El Puig de la Balma Catalonia: a Unique Rock Hotel!
Recently, just to check something, I was reading again my post about the beautiful medieval town of Mura, Catalonia. And then it hit me that somehow I forgot to write where I spent the night! Now, I don't generally write hotel reviews, as I rarely stay at any. But this was something else!
Just imagine a place remembering the times of crusades built directly into a rock. When I heard about this place from a Park Ranger I had a very vague idea as what to expect. El Puig de la Balma, Catalonia, was supposed to be a set of buildings from the 12th century with additions built at various moments in medieval times, mainly in the 17th century.
Some historians suggest that people started settling in this place already around the 10th c. What is fascinating, the current owners are the 26th generations of people living here!
But let's start from the beginning.
Hiking to El Puig de la Balma, Catalonia, through the magnificent Parc Naturel de Sant Llorenç del Munt i l’Obac
Last year in February, I went hiking along the GR5 trail in Catalonia, Spain. The decision to choose this trail was just perfect - I had a wonderful time hiking solo in Park Montseny and Parc Natural de Sant Llorenç del Munti l’Obac. When I reached the Centre d’Informació del Coll d’Estenalles - I had the perfect time to choose if I want to just move on along the GR5 or to make a detour with the Els 3 Monts trail and visit the town of Mura.
The Park Ranger was amazing - she explained me everything, showed me pictures of Mura and convinced me to not skip the place - for which I am really grateful. She then started to look for an accommodation for me. She called a few places in Mura but they were still all closed.
She then called El Puig de la Balma - as I was told - a unique hotel built in a rock that I really wanted to see. I was lucky - even though they were not officially open yet, as I was afoot they agreed to help me out. I found out that although the family who owns this place lived somewhere else, an old lady was still living there. She was the one who welcomed me in the evening. I even asked to tell them about my gluten-free diet, as the hotel came with dinner and breakfast included.
After a beautiful day wandering through the charming streets of Mura, I was ready to see this "hotel in a rock". I wasn't sure what to expect, the photo I was shown was a bit small. The price was also steep - €50. The moment I turned a corner and saw El Puig de la Balma, I had to stop and stare for a moment to believe my eyes. There it was - a huge rock with a natural roof-like arch under which houses were built. It was obvious they had to come from a variety of times as they differed in styles. The color of the walls was almost identical to the rocks, making them nearly disappear.
The warm welcome at El Puig de la Balma, Catalonia.
When I arrived the sun was setting, so there was no bright light - the whole complex was already in a deep shade. I found my way up the road and entered the gated farm. In addition to the buildings attached to the rock, there were many others opposite it - with a sign "private" hanging around. I walked through small doors in a big wooden gate and found myself under an arch made of rocks leading to a charming little yard.
There, I was greeted by the older lady who didn't speak a word in English, just as I didn't speak a word in Catalan nor Spanish. We had some "conversation" filled with a lot of hand gestures before I understood she was asking me for the time I wanted my dinner! :D
She led me through another ancient gate into the main building. To the right there was an entry to a small museum, still closed for the season. Up small and winding chairs I reached the second floor where, I think, all the guest rooms were located.
The corridor is pretty narrow as the whole right side of it is made of uneven rock. I had to touch it - it was just incredible! The rock's surface was perfectly smooth after centuries of serving as an inner wall. The lady showed me my room and then also a common room one floor up, where I could chill later on.
Keeping it real at El Puig de la Balma, Catalonia.
My room had heaters and a nice bathroom so in addition to washing myself I used the opportunity to do laundry under the watchful eye of Verge de Montserrat because I'm classy like that. I loved how whenever I stayed in a fancy (for me) room I quickly de-fancied it by washing my mud-covered pants in their shiny bathtubs and cooking instameals on the bathroom's beautiful tiled floors.
The common room upstairs had strong wifi signal so I went there to catch up on news and let people know I was still alive. Of course only after staring at the sunset lit mountains through the window. I could again admire the structure hugging the rocks, which bulbous shape protruding well into the room demanded your full attention.
Food, food and more food at El Puig de la Balma, Catalonia.
The dinner was amazing. I was worried about the whole gluten-free requirement but I didn't have to. It would have probably been a much bigger issue if I were a vegetarian! The restaurant itself had a nice, rural atmosphere. When I came, I found a plate of salad, water, and wine already waiting for me. I was hungry when I came to the hotel but had to wait another couple hours, so was more than ready for whatever the lady threw at me. After the salad (made with delicious local olives) came a big plate of hearty, thick vegetable soup.
Soon after, a meal of three or four different kinds of meats (I am serious!) and a bowl of delicious chickpeas with, of course, a roasted thick slice of bacon in it. For me, a big meat-eater, this was heavenly! I was stuffed! As a hiker on a budget, I couldn't remember when was the last time I ate so well. The lady tried to stuff me with even more - a dessert. She couldn't give me any cookies or cake, so she brought yogurts and fruits. I think she thought I had a few stomachs. I took a banana for the next day and was ready to go to sleep.
Unusual birthday party at El Puig de la Balma, Catalonia.
The next day, I went downstairs for a breakfast and was greeted by beautiful Catalan sun. I couldn't' believe how much the building changed in fresh sunlight! I met the hotel's owner who came from his new place just to make the breakfast for me and deal with payment. I was again stuffed up to my gills with delicious food. I had toasted gluten-free bread, a choice of vegetables and home-made cured meats and hard cheese. The coffee was to die for... The whole trip was my gift to myself, as I embarked on the exact 40th birthday. This moment I truly felt I was celebrating - being spoiled and pampered.
After taking some more photos of the stunning construction bathed in the morning sun, I moved on back toward the GR5 trail and towards the Montserrat mountains - looming on the horizon.