Everyone deserves an autumn adventure and just about nowhere is as adventurous as Catalonia this year, particularly if you head in the direction of the thrilling Muntanyes de Prades.
Although only hour’s drive from Reus Airport, Muntanyes de Prades couldn’t be more different from Costa Daurada’s Mediterranean coastline. Rugged and untamed in parts, they’re scattered all over with pretty villages, fun places to hike and bike with kids, wild natural pools, endless museums and even immense prehistoric caves. Vast Monestir de Poblet is here; one of Spain’s largest Cistercian monasteries and a World Heritage Site. You’ll come across fabulous town tours designed just for families. There are lessons for anything from archery and horse riding to mushroom hunting. And even younger kids will feel inspired to walk for miles on easy, well marked mountain trails.
Plus the entire area is an official Family Adventure Holiday destination, certified by the Catalan Tourist Board so it’s guaranteed family-friendly right across the board from accommodation to activity centres.
The highly coveted Family Friendly Holiday labels are only awarded to the best of the best after a rigorous certification process pioneered by Catalonia to ensure the highest of standards. So you can be sure that all labelled destinations and attractions are just right for you and your kids. Here’s a hint of what family-friendly adventure you can look forward to in Muntanyes de Prades this autumn:
1/5 Take a family tour round the ‘red town’ of Prades
Historic Prades is right in the heart of Muntanyes de Prades and it only takes a few minutes wandering round its old quarter to work out how it earned the nickname Red Town or Vila Vermella: almost all its medieval buildings are made from local red stone, which is very striking and totally unique to this part of Catalonia.
Go with the theme of originality and take a family tour of the town. Ingenious guides could teach classes on how to make history stick for kids, though obviously they have the advantage of working with tales of Moorish conquests and Castilian royal connections plus a huge collection of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance architecture, including an enormous spherical fountain in the Plaça Major and two very grand town gates dating back to the 12th century.
Kids will probably also like Prades Aventura, one of the fun places in Prades where they can run about a bit, learn archery, go on nature walks, scramble up some fairly daunting climbing walls or give child-size paintball their best shot.
Find out more about Vila Vermella Tours in Muntanyes de Prades
2/5 Spend time in the countryside at Museu Vida Rural
There’s a lot of outdoor excitement on offer in dramatic Muntanyes de Prades, so if you want to catch a breath and sneak some culture into the adventure this autumn, head to Museu Vida Rural in L’Espluga de Francolí.
If you think a Museum of Rural Life doesn’t have a high kid-appeal, you couldn’t be more wrong. Completely redesigned in 2012, this is now one of Catalonia’s boldest contemporary museums and guaranteed to make you think twice about judging any attraction by its name alone.
There’s nothing dry or dusty about meticulously recreated farmyards and grand country houses. Experiencing a day in the life of blacksmiths, saddlers, ropemakers or weavers is anything but dull. There are sections devoted entirely to clothing, washing and markets, and others given over to hunting and butchery. The huge collection of historic carts is surprisingly impressive, and that’s all before you even get close to the eccentric rural art.
The museum mixes creative displays and interactive exhibits with slick audio-visuals, and if you miss the outdoors, go visit the lovely eco-garden; designed to reflect rural life right now in an area known for everything from artisan honey and goat’s cheese to organic olive oil.
Find out more about Museu Vida Rural in Muntanyes de Prades
3/5 Delve deep into the incredible Coves de l’Espluga
The immense Coves de l’Espluga were rediscovered in 1956, slowly excavated and now stretch for 3600m, making them the seventh deepest caves in the world. It’s fairly assumed they were known about long before the mid-20th century since Espluga is the Latin word for ‘cavern’ and gives its name to the historic town of L’Espluga de Francoli nearby.
That’s just a footnote to the story of the cave’s past, all described in fascinating detail by local archaeologists who lead the specially designed tours for families here. Kids love the drama of the caves, enhanced by recreated cave dwellings complete with prehistoric residents; burning sacred shrines in the haunting Lake Room; collections of excavated Bronze Age weapons and jewellery; ceramics reproduced from Neolithic pottery shards and tales of recent digs involving divers, freezing underground rivers and quite a bit of daring you don’t normally associate with archaeology.
The accessible area of the cave is 500m long, guided family tours last 75 minutes and there are two every day, Tuesday to Saturday, year round.
Find out more about the Coves de l’Espluga in Muntanyes de Prades
4/5 Be amazed by magnificent Monestir de Poblet
Catalonia is famous for its iconic cathedrals and grand buildings, so when you hear Monestir de Poblet is the largest Cistercian Abbey in the region, one of the largest in Spain and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, prepare to be impressed.
Even monument-shy kids are stunned by the sheer size of Poblet – it’s more like a small town than a single monastery – and the fact that it is so beautiful, but was almost a total ruin until the mid-20th century, only makes it more intriguing. Meticulously restored and once again home to a Cistercian Order, it also contains tombs of Crown of Aragon rulers and the original 12th century church still sits at its heart.
Leave plenty of time to do Poblet. On top of the monastery, there’s King Marti’s Palace Museum and the Abbot Copons & Abbot Mengucho Museum to explore, plus an audio-visual presentation. Alternatively you can always check-out the online Virtual Tour and plan your visit in advance – a good idea with younger kids.
Find out more about Monestir de Poblet in Muntanyes de Prades
5/5 Dip into the pools of Muntanyes de Prades
Usually when you have great peaks, natural water features aren’t hard to find. Muntanyes de Prades’ bears that out with plenty of lovely waterfalls, pools and gorges, which might be a bit of a walk to reach but are always well worth the effort.
Niu de l’Àliga (Eagle’s Nest) is one of the best loved natural pools in Costa Daurada. Despite the name, the walk there is perfectly doable for over fives. It’s about 6km north of Alcover and clearly signposted from the town. Don’t forget to pack a picnic and make sure your phone’s charged to capture the waterfalls and fabulously wild forest setting.
Find out more about natural pools in Muntanyes de Prades
The Muntanyes de Prades are in Costa Daurada in south west Catalonia
How to get there
Direct UK flights to Reus take from two hours year round.
Prades Town is 50 minutes drive north of Reus Airport.
Ready for your family adventure in Catalonia this autumn? Start planning with a visit to the Catalan Tourist Board (ACT) for information on Family Adventure Holiday labels and all the awesome autumnal destinations where you’ll find them.