Cultural Routes of the Catalonia Pyrenees:
The Catalonia Route of the Cathars
The Camí dels Bons Homes (The Route of the Good Men), is a cultural route between the Sanctuary of Queralt in Berga, of the county of Alt Bergueda, Catalonia and the castle of Montseguer, in Ariège, France.
This ancient Catalonia route lets you follow in the footsteps of the Cathars, also known as the Bons Homes, a group who left their homelands during the 12th to 14th centuries to escape the inquisition.
Their quest for freedom led them through the high mountain passes of the Pyrenees. And, as they fled their persecutors, they walked for months, taking shelter in friendly country houses or rugged refuges, until they eventually reached the welcoming lands of Catalonia.
The Catalonia route of the Cathars is a monumental trail that allows you to follow the migration passage of these courageous medieval men and women, experience history, and enjoy some truly stunning landscapes.
Most of the Catalonia Cathar Route is classified as a Long Distance Trail ( GR 107), and can be done on foot, mountain bike, or on horse back.
However, there are variations and shorter sections of the trail. For example; the part that starts at Gósol and goes to the Sanctuary of the Miracle. This section follows along the GR 7.
You can also choose to go by car and visit some of the villages where the Cathars lived in Catalonia.
They can be found in the Catalan counties of Berguedà, Alt Urgell, Cerdanya, Solsonès, and Ariège in France. www.camidelsbonshomes.com
The Cistercian Route
La ruta del Cister- The Cistercian Route of Catalonia(GR-175)
This Catalan route, which passes through the three counties of Alt Camp, Conca de Barberà, and Urgell, is one of the most important cultural tourist itineraries in Catalonia.
It is essentially a path which links three of Catalonia’s Cistercian monasteries together, but it is actually much more than that.
While following the route through picturesque Catalonia, tourists can visit all kinds of cultural, architectural and natural sites of the Catalan Pyrenees.
The three monasteries are: Santes Creus, Poblet, and Vallbona de les Monges.
They were founded in 1150, and together make up one of the most important examples of Cistercian settlement in Europe.
The monastery of Pobet, in Conca de Barberà, Catalonia, is the biggest inhabited Cistercian complex in Europe. It’s been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Vallboa de les Monges, in Urgell, Catalonia, has remarkably been home to a community of nuns, uninterrupted, for more than 800 years.
Santa Creus, in Alt Camp, Catalonia, is the only monastery on the route that is not currently lived in.
The monasteries are the principal attractions on this favorite of Catalonia routes, however, the journey itself is well worth it.
It takes you through 65 towns and villages of the Catalonia Pyrenees, all of which are awash with history, monuments, amazing architecture, gastronomy and traditions.
Along the route you’ll find excellent rural tourism and great country accommodation.
Cistercians, also known as White Monks, formed a monastic order as a way to create reform in the Church, and restore the image of the monk as someone devoted to prayer, hard work and caring for pilgrims.
What they sought was a renewal of absolute commitment to the norms laid out in the “Rules of St. Benedict.”
These rules, made for communities of monks, were based on principles of austerity, self sufficiency, simplicity of life, meditation, and isolation.
Even the buildings themselves were built according to the guidelines of the Benedictine code. And, to ensure solitude, they were set far away from any towns and villages.
Around the central monastic nucleus, a number of functional buildings were made, such as hospitals, chapels for nobles, or for monastery servants, and houses for artisans.
Surrounding areas of the monasteries, were turned into crop fields and farms, out of which, the monks were able to sustain themselves and their community.
Unlike in the past, Cistercian monks actually worked the lands themselves. Their farming and livestock rearing skills grew over time, and their successes eventually spread, and led to great social and economic developments in the areas that surrounded them.
Since its founding in 1098, fascinating history, myth and legend have surrounded the Cisctercian order.
They have even been linked to stories of secret treasures, the Templar nightsand even aliens.
The Cistercian Route of Cataloniacan be done on foot, by mountain bike, or on horseback.
Here’s a list of some places along the Catalonia Cistercian Route:
- The plains of the comarques (local districts, or counties) of L’Alt Camp and La Conca de Barberà.
- The upland areas of the pre-littoral ridges of Miramar, the hills around Prades, Comaverd, Cogulló and the Tallat and Forès ridges.
- The Gaià and Francolí river valleys.
Facts and figures of the Catalonia Cistercian Route:
- Length of the main route: 104 km
- Variants for mountain bike and horse riding: 26.5 km
- Total time required to walk the whole route: 23 hours
Organization of the Cistercian Route:
Section 1: Santes Creus- Poblet
Section 2: Poblet – Vallbona de les Monges
Section 3: Vallbona de les Monges – Santes Creus
For more information, see the official website of the Catalonia Cistercian Route. www.larutadelcister.info
The Catalonia Routes of Picasso
·El Berguedà, Catalonia
These routes provide the visitor with some insight as to how Picasso spent his time while staying in the Catalonia Pyrenees, in the spring and summer of 1906.
Picasso came to live in the little town of Gósol, Catalonia, with his companion at the time, in order to recover, in the country, from an illness he was then suffering from.
It was during his stay here in Catalonia that he became inspired to create his famous, experimental new style of painting; Cubism.
There are 8 Picasso routes in total, 6 of which are considered to be closely tied to his stay in Gósol, and that take you to the places he frequented.
The other 2 are more related to his arrival from Guardiola and his departure, on the way to Bellver de Cerdanya, Catalonia.
For more information about the Picasso routes, go to the Tourist office in Gósol. It’s in the Plaça Major, which is the main town square.
