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Just Me Travel

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Mountains, Museums, and Medieval Magic: Catalonia Unveiled Through Unforgettable Day Trips for Every Traveller.   Welcome to my travel blog, where I am excited to share with you exceptional day…

Mountains, Museums, and Medieval Magic: Catalonia Unveiled Through Unforgettable Day Trips for Every Traveller.


Welcome to my travel blog, where I am excited to share with you exceptional day trips beyond the streets of Barcelona. Join me as I recount my unforgettable experiences on five diverse and awe-inspiring tours from Barcelona. From towering mountains to rugged coastlines, from quaint medieval villages frozen in time to the birthplace of Surrealism, these five exceptional tours take you to another world of Catalonian beauty and wonder.

Catalonia’s diverse landscapes offer a diversity of experiences. Embarking on day trips from Barcelona opens up a world of exploration, where each destination promises its unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Whether you’re drawn to the spiritual heights of Montserrat, the sun-kissed shores of Costa Brava, the timeless charm of medieval villages, the rugged grandeur of the Pyrenees, or the artistic legacy of Salvador Dali, there’s a world of exploration waiting to be uncovered. Catalonia’s day trips have something for everyone!


The 5 Day Trips


Day Trip from Barcelona to Montserrat

Tour: Montserrat Visit with Ascent by Cogwheel Train

Tour Operator: Julia Travel

Duration: Full day – 11.5 hours

Cost: AUD140.00

I booked this tour from Australia before leaving for Spain.

Julia Travel promotes this small group trip as discovering “one of the most mystic Catalan wonders”.

Montserrat Monastery is an 11th-century Benedictine monastery on Montserrat Mountain (meaning ‘serrated mountain’), 60 kilometres northwest of Barcelona. The monastery hangs onto the side of the mountain 725 metres above sea level.

About 80 monks reside at the monastery, which is famous for the Black Madonna statue in the basilica and one of the oldest boys’ choirs in Europe.

View across the valley of a monastery on the side of a mountain.

Montserrat Monastery perched on the side of the mountain.


I took this photo of Montserrat Monastery across the valley at the Cross of St Michael.

The tour as I experienced it:

There were five of us on the Montserrat full-day tour, plus the guide. We travelled on the bus from Barcelona to Montserrat with the morning-only tour participants, separating into two groups (morning-only group and full-day group) on arrival at Montserrat Abbey.

An hour after leaving Barcelona, we arrived at the rack railway (also referred to as the Cremallera) at the bottom of Montserrat Mountain in the small town of Monistrol de Montserrat for the cogwheel train ride up the mountain to the centre of the Monserrat Monastery complex. The five-kilometre, 15-minute ride provided fantastic views of this unusual mountain. As you leave the train, pause to take in the views of the mountain that towers above the monastery and basilica and the deep valley below.

The morning was spent with our tour guide, learning about the monastery, visiting the basilica and Black Madonna, and watching a short documentary about the monastery’s world-famous Boys’ Choir (L’Escolania).

We could not see the Boys’ Choir perform in person as the boys were on school holidays.

A tilted courtyard leads to the carved front entrance of a church.

The Atrium (open courtyard) in front of the Basilica and front facade of the Basilica.


A black madonna with baby Jesus sitting on her lap. She is holding a marble ball that people can rub. The figures are behind glass.

The Black Madonna inside Montserrat Basilica.


The famous Black Madonna wooden statue sits behind glass at the back of the church above the high altar. We joined the queue of pilgrims and tourists to file past the Black Madonna, where many stopped to touch her hand through a cut in the glass.

According to our guide, the Madonna’s face is black due to a botched restoration in about the 12th century when the wrong varnish was used, turning her face black. It was decided to leave her face black, with locals saying that maybe the Madonna wanted a black face. However, historical descriptions of the Madonna say she has simply darkened over time. This latter theory makes more sense, given that the face of the baby Jesus sitting on Madonna’s lap also appears black.

The guided morning tour ended at 12.10 pm, and we were free to spend the rest of the day as we pleased, meeting again at 6.15 pm for the bus trip back to Barcelona.

With the afternoon free, I was eager to take a walk on Montserrat Mountain, starting at the top and walking down. To do this, I rode the Funicular de Sant Joan from Montserrat Monastery to the summit of Montserrat Mountain, about 300 metres above the monastery. I took the path to the left of the Funicular station that wound around and down the mountain to the Cross of Saint Michael (Sant Miquel)) and back down to the monastery.

The signpost at the beginning of the path indicated it was a 40-minute walk to the Cross of Saint Michael. The Cross was about one and a half hours into my very steep descent down Montserrat Mountain, and I still had about 20 minutes to go before I arrived back at the monastery. But I was in no hurry as I took in the spectacular views of Montserrat Mountain’s unique geological (‘serrated’) formation and the valleys and river below.

A serrated mountain top with a view of farm lands and towns in the valley below.

View from Montserrat (‘serrated’) Mountain.


A tall cross monument forms a lookout point for the Vally below.

Cross of Saint Michael and the valley below


While the walk down the mountain was not technically demanding (it’s a paved path nearly all the way), I did find the steep descent challenging. There were times when the decline was so steep my back was almost vertical to the path. The heat was another challenging factor. I’m sure I was on that mountain on its hottest day ever recorded!

Back at Montserrat Monastery, I had a late lunch at the cafeteria – a buffet that cost €19,50 and was not worth the money.

My tour review / final thoughts:

According to their website, Julia Travel no longer offers the full-day Montserrat tour from Barcelona that I did. Instead, they offer a morning (5.5 hours) and afternoon (4.5 hours) tour with the cogwheel train at €59 and €51, respectively.

Having done both the morning and full-day tours a few weeks apart, I believe a half-day tour does not allow time to immerse yourself in the beauty of the mountains where the monastery sits. While visiting the abbey and basilica and learning their history was interesting, the highlight for me was the walk on Montserrat Mountain. It would be a shame to miss out on one of the several walks you can take around Montserrat.

People walking on a path around around the top of a mountain.

The Sant Jeroni walking trail on Montserrat Mountain


There was a communication issue with Julia Travel on this tour. Arriving in Montserrat, the guide sent us to grab a coffee as she was trying to contact Julia Travel to organise our entrance tickets into the basilica and the Black Madonna, delaying the start of the tour by half an hour. Then, when it came to leaving Montserrat, Julia Travel forgot there were five of us doing the full-day tour and supposedly leaving on the same bus as the afternoon tour. However, 50 people were on the afternoon tour, and it was a 50-seater bus. Consequently, we (the five full-day tour group) were taken off the bus and had to wait for another bus from Barcelona to come and get us. So, instead of leaving Montserrat at 6.15 pm, we left an hour later, arriving back in Barcelona at 8.10 pm. Luckily, it wasn’t dark as I had a 35-minute walk back to the hotel, and people were only starting to come out for dinner in restaurants then.

I found Julia Travel’s communication a repetitive problem. I had booked another tour with Julie Travel to Salvador Dali’s Theatre-Museum and Villages – a tour I was particularly keen on taking. However, arriving at 8.00 am at Julia Travel’s office on the day of the tour, I learned it had been cancelled. I received an apology for not being informed and a refund. However, this was not good enough and amounted to unacceptable customer service.

