There are countless charming cities in Catalonia, and Tarragona is definitely one of them. However, if we dive into this old municipality, we’ll be able to discover some of the most interesting places in the whole country —among them, our own list of the most beautiful villages in Tarragona. These villages have a rich folklore and many a legend, including buildings that hide stories yet untold. One might visit them one by one, or make an entire route that encompasses all of them.
Miravet is, without a doubt, one of those places with a long history. It’s located in a meander of the river Ebro, and it’s well known for having been a key location both in the Carlist Wars and in the Spanish Civil War. Despite that, most of Miravet’s monuments are well-preserved, and one can even visit them. In fact, the castle is definitely a must-see! It was built in the 11th century on the top of the village, and it’s a referent point for many. The fortress has a history with the Knights Templar, and it is narrated in whispers for those who pay close attention to the echoes of the past. The castle also has artistic elements that reflect an Islamic, Byzantine and even Cistercian influence.
This village dates back to the 12th century. Currently, it’s considered one of the best-preserved medieval villages in Spain, one of the reasons being that it proudly exhibits a graceful 14th century fortified wall built under the reign of Peter IV of Aragon, also called the Ceremonious. Legend has it that it was just before this wall that Saint George fought the dragon in the year 303. It was because of this legend that the festivity of Saint George, so popular in Catalonia and Aragon, is also celebrated with great pride in Montblanc.
There are many reasons to visit this town, like its Roman villa, the many suburbs and the diverse architecture we can find there. All these elements contribute to its value in different ways, and UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site, as well as being declared an Asset of Cultural Interest by the Generalitat of Catalonia. Moreover, its location in Costa Dorada (“the golden coast”) makes it a perfect place to enjoy the summer days. In short, Altafulla perfectly blends the sun and the sea with a delightful display of historical architecture.
In the middle of the Prades Mountains, 940 metres above the ground, we’ll find this village that is also known as Vila Vermella. Given the high position of Prades, it makes perfect sense that it was regarded as one of the most important strategic places of the Crown of Aragon. We can see that in the fortified walls that still remain in this peculiar setting, surrounding most of the old town.
We can also find there the shrine of l’Abellera, hiding under a rocky cave. In addition, the medieval market of Plaza Porticada has been held in the centre of Prades since the 12th century. In the same spot, we will find one of the most popular fountains of the Catalan Renaissance period.
There are a few spots worth mentioning in La Vilella Baixa. One of them is Calle Que No Pasa, a Romanesque bridge that crosses the river Montsant. We might also admire the cliff of Escaladei and the houses surrounding it. We can’t forget its narrow sloping streets, which radiate so much beauty.
La Vilella Baixa is perfect for those who love hiking too. There are several paths created specifically for that purpose: exploring the mountain range of Montsant, altogether with its river and the cliff of Escaladei. The last secret of this region is called gastronomy: the coca azucarada has been a traditional dish here for a long time now.
With no more than 800 inhabitants, this municipality is considered one of the most beautiful villages in Tarragona. It rests surrounded by green vineyards, next to the river Gaià. The most emblematic spot here is probably the monastery of Santa María de Santes Creus. This 12th century building is a remarkable landmark of Catalan medieval art, so much so that it was declared a national heritage site.
Despite not being too famous, this village has a substantial historical value for a couple of reasons. To start with, it seems that Picasso got his inspiration from Horta de San Joan when he created some of his cubist paintings. It must also be noted that its old town is an Asset of Cultural Interest. Moreover, we can visit here a church dating back to the 13th century: the church of San Juan Bautista. The main square holds great masonry buildings from the 16th century, such as the Picasso Centre or Casa Pessetes.
L’Ametlla de Mar, also known as La Cala (“the cove”), is a coastal town that has some of the most popular beaches in the area, such as L’Alguer and Pixavaques. Besides, we can explore all the coves around this village starting with Tres Cales or Calafat. Apart from enjoying the delightful sand and waters of the coast, we can also go for a hike through the path of the Mediterranean Sea. It goes on for 9 kilometres and it displays the charming magic of Costa Dorada.
We couldn’t possibly forget Riudecanyes in this journey through the most beautiful villages in Tarragona. It stands at one end of the mountain range of l’Argentera, and one of its most interesting peculiarities is the fact that some of its streets are called after days of the week.
There we can also find the castle/monastery San Miquel d’Escornalbou. Thanks to the thick walls surrounding it, this building on top of a mountain has been used both as a monastery and a fortress. In addition, the church of Sant Mateu stands out for having a 25-metres-high altar.
Siurana has a remarkable historical heritage. The entrance is crowned by a gorgeous archway. If we keep walking, we’ll find meaningful monuments such as the church of Santa María and a castle of Moorish origin that stands just on the brink of the cliff. This building has a mythical aura coming from a widely known legend: El Salto de la Reina Mora (“the fall of the Moorish queen”). According to the story, Muslim Queen Abdelazia was escaping from the Christian army on horseback, riding as fast as the poor beast could run, but when they reached the brink of the precipice, the horse suddenly halted, which made the queen tragically fall into the void.
Before we put an end to this adventure through the beautiful villages of Tarragona, we’ll make a stop in the mountain range of Montsià. In Ulldecona we can perceive traces from different eras; for instance, there are caves with more than 400 prehistoric paintings nearby. This place also has an interpretation centre. If we move forward in time, we will stumble across a castle from the 12th century. Another time jump will carry us to the age of modernism, which can be admired in the Tourist Office building or in the Casa de la Feligresa. One of Gaudí’s disciples, called César Martinell, is the greatest representative of this artistic movement in the area.
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