Natalie here again: Catalonia is more than just cities and busy seaside towns. In fact, there are beautiful routes to be found just by exploring a little further away from the obvious destinations.
Here are two Catalonia road trips offering the best of both worlds: tiny seaside towns, stopovers in Barcelona, and exploring the wine areas of the Penedes and Priorat.
Both road trips mentioned below can be merged into one if you wish to take a longer trip and explore more! You can also add days in any of the locations if you wish to. The trips are fairly leisurely and offer optimal time for enjoying all the stops along the way.
In this post, we’ll outline each day of each itinerary in detail (things to do, where to stay, what to consider along the way). After this, we’ll summarize some of the key points from each road trip to help you plan your trip!
Things to Consider When Driving in Catalonia
Car rental is fairly inexpensive and it’s easy to pick up a car from both Girona and Barcelona airport. Roads are generally well maintained and signposted.
Reserve your rental car for your Spain trip.
There are some toll roads so watch out for those when planning your routes – some can be avoided.
5-Day Coastal Catalonian Road Trip
The Catalonia coast is home to the stunning Costa Brava, a stretch of coastline dotted with tiny seaside towns, bustling cities, sweeping landscapes, and architectural beauty.
If you are looking for coastal life and relaxing on stunning beaches, this is the road trip for you.
Coastal Catalonian Road Trip Summary
- Day 1: Girona to Cadaqués
- Day 2: Sant Martí d’Empúries, Begur, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, and Tossa de Mar
- Day 3: Tossa de Mar to Barcelona
- Day 4: Barcelona, Sitges and Tarragona
- Day 5: Tarragona to L’Ametlla de Mar
Day 1: Start in Girona
Starting from Girona, you can fly into Girona Costa Brava Airport and collect your rental car before heading north to Cadaqués.
Girona is definitely worth a visit (with lots to see and do in Girona) if you are extending the road trip beyond the 5-day itinerary. Spending a night in Girona is a great add-on.
Setting off from Girona and driving across Catalonia to Cadaqués is a beautiful start to your road trip.
You pass through Catalan countryside and pass by Figueres – the birthplace of Salvador Dali and home to a museum in his memory – before arriving on the Costa Brava coast. Stop for a break in Roses before ending the day in Cadaqués.
Cadaqués is a Cuban-style town with lots of hidden coves and quiet beaches. Spend the night here indulging in fresh seafood and local Catalan wine.
Day 2: Sant Martí d’Empúries, Begur, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, and Tossa de Mar
You won’t be travelling a long distance today but taking the time to stop off at pretty seaside towns before spending the night in Tossa de Mar. After leaving your hotel in Cadaqués, drive to Sant Martí d’Empúries.
This tiny spot was established by the Ancient Greeks in the 6th century BC, and is home to ruins dating back to Roman times. Explore ancient streets overlooking the coastline before heading south to Begur.
Begur is popular for local holidaymakers and is where many Catalans escape for the summer months. There is plenty to do here so explore the town or stretch your legs along one of the coastal paths.
From Begur, head to Sant Feliu de Guíxols, another beautiful town on the Costa Brava coastline. Sant Feliu de Guíxols is popular for sailing due to the large marina housing the sailboats belonging to the locals.
There are also lots of coves and beaches for relaxing at – but expect them to be a little busier than others. After all, this is a popular destination for families.
After Sant Feliu de Guíxols, we take the final stretch to our home for the night, Tossa de Mar. Hidden in a cove this town is a great place to rest, there are plenty of excellent restaurants to refuel.
Parking is in short supply so be sure to find a hotel with parking. Mamma Mia Hotel Boutique is one of the few directly in the town that does have parking.
Day 3: Tossa de Mar to Barcelona
Today we leave small towns and head to the wonderful Barcelona. There are two routes you can take but opt for the coastal road for the more scenic route.
Arriving in Barcelona will feel like a big change to the quieter towns but you cannot visit the Catalan coast without spending some time in the city.
Park up at the hotel and spend a day in Barcelona exploring the city on foot or using the hop-on hop-off bus tickets.
Be sure to visit Sagrada Familia Basilica as well as the city’s parks such as Ciutadella Park and Park Güell. Spend the evening in Passeig del Born soaking up the Barcelona nightlife and cuisine.
