At the edge of the wild and rugged Delta de l’Ebre, set against a backdrop of mountains, lies the fishing village Sant Carles de la Rapita. Although the town itself is not necessarily worth a visit, the surrounding area with it’s incredible diversity makes it the ideal place to stay. This town itself is still an interesting place to explore if you have time and it has exceptional food and some pretty and interesting sights.
If you’re planning a trip to Catalonia then Sant Carles de la Rapita should definitely make the short list, especially if you’re looking for a base from which you can take day trips to the incredible surrounding areas. Sant Carles de la Rapita is one of those off the beaten track destinations that is growing in popularity every year. The tourism board here is hard at work, making sure there are lots of great activities for tourists. Make sure you get in a visit before it becomes another Spanish tourist hot spot!
Sant Carles de la Rapita is also a relatively cheap place to head for a weekend, probably because it’s less well known than some of the other, more popular Spanish towns and resorts. We visited during the winter months and managed to spend under £80 on a weekend for two here, including flights, accommodation and food. You can find out how we managed it here!
Sant Carles De La Rapita History
The fishing port of Sant Carles de la Rapita is one of Catalonia’s most important. It was originally founded by Rey Carlos III (King Charles III) and was used as a trading port to serve the Spanish colonies. It boasts one of the largest natural harbours in Europe. As much of the town was left unfinished after King Charles death, the buildings are a strange mix of neoclassical and modern, which kind of adds to the charm.
Now it is an urban town with pretty marinas and lovely stretches of beach. Sant Carles de la Rapita is not a busy tourist destination for foreigners so it has a distinctly local feel – get here before that changes!
When To Visit Sant Carles De La Rapita
Most people only visit Spain during the summer months. It’s true that if you want to swim in the sea or sunbathe on one of the wide stretches of beach then June, July and August are the months to visit.
That being said, if you want to be able to do one of the incredible treks in the area then you might want to consider visiting Sant Carles de la Rapita when it’s a little cooler. When we visited in September the weather was warm enough to swim in the sea and a little cooler for some awesome treks without breaking (too much!) of a sweat.
If you’re after a winter break then don’t rule Spain out! We visited Sant Carles de la Rapita in January, one of the coldest months, and we had four days of glorious sunshine. It was too cold to swim in the sea or lie on the beach, but perfect for sunset strolls and trekking in the mountains. In fact, I would say we preferred Sant Carles de la Rapita in the winter, so it’s definitely one to add to the list of winter break destinations!
How To Get To Sant Carles De La Rapita?
Sant Carles de la Rapita is only a two hour drive from Barcelona, so it’s the perfect stop for a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Life is much slower here and you’ll feel instantly relaxed and away from it all.
Likewise, if you’re more of a nature lover than a city dweller, then spend a week here and travel into Barcelona for a day or two to get a cultural fix! This is what we did and it worked perfectly for us, with some sightseeing for a few days and then back to the quiet and beauty of the countryside. We stayed here when we visited and it was perfect for a short stay as it was right in the centre of all the action!
If you’re coming straight to Sant Carles de la Rapita, then fly into it’s nearest airport-Reus (marked on the map half way between Barcelona and Sant Carles de la Rapita). From there it is only an hours drive. We rented a car from the airport (search around for some amazing deals-see our guide to a super cheap weekend in Sant Carles de la Rapita here for some tips about car hire and insurance).
If you don’t rent a car then getting here is a lot more tricky (and expensive), so car hire is our number one choice. It is possible to get the bus from the airport to Tarragona and change there to Sant Carles de la Rapita but it will take you at least three hours if you’re lucky (and you’ll be limited as to what you can do when you get there).
Getting Around Sant Carles De La Rapita
Sant Carles de la Rapita is a small town and easy to see by foot so there is no need to get public transport to get around town. If you hired a car then it is possible to park it all over town, with free car parks all along the beach front near to the little cafes that line the waterfront. A lot of the hotels and bnbs here have parking too.
