Catalunya, or Catalonia, is a region of Spain that features sun-drenched beaches, snow-capped mountains, small medieval towns, and so much more. Beyond the bustling streets of Barcelona lies a realm of hidden gems that make it worth discovering.
You can reach Catalonia by car from Portugal and France. Foreign travelers fall into two categories, those who need a visa, and those who don’t. In 2025, visa-exempt visitors will need to get the ETIAS for Spain, an electronic travel permit valid for the whole of the Schengen Area.
Now, let’s begin our journey through Catalunya’s most stunning and well kept secrets.
Costa Brava is a beautiful coastal region with small stunning beaches, rocky coves, and picturesque fishing villages. Take Cadaqués, for instance, where famous and excentric artist Salvador Dalí and his wife and muse Gala spent many summers and the end of their lives.
What makes Cadaqués special are its narrow cobblestone streets lined with boutiques, art galleries, and cafes. The promenade, with views of the Mediterranean, is the perfect spot to indulge in fresh seafood. For a taste of local cuisine, try the “suquet de peix,” a traditional Catalan fish stew, at one of the seafront eateries like Casa Anita, known for its authentic ambience and recipes passed down through generations.
Cadaqués is a bit of a journey from Barcelona but well worth the effort. The most straightforward way to reach this coastal retreat is by car, which takes about 2.5 hours. Public transport options include a combination of train and bus—take a train from Barcelona to Figueres, then a bus from Figueres to Cadaqués. The last leg of the journey reveals the rugged beauty of the Cap de Creus peninsula as the road winds down to the bay.
Other hidden gems in Catalunya
- Aigua Xelida Beach: This beautiful, secluded beach is ideal if you wish to find a calm and tranquil setting. You can reach it by parking near the Camí de Ronda and taking the stairs down to the beach.
- Cala Estreta: Tucked away in a quiet cove, this beach is perfect for those looking for some relaxation. Hikers can reach Cala Estreta by taking the trail from Platja de Castell.
- Tossa de Mar: This charming medieval town is a great place to explore. Take a walk along the old town walls, visit the lighthouse for stunning views, or try some delicious seafood at one of the town’s many restaurants.
Deep in the Pyrenees, the village of Beget takes us on a journey to medieval times. This stone-clad village is accessible by car from Camprodon, a journey that takes you through winding mountain roads and lush forests.
While visiting Beget, time seems to stand still. Its Romanesque church, Sant Cristòfol, and its iconic stone bridge have been here since the 12th century. The village has no train or bus connections, so a rental car is the best option for those seeking to uncover its charms.
For a taste of local cuisine, L’Hostal de Beget offers hearty mountain dishes, perfect after a day of hiking through the surrounding nature trails.
The Pyrenees are breathtaking mountain ranges that are perfect for hiking, skiing, and enjoying the great outdoors. Here are other some must-see places:
- Vall de Núria: This hidden valley is accessible only by the rack railway or by hiking. Once you reach it, you’ll find a beautiful glacial lake surrounded by high peaks.
- Vall de Boí: In this valley, nine churches are home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are some of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Catalonia.
- Barruera: If you’re looking for a place to stay in the Pyrenees, this small village is a great option. Check out the small church of Santa Eulalia and its beautiful 12th-century frescoes.
Congost de Mont-Rebei
The Congost de Mont-rebei gorge is a natural wonder, where cliffs plunge dramatically into the waters of the Noguera Ribagorçana River. The best way to experience this hidden spot is by kayaking through its tranquil waters.
To reach the starting point of Montfalcó, it’s advisable to drive from the nearest towns such as Tremp or Ager. Public transport options are limited, so a car rental from Lleida or Barcelona is recommended.
Kayaks can be rented from local operators who also provide guided tours of the gorge. The stillness of the gorge, broken only by the dip of paddles and the calls of birds of prey, is an experience that resonates with tranquility.
Catalunya’s hidden places are scattered across a diverse landscape, and each is worth your time. Whether you choose to stroll in the promenade in Cadaqués, hike through the woods in Beget, or kayak in Congost, you will not regret exploring Catalonia.
Also read: The Spanish Pyrenees from east to west