A day tour of the Priorat region
We start the day visiting the Priorat region in Falset, the county capital. This little town, the largest in the area, is where you can find the Castell del Vi (Castle of Wine). This wine interpretation centre is located within the walls of the former Castle of the Counts of Prades, which dates from the 12th century. We will need at least half an hour to visit this exhibition space. This centre is the gateway to the Priorat and constitutes an ideal starting point for later on discovering the region.
The Castell del Vi (Castle of Wine) centre covers three floors of the former fortress. It is doted with modern infrastructure and advanced technology facilitating a tour of the wine world of the Priorat region which is a far cry from the more classic styles of museum we may know. By using audiovisual and interactive materials, visitors are able to get a clear and synthetic impression of the history and other things of interest this wine-related county has to offer.
More information at: www.turismepriorat.org/ca/que-fer/punts-interes/castell-del-vi.
Once we have visited the castle and starting out on foot from this point, we can take a scenic stroll around the old part of Falset (all the places of interest have their own information board in different languages): Plaça Vella (Old Square), Plaça de l’Església (Church Square), Palau del Comtes d’Azara (Counts of Azara Palace), Plaça de la Quartera (Quartera Square) and Palau dels Ducs de Medinaceli (Dukes of Medinaceli Palace). To finish off the tour, and time permitting, we can visit the cooperative winery, a Modernist (Art Nouveau) work, designed in 1919 by the architect, Cèsar Martinell, a disciple of Gaudí. After the tour, you will be able to taste the wines made here.
For further information about the winery: http://www.turismepriorat.org/ca/que-fer/ruta-dels-cellers/agricola-falset-marca.
We can take advantage of the stroll to buy wine and olive oil in some of the specific establishments in the town. There are even little “Castellets de Falset” or Little Castles of Falset which are very typical of the town and are biscuits made with hazelnuts.
We continue our route by driving to Gratallops, in the centre of the region, 10 minutes from Falset or 16 minutes from Bellmunt. If we visit the centre of this village of around 250 inhabitants, we will find plenty of wineries open to visitors as well as a great selection of gastronomic experiences.
After lunch, we will head towards Escaladei, at the foot of the Montsant Mountain Range. We will need about 20 minutes to drive there and will pass the lovely villages of La Vilella Baixa and La Vilella Alta along the way.
When we get to Escaladei, those who wish to get to know the origins of the Priorat must certainly visit the ruins of the Cartoixa de Santa Maria (The Carthusian Monastery of Saint Mary).
This monastery was founded in 1194 by King Alphonse the Chaste and it was the first of all the other Carthusian Monasteries founded on the Iberian peninsula. The ruins of this impressive set of buildings can be found in the most captivating spot, at the very foot of the Montsant Mountain Range. It is an ideal place for the seclusion the monks sought, whilst being surrounded by nature. Depending on the day, you can take part in a guided tour. You will need around 40 minutes to visit the monument on your own, including the viewing of a short film to accompany the visit. You will need around one hour and fifteen minutes to tour the monastery ruins if you take the guided tour.
You will find further information at: http://www.turismepriorat.org/ca/que-fer/punts-interes/cartoixa-de-scala-dei.
You cannot leave Escaladei without taking a turn around the little hamlet nearby known as the Conreria. It may be small but it is worth taking a look.
From here we will continue on to Siurana, the last place we will be visiting today. We will drive either through La Morera de Montsant along the way (a little village of stone houses, which seems to be almost touching the lower cliffs of the impressive Serra Major de Montsant mountains), or Poboleda. This second route takes us along roads which offer us lovely views over nearby vineyards.
Very soon, we will come to Cornudella de Montsant and then on to Siurana. Twenty-two kilometres separate Escaladei from Siurana. In half an hour we will be on top of the Gritella cliffs and Siurana will be there for us to admire. This charming little hamlet was the last bastion of Saracen resistance in Catalonia. It was reconquered in 1153/4. There is still evidence of that time in the shape of the Muslim fortress at the entrance to the village. Siurana, with its houses made of stone and its cobblestoned streets will truly take your breath away. The views from this spot are spectacular.
We can visit the Romanesque church of Santa Maria as well as the legendary “Salt de la Reina Mora” or “Moorish Queen’s Last Leap”, which is just below the steep walls of the castle. If you visit around sundown, don’t be in a hurry and stay to watch as the sun sets behind the mountains. It will be a sight you will remember in your mind’s eye for many years to come.
You can find wineries open to visitors in all the villages along this route. You will be able to taste delicious wines from the two Designations of Origin of the region: Montsant and Priorat. You can find more information at: http://www.turismepriorat.org/ca/que-fer/ruta-dels-cellers.
And this is where our route ends, although if you have a little more time, you can still find something else to do. But maybe you should save it for another day... so you will be able to come back!