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The hue of the fine sand on the wide, wonderful beaches of Spain's Costa Dorada (Golden Coast) has given this popular holiday region its name. The 20 or so towns and villages along this 120-mile (200km) stretch of Mediterranean coastline, south of Barcelona, have become built up with hundreds of hotels, camp sites, and apartment blocks, catering mainly for family vacationers.
Entertainment consists largely of enjoying the shallow and gentle sea, ideal for the bucket and spade brigade, and there are some large, thrilling theme and waterparks at the local resorts to keep everybody amused.
Enhancing the area's natural and historic attractions is its sunny, temperate climate. Visitors who enjoy soaking up some local culture and history along with the sun, will find the Costa Dorada has plenty to offer, particularly the main regional city of Tarragona, which was an important army base in Roman times and today boasts historical ruins and a variety of museums.
Excursions inland among the vineyards, olive groves, and almond plantations take in the quaint medieval city of Montblanc, with its fine Gothic church. At Poblet there are some interesting ruins of former monasteries dating back to the 12th century. The Costa Dorada receives millions of visitors every year and has earned its reputation as a holiday paradise.
The Costa Dorada's main city, Tarragona, has almost doubled in size during the last few decades, with its residential districts continually expanding around the beautiful medieval core. Tarragona, originally built on a rocky bluff, can trace its roots back to 218 BC, when it was founded by the ancient Romans as a military base. Impressive vestiges of its ancient past still remain in the form of ruins of the Roman amphitheatre, aqueduct, forum, and other buildings situated on the Paseo Arqueologico which lead to some panoramic viewpoints. A wide boulevard called the Rambla Nova represents the modern main street outside the old city walls. A popular outing for visitors is to explore the old harbour, known as El Serrallo, to watch the fishing boats arrive and auction their catch. As if all this wasn't enough, the city also sports some excellent beaches on its doorstep, including Playa Llarga, regarded as one of the biggest and best on the Catalonian coast. Among the many museums is an archaeological museum devoted to Roman antiquities; the Diocesan Museum displaying Gothic paintings, sculptures and tapestries; and a house museum detailing the life and career of renowned cellist, Pablo Casals.
This massive theme park attracts holidaymakers from far afield to its 'Five Worlds' (Far West, Mediterránia, Mexico, China, and Polynesia). There is now also a children's section with a Sesame Street theme. Visitors can be at the Great Wall of China one minute and at the ruins of Mayan Mexico the next, and meet some cowboys for a taste of the Far West before cooling off by jumping into the great lake from the summit of the Tutuki Splash Volcano. Popular attractions include the Sea Odyssey underwater adventure, the Stampida rollercoaster ride, and the Grand Canyon Rapids water ride. The Shambhala ride is one of the tallest and fastest ride in Europe. The park is part of a resort complex which also includes a water park, four hotels, and a convention centre. Apart from numerous rides and restaurants, there are many shows and entertainment options at PortAventura. It takes much more than a day to experience everything, particularly if you want to visit the water park as well (combination tickets are available), and many visitors opt to spend a night or two at the resort. Some of the snack kiosks and entertainment venues do close outside of the summer months.
The fortified medieval centre of Montblanc is gloriously well preserved. The historic old quarter is best explored on foot and notable sights include the Church of Santa Maria la Mayor, the Sant Miguel Church, the Sant Marcal Church, the Royal Palace, and the Castla Palace, all dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries. The picturesque village celebrates its medieval heritage every year in April with a two-week festival filled with parades and fireworks, which commemorates the legend of Saint George killing the dragon. Montblanc is inland from the port city of Tarragona and very close to the UNESCO-listed Poblet Monastery, which is one of the most famous attractions in the Costa Dorada. Poblet was once one of the most powerful monasteries in Spain and was founded in 1151 by the Cistercians. The kings of Aragon and Catalonia were buried here. Many of the beautiful monastic buildings at Poblet have now been restored and a visit is a must for holidaymakers in the region. Montblanc and Poblet are only about five miles (8km) apart and can be jointly explored on an excursion from the coastal resorts.
Apart from the obvious appeal of the turquoise Mediterranean sea and stretches of golden sand, the Costa Dorada boasts a number of interesting cultural and historical sightseeing attractions for holidaymakers. Salou is a very popular resort, as are its neighbouring resorts of La Pineda and Cambrils, and Sitges is another great favourite on the Costa Dorada. All of these lovely beach destinations are conveniently close to Barcelona and the ancient Roman stronghold of Tarragona. If the myriad attractions of these coastal cities are not sufficient for day trippers, excursions should be taken a little way inland to the fortified medieval village of Montblanc, and the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site of Poblet Monastery. Another historic monastery nearby is the Royal Monastery of Santes Creus, which is also definitely worth a visit for culture vultures. For less culture and more physical thrills, holidaymakers can spend the day at PortAventura Theme Park, a massive, and massively popular, amusement park, very near La Pineda.
There are good local bus services connecting the main towns and resorts along the Costa Dorada, and a reliable train service connecting Salou, Tarragona, Sitges and Barcelona. Car rental is a good option for those who want to explore the interior.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination
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