Barcelona province is blessed with stunning mountain scenery. From the Serrated Mountain to the Eagle's Pass and Bertí's Crags, here's five mountains within half an hour's journey from BCN. We begin with the Sant Llorenç range and one mountain that really does mola...
The chief pico in the Sant Llorenc del Munt I Obac mountain range, La Mola is one of the three main mountains (the others being Montserrat and Montseny) visible from the top of Tibidabo. The mountain is like a mini-Montserrat in appearance, with distinctive monoliths jutting out of a pine-clad massif. Only 40 minutes from Barcelona, it's best accessed from the pretty village of Matadepera, just outside Terrassa, with the easiest route to the top (el cami dels monjos - the Monk's Route) taking little more than an hour. Other more vertical ascents needing decent footwear are available from Can Robert or Cavall Bernat. At the top of La Mola is a romanesque monastery dating to the 11th Century and a surprisingly lively restaurant (at 1104 metres, the highest in the Vallés region) with a flaming parrilla serving one of the region’s finest butifarra selections, supplied to the summit by the restaurant's very own mountaineering donkeys. The restaurant is the perfect way to enjoy the panoramic views of the Vallés and Montserrat.
Turo de l'Home, Montseny
Seny is Catalan for common sense. But Montseny actually means Mount Sign, alluding to its qualities as a landmark on the old Via Augusta route through the Roman Empire's Spanish provinces. El Turo de l'Home - the Man Mountain, no less - is, at 1708 metres height, the loftiest peak in the Catalan prelitoral range, forming part of the Parc Natural de Monseny, one of Barcelona's twelve regional parks. It's 50 kilometres from Barcelona and best accessed from the historic town of Sant Celoni. When you get to the top - perezosos can drive all the way up there, owing to an old military road - you'll find the landscape up here more remiscent of Snowdonia or Scafell's Pike than the Mediterranean. The park combines three different climes within its borders, with the characteristic holly oak and pine woods of a Meditteranean climate on the lower slopes giving way to robledales - oak groves more suited to a Central European clime - and sub-alpine plains and scrublands nearer the summit. Genets, wild boar and foxes are found on the lower slopes; higher up, look out for the bright orange plumage of bullfinch.
Depending on the view, the Serrated Mountain can look like Mount Rushmore, the roof of a Gaudí building or the spiny back of a moloch lizard. The best way to the top, if you're not on pilgrimage, is via the funicular railway, which creeps up to a height of over 1000 metres from the Sant Joan station beside the monastery. To get up to the monastery in the first place you can take a cable car or a cremallera (zipper train) from the foot of the mountain at Monistrol de Montserrat. The highest point of the range is the Pico de Sant Jeroni, at 1236 metres. Montserrat has a special place in Catalan folklore, being the finding place of the Black Virgin of Montserrat, also known as La Moreneta. A visit to La Moreneta's shrine in the church is a must, as is catching a performance by the celebrated Montserrat choir. One of the world's oldest dating back to the 14th Century, it performs on weekdays at one in the afternoon. Also worth visiting is the Montserrat Art Museum, with a marvellous collection of Catalan artists, from Santiago Rusiñol to Ramon Casas, Joaquim Vayreda and Salvador Dali, as well as work by El Greco, Monet and Picasso.
The tallest mountain in the Collserola range, topped with the fairytale spires of the Sagrat Cor church, Tibidabo was until the 19th Century known by the rousing name, Puig de l'Àgila (Eagle's Pass). Then, thanks to the efforts of a local doctor, the mountain was urbanized and a new biblical appelage was given; 'tibi dabo' ('I will give to thee') refers to the scene in the New Testament where Jesus is tempted by the Devil for a third time, offering him the world as his plaything in exchange for his allegiance. The Sagrat Cor church has an ebullient neo-romanesque portal of warm, Montjuic-quarried stone and stunning murals in its crypt, even if the bare, grey and sedate upper Gothic section of the church, a pallid copy of the Sacre-Couer in Montmartre, is infintely less attractive up close than it appears from the city below. On the glorious, winding ascent up the mountain are some of Barcelona most grandiose modernista palaces, particularly along the old, still operational tramline, which zig-zags up the opulent Avinguda del Tibidabo. Other attractions at the top of the mountain include Sir Norman Foster's iconic Collserola Communications Tower, the Fabra Observatory, Spain's oldest parque de atracciones and a booming wild boar community.
Cingles del Bertí
A little to the west of Montseny, between Sant Feliu de Codines and La Garriga is the 'Crags of Bertí' range. This is an area of deep, winding canyons hugged by sugar loaf monoliths. Hidden in this range is the Monastery of Sant Miquel del Fai, built high up in the rockface of a plummeting gorge, either accessed along a riverside route or via caves in the gorge itself from the town of Riells del Fai. Overlooking Riells is the most emblematic mountain of the Bertí range, the 662-metre high Turó de les Onze Hores, so-named because farmers working in the fields below would stop for a water break at 11 o'clock in the morning, when the sun touched the tip of the moutain.