Getaway to Priorat, the land of liquid gold
Travel to the heart of the Priorat to learn about oil production on the Costa Daurada, and to Cartuja de Escaladei, in gorgeous surroundings
Fri Dec 12 2014
Priorat, probably the most special county of the Costa Daurada, is renowned for its excellent wine, but olive oil, the 'liquid gold', is just as important there, and there are various producers around the region that are nowadays dedicated to its creation. There are seven working mills that can be visited (and on this route, we've added an eighth, which is located in the county of Ribera d'Ebre), so if you want to discover the villages and countryside of Priorat, this is a great way to start, especially from November to January, which is harvest time. These visits are appropriate for all ages and, if you're a fan of trying different varieties of olive oil, this is certainly the tour for you.
Going from north to south, there are cooperatives and family enterprises in Ulldemolins, La Bisbal de Falset, two in Cabacés, La Vilella Baixa and La Vilella Alta, and Masroig, as well as just over the border of the next county, in Serra d'Almos. Each of these places has its own characteristics, but they all produce high-quality extra virgin oil using the arbequina olive, which is the local star in this sector - some of the oils have been awarded a Siurana Protected Designation of Origin label. General entrance tickets for each cooperative or company start at €4, and usually include the tour plus a tasting, while in some cases a free bottle of olive oil is also included. For a small additional charge, some of the producers will let you visit their property.
If you have more time to spend in Priorat, don't miss a trip to Cartoixa d'Escaladei. Located in a privileged position, with the mountain range of Montsant acting as a backdrop, Cartoixa d'Escaladei's history stretches back to the 12th century, when it became the first Carthusian monastery constructed on the Iberian Peninsula. Today, much of it is in ruins, but you can still appreciate its impressive size and imagine the monks living in this place of peace and isolation. Recently, a cell and one of the three cloisters have been rebuilt.
The monks of Escaladei spread the practice of wine-making throughout Priorat, but they could never have imagined an activity such as that offered by the company Montsant Natura, which gives you the chance to see the local vines from a 4x4, an excellent way to get to know the hidden corners of the region and which, in addition, ends in the most fitting of ways: with a tasting of local wines.
Where to stay and where to eat
Located in a unique setting, Escaladei (12th century) was the first Carthusian monastery in the Iberian Peninsula and is a must for all visitors to Priorat. Even though much of the original monastery is now in ruins, you can still get an idea of the splendour of the place from its three cloisters, one of which is fully restored, its church, refectory, a cell that has been thoroughly reconstructed... You can also take advantage of your visit here to explore the surrounding countryside.
- Camí de la Cartoixa, s/n (Escaladei)
With associate Priorat with vines and wines perhaps with olive oil. But is inhabitants have had other ways of making a living, such as working in the mines at Bellmunt, where galena was mined to be transformed into lead. The mine was still working until 1972, and we nowadays we can visit one of its twenty subterranean galleries, which lies some 35 under the ground.
- Carretera de la Mina, s/n, (Bellmunt del Priorat)
A modern centre set in an old building – the castle of The Counts of Prades in Falset – where you can take a journey through the culture of Priorat wine. Audiovisual presentations, large panels and even a tasting room in which you can put your palate to the test, make for an entertaining visit that is suitable for all ages.
- Bonaventura Pascó, s/n, (Falset)
The objective of the Turtle breeding and interpretation centre in Marça is the conservation of the local turtles, a protected species in danger of extinction. It aims to promote the breeding and reintroduction of these turtles into their natural habitat when they are between 3 and 5 years of age when their shells have hardened. Visitors here can see around fifty Mediterranean turtles. In addition, the centre offers the appeal of the Parc de les Olors, a large plant nursery with aromatic plants and herbs, which aims to promote knowledge of the local flora.
- Parc de les Olors de la Miloquera, (Marçà)