Exploring Catalonia – from above and below!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Catalonia region in Spain is loved by so many people for so many different things – the delicious tapas, the thirst quenching cava, the rich culture and fantastically golden beaches.

However, you have not truly experienced the absolute beauty of España until you have viewed it from above – 2000ft above to be exact!

Exploring from the air  

A hot air balloon ride over the Igualada region (just outside Barcelona) is the ultimate way to explore Catalonia. Watching the sun rise over the Pyrenees Mountains, seeing the Castle of Cardona in all its misty glory and vast vineyards that extend as far as the eye can see really are sights to behold. 

For those who are somewhat faint-hearted do not fear! When I took my journey into the Catalonian skies one of my fellow travellers was deathly afraid of heights! Once you’re up the balloon floats through the air seamlessly, like floating down a gentle stream. I had to keep checking my landmarks to prove that we were actually moving! The basket is so large that you can fit almost twenty people comfortably in the three sections – in fact it was the largest of its kind in Spain and is even wheelchair accessible.

Taking to the skies with Globus Kontiki, who operate the hot air balloon rides, is very much a hands-on experience. From inflating the balloon to guiding it in the air and landing and dismantling it. Their team will collect you from your hotel, transport you to the launch site, follow you and your guide on the ground and collect you when you land. Following this they will take you for a traditional Catalonian breakfast complete with wine-tasting and local delicacies. The perfect way to spend your morning!

To really feel the excitement of the ballooning adventure, take a look at the short video below documenting my personal experience in the Catalonian clouds!


Cardona Castle

After seeing the beautiful scenery from the air, you will no doubt be eager to explore the sights that you took in and the grounds of the majestic Cardona Castle are the perfect place to start.

The former residence of the Lords of Cardona, which overlooks the nearby city,  has been standing since the Middle Ages. A visit to the castle allows you to relive the sieges that took place there centuries ago. It also accommodates groups for delicious traditional meals served in their gothic style dining room and, if you would really like to make the most of your time there, you can stay in one of their regal stately rooms or suites.

The view from Cardona Castle
The view from Cardona Castle


Piteus Vineyard

Once you have tasted the delicacies on offer in Castell de Cardona, you may be looking for something to wash them down with. Luckily, only a very short drive away is the answer to your prayers, in the form of the quaint, family run Piteus Vineyard. Take a tour through the grounds, learn how to differentiate between the different grape vines and leaves and explore the cellars filled with barrels of maturing wines, before sampling some of their home-made vintages for yourself. Due to high import costs, the wines that are produced in Piteus by Joseph and his family are priced at around €35 in restaurants around Ireland. However, you can walk away with your own hand-picked bottle of full-bodied red, fruity white or bubby cava (personally recommended by yours truly) from only €5 per bottle! Definitely worth challenging your airline’s weight limits for!


 Vineyard in Cardona


Salt Mountain

Of course no trip to Cardona would be complete without a trip to “La Muntanya de Sal” or Salt Mountain, a unique natural phenomenon. Standing 120m above ground, what you see at first glance is only the tip of the iceberg. Descend 86m below ground, into the mines that extend almost 2km deep and explore the many caverns that open up before you. Once one of the most important potassium salt mines in the world, today it is known as the Salt Mountain Cultural Park, a cultural facility aiming to spread the importance of salt, the geological uniqueness of the site and the exploitation of this natural resource for centuries.  

Getting there

Both Ryanair and Aer Lingus fly into Barcelona, where you can hop on a bus or train or hire a car and head for the Catalonia region. GoHop.ie also have great deals out of Dublin and Cork to Barcelona. For more info on how to arrange your tours, other excursions to take and where to stay visit www.catalunya.com.