The Vall de Boí is a beautiful place of great historical value located at the foot of the Catalan Pyrenees. We had not been there for many years
and we were excited to return to visit the place, especially the famous Romanesque churches, which have the UNESCO World Heritage designation.
We went there on November 2016, when we made a 4-day trip to the valley, and for sure we will repeat it.
Getting there & around
We went by car from Barcelona, and the trip takes about three and a half hours. You can go by motorway in the direction of Lleida, and at the
end you cross the border between Aragon and Catalonia several times to end up taking a winding road but in good condition. The nearest large
town is Pont de Suert, about 20-30 minutes from the villages of the churches.
The car is very practical for visiting the valley and gives great freedom of movement. All the villages in the valley are quite close to each
other, less than 15-20 min drive away at most. Anyway, it is even possible to walk between them if you feel like it. There are also many hiking
routes between the villages (you can get information at any of the information offices) and there is even a 28km circular route that passes by
the 9 churches (distributed in 7 villages) that are part of the World Heritage list. If you are in fit and have enough time, it can be a good
option to know the area. We assume that there will also be public transport between the villages but we do not know the frequency and timetables.
Apart from the Romanesque churches, another of the region's most important sights is the
Parc Nacional d'Aigüestortes i Estany de
Sant Maurici (see link for information on the park), a wonderful natural spot that in autumn showed us its best colours. There are free
car parks at the accesses to the park, which are only 10 minutes away from villages like Barruera or Boí, although there are also taxis that
take you further into the park. In summer there are also shuttle buses.
Where to stay
We stayed in the village of Barruera in Casa Joan, in a nice apartment located in the attic of one of the houses of the village. It
had a double room, bathroom, dining room and kitchen; all perfectly equipped. The owners were also very friendly and welcoming and we felt
at home. In conclusion: unbeatable value for money, we are sure we will be back soon.
Where to eat
The whole area was a little expensive, with menus that didn't go below 15€ per person. The shops (small supermarkets) and bakery that
were in Barruera also had quite high prices. As we had a kitchen in the apartment, we didn't eat out every day, but we tried some
restaurants that we list below:
- Restaurant Plató
We ate some "torrades" (toast made of "pà de pagès" with tomato and sausage) which, although it was a little expensive, it was very good.
The waitress was very nice, although they didn't have many options on the menu since it was the first day they opened on the weekend.
They served homemade desserts and they were delicious. We went to have lunch there another day because they offered a very appetizing
menu but the place was full (it must be a good sign).
- Casa Milagros
We ate some very good menus for lunch, especially the lamb dishes. The waitresses were very young girls who were very overwhelmed by the
people in the restaurant. They were not bad, but sometimes it seemed that they did not pay attention to the customers.
- Hotel Can Costa
(Pont de Suert)
The last day we had a 3-course menu in the restaurant of this hotel. There was a lot of variety and the portions were very plentiful (in fact
they asked you how much you wanted or you could repeat the first and second courses) and quite good (although perhaps not as good as in the
village restaurants). The staff was also very correct.
What to See & Do
The main attractions of the area are the Romanesque churches and the
Nacional d'Aigüestortes (see link). It is also very close to Caldes de Boí, famous for its thermal waters and spa. Furthermore, the area is very
quiet and pleasant and there are numerous hiking routes to do, of all levels of difficulty: from short family walks to hard mountain trekkings, as well as
mountain bike and cyclotourism routes. Everything is very well explained on the official website
and also in the information offices (we were in the offices of Boí and Barruera) are very friendly and can help you in whatever you need. If you want more
information about the churches, the park or the hiking routes you can write to us.
Next we will focus on explaining the Romanesque churches in each of the villages we visited. You can visit the interior of some of them for reduced
prices and there is a very recommendable combined ticket for 3 or 5 of them, including (or not) the Romanesque Art Centre in Erill La Vall. In summer,
most of them are open, but when we went on November, we could only visit Taüll, Boí and Erill la Vall, while the rest were closed to the public.
- Sant Climent de
Probably the best known of the Romanesque churches of Boí-Taüll, and its
fame is not unearned. It has a beautiful exterior and the painting of the Pantocrator
from its apse, which is
really overwhelming, is the protagonist of so many postcards, paintings
and other souvenirs and world-renowned symbol of the valley.