The setting alone makes Montserrat Monastery worth a visit. But it was the mountain walk that made this tour memorable for me.

View of a valley below Monterrat Mountain in Spain.

Llobregat Valley and River taken from Montserrat Mountain


Day Trip from Barcelona to Figueres

Tour: Salvador Dali Museum, Figueres and Cadaques Small Group Trip from Barcelona

Tour Operator: Explore Catalunya

Duration: Full day – 11 hours

Cost: €99,00

Explore Catalunya promotes this small group trip as the “Best tour for Dali enthusiasts, and you’ll see hidden treasures off the beaten path”.

The summer schedule for this day trip (1st July – 14th September) does not include the coastal village of Cadaques, which is included in the winter tour schedule. Instead, the summer schedule takes you to Gala Dali’s Castle in Pubol. I was on the summer schedule day trip.

Near the border with France and about 136 kilometres north of Barcelona, Figueres is famous for being the birthplace of the artist Salvador Dali, an artist I have been a fan of for many decades. It is also home to his world-famous Theatre and Museum.

The Dali Theatre-Museum is a museum dedicated solely to the Spanish artist Salvador Dali, a genius of Surrealism. Built by Dali, it is considered the world’s largest surrealist object and is crowded with his artworks – paintings, sculptures, photographs, and jewellery.

Dali is buried in a crypt beneath the dome of his Theatre-Museum.

The tour as I experienced it:

On arrival in Figueres, we headed to the world-famous Dali Theatre-Museum for a half-hour guided tour with our Explore Catalunya guide. Following the guided tour, we had one and a half hours of free time to explore the three floors of the Theatre-Museum for ourselves.

After leaving Figueres at 12.45 pm, we drove a short half-hour to the pretty, seaside medieval village of Sant Marti d’Empuries on the Costa Brava. Here, we were given two hours of free time for lunch, to explore, or to take a dip in the Mediterranean Sea.

I had a delicious salad at L’Escalapi Restaurant and Pizzeria – a Goat’s Cheese Salad with lettuce, tomatoes, goat’s cheese, walnuts, pine nuts, sultanas, and mustard and honey dressing. Spain does salads so well! I followed up my salad with Sugar and Lemon Crepes. The total cost for lunch was €20 (AU$33).

I walked off lunch by wandering around Sant Marti d’Empuries, admiring its medieval buildings and checking out the beach – a lovely spot to stay a while.

Our last stop for the day was Gala Dali’s Castle in the tiny village of Pubol. The castle is the house Salvador Dali bought for his wife. Salvador didn’t live here until after Gala’s death and had to be invited by Gala to visit.

We were given a half-hour guided tour inside the castle and half an hour of free time to explore its gardens. According to our guide, Gala wanted to design the interior herself, but there is substantial Salvador Dali influence (artworks) inside the castle and its grounds. I particularly loved the Dali sculptures of long-legged elephants in the gardens.

A sculpture of an elephant with very long legs and an eagle on top sits in a garden of green plants.

There’s an elephant in the garden!


Gala is buried in the crypt designed by her husband in the castle’s basement.

Leaving Pubol at 5.00 pm, we arrived in Barcelona at 6.45 pm.

My tour review / final thoughts:

I have been a fan of Salvador Dali for many decades, and visiting his Theatre Museum was on my bucket list as soon as I started planning my trip to Spain. And I wasn’t disappointed! As I viewed his works over three floors, I got a glimpse into his unique world and learned so much about the evolution of his artistic styles.

My only criticism of the two hours allocated in the Dali Theatre-Museum is that it wasn’t long enough. Viewing artworks should be a relaxed experience, but I felt rushed as I wanted to take in as much as possible. It also didn’t give me time to view the jewellery Dali designed for his wife or to visit the museum shop, where I had hoped to buy a book on Salvador Dali.

Here’s some trivia: Dali designed the Spanish lollipop Chupa Chups logo. I never knew Chupa Chups were Spanish! Perhaps I need to attend more trivia nights because the question of who created the Chupa Chups logo is, apparently, frequently asked.

Explore Catalunya must ensure the full tour description reflects the actual tour itinerary. Their detailed summer schedule full tour description maintains that Platge de Castell would be our last stop after Gala Dali’s Castle before returning to Barcelona. However, we never visited Platge de Castell, “one of those rare hidden corners you can still find on the Costa Brava”. Instead, we visited Sant Marti d’Empuries on the Mediterranean coast before heading to Gala’s Castle. I can’t say I was disappointed as I knew nothing about Platge de Castell, and Sant Marti d’Empuries was an enchanting village that I thoroughly enjoyed exploring.

I booked this tour because I wanted to see as much as possible about Salvador Dali that was available at the time. As such, I was pleased Explore Catalunya included Gala Dali’s Castle in the tour. I must admit, I found Gala’s home uninteresting but did enjoy wandering through the castle’s grounds. The hour at Gala Dali’s Castle was more than sufficient time to see everything there was.


Day Trip from Barcelona to Costa Brava

Tour: Costa Brava Small Group Tour from Barcelona

Tour Operator: Explore Catalunya

Duration: Full day – 10 hours

Cost: €105,00

Explore Catalunya promotes this small group trip as being transported “to one of the most breathtakingly beautiful stretches of coastline in the whole of Europe – the Costa Brava”.

The Costa Brava is a coastal region of Catalonia on the Mediterranean Sea in northeastern Spain. It stretches from Blanes, a city 60 kilometres northeast of Barcelona, to the French border.

The tour as I experienced it:

About an hour’s drive from Barcelona, we arrived in Blanes – the gateway to Costa Brava. We didn’t stop in Blanes (a city of nearly 50,000 people) but drove straight to Cala Sant Francesc – a picturesque small cove with yellow sand and turquoise waters.

Alighting from the bus on the hill above Cala Sant Francesc, our guide gave us the option to spend our two hours’ free time at the beach or walking around the nearby Marimurtra Botanical Garden. I chose the Botanical Garden, described as one of the most beautiful gardens on the Mediterranean.

A dark pink flower with irregular petals

Marimurtra Botanical Garden


Marimurtra Botanical Garden is situated on the top of a cliff, providing stunning views of the picturesque Costa Brava with its white sand coves, crystal clear turquoise and aqua waters, and rugged coastline.

Leaving Cala Sant Francesc at 12.30 pm, we headed for lunch at a family-owned typical Mediterranean restaurant outside of Blanes. Our set menu consisted of a selection of traditional local dishes for starters with a glass of Sangria, a choice of several main courses, and a choice of Mel i Moto (a traditional Catalan dessert) or ice cream.

After a leisurely lunch, we drove for about half an hour to Tossa de Mar – a resort town home to the last preserved fortified town on the Costa Brava coast. Upon arrival, our guide took us on an orientation walk through the town and then given over an hour of free time.

I didn’t go for a swim in the waters of the very crowded beach or seek a coffee in the many cafes and restaurants packed with people. I opted instead to walk up the hill to the lighthouse and fortifications on the town’s highest point.

