Travel: Montserrat Guided Hiking Experience to Sant Jeroni

Montserrat, which literally translates to saw/serrated mountain in Catalan, is one of Barcelona’s most spectacular attractions for both Catholics and Non-Catholics alike. For the former, Montserrat is a pilgrimage site where the Virgin Mary was believed to have made her first apparition in the late part of the 800s, whilst for the latter, the stunning Basilica with its rounded arches and golden decadence, which marks the transition from the Gothic to Renaissance periods, is a sight worth making the trip for.

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Located in the mountains about an hour drive from Barcelona city, Montserrat is accessible via the train/ cable car or by driving. If you are planning to take the train there, you can do so via the FGC line from Barcelona Placa d’Espanya station to Montserrat-Aeri station. Do note however that the first train only leaves from Barcelona at 8.36am.

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As we were feeling a tad more adventurous, we decided that it would be grand to catch the sunrise at the Montserrat. We trawled through the internet and found ‘Scenic Walking Barcelona‘ via TripAdvisor which seemed promising from the reviews we read. We took the chance and emailed the company to check if there was a possibility we could head up early before everyone else and catch the sunrise. True enough, they replied and told us that as the sun would rise at 6.30am, our guide would have to pick us up at 5.20am. We gamely agreed to it, not really knowing what to expect.

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That morning itself, we met our guide- Pere Sauret, who drove us up to the base of the mountain where the Basilica was. The place was quiet and beautifully peaceful. Pere told us to appreciate the silence and quiet because it would definitely be different when we were to return here after the hike around 12pm. On hindsight, I think I would have stopped to enjoy it more if it were not for my excitement to begin the hike.

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Pere forewarned us that the hike to the peak of Montserrat- Sant Jeroni, would take about 4.5 hours up and back. The peak was 1236m above sea level and made up of three parts. The first part, which formed the main part of the ascend was the hardest and strenuous. Proper hiking shoes and sport shoes are highly recommended. The view however, that accompanies you throughout the whole route, makes it all too easy to forget the number of steps and the steep slopes that are in front of you.

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Clear blue skies with cotton candy clouds and untouched beauty was all that surrounded us and Pere entertained us throughout with the hike with interesting tidbits about the names of the various mountains around us, the herbs and flora that we came across and also the history of the place.

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The final part of the trail would be a 200m climb up the stairs. Press on and you will be handsomely rewarded.

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We did and when we finally reached the peak of Sant Jeroni, the beauty in front of us was unrivalled and simply breathtaking.

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We were this close to the clouds and had an unblocked 360 degrees view of the whole of Barcelona all the way to the Penedès.

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The best part was that because we reached the peak at about 10am, it was still early and there was no one else there but us. We spent almost half an hour there taking photos and taking in the sights and sounds and grandeur of God’s creation. For that second, I could almost understand why hiking up mountains was such a popular sport- because of moments like these, when you are at the peak and feel that you are on top of the world. It is a feeling that I probably would never forget and it was truly great that we could take our time to soak it all in.

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We soon made our way back down very reluctantly because we wanted to be back in the Basilica in time to watch the Escolania- one of the oldest boys’ choirs in Europe, perform at 1pm.

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For those of you who do not wish to spend 4-5 hours hiking up to the peak, the Sant Joan funicular also brings you up to the peak in less than 10min where you will also enjoy a bird’s eye view of the entire Montserrat Monastery. Alternatively, you can choose to take the the funicular down after your hike, if you wanted to experience the 65% gradient of the slope.

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The entrance of the Basilica where you enter, has carved sculptures of the twelve apostles. The queue to see the Black Madonna statue is on the right of the entrance and is approximately a 45min wait. The Black Madonna, also known as Our Lady of Montserrat, is a 12th century Romanesque polychrome carving which pilgrims travel from all over the world to pay their respects to. If you do not wish to queue, the statue can also be seen from the front of the main church albeit small due to the distance.

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Do not forget to enter the church early before 12.30pm if you wish to get a good seat to catch the Escolania which performs every day except Saturday at 1pm and 6.45pm. The church gets extremely crowded by 12.45pm so most people end up standing during the performance.

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And just as Pere told us, the Montserrat was filled with people when we left the Basilica. It was almost impossible to find a empty spot to stop and pray. Nonetheless, we were indeed very fortunate to have experienced the monastery in its solitude and seclusion before the crowds flocked in.

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Tip: Not many people take the hike up to Sant Jeroni but if you do have a day to spare and up for a challenge, I would highly recommend doing it with Scenic Walking Barcelona. Pere was a fantastic guide who was extremely informative, never once boring and spontaneously ended up being our photographer at times. You will definitely be in safe hands for the climb. Thanks Pere for the amazing experience up to the peak of Montserrat!

Price: 90 Euros per person (including transport to and from the city)

Barcelona, Featured, Spain, Travel

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