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© Karol Kozlowski / 123RF
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Things to see in Catalonia
By Amy Adejokun Amy Adejokun Section editor

Monuments

Monasteries, cathedrals, and castles are found all over Catalonia, a land of architectural jewels where Gothic and Romanesque art blend together, not forgetting the modernism of Antoni Gaudi and his majestic Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Arts and culture

The arts and culture of Catalonia will make your head spin. There is such diversity, in terms of style, of type, of culture, and of traditions, that you'll have to limit yourself to just a few museums. The local folklore shouldn't be missed either and each neighbourhood is brimming with authenticity and its own specific outlook on the world. You'll quickly understand why so many famous artists were inspired by this region and found their muse here. The region also has a most peculiar and totally unique tradition that you might just have the opportunity to witness: the Castellers ('Castell' being the Catalan word for castle). These are human towers of various proportions and sizes, at the summit of which is perched the Enxaneta (generally a young child) in a precarious position that defies the laws of gravity. It's a true piece of good fortune to be able to see one of these impressive human 'Castles'.

Coasts

The Catalonian coast extends from the marshes of Ebro Delta all the way to the slightly surrealistic rocky formations of Cap Creus and boasts the two most famous stretches of the entire Spanish coastline: the Costa Dorada and the Costa Brava. In the middle lies the more urban Costa de Barcelona, which is home to the region's capital city as well as numerous towns and villages of significant interest in terms of culture and entertainment.

The fauna and flora

The vegetation is mostly of the Mediterranean type, green oaks, cork oaks, small trees and bushes, but also aromatic plants (rosemary, thyme, lavender...) and the umbrella pines found on the coastline. In the Pyrenees, you can find an Alpine type of vegetation (moss, herbs, and lichens), but on the sides of the mountains and sierras, the conifers (firs and black pines) and broad-leaved are predominant. In the plains and on the coastline, steppes and dwarf palms alternate on the border of the coast near Lérida. Passionate ornithologists will be delighted with the Ebro Delta because it is home to pink flamingoes, cormorants, and herons. In the rest of northern Spain and Catalonia, you can also observe ducks, egrets, and crane birds. Wild horses, chamois, marmots, and predatory birds still live in the Pyrenees mountains. Bears, tritons, and wood grouse are rarer but still found on protected natural sites. The marine wildlife is also very diversified: you can find species from the Atlantic but also from the Mediterranean, such as the grouper, corb (Sciaena umbra), barracudas, and ribbontail rays.

Landscapes

The Catalonian landscapes are so varied and offer so many contrasts that there is a little piece of heaven here for everyone: from Girona's rocky coastline to the sprawling beaches in southern Catalonia, and from the plains and dense forests to the Pyrenees with its numerous glaciers, lakes, and rivers. Catalonia has its head in the sky and its feet firmly planted in the ground. This feature probably explains why so many animal species have found refuge in its spectacular mountains and never-ending forests.