Catalonia Dolmen route
This route begins at Organyà, which can be reached from La Seu d’Urgell by following the N-260 and C-14 towards Coll de Nargó, Catalonia.
From Organyà you should take the road that runs to the west, towards Cabó, and almost immediately, turn off to the left for Montanissell.
Straight ahead you will see the Santa Fe crag, and on top of it, the hermitage of the same name.
To start the actual Dolmen Route you have to take a path that branches off to the right, leading to the top of a small hill.
On the right is the dolmen of Serrat de les Cobertrades; it’s the first of the 7 megaliths on the route.
This first one is not in the best shape, but there is an excellent panoramic view of Organyà.
The path continues and gently winds through pretty fields and forests, until it branches off to the right and takes you to the dolmen of Colomera, which is in the middle of an oak grove, about 50 metres away.
This is the best conserved example in both the Cabó valley and the county of Alt Urgell, Catalonia.
The rest of the walk is just as pleasant, fairly easy, and well signposted.
Once you’ve arrived in Cabó, it’s a good idea to take the path up to the left to visit the Romanesque hermitage of Sant Serni.
The end of the route will take you to Pujal, and the starting point just outside Organya, Catalonia.
For more details go to the Tourist Office in Organya, or any one in the county of Alt Urgell.
Catalonia Green Routes
The Spanish Railways Foundation, or the Fundación de los Ferrocarriles Españoles, was organized with the goal of converting Spain’s 7,000 km of disused railway lines into routes for cyclists, tourists, and hikers.
You’ll find sections of these routes in lots of Spanish towns and villages, and many in the Pyrenees mountains.
The Green Route in the Catalan Pyrenees goes to the Vall Fosca (Dark Valley), and passes through the district of El Pallars Jussà in Lleida province, which is also close to the Catalonia National Park of Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National. For more information you can ask at a Tourist Office in the area, or get in touch with; The Spanish Green Route Foundation, Fundació de Ferrocarrils Espanyols. www.vallfosca.net
Long Distance Walking Routes in the Pyrenees of Catalonia
Typically, in Spain, long distance walking routes are called GR, they are considered to be ‘highways’ for trekkers.
They are all well signposted, pass amazing monuments, and scenery, and cross Europe in all directions.
Here’s a list of some Long Distance Walking Routes in Catalonia.
- GR 1 Historic Route
- GR 3 Lleida
- GR 7 La Farga de Moles – Tarifa
- GR 11 Pyrenean Trail
- GR 65-5 The Camino of Santiago, St. James Way
- GR-107 The Camí dels Bons Homes, The Good Men’s Way ( The Cathars Route)
- GR 150 Entorn a la Serra del Cadi, Sierra of Cadí
- GR 171 Santuari de Pinòs-Refugi Caro, The Pinòs Shrine and the Caro mountain shelter.
- GR-175 Ruta del Císter, The Cistercian Route
- GR 211 Circular Dera Val d’Aran, the Circular Route of Val d’aran
* GR routes are marked with red and white horizontal stripes.
The Reapers’ Route – Ruta de los Segadores
· Gósol, Cerdanya
The Reapers’ Route is a historical trail which was used centuries ago in Catalonia by reapers, musicians, Catalan militia, mule drivers, highwaymen (men who robbed travellers on the road), and smugglers.
It’s also known as the Road to Cerdanya. The path starts at the village of Gósol and goes to Bellver de Cerdanya, Catalonia.
Even Pablo Picasso followed this Catalonia route, in 1906 during his stay at the village of Gósol.
The walk crosses the Serra de Cadí (Cadi ridge), and goes through the Cadi-Moixeró Natural Park. There are lots of signposts along the trail; which can be done in about seven or eight hours.
If you’d rather break up the walk, you can do it in two days by spending a night at the Cèsar August Torras mountain refuge, and carrying on the next day.
In winter, you can still follow the Reapers’ Route, but you’ll most likely have to use skis or snowshoes.
The Shepherds’ and Transhumance route: Ruta del Pastor Transhumance
· In the county of La Ribagorça, Catalonia.
Transhumance is the seasonal movement of ‘nomadic’ people with their livestock, usually only going relatively short distances, and typically to higher pastures in summer, and lower ones in winter.
This route is considered to be one of ‘interpretive rambling, as it is a historical one, and follows the old livestock herding paths of the Catalonia Pyrenees, designed by the shepherds that have used them for centuries.
The Catalonia Shepherd route starts at El Pont de Suert, in the county of ‘Alta Ribagorça; and, at the moment, there are four separate stages that can be walked in 3 or 4 days.
Of course, there’s always the option of doing a smaller section of the route too. And, in July and August you can do a one day walk to the pastures, where you’ll most likely see some large flocks of sheep grazing.
You can also pay a visit to the Eco-museum in the village of of Llessuí, in the county of Pallars Sobirà, Catalonia.
A common Shepherd circuit route, which in it’s entirety would take several days to complete; runs through the Catalonian municipal territories of :
Tremp (el Pallars Sobirà), El Pont de Suert (l’Alta Ribagorça), Salàs de Pallars (el Pallars Sobirà), Sopeira (l’Alta Ribagorça), Conca de Dalt (l’Alta Ribagorça).
In the future, it will also go through other settlements that lie in the Aragonese and Catalan parts of La Ribagorça .
Another shorter one:
Starting point: El Pont de Suert (it is possible to get here by bus on the Lleida-Vielhaby service)
Finishing point: Salàs de Pallars (connection with the train from La Pobla to Lleida)
Duration: 4 days, walking for about 6 hours each day, with 3 overnight stays in rural accommodation.
Catalonia Culture Highlights:
Catalonia Pyrenees County Guides: