Catalan Food Guide – Dishes you should try in Catalonia

Catalan Food Guide - You'll want to eat it allCatalan cuisine made me so happy! Hiking requires a whole lot of energy, so if you want to explore the stunning mountainous scenery of Catalonia, you will need to eat plenty of tasty food!

I started this Catalan food guide to share some information about the best things to eat in Catalonia. You probably know all about Spanish food as it seems like tapas is fashionable all over the world. But do you know about the amazing dishes you can sample within Catalonia (in both Spain and Andorra)? The local cuisine is as varied as the stunning scenery, so you’ll want to walk to build up an appetite, then eat your way through everything in this post.

Catalan Food Guide – the basics

Catalonia has an amazing location to the North East of Spain, with access to the Mediterranean Sea, but also plenty of land up in the Pyrenees mountains. This means their food integrates mar y montaña, the sea and the mountains. You’ll find loads of meaty dishes reflecting the mountains as well as fish (and seafood dishes) fished from the Costa Brava. In addition to all that protein, there are some truly fantastic vegetables in this region of Spain, with plenty of tomatoes, red peppers, aubergines, calçots, asparagus and mushrooms.

Catalan Sauces:

These are two sauces that you will find all over Catalonia.
Allioli/ Aioli: Garlic and olive oil, whipped into a mayo-like paste.
Romesco sauce: Made with almonds, roasted garlic, olive oil and dried red peppers

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Salads and vegetables in Catalonia

We didn’t always see a huge range of options for vegetarians or vegans, but the vegetables we tried were all incredible.

Salads
When it’s hot, it’s always nice to eat piles of salad. My favourite salad involved romesco sauce and had perfectly cooked bacallà/bacalao (salted cod) on top. You might also find, Esqueixada, which involves tomatoes, onions, olive oil and vinegar with shredded bacallà/bacalao.

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Pa amb tomàquet – tomato bread
Tomatoes in Spain taste sooo much better than the ones I am used to in the UK and Canada! This simple dish of tomatoes rubbed into a crusty slice of bread with oil and salt is just perfect.

More Tomatoes
You will want to eat as many tomatoes as you can in Spain. I loved all the tomato salads as well as the pa amb tomàquet (above)

Escalivada – smokey grilled veg
This is one of the first things my husband cooked for me, so it always makes me smile. It involves aubergine (egg plant for my North American friends) and bell peppers grilled until they are squishy and soft, then covered in oil. The photo below was quite posh, so it involved anchovies and olives too. Escalivada is served on warm crusty bread, or just as a side dish.

Calçots
Calçots, are a type of long stemmed green onion, that are unique to Catalonia. The dish below involved chopped up calçots in ravioli, but we saw them in quite a few different dishes.

Blistered peppers
These Pimientos de Padrón are more Castilian than Catalan, but we found them served a few times and they are sooo good that I had to include them.

Mushrooms
We visited Catalonia in the autumn, so it was a great time to sample various mushroom and truffle dishes. The examples below were a deconstructed mushroom tart and a truffle risotto. My mouth is watering just remembering them!

Catalan Soups

We had quite a few fantastic soups while we were in Catalonia. The photos below were of squash (left) and mini leek soups (right).

Escudellla: I love this Catalan stew made with a piece of meat, beans, potatoes, cabbage and sometimes pasta. Marc’s mum makes a fantastic version of it, but I don’t have a photo.

Fish in Catalonia:

Despite being located within mountains, there is far more fresh fish available in Catalonia, than we can normally find in the UK.

Bacallà Salted Cod
Bacallà (bacalao in Spanish) is one of my favourite Catalan dishes – definitely try this while you’re in Catalonia! Salting the cod was a good way to preserve fish to allow people that live up in the Pyrenees to eat it, despite being far from the sea. I think the best example I had of this was bacallà amb samfaina – salt cod on ratatouille.

We found versions served in tomato sauce, as well as bacallà gratinat  which was salted cod covered in allioli then broiled.

Sardina – Sardines
We had quite a few fantastic sardines, mostly deep fried.

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Octopus

Again, I am not sure if this is typically Catalan, as you can find octopus dishes all over Spain. But we had several fantastic Catalan dishes with octopus. I loved this one that was flavoured with paprika and oodles of olive oil.

Meat in Catalonia

Marc and I don’t actually eat much meat normally, so I have to admit, it was a bit of a shock to eat so many tasty meaty dishes in Catalonia. Firstly, you’ll find cold cured meats everywhere, and they are incredible. Last time we also tried cargols a la llauna super garlicky snails served in a teeny tray. I couldn’t find my photo, but I may update this post later(!)

Catalan Meatballs
We had fantastic meatballs a few times. One of the things I have to include in my Catalan Food Guide is mandonguilles amb sípia – meatballs in seafood sauce. It’s perfect example of mar y montaña including both meaty and fishy elements.

Lamb
We saw some sheep and goats in the mountains with cute bells around their necks, so it’s not too surprising that we found plenty of lamb on Catalan menus. One of the famous dishes is lamb roasted with mounds of garlic “Xai Rostit Amb 12 Cabeçes d’All. This translates as lamb Roasted with 12 Heads of Garlic, so as you can imagine, it’s full of garlicky goodness.

Steaks
I am not much of a steak-lover, so these photos are from my husband’s plate. Still, I had a few bites of these steak dishes and they were all fantastic.

Game
I have no idea if this is normal in the mountains, but one of the tastiest stews we ate in the Pyrenees was venison stewed with red wine and mushrooms. On previous visits we had some really good rabbit dishes in Catalonia too, so keep an eye out for both.

Catalan carbs

Pasta
There is quite a lot of pasta available in Catalan Cuisine. You’ll find canelons (cannelloni) everywhere. It normally has a stewed, meaty filling, and served with béchamel sauce (rather than tomato). You might also see Fideua. This is a traditional Catalan dish; It is basically like paella, but instead of rice, they use mini spaghetti-like noodles called fideos.

Potatoes 
You may have noticed in the photos above, that there are plenty of potatoes in Catalan cuisine. Lots if dishes come with roasted or boiled potatoes (drizzled in olive oil). One of my absoute favourite dishes is Croquetas de jamón, which are croquettes with tasty morsels of ham inside them. We also had some fried in olive oil and the fats from sausage meat. We loved these meaty potatoes.
Beans
We found some really tasty bean dishes in the mountains as well. The photo below is faves a la Catalana – beans and black pudding (although I think this version had white botifarra sausage rather than black pudding.) There is another dish like this called botifarra amb mongetes, which includes beans with a large sausage served to the side.

Catalan Desserts

We tried some fantastic deserts in Catalonia as well. These are just a few of my highlights.

Crema Catalana
Unlike the French version, crema catalana uses a base of milk (rather than cream) and is thickened with eggs. It’s cooked in  a water bath (inside the oven); once out, the tops are doused with sugar and torched.

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This was a perfect almond cake. It was one of the highlights of my holiday (high praise as it was a brilliant holiday!)

As well as the traditional dishes, there were plenty of more international-style sweet treats. We tried some cheesecake, a lemon cake as well as the most incredible selection of sorbets and ice-creams.

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Catalan Cheese

I am a massive fan of Manchego (I’m so happy we can even buy it in Canada!) So while we were hiking, we often took baguettes filled with cheese. But we didn’t hold back from trying lots of other cheeses. Watch out for Mató which is a soft, sweet cheese served as a desert. We also loved some of the goats cheeses.

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I hope this Catalan Food Guide gives you some ideas about what you can eat. It wasn’t the most vegetarian friendly area I have visited, but they did have some fabulous vegetarian options. If you like meat and fish, you will LOVE Catalonia. Please note, I am not an expert on Catalan food by any stretch of the imagination, so I am just sharing what we ate. I would love to hear more about other dishes that we missed out on, so let me know if you can think of other dishes we should try next time we visit Catalonia and Spain.

I’ll leave you with the Catalan for bon appétit – Bon Profit!

