You can find a number of activities in Catalonia that are suitable for families with smaller children. From the Pyrenees to the Ebre Delta, you’ll find plenty of options to have fun with kids, with everything from cultural activities to initiatives that will bring you into contact with the natural world. And in 2014 there are more activities than ever before – read on to find out why.
A ride on an eco-friendly boat
The Parc Olímpic del Segre in the Seu d'Urgell region offers plenty of water sport activities including rafting, kayaking and canoeing, but the most suitable for younger children is this calm water ride, accompanied by a monitor, on a boat driven by an electric motor. You won’t have to bring or hire any type of special material to go on this ride and you’ll be able to enjoy a safe 15-minute trip while contemplating the scenery around you. Another activity suitable for all age groups features the Canadian-style canoes, since they are designed to carry two or three riders who paddle on calm waters. If your children are at least nine years old and brave enough, you can also get onboard one of the pneumatic rafts that race down the white-water rapids of the Olympic channel.
Cycling down a railway track
It’s a real pleasure to cycle kilometre after kilometre amid green scenery and without having to worry about motor traffic. The Greenway that runs from La Puebla de Híjar, in Aragon, to Tortosa in Catalonia follows the route of an old railway line, and today, without the rails and with a well-maintained track, it’s reserved for cyclcists, hikers and horse riders. That makes it ideal for the whole family, since there are no difficult stretches. But you will have to carry a bike headlamp or flashlight since you will be going through some tunnels, and not all of them are lit. The total distance is about 130 kilometres but, of course, you can turn around whenever you want. The Catalan stretch will take you through the Terra Alta and Baix Ebre regions, and passes by some very nice villages, such as Horta de Sant Joan and Benifallet, and near areas of natural beauty like Ports de Beseit and the Ebre Delta.
A visit to Sant Miquel del Fai
It has everything – nature, heritage and history – in a relatively small space. Sant Miquel del Fai in the Vallès Oriental region is one of those places that you must get to at least once, and it's perfect to visit with kids. The trail runs along the cliffs of Bertí with spectacular views throughout. You’ll first come upon a Gothic monastery and the beautiful 10th-century church of Sant Miquel, embedded in the rock of the mountain. An audiovisual presentation and a small museum will give you all the information you need about this spot. You can then enter the cave, being careful of the puddles and, perhaps, dodging the bats that come out to greet you. Once outside, you’ll see spectacular waterfalls, especially after a rainfall, and the Chapel of Sant Martí (which is actually older than the Church of Sant Miquel); and you can end your visit in the depths of the Les Tosques cavern after donning a helmet and if you’re wearing suitable footwear. If you’re starting to feel hungry, you’ll find places to eat on site.
A nighttime outing with owls and stars
Remember that mixture of fear and excitement you had as a kid when you were hiking through the woods at night? The years go by and it seems that 'kids these days' have changed, but we’re convinced that those flutters in the stomach in such situations are the same as ever. So we hunted for an activity for when the sun goes down down that’s both good fun and educational, and we found it in the Pyrenees. 'Night-time', which combines zoology and astronomy, is neither dark nor silent. The first part of the activity involves walking a trail to try to hear the cry of the owls, while the second part is given over to looking up at the night sky to enjoy a spectacle that we often ignore or is impossible to see in our everyday surroundings. At the end of this experience we’re sure you’ll agree with the premise that the night is not as dark or as silent as we often think.
The year of family tourism
Here we've highlighted some activities for families with children, but the list is practically endless, because 2014 is Family Tourism Year in Catalonia, and many hotels, apartments, camp sites, restaurants and travel firms are offering more activities designed for children than any other year, as well as special discounts and promotions on their usual activities. To mention some examples, there are a number of museums and water parks where, if you go with more than one child, the first gets in free; water sports and excursions with 15% discount for the whole family; and places where you pay 50% of the regular admission rate for kids. There are also special offers for large families and plenty of restaurants that have special menus for kids so that the junior members of the family can also fill their boots. And if you call in at a Tourist Information Office you’ll be given the gift of a Family Tourism Year T-shirt.