Santa Maria de Montserrat, Spain

If you want the best views of the mountains of Catalunya, then head to Montserrat. Located near Barcelona, Montserrat is a multi-peaked mountain and home to the Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat. The pink hued mountains are visited not only by the spiritual travellers but even by those who come to admire the spectacular views.

The Abbey hosts the Virgin of Montserrat. The Escolania, Montserrat’s Boys’ Choir, who perform during religious ceremonies and communal prayers are one of the oldest choir's in Europe. Montserrat is easily accessible by train, car or bus. The path to the top of the mountain has lot of hairpin bends and curves and is an experience in its own. Once you reach the monastery complex, the best and only way to get around is by foot.

Though the monastery has no specific architectural landmark(it is a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance), its location among the mountains and the statue of the Black Madonna make it a tourist attraction. There is also a museum which houses work of artists like El Greco, Monet and Dali. When you enter the basilica you will see the statue of La Moreneta in the alcove above the altar. If you want to see it up close, there is a long line of travellers/pilgrims you have to join. Most people do not mind the wait for this is what they have come to see.

From the monastery complex, if you wish to, you can hike to the top of the peak. Its about a 300m climb though there is a funicular which goes almost all the way up. If you are fit and have the time, then you can choose from the numerous hiking trails. All of them offer wonderful views of the mountain range. This makes for a wonderful day trip from Barcelona.

- The queue to see the Black Madonna is always very long. So get there early if you want to catch a glimpse of it.
- If you are planning on hiking, make sure you have good walking shoes. And you could carry a packed lunch too, if you want to have a picnic at the top.
- Remember that Montserrat is at the top of a mountain, so can be very windy at times. Dress appropriately.

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