Catalan Cuisine - Quick guide to Catalan food Catalan cuisine - Try some fantastic food in Catalonia including fava beans Catalan Food Guide - You'll want to eat it all

Costa Brava Hike – Camí de Ronda

Camí de Ronda - Costa Brava Hike from Sant Feliu de Guíxols to PalamósCamí de Ronda is Catalan’s epic coastal hike. It links up a series of pathways along the Costa Brava (which appropriately means rugged coast) from the border with France heading down for over 250km to Blanes. Hiking along the route will take you through some seriously varied scenery. You’ll go past pine forests and rocky cliffs that lead down to beautiful secluded coves, as well as fishing villages, tourist resorts and long sandy beaches.

We wanted a taste of the Camí de Ronda, so we spent a day hiking from Sant Feliu de Guíxols to Palamós along this ridiculously beautiful coastline.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols to Palamós Map

Camí de Ronda – Sant Feliu de Guíxols to Palamós the basics

Distance: 18km 
Elevation gain
: 260m
Time: 5 hours (ish)
What to bring:
This is quite an urban hike, so you don’t need to bring much. Just make sure you have comfy shoes and sunscreen. I was glad to have a swimsuit and towel so I could pop into the sea.
Facilities:
Plenty of cafes and loos along the beaches.
Dogs: Okay on a leash
How hard is it?
The walk we did is quite long, and there are a lot of steps (that will get your heart going) but it is not technical or difficult.

Camí de Ronda to Palamós – Getting started

We started by driving to Sant Feliu de Guíxols and finding a place to park near the beach. We had a peek at the habour before getting going. Once you’re ready to go, you start by climbing up to a viewpoint above the cliff (in the photo below), then following the coastline North.

Up on the cliff, you will be treated to some fantastic viewpoints. Then, you’ll walk through a nature reserve full of beautiful pine trees.

Cala de l’Ametller

The pathway wiggles its way along the Costa Brava as there are so many little coves (or cala in Catalan.) There were quite a few people rock climbing as we walked along here, so we could stop and watch them scale the cliffs in the sunshine.

The Costa Brava is so beautiful! With views like this, you can see why people choose to hike the entire Camí de Ronda route.

Mirador de les Dides

This is a great viewpoint to stop for a snack. The route swaps between high viewpoints and easy, flat beach walks. The long beach down below is Platja de Sant Pol.

The flowers lining the path were gorgeous, even in autumn. The drop-offs and views down to the water were spectacular too.

Platja de Sant Pol

Even in October, it was warm enough to relax on the beach and go swimming. I have no idea why there was a fairy-tale-eque castle here, but it made me smile.

Urban Coastal hike

This hike was the most urban walk we did in Spain, so we weren’t used to having access to so many cafes and shops. We made the most of them by stopping off for ice-creams when the opportunity arose.

Camí de Ronda for smugglers

The Camí de Ronda coastal trails were originally built by fishermen and police who were on the look out for smugglers along the Costa Brava. Sometimes they have built tunnels through, or walkways along the cliffs to avoid extra steps. I have to admit, I thought some of these tunnels looked like great spots for smugglers to hide. It made me wonder if this pathway helped or hindered the smugglers…

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There are plenty of places to stop and catch your breath. I loved this Mirador de S’Agaró viewpoint in a gazebo, that looks out to the Mediterranean sea.

I enjoyed the way the path winds around the coast. It may make the path seem longer, but the coves and rocky views were just lovely.

The path often has steps down to allow fishermen to access coves.

Platja Gran d’Aro

There are a couple of huuuuge empty beaches along the trail! We took our shoes off to walk along this one, the Platja Gran d’Aro. It turned out to be really difficult to walk by the water! There is a slope down to the waves and the sand is quite coarse so we kept sinking and falling down the slope. In the end, we gave up, washed our feet and retreated back to the pathed walkway.

This is the view looking backwards after we had traversed the massive beach. It was strange seeing so many skyscrapers next to an almost empty beach!

Natural stair-master

If you like the sound of this walk, just make sure you bring comfy shoes as the path does go up and down a lot of stairs between each cove. Some sections (like the one in the photo below) were falling apart. However most of the trail seemed well loved and in great condition.

The steps may tire you out, but the coves and small beaches were perfect places to relax. We stopped at this one, Cala Rovira, so I could have a quick swim and cool down. The sea was pretty cold in October, but it felt amazing for my (slightly tired) legs.

