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Archive for the ‘hiking’ Category

The Ruta del Císter (the Cistercian route) is a spectacular religious route located inland from the Costa Daurada, in the region of Tarragona in Catalonia. It spans over 105 kilometres and links three breathtaking monasteries which date back to the Cistercian order in the 12th century. The Cistercian order was established in the French region of Burgundy in 1098 by a group of monks loyal to the “Rules of St. Benedict”. The order eventually established an important foothold in Europe and Spain, giving it a great influence over Christianity, economy and culture in Spain during the Middle ages. This influence and power eventually joined the regions of Alt Camp, Conca de Barberà and Urgell, which now have a Cistercian monastery each. The Cistercian Route has been one of the most spiritual routes since 1989 which can be followed in Catalonia, but it also provides the perfect opportunity to experience the culture, history, gastronomy and nature of the region.

 

The Monasteries

Santès Creus Monastery

This fascinating route begins in the region of Alt Camp, where you will find the Santès Creus Monastery. Situated on the banks of the river Gaià, the Monastery of Santa María de Santes Creus is a Cistercian abbey that was built in 1168 and today is one of the largest and best preserved in Spain. It is also the only one of the monasteries of the Cistercian Route in which there is no monastic life. During construction of the monastery, the monks followed the Rules of St. Benedict which meant that the church has to be oriented to the north and the cloister to the south. The church also had to have very austere decoration. The central part of the monastery includes the four basic pieces of the monastic life: the church, the cloister, the chapter hall and the residential areas.

Don’t miss the opportunity to take the tour of the monastery and explore the spaces from architectural and artistic points of view. Immerse yourself in the surroundings and let the medieval legends of this wonderful monastery be your guide. Guided and group tours are also available.

Highlights include the church, which contains a Romanesque portal from the 12th century and an imposing Gothic window with stained glass windows. The Gothic cloister, notable for the artistic quality of the ornamentation of the capitals. The monumental tombs, belonging to the royal family or to members of the Catalan nobility and the Royal Palace, built in several phases (XIII-XVI centuries) and has Gothic, Plateresque and Renaissance elements.

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Santès Creus Monastery inside

santa creus outside

Santès Creus Monastery outside

 

Santa María de Poblet

The Royal Abbey of Santa María de Poblet was founded in 1551 in the region of Conca de Barbèra in Catalonia. Founded by Cistercian monks from France on land conquered from the Moors, it is one of the largest and most complete Cisterian monasteries in the world and in 1991 was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its majestic architecture is what makes this monastery so impressive, which includes a fortified royal residence as well as the tombs for the kings and queens of Catalonia and Aragon. Santa María de Poblet consists of three enclosures and is surrounded by a defensive wall. The first outer enclosure contains 16th century buildings, which would have been storehouses, workshops, housing for lay workers and other premises which were connected with the financial life of the community.

Poblet Monastery also holds extraordinary importance in terms of art, history, spirituality and culture. It played a key party in the repopulation and agricultural exploitation of New Catalonia under the crown of Aragon. The monastery’s library and scriptorium were also recognised from the 13th century onwards for their contribution to law and history.

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Poblet Monastery outside

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Poblet Monastery inside

 

Santa María de Vallbona

The Monastery of Santa Maria de Vallbona is a Cistercian monastery located in the town of Vallbona in the region of Urgell, Catalonia, Spain. Founded in the early 12th century, it is one of the most important monasteries in Catalonia and is the only female monastery that has been preserved for over 800 years of uninterrupted monastic life. First news date from 1153, but it was not until 1176 when it got completely integrated in the Cistercian order. It began with several groups of hermits that later became nuns and monks, a sort of double community that lived under the crozier of their founder, Ramon de Vallbona. It was declared a historic-artistic monument in 1931. The monastery offers guided and group tours to find out about all the details of the monuments and of the monastic life that has taken place there.

