Getaway to Garraf: Discover its natural beauty spots

You'll spend a large part of this trip walking through the region's natural parks

© J. L. Rodríguez

Beautiful beaches and towns with plentiful leisure activities, such as Sitges, make Garraf a popular summer destination. When the temperature drops and winter falls it's no less attractive as a destination – in fact, it's the best time to visit the natural parks Garraf, Olèrdola and Foix, which at this time of year display an incredible palette of colours.

Afternoon day 1: Garraf Park

Afternoon day 1: Garraf Park

Get an early start and make the most of the daylight hours, starting in the park which takes the name of the region. Palms, fissures, dry stone huts, and farmhouses make up the landscape of this natural space, and you can explore with various routes, including a BTT one. The Information Centre is located in La Pleta, the old hunting pavilion of the Güell family, desgined by the architect Francesc Berenguer. There you can watch a video ('El Garraf, Natural Park') and see an exhibition about the conservation of the partridge eagle, the most emblematic species of the region. You can also sign up to one of the guided tours which are organised by the Network of Natural Parks.

Day 2: Olivella and Sant Pere de Ribes

Day 2: Olivella and Sant Pere de Ribes

Stay exactly where you are today, and dedicate the day to exploring Garraf’s two towns, Olivella and Sant Pere de Ribes. Olivella is right in the heart of Garraf Park and is home to a Buddhist monastery, Palau Novella. Built in a style of Romanticism, the monastery has stood in Garraf Park for a long time, along with its community of monks. You can take a guided tour in which you'll learn about the Buddhist philosophy and way of life from those who live there.

Apart from visiting Palau Novella, in Olivella you can take a leisurely walk around the old town, through Plaça Mayor, and to the parish church of Sant Pere and Sant Fèlix. Go to the first settlement of the village, on Puig Molí hill, where you’ll find an 18th-century windmill built upon the remains of an old castle, as well as the ruins of a church – originally a 13th-century temple and the only example of Roman architecture in Garraf.

In the afternoon walk to Sant Pere de Ribes, also known as ‘terra dels indians’ (or land of the Indians – the 'Indians' in this case being Spaniards who travelled to America during the 19th century to make their fortune and bring it back). About 200 Ribetans went to chase the American dream, and those who returned led a great urban and cultural transformation in the city, by designing buildings in a romantic style. Here are a few suggestions to help you find the highlights of the town. Start at one end of Carrer Major, in the farmhouse Can Puig, built in the year 1853 and where you’ll find, among other offices, the tourist information centre. On the same street you’ll find lots of Indian houses – of particular interest are numbers 9, 10, 11, 13, and 18. Walking down this street you’ll reach Plaça de la Font, where there's an elegant display of modernisme in the 1906 water fountain. In Plaça de la Villa stands the 18th-century town hall with an impressive clock tower, paid for by Ribetans living in Cuba.

Take Carrer del Pi, where you'll see another handful of Indian houses – ostentatious buildings with large windows and balconies, built to display the wealth of the owners (numbers 16, 20 and 25). Taking Carrer del Dr. Cuadras, you’ll soon get to the neighbourhood of Palou, where you’ll find an Indian house known traditionally by the name Can Cuadras, nowadays a hotel. Turn now into Plaça d'Olivella, and, after heading down Carrer Narcís Oller, at Eixemenis, turn onto Maristany, which you’ll stick to until you find the 'new', century-old church, inspired by the iconic Santa Maria del Mar church in Barcelona. The church bells in the twin towers were funded by Francesc Marcer, another Ribetan living in Guantánamo. Walking past the church, stop in Plaça Marcer with its Antillean appearance, the nerve centre of Sant Pere de Ribes, and a good place to bring the day’s walk to a close.

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Day 3: The Olèrdola and Foix parks

Day 3: The Olèrdola and Foix parks

The final day of the getaway to Garraf has arrived and, as on the first day, you'll spend it surrounded by nature in the Olèrdola and Foix parks. In the first location on today’s agenda, Olèrdola, you’ll find not only natural beauty but also history and monuments as you wander through an area that over time has seen Iberians, Romans, and the medieval period, and is crowned by the 12th-century church of Sant Miquel. The surrounding area, which extends to the municipalities of Olèrdola and Canyelles is arid, and filled with rocks and bushes, dry meadows, vineyards and farmed dry land.

Leaving behind this vantage point of nature and history, head to Parc del Foix, partially in Garraf but also extending toward the Alt Penedès and Baix Penedès. El Foix stands out for the diversity of its ecological environments and for its unusual humid ecosystem between dry lands. The flora and fauna of the area benefit from this and there’s a variety of ecosystems: river banks, swamps, streams and forest. You’ll also find important architectural features such as the Castellet and Penyafort castles.

Just as you did in Olèrdola and Garraf, while in Foix, let your legs do the walking and just follow any route signposted or, if you prefer, take a guided tour by asking for a 'visita teatralitzada' (with a performance thrown in) in which you’ll be accompanied by a historian, or ask for one of the family activities and explore the landscape through games, workshops and easy walks. In short, there are plenty of options to fully experience nature in Garraf.

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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