Climbing conglomerate masses in the hills behind Barcelona, a worthwhile day trip. Just over a hour outside Barcelona is Montserrat Monastery, perched up high in a mountain looming over the valleys below. The monastery itself was build by a small group of hermit monks high up in the mountains. Today, it holds religious significance with many people making Montserrat apart of a religious pilgrimage. The locals in the Catalan area of Spain see the monastery as an important symbol of the fight against oppression. My trip was not for either of these reasons, however the monastery holds its own beauty placed neatly into the mountains.
In the strange rocks formations around and behind the monastery lies about 10-12 km’s of hiking trails. These trails lead you on a scenic wander around the conglomerate masses that look more like rounded sand castles than mountain tops. The mountains in the area are a combination of clays and marls that were ancient deposits from rivers and lakes dating back millions of years. The masses that make the mountain tops are layers upon layers of materials that over years of formation and movement of accents waterways were built upon each other creating vertical joints. Such a way of forming rocks leaves a smooth and more rounded look to the range rather than your traditional jagged peak.
Montserrat makes for some easy hiking. If you are time savvy, there is time to see it all. The hiking trails are set out in loops around different peaks. The highest of the peaks, St. Jeroni, lies at just over 1200m about sea level. Each of the loops lead to different peaks in the mountain range. Along with this there is a few historical buildings that still stand in the mountains. The nature of the Mountains geological formation means that you can easily climb all the way to the top of the range and stare down onto the valleys below. On a clear day you can see more mountains to the west and the sea to the east, even grab a glimpse of the surrounding towns.
A comprehensive maps of the hiking can be found online of at the back end of the monastery, but the looped tracks are well marked and easy to follow around at your own leisurely pace. Disclaimer: this is a tourist attraction, therefore the monastery and train can be quite busy. once you are away and hiking you can find some peace and time to yourself if that is what you are looking for.
To get up the mountain, most take a train or cable car that leave from the valley below. Both link their time with the arrival of train services that can take you to and from central Barcelona. If you have done the city thing and are looking to checkout what Barcelona’s outskirts as on offer, then find your way to Montserrat. A leisurely walk around in the mountains with the odd scramble onto the peaks and from my experience a day with my head in the clouds… quite literally.