About six million people live in Catalonia, and twice that many visit every year, flocking to the beaches along the Catalan costas (coasts), the area of Spain that practically invented package tourism. Though some areas -- such as Lloret de Mar -- have become overdeveloped, there are many unspoiled little seaside spots to be found.

Three of the most attractive resorts are on the Costa Brava (Rugged Coast), 100km (60 miles) north of Barcelona: The southerly town of Tossa de Mar, with its walled Ciutat Vella; the idyllic coastal village of Calella de Palafrugell; and the northerly whitewashed fishing village of Cadaqués, up near the French border.

Inland from the latter lies Figueres, low-key capital of Girona province's northerly Alt Empordà region, birthplace of the father of surrealism, Salvador Dalí, and home to his eccentric museum, which enthralls everyone from art lovers to the downright curious. The capital of the whole province, including the lower Baix Empordà region, is Girona, an ancient town steeped in history, with a magnificent Old Quarter and cathedral.


South of Barcelona, along the Costa Daurada (Golden Coast), the beaches are wide and sandy. Sitges, a fine resort town that has a huge gay following, and Tarragona, the UNESCO-classified capital of the region, are the two destinations to visit here, the latter for its concentration of Roman vestiges and architecture.

Away from the coast, amid attractive wooded hills and fertile valleys at the meeting point of Tarragona and Lleida provinces, is a fine trio of small Cistercian monasteries -- Poblet, Santes Creus, and Vallbona de les Monges -- all dating from the 12th century.

These are eclipsed, however, by the greatest monastery of them all: Montserrat.


Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.