The Costa Daurada is an internationally recognised climber's paradise.
This region located southwest of Barcelona boasts an astounding concentration of world-class crags situated in stunning National Parks. You've probably already heard of Margalef and Siurana, but these are only some of the highlights! Add to this mild weather, charming villages, beautiful natural surroundings and friendly locals, and it's no surprise why climbers flock here when the weather turns sour in other parts of the world. The majority of the region's crags are limestone sport-climbing and south-facing, making the Costa Daurada an ideal winter climbing destination.
While for us climbers the quality and quantity of rock may be the region's main attraction, there's many other reasons to visit Costa Daurada. First off, there's the food: the region is internationally known for its quality wines and olive oils, and you'll find both excellent local restaurants and even a Michellin Star restaurant in Cornudella and Poboleda.
The landscapes are also incredible! The Priorat region in particular has a very low population, which means that the towns are small and retain the charm of past centuries (there is no traffic light in the entire region, nor electricity pylons, highways or factories) and nature remains very much untouched.
Finally, there's also the option to practice a variety of sports aside from climbing. The region's complex terrain attracts a lot of hikers, cyclists and mountain bikers, and you can always kayak or practice other water sports in the Siurana reservoir.
If you're an outdoor enthusiast looking to meet other like-minded individuals, then the Coasta Daurada's charming villages are definitely a good place to start!
An internationally recognised climbers' paradise, the Costa Daurada is home to some of the world's best climbing hotspots - and some incredible off-the-beaten track crags too © Esteban Lahoz
Rock Climbing in Serra de Prades
The Serra de Prades Mountains are a chain of limestone and conglomerate peaks, located a few kilometres inland from the towns of Tarragona and Reus.
For anyone looking to get a better feel of the region's climbing history, we recommend starting at la Riba, a small crag located in the valley of the River Brugent. La Riba hosted some of Catalonia's earliest climbing competitions (on actual rock!), which unfortunately means that a few of the routes are extremely polished. Avoid these, however, and you're in for some pleasant climbing on pocketed limestone in a calm and quiet crag. There's also a couple of bouldering sectors nearby which are worth a visit, with problems mostly in the 6s and 7s.
Southwest of la Riba, you’ll find another old-school crag: Montral. With around 200 routes between 5 and 7b on pockets, beautiful wild scenery, a refugio, and a river with natural pools close to the climbing, this is the perfect place for a laidback day out.
Old-school crags, newer crags, pockets, crimps and tufas - you'll find something for all styles in Costa Daurada © Esteban Lahoz
About an hour away from la Riba, you'll find Cogullons, the wildest and most remote crag on the list. Getting to the crag requires a 45 minute walk-in (meaning that it stays very quiet), but it's well worth the trek as the rock is some of the best in the area! You'll find a good number of routes between 6b and 8a which tend to be short and powerful, consisting of hard moves on small holds - think Frankenjura style. The crag is situated on a natural southeast-facing balcony, granting you beautiful views over the mountains and climbing in the morning sun.
If you’re up for an adventure of the supernatural kind, then head to la Mussara. This ghost town was supposedly abandoned between 1950 and 1960 due to an endemic insect invasion. Since then, strange phenomena have been reported in the area: unexplained disappearances, UFO sightings, encounters with occult presences… If you’re brave enough to visit, the climbing sectors are located on top of a steep hill with phenomenal views of the Mediterranean. You’ll find routes approximately 25m long, grades 5 to 7c, with easy, flat approaches of no more than 20 minutes. For the complete experience, there’s a refugio you can stay in in the town– just don’t blame us if you hear strange noises during the night!
The final crag worth visiting in this area is Vilanova de Prades. Every single one of 400 routes here is excellent! The climbing is on conglomerate rock with a limestone layer, offering technical routes up to 8b. For vertical walls, stick to the sectors nearest to the town which boast some short action-packed pitches. Overhang fans should head to La Lena.
Look down and you'll see... a sea of rock © Esteban Lahoz
Rock Climbing in Priorat
Priorat is the adjacent region to Serra de Prades, and home to some of the most famous crags in the area including Margalef and Siurana.
Mention Siurana, and crimps are probably the first thing to come to mind. Indeed, this area is best known for its hard, powerful and crimpy stamina routes, which every year attract amateur and pro climbers looking to test their fingers and minds alike. However, don't be put off by this: you'll find a good variety of grades, styles, and even rock types (there's one sandstone sector) over the area's 2,000+ routes. The village of Siurana is a great place to meet other climbers too, and while there's a campsite located walking distance from the crag's it's highly recommended you have a car to make the most of the area.