Although small in size, Vallbona de les Monges is a beautiful monastery which contains exponents of the importance of women in medieval times. The monastery’s church is a fine example of a Romanesque-Gothic blend, and each of the cloister’s splendid galleries are is a different style: Gothic, Arabic and Romanesque. Highlights of the monastery’s incredible architecture also include two gothic domes, and its well looked after inn where guests have the opportunity to stay overnight.

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Santa María Vallbona de les Monges Monastery outside

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Santa María Vallbona de les Monges Monastery inside

 

Tips for the route

On foot, it will take approximately 5 days to complete the route, or you could complete the route by bike in approximately 2 and a half days. However, if you have children or more elderly travellers, it is advised that you follow the route by car along the GR175 Trail.

The Cistercian Route can be done by anyone who is used to hiking, as it does not entail anything harder than some moderate slopes and the distance itself. You can also do it in as many stages as you like, depending on how much time you have and how fit you are.

 

Other Places to Visit

The Cistercian Route can involve so much more than just simply visiting the monasteries. Although they do not form part of the Cistercian Route, the towns of Montblanc and Valls are the perfect places to visit during your trip to discover the Catalonian culture.

Montblanc: a picturesque Catalonian village. Behind its walls you can enjoy a walk through its Midde Age streets. It is also worth visiting the Rock Art Interpretation Centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998 situated in the Prades Mountains just 45 minutes away from Montblanc.

Valls: known for both its gastronomic and folkloric traditions. Known for its tradition of “human castles”, a 200 year old event which was even declared Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010.

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Rock Art Interpretation Centre in Prades Mountains

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Human Castle in Valls

 

Other Activities to Include

There are also plenty of gastronomic, cultural, historical and artistic activities which can be incorporated into the trip:

  • Winery visits
    • Agrícola de Barberà de la Conca (approx. 17 min. from Poblet Monastery)
    • Celler Mas Bella (approx. 20 mins. from Santès Creus Monastery)
  • Museums
    • Alabaster Museum and “Touch Alabaster” Workshop (approx. 22 min. from Poblet Monastery)
    • Frederic Marès Art Museum (approx. 14 min. from Poblet Monastery)
  • Tasting local gastronomy

Prized local delicacies include: DOP les Garrigues extra virgin olive oil, calçots (tender onions) from Valls; torró (almond and honey nougat) and xocolata a la pedra (“stone chocolate”) from Agramunt, coques de recapte, (sausages, fish, and braised vegetables presented on a think pizza-like base); homemade cured sausages; and traditionally produced local cheeses, meat, dairy and vegetable preserves, and both sweet and dried fruits.

  • Catalonian UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Roman Archaeological Ensemble of Tarragona – Tarragona
  • Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí – Vall de Boí
  • Works of Antoni Gaudí (e.g. Park Güell, Casa Milà, Casa Battlò) – Barcelona, 1984

*distances measured by car

 

Airports

If you are coming from abroad to take part in the Cistercian Route, Barcelona El Prat Airport is the largest international airport in Catalonia, operating hundreds of international flights. It is located approximately 1 hour away by car from Tarragona and the Santès Creus Monastery. Another option is Reus Airport, which is just 34 minutes by car to the Santès Creus Monastery, however it is a smaller airport with fewer connections.

 

Map

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Map of la Ruta del Císter

 

If you enjoyed this article, please don’t forget to follow Across Spain Travel Chronicles for more information about Spain’s rich culture and history.

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Starlight watching

Spain by daylight is wonderful. But have you ever seen the impressing sky by night, in one of the main areas for star watching? This incomparable beauty by night is not visible everywhere in the country, just some special places are providing the perfect conditions to see this spectacle. The best spots for enjoying the star lights are marked with the certificates “Starlight reserve” and the “Starlight destination”.

starlight cover

Source: Vantastic tours

The certificates

Starlight reserve

The conditions to obtain the international certificate “Starlight reserve” refer to light/darkness, air clearness and nature. All assigned reserves has to be protected according to the law. The aim is to preserve the astronomical conditions, the landscape and nature, the quality of the night sky and the cultural heritage altogether.