From the lighthouse and fortifications, I could see over the town, the many boats moored in Tossa de Mar’s bay, and a panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea with its blue waters and rugged coastline.

Medieval fortifications provide a foreground for a crowded beach lined with multistoried hotels.

Tossa de Mar – town, beach and fortifications


Tossa de Mar was our last stop for the day. An hour and a half drive saw us back in Barcelona.

My tour review / final thoughts:

According to Explore Catalunya, the picturesque Cala Sant Francesc is “one of the few remaining coves on the coast that have avoided the crowds of tourists and big commercial developments and are known only to locals”. All I can say is there must be a lot of locals because the cove’s beach was crowded. Explore Catalunya goes on to say we would have the beach to ourselves. I think they need to rewrite their tour description!

A beach of a small cove is crowded with people and beach umbrellas.

“Uncrowded” Cala Sant Francesc


I enjoyed wandering around the Marimurtra Botanical Garden and admiring its more than four thousand plant species. However, my highlight of the day trip was the hilltop Garden’s coastal views. The Garden provides the most spectacular views of Costa Brava’s beautiful small coves, crystal clear waters, and the rugged coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.

Pink flowers, green plants, and trees Fram rocks in the sea.

The Mediterranean Sea framed by Marimurtra Botanical Garden


Explore Catalunya’s detailed description for The Costa Brava tour states: “After leaving the beach and gardens, we will continue up to the old castle ruins for another amazing view of the coast.” Unfortunately, this did not occur, leaving me disappointed, as I would have loved to see more of Costa Brava’s coastline.

Lunch was delicious. I had a great salad with lettuce, brie cheese, walnuts, and fruits for my mains. Since I am not fond of ice cream, I had the Mel i Moto – a traditional Catalan dessert of Catalan cheese with honey. It was an interesting dessert but not unpleasant, and I could have had another bowl with more honey. Since arriving home, I have tried making this dessert with ricotta cheese, but it doesn’t taste the same (not as good).

My impression of Tossa de Mar is that of a very crowded tourist town, one I would typically avoid. However, I did enjoy the views from the lighthouse and fortifications of Costa Brava’s dramatic coastline.

The Mediterranean Sea crashed against the cliffs of Costa Brava's coastline.

Costa Brava’s rugged coastline at Tessa de Mar


Overall, the day trip to Costa Brava was long but enjoyable, and I recommend it.


Day Trip from Barcelona to Medieval Villages

Tour: Small Group Medieval Villages Day Trip from Barcelona

Tour Operator: Explore Catalunya

Duration: Full day – 11 hours

Cost: €95,00

Explore Catalunya promotes this day trip as a journey back to the medieval age, visiting the beautifully preserved villages of Besalu and Tavertet and enjoying free time in Rupit village.

The tour as I experienced it:

Leaving Barcelona at 8.30 am, we arrived in Besalu, our first medieval village, at about 10.00 am. Upon arrival, we (there were five guests on the tour) were given 20 minutes for a coffee and a bite to eat. We then headed across Besalu’s most significant feature – its 12th-century Romanesque bridge over the Fluvia River with its seven arches and a fortified gateway at its midpoint. Having crossed the bridge, we immediately entered Besalu’s medieval old town, where our Explore Catalunya driver-guide provided a 20-minute guided familiarisation walking tour around the Old Town.

A view of a town made of stone buildings and a stone bridge built in medieval times.

The medieval town of Besalu and its Romanesque bridge.


After the guided walking tour, we had one hour to explore Besalu independently.

Founded in 878 AD, Besalu is an enchanting medieval town in the foothills of the southeastern section of the Pyrenees. It is one of Spain’s most beautiful and best-preserved medieval towns and was declared a historic and artistic site of national importance in 1966.

Today, Besalu has a population of 2,512 (2023) living there permanently.

Besalu is home to an 11th-century church and hospital, a 12th-century monastery, the remains of a medieval castle, and an ancient Jewish Quarter, where you will find the ruins of a medieval synagogue and a 12th-century Mikvka (Jewish ritual bathhouse).

Besalu’s old town is built entirely from sandstone, giving the village a golden, warm hue. Cafes fill the pretty squares, and narrow cobblestone streets wind through the village. As to be expected, souvenir shops line the streets. However, glancing into shops as I walked past them made me think they were of a better quality than most you see.

Besalu’s main square, Placa de la Llibertat, is in the centre of the old town and a great place to sit with a drink or ice cream and people-watch.

A tiled square in a medieval village lined with cafes and restaurants. There are people sitting in the cafes.

Cafes and restaurants line Besalu’s main square


I found the wooden chairs attached to the Old Town’s stone walls a thought-provoking addition to Besalu’s medieval architecture. However, I never got an answer about the reason for this art installation.

After about an hour’s drive from Besalu and up narrow, winding roads into the Pyrenees, we arrived at the medieval village of Rupit. A river, forest, waterfalls, and caves surround the village, which is 822 metres above sea level in a valley adjacent to the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park.

Rupit was in stark contrast to Besalu. Instead of the pale stone buildings that give Besalu an air of warmth, all the houses in Rupit are built with basalt stone, giving the village a dark, forbidding appearance.

A cluster of basalt stone houses are surrounded by green shrubs and trees.

The medieval village of Rupert, with houses built in basalt


Rupit is smaller than Besalu, with about 160 permanent residents and just two main streets. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has described it as “one of the jewels of Catalonia in Spain.”

Rupit has received two awards in recent years:

  • UNWTO named it ‘Best Tourism Villages 2022’ for its “development of sustainable and responsible tourism.”
  • It has been awarded ‘European Charming Villages’ by the COSME Initiative of the European Union.

Before arriving in Rupit, our driver-guide gave us the option of free time to explore the village or to join him at a local restaurant for a set menu Catalonian lunch. I opted for lunch with three other guests and our driver-guide – a big mistake! Don’t get me wrong, the three-course lunch was delicious and a leisurely affair, but it took all our allocated two hours of free time in Rupit.

Two hours for lunch in Spain is the norm, but we had no time to explore the village. After several guests voiced their disappointment, our driver-guide gave us ten minutes to explore Rupit.

Our final stop before heading back to Barcelona was at a clifftop lookout in the tiny village of Tavertet, overlooking the valley below and the Guilleries mountain range. From this viewpoint, we could see the large Sau Reservoir, villages, and the odd lone house in the valley below.

A valley view in a Spanish mountain range with a large reservoir.

View of the valley and mountain range from Tavertet lookout


My tour review / final thoughts:


Grabbing a takeaway coffee instead of sitting down for 20 minutes would have been a better option, allowing more time for the guided walk around Besalu.

I would have liked more time to explore Besalu at a relaxed pace rather than rushing from street to street to see as much as possible and take as many photos as possible.

According to the detailed description on Explore Catalunya’s website, the Medieval Villages tour includes “visit a restored mikveh (an old Jewish bath from the 12th century), and see the remains of a medieval synagogue”. Neither of these happened.

We were discouraged from seeing the old Jewish bath with an explanation that to do so was too hard. We would have to walk back over the bridge (at this point, we were inside the walled town) to the tourist office, get the key for the bath, and then take the key back to the tourist office once having seen the bath. There was also an admission fee involved.

