4 days in Spain: Hiking, volcanos and Salvador Dali

spain travel

The drive to Andorra is best left for daylight. This view is a prime example of why. Photo: Johnie Gall

In a four-day quest to experience the best of Spain’s Catalonia region (read up on day one if you missed it), day two involves some driving.

There’s only one national park in Catalonia and it’s small — just 20 kilometers across and 9 from top to bottom — but there’s enough variety and rugged wilderness there to make up for the size: jewel lakes, sizable waterfalls and jagged granite and slate mountains that seem to come out of nowhere.

spain travel

Hiking is cold and snowy during interior Spain’s winter season. Dress appropriately. Photo: Courtesy of Brandon Scherzberg

Add to that a quick trip to the surreal world of Salvador Dali and another to one of Europe’s smallest countries before you call it a day. Here are the highlights for day two of a low-cost, adventure-fueled trip through northeastern Spain.

Andorra

spain travel

After a quick stop in Andorra to refuel, head into Catalonia’s only national park. Photo: Courtesy of Brandon Scherzberg

On the way to Catalonia’s national park, you kind of have to stop in Andorra, if only to say you did. The strange little country is less than 700 square kilometers and mostly filled with ski resorts and a giant duty-free warehouse with an animatronic dinosaur inside. There’s barely a hint of passport control, there’s solid skiing and gas is cheaper across the border; why not?

Parc Nacional d'Aiguestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici

spain travel

Jagged granite and slate mountains and unpredictable weather make Catalonia’s national park feel like a real adventure. Photo: Johnie Gall

In sharp contrast to the turquoise-rimmed, tourist-filled beach towns near the coast, Catalonia’s only national park is all about dark pines, crisscrossing trails, fast-moving weather and the kind of dramatic peaks mountaineering types can feel badass among. Some trails are well-marked, others barely. There are plenty of three- to six-hour walks to choose from, or opt for the East-West traverse (which takes you across the entire park in a day).

Just make sure you bring enough clothing, food and water for a high-country pursuit.

Parc Natural de la Zona Volcanica de la Garrotxa

spain travel

Campgrounds are plentiful in Catalonia. Photo: Johnie Gall

Grab a map at the Casal dels Volcans in Olot and just pick a hiking trail; almost any of them will get you up close and personal with one of the nearly 40 volcanic cones in this small park. Most begin right from the parking lot.

Teatre-Museu Dali

Spain travel

The exterior of the Teatre-Museu Dali is telling of what waits inside. Photo: Johnie Gall

Dali proves to be a master of many types of art, but surrealism takes over inside the Teatre-Museo Dali

Dali proves to be a master of many types of art, but surrealism takes over inside the Teatre-Museu Dali. Photo: Johnie Gall

You can’t go all the way to Spain and not experience the trippy kaleidoscope of history and art that is the Teatre-Museu Dali — the final resting place of the surrealist painter and sculptor, Salvador Dali. When you see it, you’ll know it.

A former municipal theater, the museum is covered in medieval knights with baguettes on their heads, plaster croissants and giant eggs. Step inside and slip into the bizarre world of illusions that awaits there. His most famous works aren’t housed here, but the art that’s there is as captivating as Dali himself. Hint: Put a Euro in the coin slot near the taxi cab and see what happens inside.

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