Chasing waterfalls in Catalonia
Next Monday, the 9th of June, is a bank holiday here in Barcelona (at last a long weekend!), and if you’re stuck for ideas in the face of closed shops and a stowed seafront, I have a suggestion.
Hire a car and head for the hinterland.
Because although the beaches of Barcelona and the Costa Brava itself are rightly renowned, inland, Catalan waterfalls are channelling their way through some of the most achingly beautiful countryside you’ve ever seen (and I say that coming from Scotland).
Las cascadas de Cataluña
Up in the Collsacabra region of Catalonia, north east of the town of Vic, is a scene of such natural beauty you’ll be amazed more tourists don’t make the effort to visit. Set into a natural amphitheatre-cum-canyon, La Cascada de La Foradada de Cantonigrós is named after the ‘hole’ in the mountain that offsets it. From above, the waterfall seems to appear from nowhere amid the tree-clad terrain.
Hike on down, however, and around 45 minutes later you may seriously be considering skinny dipping.
The river above drapes itself over eroded rocks, spilling out into a shallow pool ideal for paddling or picnicking alongside. Small stepping stones signpost the way across the river, allowing you to go round back and venture through the gap in the rock to stand right behind the waterfall itself.
If you can, aim to visit in spring or early summer, when the flow of water is at its fullest and the surrounding vegetation at its lushest.
Take me to the water
From Barcelona, take the C17 road north past the town of Granollers all the way up to Vic, where it turns into the C25. Circumnavigate Vic on this ring road and look for signs for the local road C153, following signs for the village of Cantonigrós. The village itself is tiny, and you need to look out for the football pitch and park nearby (parking is free). Along one side of the football pitch (behind the goal posts) you’ll see a rocky path – take this path and you’ll encounter increasingly rocky terrain. Follow the track all the way down, and in around 45 minutes’ time you’ll start to hear the tinkle of wild water.
Eventually the path opens out onto the rocky backdrop of the waterfall, where you can happily spend a couple of hours exploring and having a picnic on the river bank. Coming back up is more tricky, obviously, but trust me, it’s worth it.
From a stunning stone village to the Salt del Sallent
Once you’ve huffed your way back up the track to the car, rejoin the C153 and follow signs for the hilltop town of Rupit. Dump the car at the car park on the perimeter (even the car park is picturesque) and wander into the town by way of the swinging rope bridge for a look around and lunch.
Dating back over 1000 years, Rupit boasts some pretty established restaurants, and I’d particularly recommend the rustic Ca l’Estragues’s at number 4 Church Street (Carrer de la Esglesia). Fringed by red geraniums, its postcard-perfect views over the river are a gorgeous setting for lunch, while the traditional Catalan pan al tomate just cries out for some serious smearing of garlic.
But back to the waterfalls.
After sufficient consumption of garlic, head round to the back of Rupit (it’s not far) and set off on the hike that will take you to the spectacular Salt del Sallent (the Sallent ‘jump’).
You’ll be following the river through woods and craggy countryside, and although there are a couple of spots that might be slightly slippy if it’s been raining, most of the track is accessible and fairly flat.
Suddenly, when you least expect it, the tree-lined track opens out into searing sky, and this is what you spy.
Thousands of trees where sea should be, the summits of distant mountains swathed in cloud and, to your right, an almost 100-metre waterfall that wouldn’t look out of place in Lord of the Rings. The space is so spellbinding that it seems almost pointless to take photos, but there are a couple of miradores (look-out points) where you can stand and contemplate the Catalan countryside in all its vertiginous glory.
Let me know how you get on if you visit, and enjoy the long weekend:)