My heart is drawn to mountains, but I have to admit, coastal views with blue seas are stunning.

Some of the smaller beaches had hardly any people at all. You might be able to find one all to yourself.

Torre Colomina

Right near the end of the walk (you can see Palamós in the background) there is a well-preserved tower and a great viewpoint.

Eerily quiet apartments

We had planned to walk as far as we could, then grab a taxi to get back to our starting point in Sant Feliu de Guíxols. By the time we had made it to the next long beach, platja de torre valentina, we were about ready to find a taxi.

In the end we walked all the way to Palamós. The beach was 3.5km long, and although we found plenty of cafes, we couldn’t find a taxi. My Spanish/Catalan is a bit too rubbish to order one on my phone, so we walked over to the tourist office and asked them to help us order one.

I hope you like the look of this fantastic walk along the Camí de Ronda from Sant Feliu de Guíxols to Palamós. We found that we were a bit slow on the wiggly stair-filled rugged coastline, and then super-speedy on the long beach sections.

If you like this idea, but would prefer a shorter hike, it would be easy to cut it in half, and just explore one of the rocky sections at either end of the route. Or,  I found a fantastic post about other possible day hikes on Camí de Ronda here.

Camí de Ronda - Costa Brava Hike from Sant Feliu de Guíxols to Palamós Camí de Ronda along the Costa Brava in Catalonia - Gorgeous views for a fun walk Camí de Ronda Hike - Sant Feliu de Guíxols to Palamós along the Costa Brava

Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Hike

Garrotxa Volcanic Zone - A fantastic area to hike in Catalonia, Spain

Up next on our fun walking tour of Spain is the Volcanic region of Garrotxa (pronounced Garrocha.) We stayed right in the middle of the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park and it was a gorgeous area to walk.

The volcanoes in Garrotxa are part of a monogenetic volcanic field. This means there are lots of small volcanoes (40 spread around this area) but each one only erupts once (creating a new crater or hill for each eruption.) There is only low volume of magma for each eruption, which is why each volcano is teeny. We created a hike that would allow us to see the two most famous; The Santa Margarida Volcano and the Croscat Volcano.

Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Hike Map

We wandered about creating our own route. If you zoom in on the map below, you’ll see there are plenty of paths, so this is a fun way to explore.

Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Hike – the basics

Distance: 14 km 
Elevation gain
: 560m
Highest Point: 786m (Top of Croscat Volcano. The Santa Margarida Volcano is 769m.)
Time: 3-4 hours
What to bring:
Walking boots. Hiking poles. Plenty of water and food. The 10 essentials.
Facilities:
We didn’t see many facilities.
Dogs: Okay on a leash
How hard is it?
Not technical, but there are some very steep sections on the volcanoes.
Read more about the Volcanoes: If you’d like to geek-out and learn more about the volcanoes of Garrotxa, take a look at this fantastic post.

Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Hike – getting started

We fancied taking it easy while we explored these old volcanoes. We decided to leave the car at our apartment and just wander out to make our own route around the various lava flows. This worked really well as there is a whole maze of pathways through the Fageda d’en Jordà, beech tree forest.

Once you are close to a volcano, there are plenty of maps and sign posts to point you in the right direction, so you can make up a walk as you go. Just be careful not to be swallowed into the forest like this sign…

Gorgeous rural architecture

We loved seeing the old Catalan farm buildings and rural churches as we explored the area. The ground undulates with all the small volcanoes and ancient lava flows, so you can always see forest-covered volcanic hills in all directions.

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Fantastic signs

I thought the sign-posts were pretty good out in the Pyrenees, but in Garrotxa they were even better! There are around thirty well signposted routes, so it is easy to combine the paths to create your own walk.

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Large lava bomb

Just before we climbed up Volcà de Santa Margarida, we found this lava bomb that has been turned into a decoration next to the road. That’s the Croscat Volcano popping up in the background.

Santa Margarida Volcano (769m)

We started by hiking towards the Santa Margarida Volcano, which is famous for having a chapel built into the middle of its circular crater.

Once you’ve climbed up, there is a pathway all around the top of Santa Margarida’s volcanic cone. The path is mostly hidden within the trees, but sometimes you’re treated to views down into the crater.

