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Getaway to Garraf: Buddhists and ‘Indianos’

With a base in Sitges, you'll explore the popular seaside town and also visit other places of interest in the region

Internationally, Sitges is probably the best-known town in the Garraf region, and its fame is well deserved. On this trip you'll explore a number of charming haunts in Sitges, but there's much more to the Garraf. The region even has a Buddhist temple with a community of monks that you can visit. You'll also get to taste a traditional local dish known as 'xato', and visit a winery.

Afternoon day 1: A place for meditation

Afternoon day 1: A place for meditation

Catalonia’s Buddhist community chose this location to set up their monastery in a romantic mansion (Palau Novella) in the middle of the Garraf natural park. It’s a place of calm, providing an excellent environment to meditate and study the principles of Buddhism. But the community doesn't live in complete isolation – far from it: you can see the inside of the building, learn about Buddhism and see the artworks in the mansion by joining one of the guided tours that the community offers. You'll discover a unique place in Catalonia on your first stop on your visit to Garraf.

Morning day 2: A winery with history

Morning day 2: A winery with history

Your second day sees you heading to the outskirts of Sant Pere de Ribes where you'll find an extraordinary 14th-century house and gardens that housed a community of Jeronim monks in the 15th century. Most of what you can see today, however, dates from the 19th century, when wine was already being made here and was winning gold medals at the 1888 Universal Exposition in Barcelona. And the wines made here, at Torre del Veguer, are still winning awards today. If you want to explore the house and grounds and find out how wine is made, join one of the guided tours. You’ll also discover the links between the house and Salvador Dalí and take part in a tasting of some of the house wines.

At lunchtime, head for one of the many restaurants in Garraf that serve 'xató', a sauce that's typical of both Garraf and the neighbouring Penedès region, made of toasted hazelnuts and almonds, bread crumbs, vinegar, garlic, oil, salt, and red pepper, and typically served on a salad of curly leaf lettuce, anchovies, tuna and cold salted cod. It’s delicious.

Afternoon day 2: The 'Americanos' of Sitges

Afternoon day 2: The 'Americanos' of Sitges

Today you head to Sitges, where you'll be for the rest of your stay. The town has plenty of attractions and walking routes, but this afternoon focuses on the world of the ‘Indianos’ – emigrants who left to seek their fortune in the Americas, especially during the 19th century, and who returned to Catalonia to build grand mansions that changed the appearance of many towns on the coast. Sitges has a large number of these mansions, and the best way to see them is on a scheduled guided tour. These last around two hours and are full of anecdotes about the Indianos. The tour takes you down Carrer de la Isla de Cuba, among other places, which has a number of grand mansions, some of which are designed in Catalan modernist style.

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Day 3: On foot in Sitges

Day 3: On foot in Sitges

Spend your last day strolling around the main places of interest in Sitges. If this is your first visit to the town, you could walk the classic route that begins at the church of Sant Bartolomé i Santa Tecla (La Punta), one of the most iconic images of the town because of its location, presiding over the seafront. Then walk around Plaça Baluarte, down Passeig de la Ribera, and la Fragata. And you must visit the town’s Cau Ferrat and Maricel museums. Then wander through the streets to Sant Sebastià beach. This is a good spot for lunch since it's packed with good restaurants. If the weather is good and you've brought your swimming gear, it's also a great place to take a quick swim and sunbathe. If you feel like walking a little more, head along the clifftops to the port at Aiguadolç, passing by the San Sebastián church and Balmins beach.

Cap de la Vila

Fancy having a pizza in the very first pizzeria to open in Spain? If so, head for Cap de la Vila, which can be found in the square of the same name in Sitges. The restaurant first opened its doors in 1966 and since then has been serving the finest Italian cuisine. The pizzas here are excellent, though the fresh pasta dishes are also highly recommended.

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Esmarris

Part of the Dolce Sitges hotel, this elegant restaurant serves experimental, avant-garde Mediterranean cuisine. Its seafood and xató tasting menus are interesting options. Dishes include cream of chestnuts with egg cooked at low temperature, and black truffle; casserole of monkfish and lobster with dried tomatoes, chestnuts and ceps; and sea bass baked in salt with steamed vegetables and traditional Béarnaise sauce. We also like the selection of Catalan wines from different regions.

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El Rossegall

Seafood paellas, mussels and fried fish, and the local speciality, xató: El Rossegall, which is set next to the beach in Vilanova, serves top-quality seafood with fresh produce and respect for local culinary traditions. If you’re travelling with a group, there are special group menus at attractive prices. The tasting menu is also an appealing option.