Starlight destination

For the starlight destination the basic requirements are the same as for a starlight reserve. And additionally to that, this certificate requests adapted infrastructure for tourism which is either already available or has to be provided in the future.

Places

La Palma

In the year 2012, the first Starlight reserve La Palma, one of the Canary Islands, got designated. Within the last years more and more places got prepared for observations. Moreover, rural country house accommodations which are perfect to spend the night in to watch the millions of stars were build and therefore the place has also the title of a Starlight destination. As the island is perfect for hiking, there are even some routes with astronomic viewpoints.

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Source: Starsisland La Palma

Andalusia

Jaén:Andalusia is one of the most important regions for star watching and it contains several Starlight reserves. One of the best designated places for starlight watching there is the Sierra Sur de Jaén, which lies in the East of Cordoba. The natural darkness is conserved perfectly which makes it an unspoiled place for enjoying the beauty of stars. The Starlight reserve also has some places with the designation of a Starlight destination inside. The region is supported by two associations which are specialized in astronomy and star observation. On the one hand the Hubble Astronomical Association of Martos which organizes regular public observations, courses and different kind of activities all around the same topic. And on the other the Einstein Society of Astronomy which arranges together with the Andalusian Observatory of Astronomy visits and guided observations for interested groups and teaching centres.  Sierra Morena:The second significant Starlight reserve and also the largest worldwide is called Sierra Morena and lies at the Northern border of Andalusia. It extends of over 400km along the country. The region worked for one year to make the area ready to become a Starlight reserve and a Starlight destination and to establish a high quality of the night sky. Some of the best viewing points are: Aldea de Los Guindos, Minas del Centenillo, Llanos de Espiel, Cerro del Hierro and Ermita de San Bartolomé.

starlight 3

Source: Mis Cosas

Cumbres de Tenerife: In 2013 several places in Tenerife got assigned as Starlight reserve and destination like the mountain El Teide, or Ganadilla de Abona. One unique activity you can do on the island is hiking up to El Teide and watch the stars on the volcano from an altitude of 2000m through a 25cm telescope with has the option of automatic search.

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Source: Volcano Teide

Take a look at those stunning pictures. They are not even close to the wonderful view you will have if you visit any of those places in real life. To enjoy the full experience do not hesitate to contact us to receive the full information and have the best deals for destinations, accommodations and activities.

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The honeymoon is without doubt one of the most important vacation for couples – a time they will always remember and connect with positive memories. Therefore, it is very important to choose the perfect location for it. And what else is better for this romantic getaway than the combination of sunny beaches, stunning nature and exciting culture – Spain has it all!

A honeymoon in Spain is always a good idea, but some regions are especially suitable for newlyweds to spend their romantic holidays together. In addition to the most popular city destinations like Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla or Valencia, there are some other regions that offer great possibilities to spend these special vacations.

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sunset parasailing, Ibiza

Canary Islands

The Canary Islands are the perfect destination for honeymooners due to their warm subtropical climate all year long.
The island of Tenerife offers all you may desire for your honeymoon: diverse nature, from tropical forests to volcanic landscape, beautiful beach resorts and many possibilities for activities. Visit the famous Loro Parque zoo, go hiking through stunning ravines or do water sports.
The other islands are also well worth a visit. You could visit La Palma to relax, practise golfing, and visit the national park or the natural pools. also, you could spend your vacation at Lanzarote and do surfing, go mountain biking or hiking – there are endless possibilities.

Balearic Islands

The Balearic Islands are another good option for a honeymoon during the warm months (from April to October). Visit Mallorca, if you are seeking a combination of luxury and adventures. You can go hiking, yachting, just relax on the beach or visit some historic sites. There are several forts, windmills and nice mountain villages to be explored. A hotel that could make your stay even better is the Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel & Spa, a luxury hotel overlooking the fishing village of Port Soller.

A different program for your honeymoon awaits you in Ibiza. The island is famous for its international dance club scene and white sand beaches. This chic island is perfect if you are looking for the best parties and small remote beaches to relax. But the island has more to offer. If you are interested in culture, visit Dalt Vila, the historic centre of Ibiza Town which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For a romantic evening have a drink at Café del Mar in Sant Antoni de Portmany, from where you have the best view of the most beautiful sunset of the island.

