16 Off The Beaten Trips From Barcelona – by Car

Besalu's Viejo Bridge reflected in the river
Besalu’s Viejo Bridge

Doubling down on my Spanish Best Of’s, this article is for those of you who have limited vacation days to spend this summer (don’t we all..) and want to get on some off the beaten trips from Barcelona

The easiest  way to go off the beaten in Catalunya, Spain is to rent a car and then choose one of these 3 directions:

  • South: Aragon and Valencia
  • North: Costa Brava, Girona, and the Pyrenees
  • West: Lleida and Zaragoza

You’ll be hard-pressed to choose from the many great options, but you’ll be happy with either!

Here’s my list of  Secret Spain gems in all three directions

Off The Beaten Trips from Barcelona: Southbound


1. Out of Tarragona

Passing through the not so secret Tarragona with its Roman amphitheater, Roman aqueduct and beautiful sea views, you’ll be exiting the highway and head into an unexpectedly beautiful mountainous region: Montsant. Take my advice and go straight to the Siurana village (and make sure you pack some hiking gear, the place is a real gem, and if hiking won’t get to you, the views will surely leave you breathless!)

2. Medieval Villages with a View

Siurana and Margalef are one of the many hidden-gem villages that Catalunya boasts, and for good reason too: spectacular backdrops & expansive nature views that give you goosebumps and make your eyes water (who, me? – I just got something in my eye..)

3. Nature: Matarraña – Parrisal de Beceite

Also fondly called (by me!) the Spanish Mini Plitvice. By far one of the best off the beaten trips from Barcelona if you choose to travel south – although also one of the furthest.

Parrisal de Beceite in Matarraña green blue river
Parrisal de Beceite

4.  Nature: Ebro Delta

At the very south of Catalunya, where the Ebro meets the Mediterranean Sea, providing bountiful lands for rice crops and mild winters for pink flamingos, the Ebro Delta is always a great surprise to those that visit us  – and I bet you didn’t know about those either!

Bonus! On coming back, you may want to make a detour through the Cava County of Penedes.

And if you feel like paying some premium for that something extra, why not stay at the Gaudi inspired architectural gem called Cava & Hotel Mastinell 

Off The Beaten Trips from Barcelona: Northbound

5. Medieval Villages with a Wiew

I know, I am partly biased towards nature and pretty villages. But reading on, you’ll see why that’s the case (and probably side with me).

Here’s two more of Catalunya’s picture perfect villages: Tavertet and  Rupit


6. Medieval Villages, Take 2

Next up: Besalu, Santa Pau and Castellfollit de la Roca. You can read more about why – and how – to visit here: Hidden Spain Collection: In a Medieval Mood

Besalu's Viejo Bridge reflected in the river
Besalu’s Viejo Bridge
panoramic view of Castellfollit de la Roca village in Catalunya spain,
Castellfollit de la Roca

7. Nature Lovers: Volcano Hikes?!

The Garrotxa volcanic area – where you can hike in the caldera of a volcano! And there’s a chapel built there too.

Romanesque 13 century chapel inside a volcano, Catalunya, Spain
Romanesque chapel inside St. Margarida Volcano

8.  Nature Lovers: Banyoles

Have a stroll around lake Banyoles or rent a boat and spend a couple of hours paddling through the turquoise calm waters of this beautiful lake.

Lake Banyoles, in Catalunya Spain, with clear waters on a sunny day
Lake Banyoles, in Catalunya Spain
boats and people rowing on Lake Banyoles, Spain
Lake Banyoles

Bonus! you can always book yourself a night at the tree-houses Cabanes Dosrius, or in the stargazing domes of Mil Estrelles.

9. Beach, Please?

I can already hear some of you go: But what about the beach, Raluca? 