A great way to explore Sant Carles de la Rapita is by bicycle. There are many cycle routes leading to beautiful natural spots, or you could just use it to explore the town. Although there are roads in Sant Carles de la Rapita they are relatively quiet and wide enough to feel safe cycling on them. You can rent bikes and helmets from many places in town, including some of the accommodation options (see below). Expect to pay around 20 euros for a day.
Things to do in Sant Carles de la Rapita
#1. The Fish Market
Head to the modern building by the Sant Carles de la Rapita fishing port at around 3.30pm Monday to Friday, for an insight into what makes this town so successful. The fishing boats arrive into Sant Carles de la Rapita around 3pm and following this the restaurants turn up to battle for the best deal or the most tasty catch. You will find a passage on the first floor which surrounds the conveyor belt. Here you can watch the sale of fish. Smelly but great fun!
Tip: The fishermen don’t go out during the months of May and June, so obviously you won’t find the fish market during these months!
Time: 3.30pm Monday-Friday
Cost: Depends how many fish you buy! You could end up spending way more than you planned when it’s all so fresh and delicious!
#2. Try Something A Little Adventurous
The Sant Carles de la Rapita Water Estació Nautico is a handy association of collectives, institutions and companies that have come together to offer tonnes of activities and experiences in the town and surrounding areas. This organisation aims to encourage tourism which is based on principles of sustainability, quality and co-operation. Now that’s something we can show some support to!
Through them you can book all sorts of adventurous water sports activities. You can windsurf, paddle board, kite surf, sail, kayak, scuba dive or water ski. If there isn’t something for everyone in that list then we don’t know what will make you happy!
#3. Stroll Along The Sea Front
For a free activity, explore the beautiful sea front of Sant Carles de la Rapita. Sunrise and sunset from here is stunning and at sunset there is a lovely vibe from all the people out running, eating out and meeting with family and friends.
For a cheap date night idea, why not take a picnic and enjoy it on the beach or one of the many benches along the beach front. It was still warm enough to be out in just a jumper in the middle of January, so wrap up a little warmer in the winter months but don’t discount the idea of eating outside!
To the North there are several marinas that you can have a look around, and to the south there are some pretty piers stretching out to the sea with benches for you to sit and enjoy a morning coffee or packed lunch.
#4. Sant Carles De La Rapita Maritime Museum
This museum is in the Les Casotes building, found centrally. It was originally built in the 19th century and is a beautiful building perfectly located to show off the towns local history. The museum covers the towns history of fishing and maritime activity, the marina and coastal ecosystems, the geology of the area and the history of the town. It makes for an interesting few hours and is a nice break from the sun in the summer months.
Location: Plaça Agustí Vizcarro, 43540
July to September : Wednesday to Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Rest of the year : Wednesday to Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 4:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Price: € 2
#5. Become A Fisherman Yourself
In the summer months you can take part in some traditional fishing here, called “Marisqeig”, This is fishing with a large net (around 600m long) in the shallow, clear waters of Alfacs Bay. If you get lucky and make a catch you can choose whether to cook it into a tasty meal yourself, or organise for a local restaurant to do it for you.
Children: From €25
#6. Hire A Boat
Rent a leisure boat and navigate around the mussel beds, get close to the Salinas de la Trinidad (Trinidad Saltworks), visit the Partial Nature Reserve of La Banya, get close to where the flamingos breed or go to the restaurant that floats in the bay – El Chiringuito.
Hiring a boat has always been a top highlight for me when I go on holiday. You have so much freedom to explore an area that not many people get a chance to, and you can see things from a completely different perspective.
#6. Rent A Bike
Sant Carles de la Rapita is one of the exit points of the Ruta de las Lagunas, a cycling route around the lagoons of Encanyissada and Tancada and famous landmarks such as the interpretation center of Casa de Madera (the House of Wood) or the village of Poble Nou del Delta.
The land here is completely flat, making it perfect for exploring by bike. Keep an eye out for the huge amounts of bird life you will see here, and bring a pair of binoculars if you’re a keen bird watcher!
There are lots of places to rent bikes and helmets in Sant Carles De La Rapita. Expect to pay around 20 euros for the day.