I got the distinct impression that our guide just couldn’t be bothered taking us to visit the restored mikvah and ruins of the medieval synagogue. I found this extremely disappointing as I have a strong interest in Jewish history.

Castellfollit de la Roca:

On the drive to Rupit, our driver-guide pointed to Castellfollit de la Roca village, perched on the edge of a basalt precipice. I have seen several photos of Castellfollit de la Roca on Instagram and have always been in awe of its precarious location. I was okay with not exploring the village but felt incredibly disappointed that we drove straight past and didn’t pull off the road for a photo stop.


Opting to have lunch in a restaurant in Rupit was a missed opportunity to explore the village. It was a shame that our driver-guide failed to advise us that lunch in the restaurant would take up all our free time in Rupit. Had he done so, I would have grabbed something to eat at the bakery and used the two hours to explore the village and walk along the river to discover its pools and waterfalls.


Explore Catalunya’s detailed description for this tour states that a visit is made to Tavertet village. “With your guide, visit this charming village, which was declared a National Property of Cultural Interest due to its 48 preserved houses from the 17th and 18th centuries. Learn interesting facts about this village as you admire the houses and the 11th-century Romanesque Church of Sant Cristofol.” However, we did not visit Tavertet; we merely drove straight through to the viewpoint on the cliff edge of the village for a panoramic view of the valley below. It was a shame we did not go into Tavertet, as I was looking forward to seeing the houses.

Explore Catalunya advertises that The Small Group Medieval Villages Day Trip from Barcelona lasts 11 hours. However, on this day, it was only ten hours. The additional hour would have allowed the advertised visit to Tavertet village or more time in Besalu.

Final thoughts:

Besalu is a delightful village worth visiting. However, I would have found a full day in Besalu to explore all its nooks and crannies of more value.

Ten minutes to explore Rupit and a short walk along one street to the restaurant was not enough time to make an informed comment on Rupit. However, what I did see had me wanting more.

I cannot comment on Tavertet, as we only drove quickly through the village to the lookout.

I enjoyed the Medieval Villages Day Trip, but I suspect the enjoyment was more about getting out of Barcelona for the day than the trip itself. In truth, I ended the day feeling disappointed and cheated.


Day Trip from Barcelona to the Pyrenees

Tour: Pyrenees Mountains Small Group Day trip from Barcelona

Tour Operator: Explore Catalunya

Duration: Full day – 11 hours

Cost: €109,00

Explore Catalunya promotes this day trip as “The only day tour from Barcelona that takes groups into the Pyrenees Mountains”.

There were five guests on this day trip (including myself) and our driver-guide, Steven. The tour’s destination was Vall de Nuria (Nuria’s Valley) in the Pyrenees via Vic and Queralbs.

The tour as I experienced it:

Our departure from Barcelona at 8.30 am had us arriving in Vic (pronounced Bic) about an hour later.

Vic is about 69 kilometres north of Barcelona on the Meder River. It is an ancient city, dating back to the Ausetan Iberians before Roman occupation in the 1st century AD, with an interesting and picturesque medieval Old Town.

On a 20-minute guided walking tour around the Old Town, we passed through several small pretty squares with cafes preparing for the day.

The guided walking tour ended in Cathedral Square at the Roman Catholic cathedral, Catedral de Sant Pere Apostol (Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle).

I found the interior of Vic’s Sant Pere Cathedral to be unlike anything I had seen previously. Huge, almost monochromatic canvases painted by Joseph Maria Sert representing the mystery of redemption cover the walls, making the interior dark and gloomy – an unexpected contrast to the cathedral’s light-coloured stone exterior. It wasn’t a place I wanted to linger! However, your reaction may be very different.

Explore Catalunya’s visits to Vic coincide with traditional market days, which take place on Tuesdays and Saturdays in the arched main square (one of the biggest in Spain). Stalls of every sort filled the square.

Our half-hour of free time had me scouring the market stalls and nearby shops for something suitable for a takeaway lunch. Steven advised us that the food at Vall de Nuria’s café was not the best and recommended that we buy lunch in Vic.

From Vic, we drove up into the Pyrenees to the small village of Queralbs, which sits at an altitude of 1,236 metres. It is the last vehicle-accessible village on the way up to Vall de Nuria (Nuria’s Valley), a beautiful valley in the eastern Pyrenees. The final six kilometres from Queralbs to Vall de Nuria must be travelled by rack railway – a 20-minute journey to an altitude of 1,964 metres. But first, there was a guided walking tour through Queralbs.

Queralbs is an ancient village dating back to 833 AD. With its traditionally built stone houses perched on the side of the mountain, “this impossibly quaint, picture postcard beautiful hamlet is one of the most memorable parts of the day” (Explore Catalunya). I couldn’t agree more! The village was picture-perfect.

The walking tour ended at the Romanesque Esglesia de Sant Jaume (Church of Saint James) – one of Spain’s oldest surviving Romanesque churches.

A stone church with an arched portico and three bells in the bell tower. Green shrubs are behind the church.

Queralbs’ Romanesque St James Church.


Time to catch the rack railway train to Vall de Nuria!

Vall de Nuria is a glacial valley in the eastern Pyrenees, 120 kilometres from Barcelona, 1,964 metres above sea level, and surrounded by mountains nearly 3,000 metres high. It is remote and only accessible by rack railway. The ski resort and Nuria Lake dominate the valley, offering spectacular mountain landscapes, winter skiing, and summer hiking trails.

With two hours to explore the valley before catching the train back down the mountain, I decided to hike one of the many trails in the hills around the valley. These trails range from easy to challenging.

Given my limited time, I chose an easy trail, the Way of the Crosses. I was told it would take 50 minutes to walk, but I knew it would take longer as I would keep stopping to take photos and admire the breathtaking views. The trail gets its name from the Christian Way of the Cross tradition, with twelve crosses along the way. I made the hike easier on myself by walking down the mountain rather than up. I did this by taking the cable car to the summit, bringing me to an altitude of 2,170 metres. Consequently, I passed the crosses in reverse – from twelve to one.

We missed our scheduled train back down the mountain to Queralbs because one couple failed to turn up at the meeting point even though Steven’s instructions were clear. No one knew where they were. I could tell Steven was worried, but he handled it calmly. Eventually, Steven decided we would catch the next train and leave the unreliable couple to fend for themselves. Surprise, surprise! When we arrived back at Queralbs Rack Railway Station (45 minutes late), our errant couple were waiting for us. They had decided to forego the meeting point and catch the train on their own.

From about halfway down the Stations of the Cross trail, the sky was getting blacker and blacker. By the time I reached the bottom, thunder was rolling around the mountains.

A valley in the Pyrenees is shrouded in black clouds.

Vall de Nuria – a storm rolls inover the Pyrenees


Just as we were about to board our train back down the mountain, the heavens opened, and heavy rain and hail bucketed down. As we travelled the six kilometres from Vall de Nuria to Queralbs, the rain got heavier and heavier. Running from the train to the station building had us soaked to the skin, and I mean soaked. Water was pouring off me, off my hair and my clothes.

