This is arguably one of Spain's richest regions both in historical, architectural and gastronomical terms. Walled medieval towns such as Montblanc still retain their original cobbled feel, and the land is dotted with numerous small villages.
Formerly part of the powerful kingdom of Aragon and Catalonia, all three Cistercian monasteries along the route were built within 25 years in the mid 12th Century. Their dominance over the landscape was absolute both in social and political spheres. The pantheon in the monastery of Poblet is a veritable who's who of Catalan monarchs.
Today the land is still mainly under arable or vine with many of Spain's top wine producers having recognised the merits of the soil especially for making sparkling wine. The lush fields are occasionally broken by low ranges of hills where native oak and pine woodland dominate.
The Ruta del Cister follows a triangular pattern with a Monastery at each corner. We've chosen the following order for visiting each of these monuments.
Arrive Reus/Barcelona Airport and transfer to Montblanc.
Walk to l'Espluga de Francoli via the Monastery of Poblet, the richest working monastery of the three. Your route takes you up into the hills on paths past the cave hermitage of Sant Joan before descending gently on a mix of dirt tracks and paths through deciduous woods to the vines tended by the monks of Poblet.
13kms | 4hrs | Total Ascent 470m | Medium
Continue on to Vallbona and its monastery inhabited by only a handful of nuns. Today you quickly leave the bustle of the town behind, passing more vineyards before traversing the low escarpment to the north of Poblet. Drop gently into another world on wide tracks through terraced wheat fields into the interior of the Tarragona countryside.
21,3kms | 6hrs | Total Ascent 450m | Easy – Medium
A morning visit tio the Monastery of Vallbona. Then the compass swings ninety degrees east still following idyllic tracks through shady stands of oaks. Regaining the escarpment the views open up over the Conca de Barberá, an area famed for its wines and tasty cheeses.
6.9 kms | 2.5 hrs | Total Ascent 250m | Easy
Fine views over the Conca de Barbera today as you head back towards the escarpment. The route follows the edge towards the scenic village of Fores, before dropping down gradually into the valley below back into wine country.
13.5kms | 4hrs | Total Ascent 200m | Easy/Medium
A gradual ridge ascent to the highest point of the week with an outstanding panorama of your itinerary. The descent towards the village of Pont d'Armentera on the river Gaia winds through mediterranean scrub and aromatic vegetation.
18.7kms | 5hrs 45mins | Total Ascent 500m | Medium
A walk through riverside vineyards and arable fields to the monastery of Santa Creus. Though no longer in working order, it houses a visitor centre with excellent guided tours in English. The audio visual installation also in English should not be missed. Transfer to Tarragona.
A chance to explore the Roman remains of Tarragona as well as exploring the maze of boutiques in the old town. There are several beaches within walking distance of the town should you want to dip your toes in the Mediterranean.
5.6kms | 2hrs | Total Ascent 100m | Easy
The Festival of Sant Jordi at Montblanc
If you are interested in this holiday, a great time of year to book up is the last week of April when The Festival of Sant Jordi is celebrated in Montblanc.
This week-long festival honours Catalan legend, Sant Jordi, who is believed to have saved a princess from a wicked dragon in medieval times. Miraculously, when the dragon was killed, a rose bush bearing red roses sprung up from the spot where the dragon’s blood had spilled. Sant Jordi then presented the fair lady a rose. From this day on, on April 23rd (The day of Sant Jordi) a tradition was born in which men present women with a rose and in return, women give men a book.
The festival kicks off with a medieval banquet, which people attend wearing traditional costumes. Throughout the week, other colourful events include street theatre, juggling competitions, medieval markets and musical concerts.
You'll get a real flavour of warm Catalan hospitality from our hand picked hostelries.
Some are old, others new, but they all take pride in their lodgings and the fare they provide, and will all welcome you as one of their own. All rooms with ensuite facilities.
Montblanc – Pension Angels
Family run and definitely the preferred eatery for the lunchtime locals.
L'Espluga - L'Ocell Francoli
Opened just 10 years ago, but Carlos and his wife take great pride in their kitchen and affordable wine list.
The Sisters have always opened their doors to the public. The rooms are sparsely furnished as you would expect, but clean and comfortable with en suite facilities. Meals served at nearby inn.
Rocafort de Queralt
A family run Hostal where the food is excellent.
Beautiful country house set in its own riverside vineyard producing internationally renowned wines.
Hotel Plaça de la Font. Situated on the old Roman forum right in the heart of the old town.
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We enjoyed our holiday very much - it was a wonderful experience. Something completely different! The organisation of the holiday was spot-on. You really couldn't have done a better job. The whole thing was perfectly tailored to our needs. It's hard to express in an e-mail how good it all was.
Anne Corrigan, UK, walking the Camino Frances
We thoroughly enjoyed our holiday and found the organisation excellent. We were also impressed by the friendliness and welcome we received everywhere. The information pack was useful and contained all the information we needed. So many, many thanks again for your kindness, efficiency and help in giving us such a good holiday.
Anne and Brian Harris, UK, walking the Camino Frances from Sarria to Santiago
We had an amazing time on the Camino... I would recommend this 6 day walk to anyone. All in all a memorable trip, and you guys did a great job in planning, arranging and organising it.