Costa del Sol

Furthermore, on the Spanish mainland there are many ideal places to spend the honeymoon. A popular destination is Costa del Sol with small fishing villages, charming coastal towns and famous spots like the bustling Puerto Banús marina in Marbella. In Marbella and the surrounding towns you can also find a lot of beach clubs and spas. You can decide if you just want to relax or attend great parties. If you need more action, there are loads of possibilities for water sports, sailing or golf. Moreover, from Costa de Sol there are various options for day trips. visit Nerja and the “Balcón de Europa” (Europe’s balcony) viewpoint for impressive views over the ocean. The ultimate place to take photos and collect memories of your honeymoon!

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Puerto Banús, Marbella

Apart from the mentioned regions of course there are numerous other options for honeymooners in Spain. You might find your ideal honeymoon destination at the wild green coasts and white beaches in Galicia, where you can enjoy great seafood. Another option is visiting the bustling Costa Brava, where historic towns, botanical gardens and small fishing villages await you.

All in all, every married couple will be able to find their perfect honeymoon in Spain, thanks to the unlimited possibilities!

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discover the secrets of the most beautiful spanish territories and the reasons that you should visit when you get a chance. here are 10 natural parks across spain which are a must-do for all travellers who like to be outside and enjoy being in a natural environment.

 -the largest and oldest national park of the canary island-

teide national park, canary islands

its landscape revolves around the largest volcano in spain: the teide, which last erupted in 1798. the volcanic cones and the lava outcrops form an extraordinary conjunction of colours and shapes, and are home to a wide diversity of flora of great biological value.

the teide national park was created in 1954 in order to protect this spectacular landscape of great ecological value which lies at the foot of the colossal volcano. the teide is the volcanic formation located on an ancient and gigantic cauldron-shaped depression, formed by two semi-calderas separated by the roques de garcía rock formations. plant and animal species that are unique in the world live in the shadow of the teide. there is an astonishing diversity of plants: teide broom, red echium, blue echium, theguanche rose (bencomia extipulata), flixweed, rosalillo de cumbre (pterocephalus lasiospermus),silver thistle (stemmacantha cynaroides)… the most important species in the park are the invertebrates. over 700 types of insects have been recorded, of which 50% are endemic to the area. there are some species of reptiles (such as the tenerife lizard) and birds (egyptian vulture, sparrow hawks, lesser kestrels, red kite), mammals are scarce, the most common of which are the mouflon, rabbits and five species of bat.

0 (more…)

Read Full Post »

discover the secrets of the most beautiful spanish territories and the reasons that you should visit when you get a chance. here are 10 natural parks across spain which are a must-do for all travellers who like to be outside and enjoy being in a natural environment.

 -the largest and oldest national park of the canary island-

teide national park, canary islands

its landscape revolves around the largest volcano in spain: the teide, which last erupted in 1798. the volcanic cones and the lava outcrops form an extraordinary conjunction of colours and shapes, and are home to a wide diversity of flora of great biological value.

the teide national park was created in 1954 in order to protect this spectacular landscape of great ecological value which lies at the foot of the colossal volcano. the teide is the volcanic formation located on an ancient and gigantic cauldron-shaped depression, formed by two semi-calderas separated by the roques de garcía rock formations. plant and animal species that are unique in the world live in the shadow of the teide. there is an astonishing diversity of plants: teide broom, red echium, blue echium, theguanche rose (bencomia extipulata), flixweed, rosalillo de cumbre (pterocephalus lasiospermus),silver thistle (stemmacantha cynaroides)… the most important species in the park are the invertebrates. over 700 types of insects have been recorded, of which 50% are endemic to the area. there are some species of reptiles (such as the tenerife lizard) and birds (egyptian vulture, sparrow hawks, lesser kestrels, red kite), mammals are scarce, the most common of which are the mouflon, rabbits and five species of bat.

0 (more…)

Read Full Post »