Just an hour north of Barcelona, Santa Susanna is a tranquil spot for beach and nature lovers. Top of the list therefore should be the magnificent Montnegre and El Corredor Nature Reserve. Gazing at the dramatic and sweeping forest, with eerie twisted cork trees rising up from jagged rocks, you can’t help but feel you’ve stepped back in time. So here’s a little bit about the history of this incredible reserve, and how you can make the most of it.
The area of the corklands is a unique geological formation, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a geographer to appreciate their beauty. In the grand scheme of things, cork forests are unique, and can only be found in France, Portugal, Morocco and in some parts of the Mediterranean. It takes a certain combination of the right landscape, soil and climate to provide the perfect conditions for these trees to thrive.
In fact, we’re lucky the cork forests are still here today, despite the fact that humans have been making heavy use of their resources for thousands of years. If you haven’t guessed it by now, the cork tree is named for the very useful bark, which can be fashioned into a certain useful material. Cork stoppers have been used to store all manner of things, from wine to medicine. The best part is that the cork is removed in a way that ensures the tree can keep growing and producing more bark, ensuring a high level of sustainability compared to other materials from trees.
Life in the Forest
The formation of clusters of mountains bordering the coast has created a unique ecosystem in Santa Susanna, best seen in the Montnegre and El Corredor Nature Reserve. The moisture trapped by the Montnegre Mountain has created the perfect home for dark and brooding African oaks, bordered by hazel, chestnut and cork trees. This expanse of deep forest also sees a fair share of unique species, such as the white snake, wild boar and civet cat.
But it’s not only wildlife that settled here. Throughout the park there are numerous churches, chapels and hermitages, signs of those who once made pilgrimages across this mythical forest. Head to the El Corredor Hermitage, straddling the highest viewpoint in the park, and then visit the Monastery of Roca-Roca or the crumbling remains at Puig de Castell for a dose of history.
Walks for the Soul
There is, of course, only one way to see Spain’s great corklands, and that is by lacing up your walking boots and heading out on foot. The dramatically named “Route of the Fox” is one of the best hikes in the area, spanning 10km towards the Natural Park of Montnegre Forest. It takes around 2 hours 30 minutes to walk, during which time you’ll be able to spot numerous animals amidst the cork trees: squirrels, badgers, buzzards, sparrowhawks, and of course, a cheeky fox or two. For the aspiring biologist or botanist, the diverse Mediterranean flora is a joy to behold, and the smell of herbs – chamomile, mint, rosemary – will fill your nostrils as you weave your way along the path.
If you want a slightly shorter path, the Route of the Squirrel takes a more urban look at nature, and the Route of Cormorant runs parallel along the beachfront. Both take less than an hour and a half to walk.
How to Get to Santa Susanna
To get to Santa Susanna, you’ll first be landing at Barcelona Airport (BCN). Luckily Barcelona is well connected to the UK, with dozens of flight leaving from all major airports. This also means that if you choose the right date, you can land yourself a bargain in terms of ticket prices.
The flight over is around two hours. I would recommend pre-booking a Shuttle Direct transfer to collect you from the airport so that you can ensure a no-hassle start to your holiday. The driver will load your bags up and whizz you off into the Catalan countryside, and with one hour you will have arrived at your destination of Santa Susanna.
Where to Stay
In my mind, the best accommodation option for nature lovers in the area is Can Rosich. This hotel offers something a bit unique, in that it is still a working farmhouse. The building dates back to the eighteenth century, and is located in the midst of the lush Catalan countryside, only two miles from the beach at Santa Susanna. The décor is fresh, simple and elegant, and rooms have views guaranteed to make you forget the hustle and bustle of nearby Barcelona. Guests can also enjoy the extensive gardens, catch a glimpse of the farm animals and delight in fresh produce made right there on the farm. Can’t get more local than that in terms of produce!
The location on the edge of the Montnegre-Corredor Natural Park ensures that there’s plenty to explore nearby. On foot you can explore the ruins of Jordà’s old flour mill, or peep into one of the antiquated churches in the tiny towns of Sant Pere de Riu or Hortsavinyà. Many of the spectacular hiking trails are also accessible close to the guesthouse.
About Shuttle Direct
Since 1979, Shuttle Direct has been whizzing satisfied customers to their hotels in locations across the continent. With private and shared options available, as well as attention to your individual travel needs, we can help make travel easy by having your transport arranged and ready to meet you at the airport.
Reserve your transfer today, and eliminate all unnecessary stress.