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Places to recharge your batteries in Iberian peninsula

If you’ve been looking for a place to connect with yourself and disconnect from the everlasting city noise, I feel you. Demanding and fast paced city life can be stressful.

I’ve developed a routine to go to a natural environment every 2-3 months, to recharge my batteries, to help maintain my productivity and creativity. These are the places I explored in the past 3 years and found them to be a sweet spot for a nourishing environment of peace.



Prullans


A small village in the Catalan Pyrinees, in comarca Cerdanya, surrounded by tranquility and beauty.




In the village you will find a Cerdanya ecoresort, a local sustainable tourism project .




Just the balcony views of surrounding mountain peaks already give you a sense of peace and harmony.





Their studio apartments are also well equipped for cooking and ideally you would want to stock up on food before coming there. It can be done in Seu d' Urgell, Puigcerda or Lleida.


Otherwise, they have 2 restaurants, one in the hotel, open at weekends, and another at the camping site. At the camping site you can stay with a camper van or in a bungalow and pets are allowed there (they are not allowed in the studio apartments). In their restaurants they serve meals of the local produce, both veggies and meat. Inside the hotel it's also possible to order takeaway food that they pack it in the brown cardboard boxes. At the campsite restaurant they also have a small shop where you can buy local products and some frozen pre-cooked meals.


Spa circuit by the hotel is a way to take care of your body and soul. It has a 3 saunas, cold bucket shower, contrast circular shower, contrast leg shower passage, a pool with hydra-massage and a small jacuzzi pool in the open air with a view of the mountains. In tepidarium visitors can also prepare themselves a cup of herbal tea and seat at the heated loungers.


Hikes in the area:

There is a viewpoint, Mirador de Prullans, not far from the camping site, offering the views of the surrounding mountain peaks.



I did a hike in my recent visit in March, the trees in the forest are still naked, brown foliage on the ground. In the open area you can enjoy the views of the mountain peaks and pastures of Cerdanya horses.



You can find this simple route here.



If you are an eerie weather lover, winter season offers a possibility of fogs and hopefully snow, although for the latter you will likely need to drive higher up to the peaks. For most people summer and autumn in the valley will be visually more appealing.



How to get there:

If you travel there by public transport like me, there are few ways to get there:

  • Taking an Alsa bus from Lleida to Seu d'Urgell (2 hours) and then another bus from Seu d'Urgell to Prullans (25-30 min).

  • Taking a Rodalies train from Barcelona Sants to Puigcerda (3 hours) and then taking a bus from Puigcerda to Prullans (30 min). If you are coming from Madrid, this route will be more optimal and you don't need to stop in Lleida, the train to Puigcerda departs from Sants station as well and there is no need to relocate between the stations.

  • There's also a direct Alsa bus between Prullans and Barcelona Nord station (2 h 22 min) which is the quickest way but's only 1 bus a day, it arrives to Prullans well after 9 pm and the return one to Barcelona Nord goes at 6:58 AM in the morning which I'm sure very few people would like to do. :)

Keep in mind that the Prullans bus stop is not inside the village, it's by the road and you need to walk up to the village for about 25 min (1.5 km)

If you are traveling by car, none of that should be a worry for you and you can take the route most convenient for your destination.


Gavieira


A very remote place in Gerês national park, far from commercial areas, far from supermarkets, with just a couple of very local basic bars and a bakery in the nearby Rouças village. Everything else is mountains all around.




Our experience staying in Casas da Peneda was very fulfilling. It's a rural house with a fireplace, wood is available to make a fire and it's also possible to hang a hammock in this space. On top of that they are also a pet-friendly accomodation and you can bring your 4-legged friend with you.


Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Cozy By The Fireplace
Cozy By The Fireplace


From there you can drive to visit Sanctuary Nossa Senhora da Peneda and walk its work-of-art staircase, very much in style of the one in Braga and Lamego.




