The strange rounded fingers of the holy Montserrat mountain, just under an hour’s drive northwest of Barcelona, can be seen for miles around, as it rises to 1,235 meters. It’s an iconic, sacred mountain for the Catalans, who come here to kiss the hand of the Black Virgin, a 12th century statue of the Virgin Mary. Supposedly this statue was found miraculously in a cave. She’s now housed in a magnificent basilica.
A special room is set aside for people to leave offerings, such as wedding dresses, photos, even cigarettes in the hope of, receiving a favor, such as having a baby, an illness being cured or giving up smoking. The other big draw is the famous Montserrat boy choir, one of the oldest in Europe, which sings at services daily except for Saturdays. The Montserrat monastery complex also has an art museum, featuring works by Picasso, El Greco and Monet.
The Mountain used to be reachable by road or by rail and cable car only. This vertiginous ride is now optional as there’s a rack railway which takes a much slower and less hair-raising route to the mountain. Once on the mountain, funiculars take you to the start of hiking trails, such as the three hour circular route to the Sant Jeroni lookout point with magnificent views. Information about other trails can be found at the Montserrat Tourist Office which, along with shops, restaurants, cafes and bars, is situated just below the Monastery complex, a short walk from the car park and railway/cable car drop-off point.