Santa Margarida   de Sacot

This is the Romanesque-style Catholic chapel in the center of the volcano. After our time learning about the Catalan Romanesque Churches in the Vall de Boí, I can say this has a single nave, a steeple bell and an apse. It was built in 1865, after the original building was destroyed by an earthquake in 1428.

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This is the most-visited volcano in the area. When we arrived there were a few other walkers milling around, but the volcano was filled with the excited voices of hundreds of children who were on a school trip. The kids were all hidden by the dense forest. They started to arrive just as we left. The volcano certainly seemed cheerful with so many kid’s voices!

However cheerful they sounded, we were not keen to be in the middle of several large groups of kids. So we escaped back up and around the crater rim to continue with our walk.

There are some lovely views of the surrounding countryside as you walk on towards the next volcano.

Croscat volcano (786m)

This is the tallest (and youngest) of the volcanoes in Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park. This one erupted 11,000 years ago, giving plenty of time for it to be covered in forest.

The cool thing about the Croscat Volcano (other than a name that makes it sound like an angry kitty) is that up until the 1970s it was mined. This means you can see what it looks like inside the volcano. Most people walk around the bottom, to look up at the sliced up section. However we always love seeing things from above, so we found a path up it.

There is a viewpoint near the top where you can see the slices into the interior of the volcano! Volcanologists have used this to study internal structures and associated volcanic processes in situ.

Croscat volcano Peak

There is another building, (possibly a lookout?) right at the top of the Croscat Volcano peak. You can also peek out to the surrounding countryside through gaps in the trees.

Fageda d’en Jordà

Once we’d descended from the volcano we explored the beautiful beech tree-filled forest areas of Garrotxa. The forest floor is covered in old lava flows and it’s a relaxing place to walk if you enjoy bathing in dappled forest light.

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We finished our walk by hiking through the forest back to the apartment where we were staying. This was October, but you can see the leaves had not yet started to turn. It was warm, very humid and we were happy to be in the shade!

So, that was our introduction to the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone as well as the Santa Margarida and Croscat volcanoes. I really enjoyed our hike here, although I have to admit, after seeing more active volcanoes in Japan, Iceland and New Zealand, it didn’t seem that volcanic to me. Obviously you can still see the ancient lava flows and the shapes of the volcanic cones. However I really liked the way the area has been taken over by forests and farms. Don’t expect to see a desolate, rocky landscape in Garrotxa. It’s more like a lush, volcano-inspired paradise.

Garrotxa Volcanic Zone - Hike through ancient lava fields Garrotxa Volcanic Zone - Lava fields, volcanoes and beautiful forests in Catalonia Garrotxa Volcanic Zone - A fantastic area to hike in Catalonia, Spain

Andorra Hikes – Estanys de Tristaina loop

Estanys de Tristaina hike in Andorra - Rainy day hikes can be stunningWhat is the first thing you want to do in a new country? We always like to pop out for a hike. So when we visited Andorra on our Catalan Road trip, we wanted to squish at least one hike into our time there. The Estanys de Tristaina trail (or Tristaina Lakes trail) is an easy walk into a mountain bowl that holds three lakes, right on the Andorran border with France. If you fancy a more difficult walk, you could extend this hike up along the top ridge of the surrounding mountains. The weather was too misty for us to attempt that, but I am sure it would be stunning.

Hiking in Andorra

If you like walking, then summertime in Andorra sounds like heaven! We visited the tourist office and they gave us a booklet filled with possible hikes as well as a map of the country including the national parks.

I was very tempted to learn about the new circular Coronallacs Trail, which links Andorra’s four manned refuges in a long distance (58 mile) loop. But there are hundreds of trails both for day hikes and long distance hikes that span multiple countries. Whatever your level of ability, you’ll find something to suit you. We chose the Estanys de Tristaina loop as we love climbing up high, and as we didn’t have long, we wanted a good effort-to-view ratio!