Ah yes, the beach. Costa Brava. Although not many secrets left there for you to practice your anti-social introvert charms, you can still get off the beaten, even in Costa Brava. I’ll give you my something else:

  • Calella de Palafrugell
  • Cala Aiguablava
  • Platja Fonda, Begur
  • Platja de l’Illa Roja
  • Far de cap de Creus
  • Platja el Borró Gran

10. The Botanical Gardens of Marimurtra

Marimurtra Botanical Garden

Receiving over 100.000 visitors each year (a drop in the sea, by Spain standards) ) this coveted garden on Spain’s Costa Brava near Blanes has jaw-dropping views of the Mediterranean sea. The cypress tree lined stairway leads to a million bucks panoramic point!

11. Kayak & Snorkelling in Islas Medas

Adventure or active traveler? try kayaking and snorkeling in the Islas Medas. It’s popular with locals, and as anything on Costa Brava, it will probably be packed during the summer months – but you’ll be much better off than staying on the crowded, artificial beaches in Barcelona.

12. Museums: Dali Museum Figueres

Once you’ve had your fill of the sea, Dali fans head out to the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres – an amazing way to spend 3 hours gawking at art, without a moment of boredom.

You’ll be heading out eventually – because of hunger and fatigue – but this museum will leave you wanting to come back for an encore.

Off The Beaten Trips from Barcelona: Westbound

kayaking at muralla china finestres congost de mont rebei
Congost de Mont Rebei,. Credits: Intrepid Kayaks

13. The Spanish ‘Chinese Wall

Nature lovers behold ! the Spanish natural version of the Chinese Wall: or fondly called Muralla China de Huesca. Canelles Reservoir separates Catalunya from Aragon. You can stop overnight in Benabarre at one of the Casas Rurales (rural bed and breakfasts), and start your early morning adventure with Intrepid Kayaks from there.

Bonus: if you’re feeling adventurous, try walking up the stairs of Montfalcó Mont-rebei!

14. Waterfalls & Hikes

Waterfall at Sant Miquel del Fai

A mere 50 km out from the bustling tourist attractions and packed streets of Barcelona,  Sant Miquel del Fai awaits those who want to let themselves surprised by yet another spectacular natural treat: a triple waterfall , hiding Spain’s only troglodyte monastery.

You can read more about why this is a good idea (and how to get there from Barcelona) here:

Forest Bathing and Waterfalls 50 km from Barcelona: Sant Miquel del Fai

15. Pink Hanamis: Aitona

At the outskirts of Catalunya, just before you set foot in the Aragon province, a true natural fiesta awaits to tickle your senses, come spring . I head out to Aitona, the small village a stone’s throw away from Lleida.

This Nippon Catalan doppelganger is surrounded by oceans of pink : the fragrant flowers of peach trees stretching for miles and miles (or close to 10000 hectares, to be more precise) are the new Insta-star of the region.

Oh, and you’d better plan your visit soon, before the camera trotting hoards catch on !

16. Castle Sleepovers

Parador de Cardona room with a view
Parador de Cardona room with a view

Cardona is one of those places you don’t really know about, unless you hear it from a local. The medieval castle turned hotel (or Parador, as the Spanish call it) is straight out of a fairy-tales.

Also, it’s conveniently located some 100 km away from Barcelona, so you can make the most of your time, if you’re on a tight schedule. 

Check out its wonders here: Sleepover at a 9 century Castle in Spain

Did you like what you saw, and are you ready to hit the Spanish road? And hey, there are many , many more where this came from ! Do make sure you follow me on Insta for the latest ad freshest Spain tips!

Travalyst:Overtourism & Fighting the Good Fight
Forest Bathing & Waterfalls at Sant Miquel del Fai




  1. Some great tips you have here. I’d like to add one too 🙂 visit Andorra, about 200km to the north from Barcelona. Fantastic hills and nature, duty-free shops and pretty good deals on hotels in this time 🙂

    • But there are soooo many others I’ve not mentioned – it’s hard to choose ! I think the list will build up to 100 at least, by the time I’m done writing about it 😁

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