Our misfortunes did not end with a missing couple and soaking rain. Shortly after leaving Queralbs for our drive down the mountain, we came to a grinding halt. Traffic wasn’t going anywhere! The river beside the road was a raging torrent, so I thought maybe the road was flooded. After about 20-30 minutes, the male of our errant couple went to investigate what was happening up ahead – to make up for their “misunderstanding” about the meeting point. He told us there was a mudslide with rocks over the road and water pouring down the mountain. People were staring at this catastrophe, immobile. But our errant male (sorry, I will always think of him as such) started moving the rocks, and others helped. We were moving again! Meanwhile, it was sunny and 30 degrees Celsius in Barcelona!

My tour review / final thoughts:

In Vic, I struggled, wasting a lot of time trying to find suitable food for a takeaway lunch. I couldn’t even find a small supermarket in the streets around the main square. I found a bakery that looked promising, but the queue was too long to wait for service. I was conscious about arriving back at the meeting place on time. Had I known in advance about the recommendation to purchase a takeaway lunch, I would have brought food with me. In hindsight, I am sorry I didn’t risk the cafe at Vall de Nuria because the lentil salad I bought in Vic for lunch was pretty ordinary.

Explore Catalunya advertises the tour as 11 hours in duration. However, the tour was 11 hours only because we were late leaving Vall de Nuria back to Queralbs and encountered a mudslide driving down the mountain. I felt cheated because I would have loved more time on the mountain. The additional hour would have allowed me time to walk around the lake, visit the sanctuary, or have a cup of coffee.

I thoroughly enjoyed this day trip to the Pyrenees Mountains. What an adventure!

Don’t get me wrong; I have enjoyed all my day trips with Explore Catalunya, but this one seemed a bit more special. Perhaps it was the breathtaking landscape of the Pyrenees or just being in the mountains? Perhaps it was the enchanting village of Queralbs or the experience of the Rack Railway? Perhaps it was the adventure of getting soaking wet from a massive storm or driving through a mudslide over the road? Even though all the tours were very different and memorable, this day trip to the Pyrenees was special. It was not your ‘usual’ sightseeing tour and, for the most part, was the more relaxed.


A word on booking tours with Explore Catalunya:

I booked all my tours with Explore Catalunya in person, visiting their office in Barcelona at Carrer Palau de la Musica, 1. When booking in person, I received a €10,00 senior discount on each tour. However, when visiting Explore Catalunya’s website, I found nowhere that a senior discount can be applied when booking a tour.


As we conclude our journey through these five memorable day trips from Barcelona, I hope the experiences I shared have inspired you to venture beyond the city’s boundaries and explore the wonders just a short distance away.

Barcelona is a gateway to extraordinary adventures, allowing you to immerse yourself in captivating landscapes, delve into rich history, and be inspired by world-renowned art. The day trips I took from Barcelona left me with a lifetime of memories.

So, if you find yourself in Barcelona, let these day trips be your guide to exploring the richness that lies beyond the city’s borders, for Catalonia is a region of endless discovery. Allow yourself to be swept away by the allure of Montserrat, the coastal beauty of Costa Brava, the timeless appeal of medieval villages, the majesty of the Pyrenees, and the surreal world of Salvador Dali.

Thank you for joining me on this unforgettable journey through Catalonia’s diverse landscapes and cultural treasures. Until next time, here’s to the endless horizons of discovery and the timeless magic of travel!


Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Just Me Travel.

© Just Me Travel 2018-2024. All rights reserved.


Have you found this review of day trip tours from Barcelona a helpful resource? Which would be a day trip not to be missed? I love hearing from you. Please leave a comment below.

I look forward to reading and responding to your comments on which day trips from Barcelona you might include on your next holiday to Spain that this post has inspired.


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A medieval village with an arched Roman Bridge and a small sandy cove invite you discover the hidden gems of Catalonia, Spain at justme dot travel.

Stone houses in a medieval village and a valley in the Pyrenees invite you to explore Catalonia at justme dot travel.


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A collage of photos showing Islamic architecture, a beach, an ancient Roman theatre, and a modern glass and silver tiled building.SPAIN BUCKET LIST: The 47 Incredible Things You Should Not Miss. From historic landmarks to cultural marvels, my Spain Bucket List is your go-to resource for planning the trip of a lifetime. Start planning your Spain itinerary now!





Experience Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier on a Helicopter Flight – The Most Accessible Rivers of Ice in the World.   New Zealand’s Southern Alps are breathtaking and home…

Experience Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier on a Helicopter Flight – The Most Accessible Rivers of Ice in the World.


New Zealand’s Southern Alps are breathtaking and home to several glaciers. Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier are the most accessible. And what better way to experience their natural beauty than with a helicopter flight over the glaciers and landing on the top of one for a walk around? 

When touring New Zealand’s South Island, I climbed aboard a helicopter for a scenic flight and snow landing. I have mixed feelings about this flight, which become evident in my review below.


I was so excited about taking a helicopter flight with Glacier Helicopters over New Zealand’s Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers – an optional extra with Grand Pacific Tours and my New Year present to myself. I will always jump at the option of a helicopter or small plane scenic flight and have taken several now around the world. They provide a unique perspective of an area or site you visit, and I feel a sense of adventure with helicopter flights.

Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are in New Zealand’s Southern Alps on the South Island’s west coast, in Glacier Country. They are temperate maritime glaciers that extend well below the snow line. Franz Josef Glacier’s terminal face is 500 metres above sea level, while Fox Glacier terminates at 250 metres above sea level. Though still flowing, both glaciers, unfortunately, are retreating, with Franz Josef vanishing at a phenomenal rate.

Franz Josef Glacier is 12 kilometres long and lies 20 kilometres south of Fox Glacier. Franz Josef Glacier was named after the Austrian emperor but is better known by its Māori name, Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere. The glacier is five kilometres from the town of the same name.

At 13 kilometres long, Fox Glacier (Te Moeka o Tuawe) is longer and faster moving than Franz Josef Glacier and is New Zealand’s longest glacier. Fox Glacier is just five kilometres from the village of the same name. I stayed in Fox Glacier village.

View of a glacier wedged between two mountains. An open plain with several trees is in the foreground of the photo.

View of Fox Glacier taken from State Highway 6 near Fox Glacier village.


Grand Pacific Tours had organised the 40-minute ‘Mountain Scenic Spectacular’ helicopter flight with Helicopter Line in Franz Josef village. However, when we arrived, Helicopter Line advised us to fly the next morning because of the current poor visibility. For some reason I never understood, we booked in the following day with Glacier Helicopters for our scenic flight over Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, with a snow landing on Franz Josef Glacier and departing from Fox Glacier village. Unfortunately, because of a strong wind, we couldn’t fly around Mount Cook (Aoraki), New Zealand’s highest mountain (3,724 metres), as per the scheduled flight path. Consequently, Glacier Helicopters reduced our helicopter flight plus snow landing to 30 minutes, and we did receive a small discount.

A snow capped mountain rises above a mountain range devoid of snow.

Mount Cook dominates New Zealand’s Southern Alps.