Where To Stay In Sant Carles De La Rapita
We would recommend you stay in Sant Carles de la Rapita itself so that you can walk to restaurants, bars and the beachside. We’ve included a few good choices outside the town in case you’re after something a little more secluded. It is a small town and so most accommodation options are within walking distance.
We tried booking through Air Bnb first but their choices were really limited and mostly outside of the town itself, so we ended up booking through booking.com.
This hotel is central to all the action and is simple but has everything you could need, including a smashing breakfast! It’s one of the top rated hotels in the area due to in’s excellent location, decent price and homely feel.
Apartments are usually a really cost effective way of travelling, as you can cook for yourself saving lots of money on eating out. These apartments are air conditioned which will be a life saver if you’re visiting in the hot summer months, they also have access to an outdoor BBQ and lovely views of the city. Think of them as a little home from home!
This beautifully characteristic little house found a town down from Sant Carles de la Rapita just oozes charm and peace. You can walk straight from the garden onto the beach for swimming and excellent fishing, and you’ll really feel as though you’ve escaped it all while still being just a short drive from the action.
Bare in mind that a lot of accommodation does not include city tax in their upfront prices so you will have to pay this on top of the price of your room.
Eating out in Sant Carles de La Rapita
If one of your holiday loves is sampling the local food then you will be in for a treat here. Sant Carles de la Rapita is a seafood lovers paradise, with fresh catch of the day available in its many restaurants. You will find no end of fine dining here, and a range of places for the budget diner too. There’s no wonder that the town is considered by many to be the gastro-capital of the Terres de l’Ebre.
There are many restaurants along the beach front which obviously have the best views, but try heading a little further into the town to Taberna Dalmau for some excellent cuisine. For some budget friendly tapas try Lo Barril.
Getting Out And About In Sant Carles De La Rapita
About 15 minutes drive from Sant Carles de la Rapita is La Foradada, a beautiful mountain with a surprise holey rock formation at the top (and views to die for). The trek took around 3 hours there and back, maybe a bit longer if you take it at a more leisurely pace and stop for lots of photos on the way.
We packed a picnic and enjoyed lunch with a view from the top. Even in January the weather was perfect for a hike and the mountain range wasn’t busy at all. The track is well signposted throughout.
Delta de l’Ebre
About half an hours drive away you will find the Delta de l’Ebre. The delta is an interesting place to spend a day, full of rice fields, open stretches of wild beach and excellent bird watching. Spotting the flamingos will make you feel as though you are somewhere far more exotic than Spain! We found the delta had a bit of a wild feel to it, desolate and sparse, and there wasn’t much in the way of civilisation (as you’d expect!) so make sure you bring some supplies with you if you plan on staying a little while.
If you’re coming here to bird watch (this is what the Delta is famous for after all), then early morning and evening are the best times to see the birds. You’ll want to bring a pair of binoculars as they’re sometimes quite far from the viewing platform. I have to admit that going bird watching wasn’t number one on my list of things to do, but once I was here I absolutely loved it and would happily have spent longer. There are so many that it’s easy to get lost in their little world!
A Little Further Out
If you’re looking for a day trip and something a little different then why not try Siurana, Spain’s most beautiful village. It is an hour and a halfs drive from Sant Carles de la Rapita and well worth the effort. You can find out more about this stunning village here.
Another beautiful nearby town to visit is Miravet, only a short drive away. We were enchanted by it’s castle on the hill and it’s sleepy, local feel. It’s the perfect place to head for a long, lazy lunch and a leg stretch to catch the views from the castle. You won’t be disappointed!
So as you can see, Sant Carles de la Rapita has a lot to offer and is well worth a week of your time. If you decide to visit then let us know all about it in the comments below, we love to hear from you!
About 1.5 hours drive from Sant Carles de la Rapita is the stunning mountain top village of Siurana. If you have the time to visit then this place is truly spectactular!
To do this trip on a real budget, check out our guide here. We have tips on finding the cheapest air fares, car hire and accommodation, as well as tips on eating and drinking cheap!