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La Pepa Jaleo

Good humour and good food go hand in hand at La Pepa Jaleo, as you’ll find out for yourself if you see any of their promotional videos or sit down on their sprawling terrace to dine on excellent dishes, tapas and desserts.

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Eguzki Lizarran

This Basque-style tavern, the first one in the Lizarran chain, serves 'pintxos' (simply, tapas mounted on bread), 'cazuelitas' (individual stews or casseroles), and pretty much the best and most traditional dishes in Basque cuisine. It’s a very popular place, so either go early for lunch or dinner or be prepared to wait.

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Hotel Alenti

This recently built, four-star designer hotel is located in the iconic ‘sin street’ in Stiges. It isn’t lacking in comforts, especially its cosy, well-lit rooms, which are equipped with all the latest technological advances. And if you have the opportunity to stay in one of the suites, your experience will be simply unforgettable.

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Hotel La Niña

This four-star hotel occupies a privileged position in front of the sea on the best-known promenade in Sitges. It was built a little over a decade ago and occupies four houses whose unique façades are still preserved. Here you’ll find an outdoor swimming pool, terraces, a car park, a restaurant, meeting rooms, and exclusive services such as the possibility of having a massage on the swimming pool deck, as well as hairdressing and beauty treatments.

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Cal Simó

A place that’s designed with relaxation in mind, Cal Simó dates from 1850, and the house and grounds spread out over 5,000 square metres, where you can find everything you could possibly need: an outdoor swimming pool, a chill-out zone, a bar, a vegetable garden, a yoga space, a children’s area and even a doll's house. The rooms are practically all suites, and the hotel sleeps up to 18 people.

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Hotel Desitges

This new hotel is located in a quiet suburb of the town of Sant Pere de Ribes. It’s a very functional, though welcoming and elegant, place for both leisure and business travellers. It’s ideally located for exploring the coast and the inland areas of Garraf.

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Hotel Galeón

Located in the centre of Sitges, only 250 metres from the beach, Hotel Galeón is a three-star establishment with a garden, halls, a car park, and rooms equipped with en-suite bathrooms, air conditioning and satellite TV. The lack of a restaurant is not really a problem in a town like Sitges.

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Museu Romàntic Can Llopis

Located in the centre of Sitges, the Romantic Museum is set in the Llopis family home, built in 1793 outside the Medieval walled town. For many years it was one of the noblest houses in the new town area of Sitges and was inhabited by various generations of Llopis, a Sitges family of maritime origins who ascended the social scale thanks to accumulating land and trading in wine and spirits. As well as having the opportunity to explore a wealthy 19th-century family home, visitors here can see the curious collection of dolls belong to Barcelona writer and illustrator Lola Anglada.

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Museu Romàntic Can Papiol

This Romantic Museum is set in the old Papiol family home; this was an influential family that moved to Vilanova in the middle of the 17th century and whose wealth was acquired through buying properties and marriage. The house conserves the original structure, layout and decoration. Its exteriors are in line with the austere style of the time with a neoclassical façade and painted architectural motifs. The inside, in contrast, is remarkable for its fastidious elegance. The tour of the building takes in the family quarters the servants’ quarters and the garden.

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Biblioteca-Museu Víctor Balaguer

Founded in 1884 by politician and writer Victor Balaguer i Cirera, the Balaguer Library-Museum has an original nucleus that consists of the books and artworks that he gathered throughout his life, alongside the many donations received from prominent personalities. The museum's art collection consists of over 8,000 pieces. In the permanent collection special attention is paid to the examples of art of the 19th and 20th centuries, the quality of which led to the museum becoming a section of the National Museum of Art of Catalonia.

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Museu del Ferrocarril de Catalunya

Located right next to the train station, the Vilanova Railway Museum has one of the world’s largest collection of railway-related items in the world, including more than 60 vehicles from all eras, countries and technologies, with 28 steam locomotives dating from the late-19th century, among them the oldest in Spain and the last one that was in active service in the country. Also on exhibition are wagons, diesel and electric engines, and other curious vehicles.

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Museu Monjos Budistes Sakya Tashi Ling

An old house belonging to Indianos, set in the heart of the Garraf Natural Park, Palau Novella has become the site of Catalonia’s first Buddhist monastery. You can explore it on a guided tour that will introduce you to the religion’s art and sacred objects. The monastery also holds meditation workshops that are open to everybody. It's located in privileged surroundings that are also worth visiting.

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