Estanys de Tristaina hiking map

Estanys de Tristaina loop – the basics

Distance: 4.15 km as a loop
Elevation Gain:
180m
High Point: 
2330m
Time: 2.5 hours
What to bring:
Water, snacks and your camera!
Sensible shoes. This is an easy walk *if* you are dressed appropriately. It’s not a spot for flip-flops or high heels.
The 10 essentials.
Dogs:
Must stay on a leash.
How hard is it?
Easy to Moderate. This was one of the easiest hikes we did in the Pyrenees. It was short, without much elevation gain. There were a couple of moments near the start where you need to climb up rocks, but after that, the path is very easy to follow.

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Estanys de Tristaina loop – Getting started

We drove all the way up to Ordino Arcalís ski resort and parked beside La Coma restaurant. There was plenty of parking near the top, but it was raining when we arrived, so there were only a few hard-core dog walkers and not many tourists.

The hike starts with a quick climb up to a trail along the mountainside. The views were pretty rubbish when we stared in the rain. Luckily mountain weather changes quickly so I can show you the view from our return journey. Not bad eh!? The other side of those mountains is Spain.

Andorra Views

Once you’ve climbed over some rocks, you should be rewarded with fab views South into the valleys of Andorra. You can sort of see the Pyrenees through the mist.

Estanys de Tristaina

Next we turned to walk around the Tristaina lakes. The first lake was Estany Primer. This is looking North, so the border with France is at the top of those mountains.

I love these autumnal views when the grass is golden (or soggy brown in the rain!) It reminds me of Ireland, although the scale of the mountains is much larger.

Hike in the rain

If you arrive in Andorra on a wet day, it is still worth exploring. You can see from these photos my camera lens was wet but it was fun to explore! On soggy days you might also get the whole area to yourselves like we did. Having said that, it was a bit chilly! We had considered climbing up higher, but in the end we turned back at the Estany De Mes Amunt lake.

Sometimes grey skies just mean gorgeous moody views.

Once we hiked around the third lake, Estany del Mig, the sun came out and lit it up slightly. Looking at that colour, I have a feeling in the sun, these lakes will shine like bright blue jewels.

It’s gorgeous. This is the view back to the first lake, Estany Primer and into Andorra. I bet this is all covered in snow (and skiers) by now!

There are three possible paths around the Tristaina Lakes. One close to the lakes (our walk), one in the middle of the bowl (photo below) and then one at the top of the ridge. Those higher paths are calling me back to Andorra to explore more.

So, we hiked in the clouds, and it was fab!

I should probably mention that as soon as we drove down from the mountains, the rest of Andorra was bathed in sunlight! It just goes to show, even in a teeny country, you can never trust weather up high in the mountains! If you like the idea of hiking in Andorra, please do click on the pins below to pin them.

Estanys de Tristaina hike in Andorra - gorgeous views Estanys de Tristaina hike in Andorra - Rainy day hikes can be stunning Estanys de Tristaina hike in Andorra - Blue lakes on an easy trail

El Pont de Suert & Aulet

When we visited Spain and Catalonia, we spent plenty of time hiking, but we also wanted to explore the area where Marc’s mum, Araceli and her family grew up. Marc’s granddad is from a small village called Aulet which was abandoned in the middle of the last century. After he had to leave his village, he moved to El Pont de Suert, where Araceli grew up. This is the main town at the edge of the Vall de Boí valley. Neither of these places is particularly touristy, but they were fun to explore, so I’d like to share both with you all.

Since we got home I found out that there are over 3000 abandoned villages in Spain. Nowadays they are starting to be sold off, so if you fancy living in these gorgeous mountains, so can buy a whole village from €50,000(!)

El Pont de Suert – the basics

Pont de Suert was founded in the early 11th century and was important as a marketplace located on the crossroads between regions. It is located 840m above sea-level, right on the Noguera Ribagorçana river. Catalonia is one side of the river with Aragon on the other. This is where my lovely mother in law, Araceli, grew up; So we were really keen to visit it.

Iglesia Nueva de la Asuncion

The building that stands out most in Pont de Suert is the new Church of L’Assumpció, which was built 1955. It is very different to the older Catalan Romanesque Churches we found in the Vall de Boí. The architect was Eduardo Torroja Miret. Marc’s mum mentioned that there was an uproar when it was first built, but it is interesting to see. I quite liked the egg-like buildings.