The name 'Siurana' usually brings to mind HARD routes, crimps and pro-climbers, but there's actually a lot of variety and something available for climbers of all levels © Esteban Lahoz
If you're looking for a crag with routes of a style similar to Siurana, but none of the crowds and polish, then head to Arboli. This crag is located just 15 minutes away from Siurana, and boasts almost 400 top-quality routes between 5 and 8b ranging from short bouldery climbs to longer pump-fests. Like Siurana, the climbing is predominantly technical and crimpy in nature, with vertical walls situated among pleasant scenery. There are also hundreds of limestone boulders in the area, so it’s worth bringing some crash pads if you have the space.
Located just 15 minutes away from Siurana and boasting a very similar style, Arboli is the place to head if you want some quality climbing without any of the polish and crowds © Esteban Lahoz
Finally, if you're in the area, we highly recommend climbing at Montsant Sur. This crag is home to over 600 fantastic routes spread across 20 different sectors between 800m and 1000m above sea level. You'll find routes from 5a to 8c, typically around 30m long, with a similar pockety style to Margalef. The whole area is in a National Park meaning that access is sometimes limited by bird bans, but this shouldn’t be an issue in fall and winter. Walk-ins are steep, between 15 minutes and an hour long, but totally worth it for the wild scenery, peacefulness and mystic vibes.
So much rock everywhere - and most of it is bolted too © Esteban Lahoz
Unfortunately, public transport infrastructure in the Costa Daurada region is scant and quite unreliable. The best way to get around is therefore to rent a car, giving you the flexibility to visit a range of different crags in your own time. Most people will fly to Barcelona and rent a car here but there's also the possibility to take trains to Tarragona or Reus.
When to visit?
The best season to climb in Costa Daurada is from late September to May, as many of the region's crags are south-facing! In winter, the weather is often very stable and there are many days that you can climb - often in just a t-shirt :)
Yoga on the terrace of Refugi la Morera de Montsant during a Mapo Tapo New Year's trip to Costa Dorada - pretty idyllic, no? © Esteban Lahoz
Where to stay?
Refugi La Morera de Montsant
Refugi La Morera de Montsant is the perfect base for those looking to make the most of the Costa Daurada's incredible climbing, with over 6,000 routes located within just a 40 minute drive. The Refugi was opened in 2018 with the explicit aim of catering to visiting climbers and hikers, and is managed by Joan Olive, a climbing guide and local route developer. With comfortable dorms and an on-site restaurant providing delicious breakfasts and dinners, everything is looked after for you. All you have to worry about is where to climb!
The Refugi La Morera de Montsant, based in the converted Prioriat town hall
- 7 rooms, with occupancy from 2 to 8 (some have a balcony).
- A shared living-dining area.
- Pleasant terrace with awesome views.
- Municipal Pool (June - September).
- Onsite restaurant providing traditional meals (half-board is mandatory aside from longer stays).
- Topos of the area.
- A friendly and knowledgeable host happy to recommend crags, and rest day activities.
- Crags and hiking trails within walking distance :)
- Guiding services (for an extra cost)
The beautiful village of priorat, with the crags in the background © Refugi La Morera
Rest day activities
The Costa Daurada has a lot to offer anyone who likes to keep their 'rest' days active. The region's national parks boast lots of incredible hiking and mountain biking trails, and the hilly terrain is perfect for road cyclists looking for scenic views. There's also the opportunity to kayak and practice other water sports in the Siurana reservoir.
If you prefer to actually rest on your rest days, there's still a lot to explore. Joan can recommend some cultural visits in the local area (such as the La Cartuja de Escaladei monastery), or you can head further afield to Reus or Tarragona.
Food lovers - there's a lot of gastronomic activities such as wine and oil tastings or visiting one of the region's Michellin star restaurants.
The village of Priorat, with the Refugi La Morera de Montsant on the left © Refugi La Morera
For more information
The 'Goma 2' climbing bar and shop in Cornudella de Montsant is a great place to meet other climbers, source additional kit and get more information on the area's climbing.
A big thanks to Esteban Lahoz for the pictures and crag beta. You can find more of his work here.