The regions of Anoia, El Bages, El Moianès and Osona, all located in the centre of Catalonia, make up the Paisatges Barcelona tourist brand. The area is formed by the extensive plains of the Catalan Central Depression, surrounded by mountains, and is home to cities with impressive historical and architectural heritage, such as Vic, Manlleu, Manresa, Cardona or Igualada, not to mention a long list of magnificent monasteries headed by that of Montserrat and also including those of Estany, Lluçà, Sant Benet de Bages and Sant Pere de Casserres. And all just a stone’s throw from Barcelona.
This area is strongly committed to the development of a responsible and accessible tourism model, geared towards ensuring the sustainability of the destination and the tourism companies operating here.
This commitment was recognised in the first joint ETIS (European Tourism Indicators System) and Accessible Tourism Awards hosted by the European Commission in April 2016, in which over 100 destinations took part. The province won the top award in the ETIS Accessible Destination category for its “Tourism for All” project. The goal of the ETIS is the uniform recognition and application of tourism indicators across the European Union in order to enable the comparison of tourism activity in different destinations and regions under the same sustainability and accessibility criteria.
Another highlight of the area is the Central Catalonia Geopark, a member of the UNESCO-sponsored Global Geoparks Network established in 1998, which serves to conserve and promote the Earth’s geological heritage. The Geological and Mining Park of Central Catalonia, formed by the Bages region and the municipality of Collbató (part of the Costa Barcelona) is a unifying project that showcases the sustainable geological and mining attractions of the area, along with its tourist attractions, all under the umbrella of geotourism. This fascinating, high quality tourism experience combines culture, nature, mining and gastronomy.
The location of the Paisatges Barcelona area gives it a distinctive character. On the one hand, it’s a rural tourism area with converted farmhouses; the ideal setting for relaxing and getting away from it all. But it’s also an area of contrasts where you can find picturesque, mediaeval villages and vibrant, modern cities; irrigated and dry-crop land; cattle farms and towns or model villages that until recently were entirely sustained by the tanning and paper industries, powered by the nearby “working” rivers (Cardener, Ter, Llobregat, Anoia); reservoirs where a bell tower sticks out of the water (Sau) and whitish mountains that have supplied tonnes of salt (Cardona Salt Mines).
What’s more, the Montseny Natural Park, declared a Biosphere Reserve and with over 30,000 hectares of protected area, is a mecca for hikers with an amazing variety of landscapes. The highest and most famous peaks are Turó de l’Home (1,706 m), Les Agudes (1,705 m) and Matagalls (1,697 m). Although much smaller in scale, Montesquiu Castle Park in the north of the Osona region boasts plenty of oak and red pine forests. Its scattered farmhouses are also worth visiting, while the castle that overlooks the area is a must-see attraction. You begin to feel the Pyrenean air at these latitudes. The Natural Area of Les Guilleries-Savassona, located further south, stands out for its bare rock cliffs and the presence of the Sau Reservoir. The Natural Park of Sant Llorenç del Munt i l'Obac, which partly lies in the Bages region, offers a landscape of pines and holm oaks amid cliffs and monoliths of grey and reddish conglomerate. The park boasts a rich cultural heritage in the form of stone vine huts and the wonderful complexes of dry-stone vine vats of L'Escudelleta and En Ricardo, in the Flequer Valley. The vats served to make wine right next to the vines and were generally used in vineyards that were located a long way from towns and in difficult terrain. A signposted route has been created for visitors to discover these impressive constructions. Last of all, Montserrat Natural Park is simply spectacular. Whichever path you take, you’ll come across amazing rock formations that make hiking there a wonderful experience.
And when it comes to heritage, the variety is evident. You can find small, isolated chapels and prominent churches, grand monasteries, cathedrals filled with art and (especially in Anoia) castles with amazing views, reminding us that this was a frontier territory. There are also Iberian settlements, Roman remains and elegant Catalan modernist buildings, not to mention mediaeval arcaded squares, 21st-century shopping avenues, Roman bridges stretching over rivers and motorways passing close by.
Although the sea doesn’t reach the regions of Paisatges Barcelona, they can be considered representative of Catalonia as a whole thanks to their combination of quintessential Catalan landscape and heritage. The long history, strong traditions and rich folklore of this area also make it well worth visiting and discovering at any time of year.