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This relatively unknown hiking area is in Tarragona, the most southerly province of Catalunya. Most of the hiking routes are in the Els Ports natural park, the immense limestone crags overlook the broad orange and olive tree-filled plain.

The best time to visit

The area is ideal for walking from October to May. July and August are too hot for most, although local walkers are undaunted. They make use of the cooler early hours to get the ascents done and choose the shady, forested slopes to reach the rocky points. This is limestone country – unglaciated, water and wind-eroded rock. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the Els Ports Park. Deep ravines, multi-tiered cliffs, rock arches, pinnacles and serrated ridges form the landscape of the eastern slopes. They make for fascinating walking circuits, with a surprise around every corner. Much of the park is inaccessible by car, so the only way to explore this vast area is to hike the myriad of trails.

The mountain

Most routes start in the small parking area just off the main road to the Els Ports Natural Park (Plaza De Soledad). From this point, the route takes roughly 3 hours to the top of the south face. The Vista Alpina (glacier) is the highest peak on the route and hikers should allow at least half an hour to reach the summit. presumably, some of the city dwellers dropped by during their morning strolls, to catch a glimpse of the glacier.

But visitors can be indefinitely remote, as the high northern latitudes and longitudes of Catalunya make it an unwillvable hike at times. A helpful hint is to carry sufficient mineral water with you to drink. The best time for water is spring, however this is only really practical between June and August. Never assume that the trail ahead will be easy, since some stretches have been known to involve quite a Herculean ascent.

The best inland trail is the Els Ports walking route. It follows the crest of the mountain out to the high alpine region of La Parva and consists of many delightful regions, including the sea-inhabiting serra de enna (mountain forest) of Lago de los Apricots.

Given the rebuffs of weather, the safest months for walking in Catalunya are June, July and August. Less scorching temperatures are better.

Best footpaths in Els Ports

Among the most popular walking routes in the interior part of Catalunya, the path to Alcazaba is the most popular. It starts at the car park on the high street into the mountain, at Pla de Santo Domingo.

The next several hours are fairlychartered. You get to see the lake and the surrounding canyon, and then ascend the steep, shadeless path to the Cola de Descendinges. At the end of this path you need to cross the frozen lake Wiñay en Wanda- the source of the local name for the lake, which is also the source of the river Arda.

The trail has several extreme turns, which will make your pace very slow. But the beauty of the path and the Communications tower on the summit make up for the difficult upper slopes. After the summit the path follows the coast to the Ollé complex. Water is again obligatory- if you are not carrying your own water some local hotels will do water-boarding for you.

High notes in Els Ports

The proximity of the tower to Pico de Europa really is a novelty in itself. The tower is 0.6 km away from the Cola de Europa and the High Peak. For those that live in or near Barcelona, the signal tower is a must to climb. If you are not going to Barcelona, and your schedule is not free in the morning, you can always attempt the High Peak at Pla de Galé. The climb to the summit is pretty mild, but you need to start before 3 in the morning. If you are novices, a guide can accompany you, but you still need to travel light.

Pick your route and enjoy!