By now you have probably heard about the majestic Montserrat mountain and the sacred Benedictine Monastery near Barcelona.
In addition to the Montserrat hiking experience, you can rock climb, observe the birds of prey and participate in numerous daily held religious events.
Montserrat was the most visited tourist site outside of Barcelona and attracted millions of visitors in the pre-Covid-19 world.
Let’s have a look at a couple of great tips on how to self-organize a hiking trip to Montserrat in 2021:
Monserrat has established another record by receiving over 2 750 000 visitors in 2019.
First things first, you can rent a car, which will give you more flexibility. Alternatively, avoid any hustle on the Spanish roads and check your train departure and arrival times to get an idea about their frequency.
The train leaves almost hourly from Plaça Espanya. You will have to change for a cogwheel train at the Monistrol de Montserrat if your plans are to arrive at the Monastery.
You can also hike from the Monistrol de Montserrat which is located at the foothill of the mountain. It is a fairly challenging journey with approx. 500 meters elevation gain to reach the Benedictine monastery.
After reaching the Monastery you will have several trail options to choose from. Consider your physical level, weather conditions, train timetable and etc.
Anyway, I highly recommend you get yourself a map at the info center in Montserrat to make sure you are heading the right way.
The most popular trail will take you to a stunning La Creu de Sant Miquels that offers breathtaking views of the Monastery. You will also see the Pyrenees, the Natural Park of Montseny, and the back hills of Collserola (The picture at the top of this blog).
This road path further continues gently up with a few short, steep uphills to the Pla de les Taràntules. This is the Sant Joan Funicular top station. You can buy a ticket to ride up from the Monastery or use this funicular on the way down if needed.
Once you get to the top station of the Sant Joan Funicular I recommend you use the public bathroom. There will not be any other opportunity to use this service along the way up to the summit or back down.
A classic hiking route from the Pla de les Taràntules continues towards the Sant Joan’s and Sant Onofre’s chapel through a mountain pass. There will be a signpost to the stunning Santa Magdalena viewpoint (1132 m). Picture below.
The trail passes to the other side of the Gorras, pointy peaks where you can normally see rock climbers ascending on walls.
Once you reach a wide path, with a signpost again, you can continue towards the highest peak Sant Jeroni (1236 m). Alternatively, you can turn back towards the Sant Joan Funicular and continue onto a beautiful round trail towards Santa Anna’s chapel. This trail continues further back down to the Monastery.
The last section of this trail is made of hundreds of steps and it is frequently used by mountain runners. It is the shortest possible way to the summit from the Monastery.
If you choose this path to go straight up towards the summit, expect a strenuous first half an hour. The trail then continues onto the Pla dels Ocells plateau with dense vegetation.
This area provides an excellent cooling environment in the hot summer months. Take advantage of this Holm oak forest and make a rejuvenating stop there.
Reaching the summit Sant Jeroni (1236 m) of the Montserrat mountain range is really a spectacular experience with breathtaking views in all general directions.
You can expect more Catalans and fewer tourists at the top. Many locals often climb the peak to enjoy the views of their land. It can be very windy and chilly at the top.
This brings me to the next point to outline some basic gear and equipment you should definitely pack in your rucksack before heading to hike in Montserrat.
The things you take with you for your self-guided hiking in Montserrat can determine how much you actually enjoy your adventure.
You should definitely wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes. They should provide enough grip for the uneven mountain trails.
The Montserrat mountain range is made up of a sedimentary rock called Conglomerate. The rock is basically a natural cement binding a variety of round pebbles together.
The hiking trails are full of loose round rocks and polished bigger pebbles that people often use as stepping stones. Beware of these rocks in general. When they get wet, they are dangerously slippery!
You should pack a spare base layer. Wearing a cotton base layer for any outdoor activity is a disaster.
Moreover, you should always pack a light windproof jacket just in case.
A spare base layer can seem unnecessary but hiking up with a rucksack will definitely make your back sweat.
You will appreciate putting on a dry base layer when you reach the summit to enjoy your homemade picnic.
There are a couple more items that will provide additional comfort to your hiking experience in Montserrat:
The food and drink you bring with you will also play a crucial role in how you enjoy your time in Montserrat.
Everything tastes better in the mountains.
Even if you are planning to do a relatively short hike in Montserrat you should pay attention to your food and drink.
The reality is that by the time you reach Montserrat from Barcelona you will probably already feel hungry.
There are some general recommendations of food that work best for most of the hiking scenarios.
You should definitely pack a variety. Enjoy different flavors. For some reason, simple food tastes so much better outdoors.
The general rule says to aim for any nuts and seeds that you can nibble directly from your pocket.
This will provide a constant flow of energy without experiencing any blood sugar lows. Keeping your mind focused on the trail and having a fun time.
Practically any dry fruit and of course a piece of juicy fresh fruit will be appreciated at any time.
If you have a big appetite. Pack some local cheese, avocado, and whole-grain stuff to have a yummy picnic at the top of the mountain.
You can also pick up some basics in the local grocery store Queviures in Montserrat from 9 am to 1.45 pm.
The biggest mistake is to keep going for too long before providing your body with some rejuvenating energy. Keep nibbling on-the-go and make your breaks relatively short.
Liquids are even more important than your home-made picnic.
You will need at least 1.5l of freshwater to sufficiently hydrate yourself depending on the time of the year.
Do not underestimate the amount of water your body will need on this hike.
You may drink two-thirds of your water supply just on the way up.
During your hiking day trip to Montserrat, you should allow some time and visit the Benedictine monastery.
The legends of Black Madonna go back to the end of the 9th century. The Monastery itself was built around 1022 AD by the powerful bishop of Ripoll.
The Basilica is open to the public, but due to the Covid-19 restrictions, only a limited number of visitors are allowed to enter.
There is a special entrance to admire the Black Madonna on the right-hand side of the square. Count on a long queue of people under normal circumstances.
The famous boys’ choir La Escolanía performs in the Basilica six times a week. If you return from the mountain later in the afternoon you can also join the evening mass called Vespers.
A day filled with hiking and exploring the Montserrat mountain will be a pleasant change to the hustle and bustle of Barcelona.
The self-organized hiking in Montserrat requires you to take care of a few things. Firtsly, check your public transportation. Definitely get a map. And manage your time efficiently throughout the day.
On the other hand, if you decide to join our spectacular hiking tour in Montserrat. There are some huge benefits of paying a little extra.
Your guide is responsible for your safety. In case of an accident, he or she will be able to provide you with all the help and medical assistance needed.
Accidents can happen to anyone and at any time. What matters is that your guide will know what to do, and that gives you peace of mind.
Your guide will instigate pleasant and respectful social dynamics amongst the participants in your group without you noticing.
The clients often find out that they have a lot more in common apart from hiking.
Your guide should adjust the trail length when needed and present you with various trail alternatives.
He or she should offer help in more technical sections of the trail. By making strategic breaks, the group will stay well-tuned and happy to keep exploring.
Last but not least, your guide should add that extra piece of information to make the hike even more interesting.
In fact, an experienced guide can provide you with tons of valuable information for the rest of your holidays in Barcelona.
Enjoy your time hiking in Montserrat – the most iconic mountain in Catalonia!