As you can imagine by its name ('ribera' means 'river basin'), the Ribera d'Ebre is the region that has the most intimate relationship with the river. For many, this is the most beautiful stretch of the Ebro in its passage through Catalonia and it passes through a number of towns, from Riba-roja and Miravet to Flix, Ascó and Móra de Ebre, offering picturesque images of the facades of the villages, as if their streets had been cut in half to make way for the river.
Like all great rivers, for centuries the Ebro has been an essential communication channel, used by sailors, merchants and artists to travel and carry food, and knowledge. This historical reality has as its setting the river front, where potters, farmers, fishermen and boatmen still ply their trades before the eyes of visitors.
If you've driven down the AP7 motorway heading south to L'Hospitalet de l'Infant, you can leave the sea to your left and head inland to start your getaway at Tivissa, one of the most beautiful towns in Ribera d'Ebre. The mountains surrounding the town are perfect for observing the blue Mediterranean. If you've planned ahead, you may have booked a guided visit to the Iberian settlement of Castellet de Banyoles, one of the most important Iberian sites in Catalonia. Its discovery was, in fact, accidental. In 1927, the so called Treasure of Tivissa was found, made up of eleven drinking vessels and a silver bracelet. If you're curious about how people lived here in ancient times, you'll enjoy a visit to the settlement which is considered to be a Site of National Cultural Interest.
At the end of the afternoon, continue along the route through the region to the west until you come across the River Ebro. As we said, this is one of the major icons of the region and we want to give it the prominence it deserves: the weekend revolves around it! To experience it from close up, we recommend that you stay at one of the most charming places in the area. The Vilar Riu de Baix resort will be a complete experience, and there are options to suit every budget. If you have money to spare, the place for you is the luxurious hotel accommodation; if you're short of money, the natural choice is the hostel, and if you come here with a group of friends and want independence, you can rent one of the houses on offer.Whatever your choice, you'll find what you were looking for: a good read in the garden, a romantic walk along the river, a relaxing dip in the spa or a candle-lit meal featuring local cuisine. So, let the weekend begin!
This morning, we'll be visiting the Sebes Natural Reserve. Although the Ebro Delta is the region's main wetland site, this park, though largely unknown, is an increasingly important natural reserve. There are a number of guided tours available, which are recommended if you want to discover more about the place you're visiting and what you're seeing. The price depends on the duration of the visit, the route and the number of guides used. The normal itinerary follows the main path that skirts around the wetlands and there are a number of elevated lookout points from which you can take photographs of the surroundings.
Bird watching is obviously a favourite activity among visitors here. Popularised by the English, this hobby is increasingly popular among Catalans. The reserve also has something that's bound to prove irresistible to kids - the chance to see and touch horses that are native to the Camargue but which were introduced here a few years ago to eat the reeds and regulate the vegetation. They're especially well adapted to living close to rivers in humid, frequently flooded areas and are thriving in their new home.
After a walk around the reserve it might be the right time for a bite to eat, so we suggest that you try one of the most traditional dishes in the region. Clotxa is a country dish that is made by hollowing out a loaf of bread weighing half a kilo and then stuffing it full of roasted onions, tomatoes and garlic, together with a grilled herring. Many restaurants in Ribera d'Ebre offer different versions of this dish, often in a lighter, more easily digestible form.
Having eating a good clotxa, it's time for one of the weekend's most anticipated activities: a boat ride in a llagut from Ascó to Miravet. A llagut is a traditional wooden boat with a triangular sail that was used for the transportation of goods up and down the river. To recover this traditional way of sailing, the town of Ascó recently decided to build a llagut and make it sail once again, this time as a tourist attraction.
Around this initiative a number of sporadic initiatives have emerged, for example, the boat has been used as a stage for Litterarum, the literary festival at Móra d'Ebre, and wine tastings have been held on board, organised by the Regulatory Council of the DO Terra Alta wine region. So, it's worthwhile checking the agenda to see if there's a special event on. You should also be aware that the boat departs at 4.30pm. Don't miss it since there are only two sailings per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
When you've returned to Ascó, we recommend that you take a stroll around the town's interesting old quarter. Its origins date from the time when this area was ruled by Arabs.
First thing in the morning, we recommend that you have a stroll around Móra d'Ebre, where you'll find old narrow streets and whitewashed façades that will probably remind you of Granada. If you have time before you start your day kayaking and if you're curious about history, make your way to the neighbouring town of Móra la Nova, for a visit to the Railway Interpretation Centre. This region had traditionally been the main junction for trains coming to Catalonia from all over Spain.
But today we'll be spending time on the river and it's time to get in a kayak! Whether you choose to paddle solo or with a partner, this is a great way to enjoy the river from a water level perspective. But kayaking here has nothing to do with the white-water excitement you can experience in the rivers of the Pyrenees. On the contrary, the river is like a mirror of flat water, from which you can placidly admire the wooded banks. The stretch from Móra to Miravet is one of the most beautiful, since the river here is surrounded by mountains and castles and you'll even find statues of the Virgin Mary in midstream! Your guide will tell you about the history of the spots you pass and the role that the river had in the Battle of the Ebro in the Spanish Civil War.
When you arrive in Miravet, the kayak rental company will help you to get back to your point of departure, Móra, from where we recommend that you drive along the C-12 down the river back to Miravet. After driving for about ten kilometres you'll reach the spot known as the Pas de Barca de Miravet. Being ferried across the river on this floating platform is an unforgettable experience and the views of the façade of Miravet castle from here are unique. Following the construction of the Passador, the bridge at Deltebre, this is the only place where you can still experience this ancestral way of transporting goods and vehicles from one side of the river to the other.
As well as being one of the most beautiful towns in Ribera d'Ebre, Miravet has a long tradition of ceramics production. There are a number of pottery workshops in the town that are open to the public, and even offer you a hand-on experience shaping the clay. It's an ancient tradition here and ceramics from the Iberian and Roman periods have been found in Miravet, although the work still being done here has its origin in the Arabic pottery traditions that were introduced here when the Muslims ruled the Iberian Peninsula.
After lunch it's time to explore the jewel in Miravet's crown: its castle. It was one of the last fortresses to be taken from the Muslims by King Ramon Berenguer IV, and after seeing it from so many different perspectives today, it's now time to explore it from inside. The 47 steps you have to climb to get to it will be more than justified by the incredible views you get from the top and the photos you take from here will make you the envy of all your photographically minded friends.