I was disappointed with Glacier Helicopter’s scenic flight. The cabin was cramped inside, and the other passengers obstructed my view. There were three of us in the back, two in the front, and the pilot. Sitting in the middle of the back seat, I found the cramped conditions restricted my arm movements, making taking photos while flying difficult.

I could tolerate being sandwiched between two passengers, but having my views of the landscape we were passing over severely obstructed was upsetting. While flying, the passengers on either side of me continually blocked my sight as they leaned into their respective windows to see the landscape below and take photos. Looking out the front of the helicopter was no better as the heads of the two front passengers were prominent in many of my photos.

These circumstances negatively impacted my overall experience. As a travel blogger and photographer (I rarely disclose my tradecraft), getting good photographs is crucial for my posts. I understand weight distribution is imperative for helicopter flights, but is there no way to guarantee a window seat?

Had I not been seated in the back row’s middle seat, I believe my helicopter flight experience would have been very different – far more positive.

After flying up the ice river that is Franz Josef Glacier, we landed on the top of the glacier to spend 15 wondrous minutes walking on the snow and ice, examining the ice architecture, enjoying the views, and taking photos. The adventure of a lifetime! The landing on Franz Josef Glacier was magical. Who needs a flight around a snow-capped mountain when you can walk on a glacier?

The ice river of the Franz Josef Glacier is view from a helicopter.

Franz Josef Glacier – climbing the ice river


New Zealand's Southern Alps at the top of Franz Josef Glacier, viewed from inside a helicopter.

Landing on Franz Josef Glacier.


While on Franz Josef Glacier, the pilot took photos of the passengers. He had a printer in the helicopter’s tail, and we could purchase a photograph after landing back at Fox Glacier Heliport.

A red and white helicopter sits on the snow with mountains behind it. The name, Glacier Helicopters is printer on the helicopter's tail. The pilot is looking into the helicopter through an open door in the tail section.

There’s a printer in the helicopter’s tail!


I would have loved more time on Franz Josef Glacier to walk further afield than just the top of the glacier, exploring its features in detail. But that’s what the Heli Hikes entail. Next time!

Being in the middle seat behind the pilot and two other passengers on Glacier Helicopter’s small, five-passenger helicopter was not value for money. I had no choice as to which company I took the helicopter flight with, as Grand Pacific Tours organised it. I recommend exploring other glacier helicopter flight companies to avoid disappointment.


My helicopter flight over New Zealand’s Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers was a mixed experience. The obstruction of my views during the flight by other passengers was undeniably disappointing. However, the magic truly began when we landed on Franz Josef Glacier. The opportunity to step out on this pristine glacier and explore its breathtaking beauty up close gave me a real sense of adventure. While the flight had drawbacks, the glacier landing left an indelible mark on my memory.


Snow covered mountains are viewed from inside a helicopter.

Fox Glacier – on top of the mountains.


Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Just Me Travel.

© Just Me Travel 2018-2023.


My favourite helicopter flights are in small three-passenger helicopters with removed doors. I experienced three such helicopter flights when in The Kimberley, Western Australia. What has been your experience of scenic helicopter flights? I love hearing from you. Please leave a comment below.


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The image features two photos. One shows a red and white helicopter sitting on snow with mountains behind it. The other photo is a section of a snow covered mountain range.


The image features two photos: a glacier wedged between two mountains with a grass plain in the foreground, and a view of an ice river (glacier) running down a mountain crevice.


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A collage of three photos of mountains surrounding bodies of water in New Zealand's Fiordland National Park.NEW ZEALAND’S FIORDLAND NATIONAL PARK – DISCOVER 3 SPECTACULAR SOUNDS. Journey through the awe-inspiring sounds of Fiordland National Park, where nature’s grandeur & serenity intertwine. Take a cruise to discover the spectacular sight of glacial-fed fiords.


The wing of a plane is seen flying over a landscape of red cliffs, white sand, blue ocean and green forestHOW TO SEE HORIZONTAL FALLS AND EPIC TIDES, AUSTRALIA. Take an unforgettable scenic flight over northern Western Australia’s Horizontal Falls. Include an incredible sea safari among giant whirlpools and standing tidal waves. See a horizontal waterfall and ride giant tides.





Take An Amazing Scenic Flight And Awesome Sea Safari   Northern Western Australia has some of the best unique experiences you will find in Australia. Air Kimberley’s Cygnet Bay Explorer…

Take An Amazing Scenic Flight And Awesome Sea Safari


Northern Western Australia has some of the best unique experiences you will find in Australia. Air Kimberley’s Cygnet Bay Explorer full-day tour covers several bucket list activities in the Kimberley region. Be prepared for a scenic flight over the Horizontal Waterfalls and the stunning Buccaneer Archipelago, a visit to a hatchery managed by the Bardi-Jawi people, a pearling industry discovery tour and a fast boat cruise amongst giant whirlpools and standing tidal waves in the world’s largest tropical tides. So, where am I taking you? Read on to discover and learn more about your next Australian adventure.


Over the past 12 months, I have tried twice to join a tour over and through Horizontal Falls in Western Australia. However, on both occasions, the company cancelled the tour. The first cancellation in 2021 was because the seaplanes could not take off due to low cloud cover. The second cancellation (June 2022) occurred when a fast boat had an accident going through the Horizontal Waterfalls, and all fast boat tours through the falls were temporarily suspended.

When I recently found myself in Broome again, and my second-attempted pre-booked Horizontal Falls tour was cancelled, I was resigned to my disappointment. However, one day nosing around the resort lobby, I came across an Air Kimberley brochure. I discovered they did a similar full-day tour that included a flyover of the Horizontal Falls and a sea safari, not through Horizontal Falls, as I had wanted, but out to the giant tides off the Kimberley coast.

The Air Kimberley tour cost, at $985.00, was slightly less than what I was to be refunded from the cancelled tour. I figured, what did I have to lose? And I wasn’t returning to Broome for a third attempt at the Horizontal Falls tour.

Air Kimberley’s tour price covered hotel transfers, flights, morning tea and lunch, and third-party tours at Ardyaloon Trochus Hatchery and Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm.

So, what did I find in that Air Kimberley brochure? Before I answer that question, you probably wonder why seeing Horizontal Falls was so important to me.

Last year, when organising my first ever trip to the Kimberley in northern Western Australia, Horizontal Falls was on my must-see list for several reasons.

  • Sir David Attenborough has described the falls as “one of the greatest natural wonders of the world”, and I thought I needed to see this unique natural attraction that deserved such high praise.
  • The Horizontal Falls are created by a rare ocean phenomenon where powerful, fast-moving 10- to 12-metre-high tidal currents squeeze through two narrow gorges at an astonishing rate, producing waterfalls turned on their side (literally, horizontal). I love waterfalls but have only seen ones with vertical drops. So, I knew I had to see this wonder for myself.
  • Horizontal Falls is in the Buccaneer Archipelago, an untouched region of more than 1,000 islands off the coast of Western Australia. These largely uninhabited islands are known for their rugged terrain, areas of rainforest, and pristine, white sand beaches – a landscape I was keen to photograph from the air even though it would seriously test my camera skills.
  • Horizontal Falls is remote, accessible only by air or boat. I find ‘remote’ appealing – the more difficult it is to get to see or do something, the more I want to go.
  • And lastly, seeing Horizontal Falls came highly recommended by friends and Facebook groups.

