In this Itinerary you will embark on a sea and mountain trip. You will cross the region of the Maresme and then you will climb and tread the Montseny mountain range: a perfect visual and sensorial combination of sea and mountain. It is mainly about capturing landscapes visually with a positive, genuine and primary curiosity. What is perhaps most fascinating is that despite being such a small land surface, it offers such a large diversity of marine, Mediterranean and alpine botanicals, agriculture (orchards), mountains, trails and forms of human society…
You will set off in Blanes, threshold of the Costa Brava, to start your current itinerary because it is precisely here that you will be able to easily appreciate a change of coast. To the south of Blanes is the mouth of the Tordera River and where the somehow rectilinear coastline begins, generally low and stretches as far as the hill of Montgat and is called The Maresme. In fact, the region of the Maresme is a geographical unit that includes the pre-coastal mountain range called Montnegre and the Corridor (Natural Parks), covered with lush Mediterranean forests, and the rolling slopes that gently descend until dying in the maritime sands. You can find information about this Park in the Network of Natural Parks of Catalonia: parcs.diba.cat
Very close to the sea are the densest populations, both resident and tourist. The region of the Maresme contains a high human density (almost 400,000 inhabitants in about 400 km2) concentrated mainly in coastal populations. If you looked at it from the sea, you would see an almost uninterrupted line of urban settlements reaching the city of Barcelona. On the coast the main communication routes are also concentrated together (Highway and railway) and this makes the connection of the towns with the beaches somewhat uncomfortable and cage-like.
Take the N II from Blanes and cross Malgrat de Mar, Pineda de Mar, Calella and finally get to Sant Pol de Mar. Up to Calella, you will observe a great urban density, old and more recent, with some rather anarchic construction styles and a somehow aleatory taste, all combined with some extensions of orchards and extensive Mediterranean pine.
In Calella, suddenly, the plain becomes a mountain wall that dies in the sea in the form of a cliff. There is the Lighthouse of Calella. In Sant Pol de Mar, you will leave the N II and you will take the secondary road BV 5128 that will take you through more modest towns (Sant Cebrià de Vallalta, Sant Iscle de Vallalta, Arenys de Munt) and will provide you with beautiful panoramas of the low lands and the sea. In Arenys de Munt you will take the C 61 that descends directly to the sea following the course of the stream – Riera – until Arenys de Mar. This stream or Riera splits the mountain range of the natural park of Montnegre and El Corredor into two. The northern part (Montnegre), the largest, is more abrupt, wild and covered with thick Mediterranean pine forests, while the southern part (El Corredor) forms a softer and more pleasant relief that favours agricultural cultivation.
These mountain ranges form basins or streams – here called Rieras – short and sporadic seasonal flow, sudden and sometimes violent or even devastating. The longest streams you will cross on your journey are those of Arenys de Munt / Arenys de Mar, Sant Pol and Pineda. The villages of the Maresme have established their famous Ramblas on the edge of their equally famous Rieras -streams- shaded with rows of centennial poplar trees. These Rieras – Ramblas are authentic hubs of commerce, entertainment and intense social life. More information on the City Council website: www.santpol.cat
Arenys de Mar (15,000 inhabitants) is worth a visit. You will enter through a really broad Avenue that is actually the stream or Riera covered and turned into a colourful Rambla, flanked by two thick rows of magnificent centennial poplar trees, in a slight downhill in a straight direction towards the sea. The fishing port of Arenys is one of the most important and active of the Catalan coast with a long maritime history. It has a large fishing fleet that makes for the daily fish auction. Arenys squid and prawns are greatly appreciated. It also has an important marina and some shipyards with a rich history in the construction of sailboats for commerce and passage that set sails for America in the 19th Century from the Catalan coast.