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El Pont de Suert back streets

Once you’re in the narrow medieval streets, you can see why they decided to build so close together. It is a great way to keep out the sun’s heat in the middle of the day. There is an old Romaneque church, Església Vella, down by the river which has been converted into a museum of religious art – Museu d’Art Sacre de la Ribagorça. Unfortunately it was closed when we visited so we didn’t get to peek inside.

There is quite a lot of street art around El Pont de Suert, decorating walls, especially near car parks. Most of it seemed to depict the local region, with murals about agriculture and Catalan culture. We noticed many of the larger houses have what looks like giant brooms hanging outside. These are huge torches. I didn’t get a good photo of the actual torches, but you can see them depicted on this mural.

The Bridge in Pont de Suert

The original bridge (pont) the town is named after was washed away. Marc’s mum mentioned that they used to be regular floods here before a power station was built further up the river. We looked down at the Noguera Ribagorçana river from the new bridge. It is super calm now!

Restaurante Les Cumbres

We had a couple of meals in Pont de Suert, but the best one was at Restaurante Les Cumbres on the main street, next to the new church. We all ordered a set meal which was €18 for three courses for some glorious food.

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I tried asparagus with Romesco sauce (a gorgeous Catalan tomato based sauce). My mum had pumpkin soup which looked tasty too. For the main, I ordered slightly seared tuna with a sesame dressing, while Marc had some Catalan-style meatballs.

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I thought I was too full for dessert, but the waiter told me their almond cake is fantastic, so somehow I made space for it. Marc went with crème caramel. It’s funny how we all seem to have a separate stomach for puddings.

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Escales reservoir

Just outside Pont de Suert is a reservoir that collects the beautiful blue glacial water from the surrounding Pyrenees. A dam was built here in 1955 to produce hydroelectric power, flooding the local farmland along with a Cistercian monastery (Santa María de Lavaix ). When the water level is low, you can still see the ruins of the monastery buildings.

Aulet – Lost to the Escales reservoir

Aulet is a teeny depopulated village that juts out into the Escales reservoir. Before the area was flooded, this village would have been at the top of a hill, surrounded by farmland (a bit like the place where we stayed in Cardet.) Most of the homes were above the waterline, but all of their farmlands were flooded, so there was no longer a way for people to make a living. Marc’s grandfather grew up here and lived here until the village had to be abandoned; This is why their family moved to Pont de Suert.

Aulet – How to get there

The town is located right next to the N230 between the Escales tunnels. If you are driving from Pont de Suert, you can see the land jutting out into the Escales reservoir. If you get as far as the Escales Dam or Sopiera, you’ve driven too far! Find Aulet on google maps here. There is an area to pull in and park.

Aulet Cemetery

The best-preserved part of the village is the cemetery near the entrance. There are still graves with flowers on, so you can see some people still return here to visit their relatives.

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The views from the cemetery show this would have been a beautiful area to live.

We even found a wayside shrine, although it was all empty now.

Aulet ruins

The sad thing is although there are quite a few buildings still standing, they are really starting to disintegrate. We went exploring to look for Marc’s grandfather’s home and the church, but we couldn’t tell the buildings apart. Trees have grown up in the middle and on the roof of many of the buildings.

We did find a pretty, hand-made sign in the middle of the village.

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Still, we found plenty of small details to show how gorgeous it must have once been here.

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This is the view of the Escales reservoir from the center of the village near where we think Marc’s granddad lived. Now this area’s main income is tourism, with people using the reservoir for water-sports. It is a bit of a shame that people have not returned to reclaim the land to build holiday homes there. I mean, the location is spectacular.

I find these kind of ruins incredibly poignant, especially when we heard how much Araceli’s dad longed to go back to Aulet later in life. This village had 127 inhabitants in 1910, which went down to zero by the 1970s. There must be similar stories near dams all over the world.

I realize that not everyone is going to want to visit the ruins in Aulet. But the rest of El Pont de Suert is worth exploring, especially if you want to stop for some tasty food on your way to the Vall de Boí. If you like the look of either of these, click on the pins below to save them.

El Pont de Suert - Pretty village in rural spain El Pont de Suert and Aulet in rural Spain Aulet - gorgeous abandoned village in rural Spain