Barcelona has become one of the most popular short break destinations in Europe. And with good reason – it is a vibrant, artistic and exciting city, once home to cultural icons like Dali, Gaudi and Miro and with enough varied sights for many return visits.
The region however is worth visiting for far more than just the attractions at the heart of the city – Barcelona is also capital of the fiercely independent region of Catalonia, and it only takes a short drive before you are out of the city and discovering the region’s many charms.
In just four days we not only visited the city but ventured in to the mountains to see the spectacular Montserrat Monastery, explored medieval Vic, gawped at Salvador Dali’s Museum in Figueres, toured his home at Portlligat and strolled the pretty seaside villages of Cadaques and San Marti.
Believe it or not we still had plenty of relaxation time – and where better to spend it than at the 5* Mas Salagros Eco Resort. Up in the hills, just twenty minutes from central Barcelona, it actually felt a world away from the busy city. Tucked in the sleepy Vallromanes valley, on the edge of the forested Serralada Coastal Park it is a veritable haven of peace and tranquility.
Mas Salagros is also the very first EcoResort in the Iberian peninsula. Amongst a raft of eco initiatives, the buildings were built using natural insulation, the beds handmade with ecological materials, all food and drink is organic (often from the hotels own gardens and vineyard) and only eco products are used for cleaning.
The hotel comprises a group of single storey buildings around a series of outdoor pools. At its heart lies a historic country house containing the fabulous Aire Ancient Baths. Stays include ninety minutes free daily access to the baths, set in a delightful network of rooms set in a 15th century building. With stone walls containing a series of eight baths twinkling with the light from hundreds of candles, timed access is strictly limited to just fourteen people to maintain the silent environment.
We loved floating in the ‘Flotarium’ salt pool, but there were also extra hot, ice cold, bubbly, relaxation and outdoor pools to try. Between baths we steamed or sat with hot mint tea. A variety of treatments and massages are also available.
Hotel rooms are very pleasant and simply, although very tastefully, furnished. There is of course an eye to the sustainable with unique headboards on English, hand-made beds, wooden flooring and lots of stone in the stylish bathrooms.
A variety of rooms are spread in small buildings around the estate, many with extra rooms or sofa beds ideal for families. We particularly recommend the garden suites with private terrace and access to gardens and pools.
The hotel has two organic restaurants – La Granja Salagros, open all day for snacks, drinks and light meals or the smart Restaurant 1497, open for lunch and dinner, where you can enjoy tasting menus or dine a la carte.
We picked the latter where the food was not just organic but beautifully prepared. Starters might include a very tasty home made beetroot hummous with a selection of home grown vegetables and fresh breads or avocado ‘gazpacho’ with coconut milk and lime-marinaded vegetables.
We tried the fish options for mains with grilled hake served on creamed sweet potato and a rich fish stew both exceptionally tasty and beautifully presented.
Restaurant 1497 is also very clearly proud of its desserts, in particular its speciality cheesecake – a perfectly round, raspberry jelly coated ball – admirable not just due to its particular light and fluffy filling but also its perfect shape.
On our final day, we took a half hour walk – straight from our door – along the forested trail up the hill and in to the park. Silent aside from birdsong we walked through scented forest to a hill top with abundant wild flowers, the Mediterranean below and Barcelona in the distance. Maybe next time we shall stay in the city? Not a chance.
For more information and reservations visit Hotel Mas Salagros