Montserrat: A surreal mountain range for contemplation

Paulina Kulczycki | Live the World

November 23, 2022

I was always mesmerized by mountains. The fact that they were formed millions of years ago as a result of earth's tectonic plates smashing together, is almost like a metaphor to me that there’s often incredible beauty arising from something that seems scary at first. I was never able to decide whether I’d prefer living in a city by the beach or in a city nestling between imposing mountains. In Barcelona, luckily, I have both. Additionally, the Montserrat mountain range is one of the – if not THE – most unique and magnificent one I’ve ever seen in my life. There’s something indescribably magical about those surreal sandstone ranges, almost looking as if they were crafted by an artist’s hand. Everyone sees something else in the roundly shaped mountains – for me personally, they look like abstract human-like sculptures. Each peak seems to have its own character, its own facial expression and body language. Each of them seems to tell its own mystical story about the world, nature and life. No wonder Montserrat has a reputation to be one of the highest vibrational and spiritual places in Europe. It attracts many pilgrims, hikers, yogis and adventure lovers, who want to meditate or simply connect with nature. Feeling hooked? Read on to find out more about Montserrat, a surreal mountain range for contemplation.

The history of Montserrat

Formed about 45 million years ago, Montserrat’s extraordinary shape is the result of massive movements of land and water. Back then, most of the area was under water and formed part of a large delta that poured directly into the sea. The rivers of the delta carried large rocks, pebble stones and chalk as decaying organic material. And after a dramatic shift in the earth’s tectonic plates 25 million years ago, the sea got pushed further out and the area around Montserrat got pushed upwards. In conclusion, the land was exposed to air, uncovering the formation of sandstones, rocks and chalk. Over the next millions of years, the rainwater and wind carved shapes into the chalk, whereby the creation of the surreal peaks began to define Montserrat’s landscape.

The hikes

Once you get to Montserrat, there are various indicated hikes to enjoy the outdoors and impressive views, ranging from easy one-hour-walks to more difficult three-hour-hikes or even whole day expeditions. Any of those picturesque hikes is the best way to contemplate with the hair-raising nature of Montserrat, meditate and discover the mountain’s diverse flora and fauna. On your hike you might be lucky enough to cross paths with some wild boars and wild goats. I personally always prefer to choose my own hiking path, since I love to explore the region of Montserrat by myself, without having many other visitors in front and behind me, following the same trail. Make sure you take some food and water with you, so you can find a remote place to make a picnic in the rocky nature. The adventure-seekers among you can also do the hike to the top of the highest peak of Montserrat, known as Sant Jeroni – a worthy challenge for those who are not afraid of heights. Since I never carried the right footwear to take that trail (yes, freaking shame on me), I cannot speak out of experience, but I heard it’s absolutely thrilling. I can also highly recommend taking the chance and meditate throughout your hike. Sit quietly and listen to the whispering sound of the wind and the mystical stories the mountains have to tell you.

Сover photo © credits: iStock/Zhukow
Сover photo © credits: iStock/Zhukow

Santa Maria de Montserrat

One of the other attractions of Montserrat, besides the storytelling mountains themselves, is the old Benedictine Monastery Santa Maria de Montserrat, located in the centre of the rocky formations and surrounded by high cypress trees. The monastery is the home of around 80 monks and includes an opulent basilica and a famous statue of the Virgin Mary, also known as "The Dark One". Built in 1025, the secluded monastery soon began to receive pilgrims who spread mind-blowing stories about miracles performed by the Virgin Mary. After some destruction throughout The French War and The Spanish Civil War, Montserrat has been modernized to continue attending to the needs of pilgrims and visitors until today – one thousand years after it was originally built! With its beautiful golden colour, columns and location right at the slope of the mountains, Santa Maria de Montserrat indeed seems like a miraculous place where wonders happen... I mean, if not here, where else? A bit further from the monastery, there are little booths with local and organic products from the Montserrat area, like honey, goat cheese and fruitcakes. Try your way through the selection of delicious products!

Сover photo © credits: iStock/Zhukow
Сover photo © credits: iStock/Zhukow
Сover photo © credits: iStock/Zhukow
Сover photo © credits: iStock/Zhukow

How to get there

Montserrat is about 60 km away from Barcelona, easily accessible with the train or by car and therefore perfect for a day trip! The easiest and most direct way is to take the R5 train from Plaça Espanya. The train will leave you at the foot of the mountain, from where you can access the monastery either by a funicular railway or a cable-car. Depending on which way you decided on taking to go up, you either buy the Aeri ticket version (cable-car) or the Cremallera Funicular ticket version (funicular railway) at Plaça Espanya. The price of both ticket versions is the same (22 Euro for a return ticket). I took both ways up and cannot decide which one I liked better. The funicular gives you more time to admire the nature around, but the views and experience in the cable-car is probably more breathtaking. There’s also the option of taking a Trans Montserrat-Ticket (around 35 Euro for a return ticket) that includes not only the train ride from Barcelona to Montserrat and one of the two ways to get to the top, but also the entry to the monastery and a ticket for the steep rack railway bringing you from the monastery up to the very top of the mountain (Sant Jeroni).

Montserrat is without a doubt one the most stunning sites of natural beauty in Catalonia. Don’t miss out on hiking through those sandstone ranges with spectacular views! But most importantly, take your time to experience the serenity of this place. Enjoy the peace of mind in Montserrat, a surreal mountain range for contemplation!

Сover photo © credits: iStock/Sergi_Boixader

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