Read More: More Top Places to Check Out in Barcelona
Day 4: Barcelona, Sitges and Tarragona
Day 4 is another day starting and ending in cities, with a stopover at a pretty seaside town along the coastline.
This is also a good opportunity to have a slower morning and enjoy breakfast in Barcelona. Take advantage of the variety of cuisines and have any breakfast you desire before hitting the road again.
First, take the coastal road from Barcelona to Sitges. There is a faster route going inland but it has a toll booth and also isn’t as pretty as the coast road. Stop in Sitges for lunch and to stretch your legs.
This fisherman’s town has become a haven for European expats and is a hive of activity year round. The church and old part of town are worth exploring and taking in the views across the coast.
Browse in artisan shops and stroll the streets with an ice cream from one of the many ice cream shops.
After Sitges we head further south to Tarragona. This road will pass you through the Penedes wine country so expect rows of vineyards and steep mountain views.
Arrive in Tarragona and park at your hotel. The town itself is very walkable so you won’t need the car from here.
Explore the museums to learn about the Roman history of the area, and visit the Roman amphitheatre on the cliffside in the old part of the town.
Spend the evening strolling La Rambla and enjoy the sunset from the Mediterranean Balcony. You can learn more about what else to do in Tarragona here.
Day 5: Tarragona to L’Ametlla de Mar
This final day has so little driving it is almost not worth calling it a road trip! But the short drive is definitely worth the end destination of L’Ametlla de Mar.
If you are looking to expand your road trip into wine country this is a good way to link to the next road trip itinerary as you are at the edge of Priorat, home to delicious red wine and boutique wineries.
But for this road trip, we drive to L’Ametlla de Mar which is a tiny town on this stretch of coastline which has now transitioned into the Costa Dorada.
There isn’t a lot here in the way of tourism which makes it a great place to rest at the end of your trip.
The beaches are beautiful and there are many blue flag beaches in this area. Hotels are in short supply so book into a self-catered apartment and spend the rest of your trip at your own leisure.
Top Activities to Do
There are lots of things to do and see along the way on this road trip. Of course, Barcelona has many top attractions in Spain – but there are many more along stops of the road trip that are also worth doing!
- Pick up a boat trip in Roses to view the Cap de Creus Natural Park and Cadaqués from the water.
- Take a tour of Sagrada Familia Basilica and make sure you book one with tower access for epic views over the city, and let someone else do the driving by using the hop-on hop-off bus in Barcelona.
- Book a self-guided walking tour and scavenger hunt in Tarragona to discover Roman ruins and hidden ancient attractions.
Places to Stay
Here is a brief overview of the various stops on this coastal road trip and a few accommodations that might make sense for your needs!
- Cadaqués: Stay at Casa Margot to relax by the pool and take in the beach views from the gardens before walking into the pretty town to explore.
- Tossa de Mar: Mamma Mia Hotel Boutique is stylish and comfortable, with a lovely roof terrace to enjoy the sun and parking.
- Barcelona: There are no shortages of hotels in Barcelona but parking can get expensive so make sure you book one with parking included. Motel One Ciutadella is a great hotel and is walking distance to the best parts of the city.
- Tarragona: Plaça De La Font is in the heart of the old town and provides parking. It is a great location for exploring the ancient part of the town.
- L’Ametlla de Mar: Come for the views and stay at Bella Vista, a self-catered apartment with views over the beach and the boats bobbing in the Mediterranean sea.
3-Day Wine Country Catalonian Road Trip
For those looking for wine culture you can tailor to your own tastes (pun intended), this road trip takes you through the highlights of Catalan wine country.
This tour is shorter and less comprehensive as the aim is to base yourself in a winery area for the day and ditch the car to enjoy the samples! You can also take this tour backwards if you connect it to the previous road trip.
Catalonian Wine Country Road Trip Summary
- Day 1: Barcelona, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia and Vilafranca del Penedès
- Day 2: Vilafranca del Penedès, Cistercian monasteries and Priorat
- Day 3: Priorat and Barcelona
Day 1: Barcelona, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia and Vilafranca del Penedès
Barcelona is a good place to start whether you have already spent a few days here or have just flown in. You can collect your rental car and set off on your road trip.
Start by heading north until you reach Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. This is the heart of cava production, and there are plenty of cava wineries to choose from.
