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Reasons to visit Catalonia
Catalonia is a small "country" in the North East of Spain with its own cultural identity and language - Catalan. Catalonia (also written Cataluña or Catalunya) borders with France in the North and its Mediterranean coastline stretches for over 500 kilometres to the Ebro Delta in the south. It is a wonderfully diverse region offering something for everyone. In the North the Pyrenees offer skiing and great hiking country, while on the coast both sailing and scuba diving are popular. Golf has also taken off in a big way in last few years and Catalonia has several award-winning golf courses.
The region's most well known costa has to be the Costa Brava which stretches from the French border to just north of Barcelona and is in the province of Girona. The Costa Brava was Spain's first package tour destination for northern Europeans and has remained popular but fortunately (with the exception of a few resorts) is still unspoilt. The picturesque coastline has inspired many artists and writers over the years and it is easy to see why - beautiful crystal clear waters meeting rocky promontories and little sandy coves backed by pine-clad cliffs and fishing villages; but inland is just as charming with pretty medieval villages, castles and other monuments scattered about the fertile countryside. Worth visiting in this area is the Dalí museum in Figueras, the medieval village of Pals, and on the coast the beautiful bays of Tamariu,Aigua Blava, Calella de Palafrugell and Llanfranc.
South of Barcelona, where the land becomes much flatter, is the Costa Dorada, or Golden Coast. The long sandy beaches are excellent and it is here where you can find the elegant cosmopolitan resort of Sitges. For a great family day out the theme park of Port Aventura near Salou is not to be missed. Also visit the city of Tarragona where Roman remains can be found as well as a fine Gothic cathedral or drive inland to the medieval market town of La Bisbal, to buy ceramics.
Definitely not to be missed is the vibrant city of Barcelona, the capital of Cataluña and a very popular short break destination. It has interesting architecture both modern and old (many examples of the modernist architect Gaudí can be seen here), museums, art galleries and theatres, the amazing Sagrada Familia church and of course the shops, restaurants and numerous tapas bars. We don't recommend taking a car into the centre as it is notoriously difficult to park, but you can easily get about on the metro, which is quick, cheap and efficient.
A short trip outside of Barcelona is Montserrat, famed for its monastery and declared a conservation area by UNESCO. You can take the funicular (cable car) up there where you can enjoy spectacular views.
Just inland from Barcelona lies one of Spain's most important wine producing regions and this is where Cava (Spanish champagne) is produced. There is an excellent wine museum in Vilafranc del Penedés where you can taste the wines. Also while in Catalonia you will get to know the local cuisine which uses locally produced ingredients such as wild mushrooms from the Pyrenees, local trout from the mountain streams and various freshly caught fish from the coast and also wonderful Mediterranean vegetables such as aubergines, peppers, tomatoes, olives and garlic (it's used liberally in a lot of dishes, so be warned!). But the Catalans like sweet things too and are well known for their crema catalana dessert.
Not strictly a part of Catalonia, but within reach, is the old mediaeval kingdom of Aragon, a relatively remote area of Spain and totally unspoilt. With its lakes, rivers, mountains and lush valleys the area is popular for both sports and nature lovers. On the banks of the River Ebro lies Zaragoza the regional capital and an important historical town. During the Middle Ages it was the seat of the kings of Aragon, but its origins are both Roman and Moorish. It has a medieval Cathedral, 17th century Basilica and a Moorish Palace (the Aljaferia) and in the surrounding countryside are several castles.