Additionally you can do a Nossa Senhora da Peneda hike by Peneda PR17 AVV trail that starts just behind the sanctuary. If your energy levels allow, you can do the whole loop, and if not, you can ascend to the lake and descend back.

For those who know La Pedriza in Spain, rock formations in the area reminded me of that a lot.


Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Luna at Peneda Trail
Luna at Peneda Trail


If you want to experience total peace and quiet, go there in the spring, mid-March or April or in the mid-autumn when foliage changes colors. Summers in Gerês can be very hot and also more crowded. For those not getting on with the heat very well, spring and autumn temperatures are more pleasant.


How to get there:

You can arrive to Gavieira by car from Sistelo, west from Gavieira. Or you can arrive from Galician side via OU-540 and then via Portuguese national roads through Lindoso and Soajo. I'll talk about Geres road trip planning in my next blog post.


Freixo de Espada a Cinta


This village in the Douro valley sits close to the border with Spain on the eastern side.

It's not so widely known among the Douro valley travelers and yet it has a lot of charm.


Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Freixo de Espada a Cinta From Above
Freixo de Espada a Cinta From Above


I'd recommend staying in Casa de Alpajares. It's a beautiful pet-friendly guesthouse with Spa facilities run by Manuela who is also an owner of two dogs. Keep in mind that in off season SPA facilities may not be available and it's best to ask.



One of the best parts of the room is a large window allowing abundant light to enter. Window pane was also a place where Luna liked to rest or sneak through to the front yard.




The guesthouse sits on a hill, within a 10 minute walk from the village center, and has direct access to hiking routes among the wineyards and olive tree groves.


Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Sunset in Freixo de Espada a Cinta
Sunset in Freixo de Espada a Cinta


The whole environment is so harmonious, it makes you completely forget about all the problems and be fully present in the rural surroundings. Add an abundant and heartful breakfast served in the mornings and you will not want to leave :)



Things to see in the area:

There are several viewpoints within the driving distance, among them are Penedo Durao, Colado near Mazouco village, Carrascalinho near Fornos and Cruzinha near Lagoaça. It may not be possible to visit them all in one go for profound enjoyment, so choose wisely.

Penedo Durao offers great views best suited for the sunrise. Colado viewpoint can work for both sunrise and sunset. When you have a bad weather day, don't rush to leave, Douro Valley is known for its fogs in the cold season and rainy days. And fog adds a special touch to the landscape.




Orellan


It's a small village near Las Medulas, a formation left from the roman gold mining process, where they extracted gold from the terrain by channeling water through it.


Two more villages, Carucedo and Las Medulas are among strategic locations to explore the area. Casa do Louteiro in Orellan is a quiet pet-friendly accomodation that I would recommend it if you travel with your dog. It's a family owned rural house and in the interior you will find a lot of wooden details, that were hand-carved by the owner of the rural house. It has a lot of character. The owner arranges the breakfast in the mornings and dinner can be served in the evenings, meals they prepare themselves.


Despite that Las Medulas is not an entirely natural area and its formations are an effect of the human activity, it still offers fascinating natural landsapes. In the winter time you will find fog a frequent guest in the valley, in the golden autumn you can enjoy a hike in the old chestnut forest.


Hikes in the area:

Right from the rural house you can start a hike to Mirador de La Frisga. From there you will have a view of a northern side of Las Medulas.




From Las Medulas village you can drive to the beginning of the hike to Mirador de Pedrices. In Google maps the starting point of the hike is marked as Sendero al Mirador de Pedrices and it's within 5 minute drive from Las Medulas village and about 13 minute drive from Orellan.


Drone Photography - JZeppelina - Las Medulas Village From Above
Las Medulas Village From Above

The views from Pedrices viewpoint are all around, can be hard to choose where to look :)

The way that fog shapes the landscape can be helpful to decide which side is more attractive on a given morning.




