costa Brava and Madrid itinerary was really about seeing some of the countryside.
The name Montserrat comes from the jagged “serrated” peaks of the mountain. That the mountain is a UNESCO world heritage site is reason enough to want to go, then throw in a Benedictine Abbey and a Romanesque sacred statue and you have a terrific day trip from the city. We packed a picnic lunch, picked up our rental car and an hour later were at the gondola station at the bottom of the mountain. The first gondola takes you to the monastery but if you want to go further up the mountain, head directly for the second gondola and visit the monastery after your walk.
The path we took from the top of Funicular Sant Joan (the second gondola) was out to see the ruins of the Hermitage of Sant Onofre carved into the side of the mountain. The beautiful day we started with quickly changed to dense fog, then came pouring down rain. Fortunately we just made it to the cave-like cut in the mountain that was the hermitage and waited out the worst of the downpour, our umbrellas safely back in the trunk of the car.
What was now a treacherously muddy path out to the highest point of Montserrat didn’t sound like a fun hike anymore. Waiting out the rain a bit, we finally left the protected little cave of the Ermita and headed down the wide paved path to the monastery. The path from the Funicular Sant Joan back to the monastery is easy, with spectacular views of the valley far below and the jagged peaks of rocky Montserrat. On the way down don’t miss the path to the Cross of San Miguel viewpoint for the best view of the monastery on the mountain.