The name of Salvador Espriu, one of the giants in modern Catalan poetry, goes hand in hand with the name of Arenys de Mar and the mythification of his cemetery of Sinera. More information on the City Council website: www.arenysdemar.cat
Sa Voga **** (Arenys de Mars)
Rusticae Hotel Vila Arenys ****(Arenys de Mar)
Relai du Silence Castell de l’Oliver **** (Sant Vicenç de Montalt)
Can Mora de Dalt *** (Sant Vicenç de Montalt)
Then you will drive to the next town, Canet de Mar, of similar pattern, with its characteristic Riera – Rambla although of much more modest proportions than that of Arenys de Mar. In Canet de Mar (12,000 inhabitants), if you profess any admiration for Modernist architecture, you must pay homage to the great architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner in his House Museum. In spite of being born in Barcelona (1849) he spent long summer seasons in Canet and it is here where he directed the construction of his summer residence, the Ateneu and the House Roura in addition to designing some of his most creative works built in Barcelona (Palau of Music and the Hospital of Sant Pau, among others). Also worthy of mention is the reformed design of the Castle of Santa Florentina on the outskirts of Canet de Mar. This castle is private but is open to the public on guided tours. It is a brilliant compendium of the creative dreams of Modernism, in this case projected through a medieval building. It is a marvel of wit, creativity, originality and overflowing dreams… Do not miss it! More information on the City Council website: www.canetdemar.org
Then you must return to Arenys de Mar and take the C 61 and cross the Montnegre and Corredor mountain ranges through the basin or Riera de Arenys de Munt and Vallgorguina, leaving the Maresme behind you until reaching Sant Celoni in the interior region of the Vallès Oriental. It is a sinuous and quiet crossing, which will allow you to make a final synthesis of the realities of the Maresme including a last consideration of great importance: The smooth slopes of the Maresme are, together with the orchard of Llobregat, a large food-store of Barcelona since at the beginning of the 20th Century these poor and sandy lands, became irrigated land. The benefit of the water and the contribution of the humid and mild climate of this coast allowed the intensive cultivation (greenhouses), in smallholding, of all types of tubers, vegetables and legumes, famous throughout Catalunya. Mataró potatoes, white beans from Malgrat, sweet peas, tasty beans, tomatoes, broccoli, aubergines, wild strawberries and large strawberries, roses and carnations … If you add the sweet wines of Alella (O.D.) and the oil of the traditional olive trees without forgetting the fish of the Arenys market, you will have quite a complete picture of the gastronomic possibilities of this pleasant, hardworking and bright region.
Once in Sant Celoni, take the C 35 to the North until you find the BV 5115 county road to Gualba. To your left you will have the foothills of the Montseny mountain range which rises like a giant block with its gently haughty profile and which forms three large volumes of considerable height: El Turó de l’Home (1,714 m) les Agudes (1,707 m) and The Matagalls (1,671 m) in addition to the plateau or highland de la Calma (1,200 m). These volumes are fended with great valleys with soft, elegant and leafy slopes. This land is never rough or overly abrupt. It is a mosaic of Mediterranean and Central European landscapes of great beauty and biodiversity that has always inspired poets and artists, enchanted hikers and walkers, dazzled mushroom seekers and photographers, making motorists and cyclists get up early in the morning and awakening the admiration and appetite in the rest of mortals. It is a Natural Park protected since 1977 and Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO) since 1978. It has an area of 31,000 ha. which covers the perimeter of the range approximately from the height of 700 m. The Montseny range rises like a majestic island between the plains of the regions of Vallès Oriental, Osona and La Selva. Find information about this Park in the Network of Natural Parks of Catalonia: parcs.diba.cat and on the web: www.turisme-montseny.com
Once you arrive in Gualba (840 inhabitants), a bright village, surrounded by lush forests, trees and avenues of poplars, rich in water, located in a quiet valley at the foot of the Montseny, you can consider the possibility of entering the Environmental Park of Gualba either to have a family picnic or to undertake a pleasant excursion following the stream –Riera- of Gualba enjoying its prodigious riverbank forest. The second kilometre of triail is a steep and wilder path that climbs until a terrace called the Mirador. There you can see a spectacular waterfall skimming over immense granite walls that are the foothills or buttresses of the Montseny. This stream or Riera comes from the Riera de Santa Fe in the middle of Montseny. These streams are seasonal and depend on the rainfall of the Montseny. In the summer they are drier than in autumn and spring. The protected park is spacious, well equipped, friendly and entertaining. More information on the City Council website: www.gualba.cat
Then you will take the C 35 road again until you find the Breda junction (GI 552) that will take you, once you cross the luminous village of Breda, up to Fogueres de Montsoriu road. Breda is another friendly village at the foot of the Montseny, famous for its extraordinary artisan production of pottery. Your destination, however, is the visit to the magnificent Gothic castle of Montsoriu located at the top of a high hill visible from Breda. So, you will follow the road to Fogueres de Montsoriu about 2.8 km, paved but without signs. In the coll de Castellar you must leave the car in the parking lot and walk along a forest track of 2.8 kms that will take you to the Castle. Its high situation will surprise your eyesight and make you wonder how a human society could live up there. There are legends (or realities?) that suggest that there were tunnels linking the castle with the coast… Beautifully rehabilitated, you can take guided or free visits. The walls, towers, battlements, courts and rooms offer a formidable stamp of this impregnable fortress and a perfect watchtower of the forests and places that surround it. Consult the web: www.montsoriu.cat
You will return on the same road until you find the junction with the GI 552 that will take you to Arbúcies (5,200 inhabitants) following the Riera, cheerful, fresh and shaded by an abundant riverside forest. Arbúcies lies at the bottom of a long valley that separates the Montseny from the large wooded land of the Guilleries. Arbúcies is another old village full of history, but above all surrounded by prodigious forests. First thing, try to walk the Riera up a 2-km urban path shaded by elms, alders and ash trees. La Riera is a seasonal stream and depending on the pluviometry it carries more abundant or scarcer water. But you will always find yourself at ease, as the painter Santiago Rusiñol used to feel comfortable and inspired when in summertime he would go painting at the Riera and in the gardens of his friends from Arbúcies. Perhaps you can conclude your stay with a visit to La Gabella (Montseny Ethnological Museum). Visit the City Hall website: www.arbucies.cat
Now, we propose taking the new GI 550 that links Arbúcies with the Transverse Axis of Catalonia (C 25). You will follow the C 25 until the village of Espinelves. This path will allow you to see in the right perspective the lofty peak of Les Agudes resembling a local Fujiyama and its vast hillside that shows the typical forest of each altitude: granite rock at the top, immense extensions of beech and spruce to middle mountain and oaks in the lowlands. The display is majestic and magnetizes your sight. It goes without saying that depending on the season of the year, the colour palette varies in a surprising way.
Espinelves is a small village of 200 inhabitants that suddenly appears when you enter the Osona region. Its church with apse, nave and bell tower of the purest Romanesque Lombard style reminds us of the Boí valley in the Pyrenees. At 750 m high, its surroundings take us to the great fir tree forests of central Europe. Its annual Fir Fair is well-known in Catalonia. In this village we suggest spending some time strolling along the circuit of Arboretum Masjoan where you can see and touch the largest concentration of monumental trees in Catalonia (there are 58 different species of conifers, native and exotic) planted by Marià Masferrer between 1860 and 1911 Ineffable, captivating, photogenic, relaxing … Visit the City Hall website: www.espinelves.cat
From Espinelves you will drive towards Viladrau on the GI 543 that winds between crops, meadows and leafy forests.
Viladrau, a prodigious small town of 850 inhabitants at a height of 821 m, is a tourist mecca all year round due to its privileged location at the foot of the Matagalls summit and surrounded by “the most fascinating range of greens in the country” in the opinion of Writer Josep Pla. There you can go to Espai Montseny which is an Information and Interpretation Centre offering an array of excursions, trails, tours and walks adapted to all tastes and physical possibilities. Visit the website: www.viladrauturisme.cat. Here are some plausible examples from the town of Viladrau:
25 minutes round trip, by foot. Leaving Viladrau by the GI 520 in the direction of Vic, there is a car park 2 km away at the Restaurant called La Solana del Molins. This is where the trails and paths of the Riera Major de Viladrau begin.
30 minutes round trip, on foot. The fountain of the paitides is known throughout the Montseny. The paitides are young and beautiful blue-eyed maidens that appear and disappear from the water… You have to set off from the main square of the town.
1h 35 minutes round trip, on foot. It also begins in La Solana as excursion 1. It is the path of the hermitage of the Our Lady of Arola. This excursion will allow you to trek precious and immense forests of oaks and above all of the monumental chestnut trees of the torrent of Arola. Following this trail allows you to reach the summit of Matagalls…
The chestnut trees and the chestnuts of this part of the Montseny (Viladrau) enjoy great fame, both for the magnificent aspect of the trees and for the quality of the fruit. Therefore, if you are interested in this gastronomic theme, you can stop at a place called the Chestnut Manipulation Centre, at Km 4 of the GI 520, leaving Viladrau. There you will find out about the history of chestnut trees in the country, botany and wood and the thousand and one ways to combine chestnuts to create exquisite and mouth-watering delicacies. Just next door do not miss the opportunity to admire an old beautiful private farmhouse, called Mas Vidal. Its face at noon with three floors of huge terraces supported by stone arcades offers a perfect counterpoint print to the magnificent botany that surrounds it.
L’Hostal de la Glòria *** (Viladrau)
Hotel Xalet La Coromina *** (Viladrau)
Hotel Sant Marçal **** (Viladrau)
Now, you will continue your discovery of the Montseny setting off from Viladrau and taking the GI 543 until the junction with the GIV 5201 in the direction of Coll de Sant Marçal. This road passes through the north and northeast slopes of Les Agudes and allows a total viewing angle over the wooded masses of this immense hillside. In just a few kilometers you will reach Coll de Bordoriol where there is a cabin and information panels. It is an excellent starting point to take path SL 82 that will easily take you to the top of Matagalls. Following the GIV 5201 you will arrive at the Coll de Sant Marçal where you must officially stop your vehicle, and, after contemplating the St. Marçal landmark (Romanesque Benedictine monastery documented already in 1053), just a few meters away, you have to taste some refreshing natural spring water at Font Bona, quintessence of the Montseny, and birth of the river Tordera, surrounded by beech trees that magnetize the senses. There, engraved on a stone erected next to the fountain, you will be able to read a verse by the great and passionate poet of the Montseny, Guerau de Liost (Jaume Bofill i Mates), who in his book “La montanya d’amatistes” has left us the lyrical portrait of each and every one of the corners of the Montseny with poetic sensibility, knowledge of the country and unbeatably impassioned. You will also see the Table of the 3 bishops, in granite, in which according to tradition, the bishops of Girona, Barcelona and Vic could meet and sit together without leaving their Diocese.
From the port of Sant Marçal you can seriously raise the challenge of climbing either Matagalls following the path GR 5.2 or the Agudes following the same GR 52 in the opposite direction. The duration of the round trip of each does not exceed 4 hours. During the ascent, you will see or tread the main forests of European typology: pines and cork oaks in the low, oak and oak woods in the middle, beech and fir trees in the high and alpine meadows and angular and pebble scratches on the top. Once at the top, you will feel like in the tower of homage of the great castle that is the Montseny Range with magnificent views of complete circumference.
Whether you have made the summit or not, we propose following the BV 5114 in the direction of Santa Fe de Montseny. Santa Fe is a hermitage or chapel of Romanesque origin next to the hotel Santa Fe and the dam built in the early 20th Century to take advantage of the stream water or Riera de Santa Fe and produce electricity for the new Hotel. The beech forest surrounding it is worth the trip. Each season of the year produces a tapestry of shimmering colorations, dreamed up and making it a paradise of painters, poets, photographers and plebeians in general… At the crossroads of Sta. Fe, is the Can Casades Information Point with magnificent sequoias that make the entrance a sentinel. Visit the website: www.montseny.cat
You will follow your Itinerary returning by the same BV 5114 to Viladrau, there you will take the GI 520 until you find the junction with the BV 5303 that you will continue to Seva in the region of Osona. There you will take the BV 5301 in the direction of El Brull. This winding mountain road is the second transverse axis of the Montseny range by the port of Collformic. Make it whole, if you fancy, making the appropriate stop and visit stations that we propose.
El Brull is a municipality of 250 inhabitants that serves as a gateway to the Montseny coming from Osona. When passing, you will see the parish church of Sant Martí del Brull. The apse and external structure of the nave are a magnificent example of the Romanesque-Lombard style of the 11th Century. The apse is decorated with a theory of small arches with blind windows and false embellishment columns, all reddish stone typical of this Montseny slope. The interior contained Romanesque frescoes from the 13th century which are now exhibited in the Episcopal Museum of Vic. Visit the website: www.elbrull.cat
You will continue your journey until the port of Collformic (1,145 m). At this popular crossroads we propose two alternatives for hikers, before continuing downhill to the end of your Itinerary (St. Esteve and Sta. Maria de Palautordera):
From Collformic up a path that easily reaches the top of Matagalls. The view from the top is priceless!
From Collformic there is also a forest track (GR 5) in a regular state of conservation, suitable for vehicles, that crosses the winding paths of the Pla de la Calma at about 1,200 m high. It is an extension of moors or shrub land covered with heather, fern, boxwood and kermes oak. Alerting solitudes that provide calm and serene contemplation of vast horizons: the Bertí cliffs, the Plana de Vic, the pointy profile of Montserrat, the Pyrenees, the summits and some valleys of the Montseny. On foot or by car, you can reach Mount Tagamanent which is the most iconic hill of La Calma. There is the castle of Tagamanent with the Romanesque church of Sta. Maria already documented in 1.009 and at an advanced stage of rehabilitation. From this top of 1,059 m of height you will see at your feet the valley of the Congost, the Vallès Occidental and in the distance you can imagine the city of Barcelona. On a nearby hill you can take a break at the excellent Restaurant Mas Bellver (11th Century), and at Mas Agustí, a 15th Century farmhouse turned into a local Ethnological Museum. After the tour, you should return to the starting point of Collformic.
Return to the valley. At Collformic take the descent towards the plain, following the sinuous course of the BV 5301 that runs parallel to the torrent of the river Tordera. Along the way you will find the well-known mountain hotel Sant Bernat next to the hermitage with the same name. Then you will reach the village of Montseny (320 inhabitants), rustic and very touristy. The river Tordera descends fast and transparent between alders and rocks. The views of Turó de l’Home and the southern slope of Matagalls are magnificent.
Finally you will gently reach the bottom of the valley. There you will find the two villages at the foot of the Montseny range: Sant Esteve de Palautordera (1,600 inhabitants) and Santa Maria de Palautordera (7,600 inhabitants), pleasant, welcoming and bright with warm mountain atmosphere. Consult the City Hall website: www.smpalautordera.cat
At this point you can end your Itinerary of sea and mountain. Depending on the time and personal tastes we suggest celebrating the expedition with some chocolate in the Vallflorida Chocolatería or with vermouth in Can Pere Punyetes in the small and comfortable town of Sant Esteve de Palautordera. Good luck!!
Hotel Husa Sant Bernat *** (Montseny)
Can Barrina *** (Montseny)
Sant Roc (Montseny)
Ca l’Agnès (Montseny)
Can Marc (St. Esteve de Palautordera)