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Any time is a good time to pack a picnic and head for the majestic Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes that overlooks Port de la Selva in Spain.

A narrow road whiplashes wildly up the mountain to the monastery, a hair-raising drive with steep cliffs on either side and increasingly spectacular views the higher you go. Spare a thought for the serfs and donkeys that hauled up building materials long before the road was built. (See below for directions.)

Saint Pere de Rodes

It’s not just a monastery you’ll be visiting but a sprawling complex of ancient buildings that cover the three crucial elements of feudal life: prayer, produce and defence. There’s even a 6000-year-old dolmen that’s worth stopping for on the drive up.


The origins of the monastery are buried in legends and lore.

Since its construction in the 10th century, it’s lived through splendour, wealth, wars, looting by pirates and bandits, and finally, abandonment by the monks in the 18th century. Restoration started before World War 2 and has continued on and off ever since.

The Monastery  is the Catalan start of the Santiago Way.

Village of Santa Creu de Rodes

Park in the main car park and walk through the trees up the well-trodden path to the remains of a hamlet discovered during archaeological digs about twenty years ago. Careful dusting and diggings have exposed parts of houses and streets and give an exciting peep into medieval life. Most spectacular of all are the two gateways, which were the only way in and out of the village.

Next to the hamlet is the ancient chapel of Santa Helena, behind which is a perfectly positioned stone bench for picnicking. The vista over the bay of Llança and the peninsula of Cap Creus is breathtaking.

Monastery of Sant Pere

The monastery dominates the sea-facing flank of the Verdera mountain and has been restored with Spanish pizzazz. Concrete, glass and steel blend unconventionally with ancient stone walls, worn floors and vaulted ceilings and crypts. The building is a maze of interconnected rooms over three levels constructed into the steep terrain. Filtered light through arched windows creates a moody atmosphere of shadows and ghosts.

Castle of Verdera

Near the main entrance of the monastery, you’ll see signs to the castle. It’s a steep half-hour hike up a rocky trail but worth the effort as the views from the crumbling remains of the castle of Sant Salvador de Verdera are heart-stopping. It’s so steep that a cannon ball lobbed off its cliffs would probably hurtle all the way to Figueras.

Cadaqués twinkles in the sweeping curve of the bay of Roses and snow-capped Pyrenees glisten in the sunlight across the vast Empordà plains.

Picnic spots

There are endless places to picnic. Throw down your blanket in the woods just above or below the parking area, or sit on the stone bench behind the church, or walk along any of the many trails and find a private spot, but for a really dramatic picnic, hike up to the castle ruins and toast the 360° Mediterranean-to-Pyrenees skyline!

If you’re not in the mood for picnicking, enjoy a hearty Catalan lunch on a covered terrace on the sea-facing side of the monastery.


  • Monastery 10 am to 5.30 pm.
  • Closed on Mondays, 25 & 26 December, 1 & 6 January.
  • Entry: 4.50€ for adults and 3.50€ for children.
  • Kids under eight are free. NO WHEELCHAIR ACCESS.
  • Restaurant/ coffee shop
  • Only accessible with ticket to monastery
  • Open: Tuesday to Sunday
  • Lunch: 12.30pm to 4pm
  • Coffee: 10 am to 4pm
  • Reservations: 0034-972 19 42 33


  • An hour from Perpignan if going via the A9 and Figueras, or just over two hours if you take the scenic route along the coast.
  • Scenic coastal route:…..
    Take D914 coastal road all the way to Cerbère, after which you enter Spain and the road becomes the N260.
    Stay on the N260 and pass Llança.
    After about half an hour of driving in Spain, turn right into G1-604 and once in Vilajuïga, follow signs to Monestir de St Pere de Rodes, turning right into the GI-6041.

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