Consecrated in 1123, the aesthetics of its bell tower
next to its
head of three apses constitutes a stamp that
you would like to contemplate forever. However, the interior holds (or hosted) a treasure of
incomparable magnitude: the chromatic harmony of its paintings,
by the Pantocrator which is an emblem of the Romanesque
Catalan. Although it is a pity that the paintings in this church, like most of those in the valley, have been moved to the
d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC), in Barcelona; the video-mapping projection
that is done on the apse is a very nice job. Every hour,
the sound and light show begins and it is projected on the
original walls, like when the paintings were there,
creating a very evocative and even magical atmosphere and giving a
historical and artistic aspect very valuable. In addition to the
recreation of the paintings, the interior is characterized by its floor
separated into three naves by columns. There are also some Romanesque carvings. However, the other main attraction is the rise
bell tower, by a ladder leaving behind you the arched windows all the way to the top. The church is
at the entrance of the village of Taüll, just arriving by the
road. Next to it there is a free parking lot where you can leave your car.
- Santa Maria de
Also from 1123 and with a very similar aesthetic to Sant Climent, but
differentiated by the position of the bell tower, this church is
in the center of town. As in Sant Climent, it also has a plant
basilica distributed in three naves separated by columns. In the
central apse you can see the reproduction of the colorful painting
original that represented the Virgin with the Child and the
The Three Kings. The interior of the south wall is also painted (with copies
of the original paintings, which are also in the MNAC). In the
entrance, on the left hand side, there is a big and colorful altarpiece with images
from later times.
- Ermita de Sant
Quirc de Taüll
Although it is not among the 9 churches declared a World Heritage, this small chapel can be visited after a short walk
from Taüll or the nearby Pla de l'Ermita. We did not find the shortest way and we end up going up the hill
and going back to the road, you can take an easier way (there are indicated trails that reach it and in addition
we saw that we could have driven until there, leaving the car at the entrance of Boí-Taüll Resort). When we went there, there was no access to the interior,
it was closed, but it was worth admiring the small building
Romanesque, as well as the views of the valley.
ERILL LA VALL
- Sant Joan de Boí
Located at the entrance of the village of Boí, next to the old town, this is another Romanesque church, with a lower bell tower crowned by a pointed roof.
Its mural paintings, both inside and outside the church, are noteworthy. They are copies of the original fragments, that were taken to the MNAC.
The best known paintings inside the church are the scenes of the St. Stephen's Lapidation, the Minstrels, or the Bestiary, which represents different real
and mythological animals. These paintings were a way of transmitting to the people the teachings of the Gospels, and therefore the figures often symbolize
certain human or divine attitudes. You can also climb up the bell tower using ladders.
- Santa Maria d'Erill la Vall
This church has a delicate bell tower and shares a similar aesthetic with Sant Climent de Taüll. It is also one of the most beautiful churches in the
area. The entrance is on a lateral side, formed by an arched portico next to the bell tower. Its interior is different from that of the other the churches,
due to its layout and the wooden sculpture group (currently a copy) of the Descent from the Cross. There is an upper floor, where some paintings
and furniture are exhibited, and it is also possible to go up to the bell tower.
- Romanesque Art Centre
Close to the church, there is the small Romanesque Art Centre of
Vall de Boí. It's a quick visit but it's entertaining and educational, with
audiovisuals and colourful posters explaining the origin of
the churches, the life of that time and the process of discovery and
restoration of paintings. There is a small souvenir shop
at the entrance.
- Sant Feliu de Barruera
Barruera is one of the base towns to visit the valley, and it also has one of the 9 World Heritage churches. It is located in front of the village,
on the other side of the road, next to the river. Its bell tower is simpler, with only one window per side on each floor. It has a double apse, built
in different styles during the 11th and 12th centuries, which gives the church a more voluminous appearance. At the time we visited it,
it was not possible to visit the interior of this church and the three following ones.
- La Nativitat de Durro
Situated in the centre of the village of Durro, the large size of this church, and especially its thick bell tower,
as well as the wide arched portico, are remarkable. In high season it is also possible to access the interior.
It is possible to leave the car practically next to it, in a parking lot.
- Ermita de Sant Quirc de Durro
This small Romanesque chapel from the 12th century is located at 1500m above sea level, above the village of Durro.
It can be reached in a 30-minute excursion uphill, or alternatively by car. It has a bell tower with a double belfry and a quiet location from which
there are beautiful views over the valley and the village of Durro.
- Santa Maria de
This church, located in the small village of Cardet, is very different from those in the rest of the valley. It was built taking advantage
of the slope of the mountain, and it has a spectacular apse, which hangs over the cliff. You can try to walk around the streets of the village
to see it better, as you cannot get to the church or cemetery from the entrance. Also noteworthy is its belfry bell tower, resulting from Baroque modifications.
- L'Assumpció de Cóll
Located at the entrance to the village of Cóll, this fairytale church has a simpler, lower, pointed bell tower. The most interesting features
are the decorations on its portico, including the large iron bolt finished with an animal head, and the figures on the capitals, which represent
fights between men and animals.