I recommend avoiding the larger wineries if you are looking for a more authentic tour. Opt for smaller ones such as Olive Batllori and Art Cava for a family-run, private experience.
It goes without saying that you should not drink wine when driving. Either plan your trip so that you don’t have to drive afterward, or take turns driving with your fellow travellers.
For the evening stopover go to Vilafranca del Penedès, a short drive further into the Penedès. Park your car and stay at Mastinell Cava & Boutique Hotel, an award winning hotel on a cava winery.
The architecture is stunning, with vaulted ceilings designed to look like stacked wine bottles and Gaudi style tiling. Here you can enjoy the scenery and luxury while sipping cava throughout the evening.
Day 2: Vilafranca del Penedès, Cistercian monasteries and Priorat
Today we head south to Priorat to sample the red wines of the region. On the way there are Cistercian monasteries worth visiting.
Stop at the World Heritage site of Poblet Monastery, founded in 1151 and the largest of its kind in Spain.
Another two to visit are the monasteries of Santes Creus in Aiguamurcia and the monastery of Santa Maria de Vallbona in Vallbona de les Monges, the latter being the most important female monastery in Catalonia.
After exploring the history of the route you will arrive in the Priorat region. There are many small towns here. The most popular and interesting are Siurana, Cornudella de Montsant, and Falset.
Siurana is on top of the mountains with breathtaking views. It is a tiny town with just one hotel, La Siuranella. Even if you don’t stay here, it is worth the visit – particularly at sunset.
Explore the wineries in the region as red wine is the specialty here. Most are small producers creating flavourful wine exclusive to the region against a backdrop of sheer mountains, popular with rock climbers.
Many are harvested by old techniques of donkey and cart due to the steep landscape and small vineyards.
Stay at El Palauet del Priorat in Cornudella de Montsant for a luxury boutique feel in a lovely small town. There are plenty of eating and wine tasting options to explore when you have parked your car.
For a rural option, stay at Mas Trucafort in Falset which has a wonderful on-site restaurant overlooking the landscape. Hotel Cal Llop in Gratallops is another great option.
Day 3: More Priorat
Today is another day to explore the wineries in the region. If you want to take the planning out of your day, book a wine tour from Falset hosted by a local.
This tour takes most of the day and takes you to two wineries, sites of local history and an olive oil producer, where you enjoy an excellent lunch.
If you want to explore wineries of your own choice, search around Gratallops, Bellmunt del Priorat, Cornudella de Montsant and Falset.
Many of the wineries are built with Art Nouveau architecture which was popular as many of the wineries diversified for wine tourism.
Depending on how much you have sampled today it may be worth spending another night in the area, which is a great excuse to extend your trip an extra night before driving back to Barcelona!
Top Activities to Do
Unsurprisingly, many of the top things to do in this region revolve around wine. So, book a wine tour at J. Miquel Jané in the Penedès. You can sample four wines made on site paired with delicious local produce.
Again, if you’re wanting to experience Priorat with a local, take a wine tour from Falset!
Places to Stay
Once again, here is a brief overview of the stops on this Spanish winery road trip and some accommodations that might work for you!
- Vilafranca del Penedès: Stay at Mastinell Cava & Boutique Hotel, a beautiful hotel next to the Mas Tinell Vineyards.
- Cornudella de Montsant: El Palauet del Priorat has beautiful rooms and views over the town and local landscape.
Whether you’re planning a larger Spain itinerary or just sticking to Catalonia, here are some other helpful Spain guides you might like!
- Exploring Spain for the First Time (Need-to-Knows + Tips)
- Visiting Montserrat, Spain: What to Know
- Awesome Day Trips from Barcelona (+ How to Get There)
- Beautiful Spanish Cities to Visit
And there you have it – two awesome Catalonia road trip itineraries. No matter your interests – wine regions or coastline – there is an itinerary for you around this amazing region. Don’t be afraid to modify these as you wish!
As always, Happy Waddlin’,
After leaving England in 2017, Natalie lived in a surfer town in Morocco for a few years before settling in Barcelona with her foundling street dog Zina. She is a writer and affiliate manager and co-manages a surf brand in the UK. Her travel style is slow travel, exploring cute European towns and quiet beaches, and indulging in the culture of local food and wine.