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Six places in Catalonia that don’t get many tourists

Esme Fox
Esme Fox - [email protected]
Six places in Catalonia that don’t get many tourists
The places in Catalonia with fewer tourists. Photo: Madara Parma / Unsplash

Looking to escape the crowds in Spain's Catalonia region this summer? Our Catalonia-based writer Esme Fox recommends some of her favourite places in the region where you can avoid the hordes of tourists. 


Catalonia is regularly the most-visited region in Spain. According to recent data, the northeastern region welcomed a total of 4.29 million during the first three months of 2023. 

Of course, most tourists head to the capital of Barcelona, one of the most popular cities in the whole of Spain, well as nearby beach towns such as Sitges, day trips like Montserrat, the historic city of Girona, and the spectacular Costa Brava coastline. 

But, just because it receives the most, doesn't mean that the whole region is busy and touristy, far from it. Catalonia covers 32,091 square kilometres and there are plenty of inland towns and villages, as well as natural parks, where you can get away from it all. 


It's only a one-hour drive from Barcelona to the southernmost part Montseny, which is both a natural park and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Because of this, you would think it would be very busy, but because it's difficult to reach by public transport, it doesn't get so many.

The park's other advantage is that it covers a total of 50,000 hectares and contains over 30 different marked trails for hiking, meaning there's always space to get away from other visitors. Even though it welcomes two million people a year, they're very spread out. Much of the park is forested, keeping it shady and cool in summer and there plenty of small waterfalls and streams to explore too. One of the best times to visit is autumn when all the trees turn to shades or crimson, amber and mustard. 



The Penedès lie in the hills above coastal towns such as Vilanova i la Geltrú. Catalonia's premier wine region, it's primarily responsible for making cava, Spain's answer to French champagne. While this does make it popular, tourists tend to head only to a couple of key towns, leaving the rest of the 16,637 hectares ripe for exploration. Visitors tend to mainly head for the famous cava producers in the village of Sant Sadurní d'Anoia or the capital of the region Vilafranca del Penedès.

But, if you steer clear of these two and visit smaller lesser-known villages such as Castellví de la Marca, Subirats or Avinyonet del Penedès, you'll find it's very quiet. One of the best things to do in fact is to drive around the countryside or hike along the many trails through the vineyards, stopping at the small independent wineries for tastings along the way. 

Explore the lesser-known areas of the Penedès. Photo: Pablo Valerio / Pixabay

This quirky little town lies to the southwest of the Penedès. Although it can be reached on the train from Barcelona in two hours, it rarely receives a lot of visitors. One of the most interesting aspects of the town is that it's home to an exact replica of Seville's famous La Giralda belltower, except only half the size. Inside, however, it was designed as a Mudéjar palace with Moorish-style tiles and fountains. The town is also home to several other gorgeous Modernista buildings and even holds a yearly Modernista festival, where the townspeople dress in period costumes. 

A short hike from L’Arboç brings you to the Pantà del Foix reservoir, a bottle-green lake surrounded by steep forest-clad hills. On the shores of the lake sits the tiny village of Castellet i la Gornal and its imposing 10th-century castle of Castellet. While the village can get busy on weekends or bank holidays with locals from nearby towns, there are plenty of hiking trails around the lake, where you'll very quickly find yourself alone once more. 



Ripoll sits high up in the foothills of the Pyrenees, where the Ter and Freser rivers meet. It may not get a huge number of visitors because of its location, but it played a very important role in the history of Catalonia.

The town was built around the 9th-century Benedictine monastery of Santa María de Ripoll, which was commissioned by Guifré el Pilós or Count Wildfred The Hairy, said to be the founder of Catalonia. Legend also has it that also Guifré el Pilós was responsible for the creation of the Senyera, the Catalan flag. The story goes that when he was injured in battle, he dipped his hand in his own blood and smeared it across his golden shield, creating the four red stripes of the flag. Oddly enough, it is thought that he wasn't very hairy at all.  


Vall de Gerber

Part of the Parque Nacional de Aigüestortes y Estany de Sant Maurici, the only National Park in Catalunya, right in the corner of Catalonia with France to the north and Aragón to the west, you'll find the Vall de Gerber. The valley was originally created by glaciers many thousands of years ago and is situated on the northeastern edge of Aigüestortes. Here you'll find several glassy mountain lakes, verdant meadows, and unusual hikes up and over rock boulders. 

Explore the Vall de Gerber without the tourists. Photo: rodolfo7 / Pixabay

Delta del Ebro

The Delta del Ebro sits south of Tarragona, right before it meets the border with the Valencia region. Although the coastline right above it - the Costa Daurada - can get very busy in summer, such as in towns like L'Ametlla de Mar, the Delta itself is rarely busy. The delta covers an area of 320 km2 and is where the River Ebro finally reaches the sea. It's one of Europe's most important wetland areas, home to big colonies of pink flamingoes, as well as many other species.

There are several small villages to stay here including Riumar, Deltebre, L'Eucaliptus and El Poble Nou del Delta, which have a couple of hotels each. There are also several hiking and biking trails around the natural park and vast stretches of beaches all the way around, where you're guaranteed to find a place to lay your towel and go for a dip. 


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