From there you can also continue ascending to Alto de Reirigo and I highly recommend it. It's the most elevated point to see Las Medulas.




There is also an easier access with a view of Las Medulas, which is Mirador de Orellan. It's a viewpoint by the road accessible by car and it provides a view of the eastern side of Las Medulas.


Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Mirador de Orellan
Mirador de Orellan


From there it's also possible to walk through the galleries, the tunnels used for gold mining in the past.


Here is a trick for adventure lovers. If you are energetic and brave enough, it's possible to hike all the way to Mirador Orellan from Alto de Reirigo. :) It's part of a circular route of Las Medulas (moderate difficulty) which is 10.57 km long and has over 400 m of altitude change.




Taboaço


A place where we stayed wasn't exactly in the village, it was at Quinta do Monte Travesso located not far from the village. There are 2 ways you can stay there. One is via Portugal Easy camp platform, which allows you to park overnight with your camper van and receive a welcome package with a bottle of wine produced at this quinta. Then you can also attend a guided tour around the quinta and learn about their process of wine making. Through Portugal Easy Camp platform the stay with a campervan is one night.


Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Camping at Quinta do Monte Travesso
Camping at Quinta do Monte Travesso


Another way is through staying in their guesthouses, which would allow you to submerge into the natural environment in a more extensive way.




If you are a fan of enotourism, this experience is for you. If you love a quiet stay in the countryside area and hike through the wineyards from village to village, that is for you too. If you like to support sustainable tourism, that is for you as well.


Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Sunrise In The Wineyards
Sunrise In The Wineyards



Montserrat


Due to its proximity to Barcelona Montserrat is a very visited place. But despite its popularity this place is still worth spending a few nights there. Hiking among the peculiar rock formations and feeling the energy of the place is what you are going to find there.


I will recommend staying at Alberg Abat Oliba. They have a public kitchen available and if you stock up on food before coming to Montserrat, you will be relieved from trying to find food in the area and it will also be a cheaper option. In the off season, there aren't many good options and everything closes pretty early, so having food to cook your dinner meals is essential. Out of publicly available places there is a cafe just by the hotel, where they supply breakfast for hotel guests and where some snacks and sandwiches can be purchased but quickly it can get very costly. And closer to the car parking there is also an all-you-can eat buffet where you can have lunch, and there is a variety of options, including vegetarian ones. The cost of this buffet is 19 euro.


Hikes in the area:

Creu de Sant Miguel is a good option for sunrise in the winter months, due to the sun position. It's an easy one, located within 25 minute walk from the hotel and after cold winter nights or rainy days you may witness fog filling the valley. It's quite a spectacular view. The hike starts by the road going uphill to the right, once you exit the hotel, passing the Sant Joan cable car station.



When the sun rises you start seeing more of the textures of these rock formations and how the light transforms the color.



The fog, clouds and light spectacle keeps transforming the landscape across the morning. Don't rush to snap a selfie and quickly leave. Stay present and watch the magic evolving.




Sant Jeroni hike is good for the sunset views and it's also more challenging. The elevation gain is over 500 m and ascent is by infinite amount of stairs.



Occasionally you may find mountain goats wandering about. It's their rocky paradise.




The return descending route can be done by alternative trail via Sant Joan which doesn't have the stairs and is less pressure for the knees. Sadly, I didn't record the route with my Wikiloc app, thus I believe this trail is closest to the one I did.


How to get there:

If you travel by public transport, from Barcelona you can take a train to Montserrat-Aeri from Pl. Espanya. Tickets can be purchased from the ticket machines at the station but I would recommend to consult the train schedules at FGC website as this will help to align it to Rack Railway train to ascend to Monistrol de Montserrat. Rack railway tickets can be purchased online , one-way or return.


If you travel by car, you can reach Monistrol de Montserrat by BP-1121 road and park before the buffet.


In each of these places I felt incredible sense of harmony and I hope it will give you some ideas on how to plan your next mindful getaway.

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