Did my flight over Horizontal Falls meet all my expectations? You will have to read on to find out.

Cygnet Bay Explorer

And now, back to my question about what I found in the Air Kimberley brochure.

I found, booked, and went on Air Kimberley’s Cygnet Bay Explorer full-day tour, leaving from Broome.

“Enjoy an adventure packed day experiencing the best of the Kimberley – Overfly the Horizontal Falls, Buccaneer Archipelago, visit Ardyaloon Community and the giant tides and shimmering pearls at Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm.”

While you can check out the details of this tour for yourself by clicking on the link, there were two very different events I was eager to experience – the scenic flight over Horizontal Falls and the sea safari out to the giant whirlpools. But I am getting ahead of myself. What did the tour entail?

I was picked up from my accommodation at 6.30 am and driven to Broome International Airport, where Air Kimberley is based. Four other people (two couples) joined me on the tour. After our flight safety briefing, we boarded a small aircraft (eight-seater, including the pilot) for the 2-hour flight up the Kimberley coast for our flight over the stunning Buccaneer Archipelago and Horizontal Falls.

The Buccaneer Archipelago is a group of 1,000 small islands covering 50 square kilometres, located at the head of King Sound near the Kimberley town of Derby.

The archipelago is a magnificent raw landscape that you can only truly appreciate from the air. While boat tours around the islands offer visits to the beautiful coves and beaches, you would not get the perspective given by a scenic flight of the vastness of all those islands that seem to go on forever.

I must admit, I was underwhelmed with Horizontal Falls. I had read so much about the power of the tides running between the cliffs, causing the water to appear like a horizontal waterfall, but ‘power’ was not evident from the plane. Instead, what I saw was more like Class 1 or 2 rapids.

I suspect the wonder of Horizontal Falls and the power of the tides are best experienced from a fast boat through the waterfalls rather than a scenic flyover.

When we landed at the Ardyaloon Trochus Hatchery & Aquaculture Centre, run by the Bardi-Jawi people on One Arm Point, I asked the pilot if we were not allowed to fly lower over Horizontal Falls. I thought lower would give a better ‘feel’ for the powerful tides. Apparently, there is a height pecking order, with helicopters flying at the lowest altitude, seaplanes next level up, and light aircraft (our plane) flying the highest.

When I got home and reviewed my photos more closely, I felt the image below revealed the power of the running tide more clearly than my eyes could discern. What do you think?

Close up aerial view of a horizontal waterfall

Can you ‘feel’ the power of the Horizontal Falls in this photo?


I had joined a guided tour of Ardyaloon Trochus Hatchery on a previous visit to Broome in 2021. However, on this occasion, morning tea of fruit salad, cake, and juice was provided by Air Kimberley.

From Long Arm Point, it was a short, six-minute flight to Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm on the tip of the Dampier Peninsula, where the activities included the Pearl Discovery Tour and a Sea Safari. At Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, Air Kimberley’s involvement was limited to getting us to the pearl farm, seeing we joined the Pearl Discovery Tour, paying for lunch, ensuring we were on the fast boat for the Sea Safari, and flying us back to Broome.

Air Kimberley’s Cygnet Bay Explorer tour price included the tours at Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm.

Pearl Farm Discovery Tour

My previous visit to Broome in 2021 included the Pearl Farm Discovery Tour at the family-owned Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm. However, I continue to be fascinated by the history of pearling in the Kimberley.

Reading tip: If you are interested in learning more about a significant chapter in the Kimberley’s pearling industry, I recommend reading The White Divers of Broome by John Bailey, telling the true story of a fatal experiment.

The tour commenced with an information session on the history of Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm and the pearling industry in what appropriately appeared to be an old school classroom. A live pearl harvest followed the history lesson.

A pearl in an opened oyster

I took this photo of the harvested pearl on my previous visit to Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm


The tour concluded with an in-depth session on how pearls are graded.

The Pearl Farm Discovery tour was followed by lunch at the onsite restaurant.

Twice I lunched at the Cygnet Bay Homestead Restaurant with a tour group when the set menu was seafood. On both occasions, Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm was advised of my seafood allergy, and, on both occasions, this information seems to have been lost in translation. The outcome was eating a meal after everyone else had finished because they had nothing prepared for me. I found the restaurant’s forgetfulness disappointing.

Sea Safari

After lunch, we climbed aboard the fast boat for our Giant Tides Sea Safari. During this cruise, we would “feel the power of the world’s largest tropical tides with giant whirlpools and standing waves” created by millions of tonnes of water squeezing between the rocky islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago.

Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm writes about their Sea Safari tour:

“Feel the power of the world’s largest tropical tides as you cruise amongst the giant whirlpools and standing tidal waves. Venture into Escape Passage, recently described by scientists as the fastest ocean currents in the world!

The tides on this section of the Kimberley Coast are particularly large due to the area’s geography. When the sun and moon align on a spring tide, the ocean is pulled towards the north-west of WA and Indonesia, gathering speed as it reaches the shallow continental shelf and bottlenecking as it passes between Australia and Indonesia, creating the exhilarating whirlpools and standing waves we see on the tour.”

My photos can’t express the sense of adventure experienced and don’t do justice to all you see. The whirlpools are probably best viewed from the air.

The Sea Safari was an experience I find difficult to describe as there just don’t seem to be the right words to express how I felt as we powered through the whirlpools and standing waves created by the forceful tides. But let me try. It was a thrilling, exhilarating, exciting, fun, and awesome adventure. To best sum up my feelings, I was disappointed when it was time to return to land. I immediately wanted to go back out again, but there was a plane waiting for me to take me back to Broome.

Beware: You will get wet. How much so will depend on where you are sitting in the boat. Two young girls sitting at the front of the boat got drenched. I was sitting at the back of the boat directly in front of the driver and experienced what I would best describe as several large, fat rain drops.

The flight along the Kimberley coast back to Broome took us over the magnificent red cliffs of James Price Point, famous for its 130-million-year-old dinosaur footprints (but that’s another trip).

Aerial view of red cliffs meeting sand and sea. Forest lies behind the red cliffs.

Scenic flight with Air Kimberley over James Price Point


It was a long (approximately 11 hours), enjoyable, satisfying, and exhilarating day providing several unique experiences and so worth it. I can not fault Air Kimberley’s relaxed professionalism, guiding, and communication.

The tour was an excellent itinerary, well organised, kept on time without feeling rushed, and value for money. Without hesitation, I recommend Air Kimberley to readers.

Before our transfer back to our respective hotels, Air Kimberley presented each passenger with special gifts as mementos of our Kimberley adventure – a tour photo, a souvenir Passport & Tour Map to the Kimberley, an Air Kimberley stubby cooler, and a complimentary beer voucher from Matso’s Brewery in Broome. I am not letting out any secrets here, as Air Kimberley lists the gifts on their website.


In this post, I have shared my experience of Air Kimberley’s full-day Cygnet Bay Explorer tour up the Kimberley coast over the Horizontal Falls and 1,000-islands Buccaneer Archipelago and onward to a fantastic sea safari adventure in the world’s largest tropical tides. It was a chance meeting with a brochure that brought me to Air Kimberley – one that was to my benefit and yours.


Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Just Me Travel.

© Just Me Travel 2018-2022.


Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts. Does Horizontal Falls deserve Sir David Attenborough’s description of “one of the greatest natural wonders of the world”?


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The image has two photos of aerial views of a horizontal waterfall and red cliffs meeting sand and sea.


An image with two photos. One is an aerial view of horizontal waterfalls and the other is a whirlpool in the sea.


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Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.



Experience One of Australia’s Most Iconic Road Trips Driving Victoria’s Great Ocean Road.   The Great Ocean Road is Australia’s most famous coastal drive and one of the best road…

Experience One of Australia’s Most Iconic Road Trips Driving Victoria’s Great Ocean Road.


The Great Ocean Road is Australia’s most famous coastal drive and one of the best road trips in the world. Famed for its stunning scenery, what better way to show you the natural phenomena, incredible wild views, and beauty of the Great Ocean Road than through the photographs I took on a photo tour road trip. Enjoy!


Victoria’s Great Ocean Road was placed on the Australian National Heritage list in April 2011 as a place of outstanding national heritage significance. The 242-kilometre Great Ocean Road follows the stunning coastline of Victoria’s southwest from Torquay to Allansford. The road winds along clifftops beside breathtaking headlands, down onto the edge of beaches, across river estuaries and through rainforests, offering ever-changing diverse landscapes and views of Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean.

The Great Ocean Road was built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932 and dedicated to soldiers killed during World War l. The road is the world’s largest war memorial.

To take a road trip along the Great Ocean Road is a drive I have wanted to do for many years, but something always got in the way. So, when I came across the Great Ocean Road Photo Tour with Mark Gray Photography, I could think of no better way to combine my desire to drive the Great Ocean Road and my passion for travel photography.

As a keen amateur photographer, I often seek out photography tours around the world. I firmly believe I can never stop learning and what better way to learn and master landscape photography than out of the classroom with a professional photographer by your side guiding you along the way.

Mark Gray Photography’s tours are suitable for amateur to semi-professional photographers and are limited to 6-8 participants, ensuring everyone gets plenty of individual tuition at each location from the accompanying professional and experienced photographer. The Great Ocean Road Photo Tour locations, accommodation, and meals were well researched by Mark Gray Photography, with appropriate scheduling across the five days.

Great Ocean Road Photo Tour route

A map of southern Victoria showing the Great Ocean Road route

Great Ocean Road photo tour route from Melbourne return (Google Maps)


The pickup point for our Great Ocean Road Photo Tour was in Melbourne outside St Paul’s Cathedral, near Flinders Street Railway Station.

Our route over the five days took us along the Great Ocean Road through the Victorian towns of Geelong, Torquay (the start of the Great Ocean Road), Anglesea, Lorne, Apollo Bay, Port Campbell, Allansford (the end of the Great Ocean Road), Warnambool, and on to Port Fairy (our final stop). The return trip to Melbourne from Port Fair on day five, after a sunrise shoot, breakfast, and photo critiquing session, was via Colac, where we stopped for lunch.

The photos below are shown in the order in which they were seen and taken, giving a visual journey along the spectacular Great Ocean Road.

Lower Kalimna Falls, Great Otway National Park

A photo of a waterfall dropping into a rock pool surrounded by ferns and other vegetation.

Leaving from Sheoak Picnic Area near Lorne in the Great Otway National Park, the six-kilometre return walking track to Lower Kalimna Falls through the creek valley follows the old trolley way used many years ago for hauling timber to Lorne.

Lorne Suspension Bridge

A picture of a foot bridge over a river and sand with the ocean in the background

The Lorne Suspension Bridge is a timber footbridge over the Erskine River near its mouth. An iconic landmark of Lorne, the bridge was completed in 1937.

Redwoods of the Otway Ranges

A photo looking up into the canopy of tall, straight trees.

Beech Forest in the Great Otway National Park is home to a thriving small, sheltered grove of Coastal Redwoods – the world’s tallest tree species. Towering on the river flat at Aire Valley Plantation, these redwoods were planted in 1936 by Victorian foresters for experimental purposes. They were never cut down, and although still in their infancy growth phase, they now stand about 60 metres high. Even though ‘babies’, their height as they reach for the sky still left me in awe of the sight.

It was very peaceful walking through the grove as I listened to the rippling of the water from the river flowing beside the grove of redwoods.

There is a picnic area across the road from the redwoods.

Hopetoun Falls, Great Otway National Park

A photo of a waterfall with trees in front of it.

Deemed by some as the most beautiful waterfall in Victoria, Hopetoun Falls in Beech Forest plummets 30 metres into the Aire River. Take in the view from the upper platform or descend around 200 stairs to the bottom of the falls.

The Twelve Apostles, Port Campbell National Park

A photo of limestone stacks along a coastline and the ocean with a pink tinge from the setting sun

The setting sun turns the ocean pink at the Twelve Apostles


A photo of four limestone stacks in the ocean off the coast

The rising sun is reflected on the limestone stacks of the Twelve Apostles


The Twelve Apostles is one of Australia’s iconic landmarks and the most photographed along the Great Ocean Road.

The Twelve Apostles is a collection of limestone stacks off the shore of Port Campbell National Park, formed by erosion over millions of years. The harsh and extreme weather conditions from the Southern Ocean along Victoria’s coast gradually erode the soft limestone to form caves in the cliffs, which become arches that eventually collapse, leaving rock stacks. Just as the winds and rough waves create the stacks, they also destroy them.

Despite the name, there were never twelve rock stacks, only ever nine. The nine became seven (according to Parks Victoria) after one collapsed in 2005 and another in 2009.

The Twelve Apostles was originally known as Sow and Pigs, with Muttonbird Island being the sow and the stacks being the pigs. The name change was solely due to marketing purposes, as the ‘Twelve Apostles’ had a better ring to it.

London Bridge, Port Campbell National Park

A photo of a limestone arch in the ocean that was a bridge to the mainland before it collapsed.

The arch of London Bridge was once connected to the mainland by a natural span that people could walk across, hence the name. The span collapsed on 15th January 1990, disconnecting the arch from the mainland forever. At the time of the collapse, two tourists were stranded on top of the arch and had to be rescued by helicopter. No one was injured in the event.

The Grotto, Port Campbell National Park

A picture of a steps leading down to a rocky coastline with the ocean in the background. One of the rock formations has an arch with a view to the ocean.

The Grotto, nine kilometres west of Port Campbell, is a cave, sinkhole, and archway all in one. The Grotto is a natural phenomenon formed over millions of years of crashing waves and high winds eroding the rocks, resulting in a caved sinkhole within the limestone cliffs.

You can reach the bottom via a wooden staircase that winds down the cliff face from the viewing platform at the top.

Sandy Cove, Bay of Islands Coastal Park

A picture of limestone stacks (rock formations) sitting in the ocean off the beach.

Characterised by offshore limestone rock stacks, Sandy Cove is a hidden gem along the Great Ocean Road.

Moyne River boat moorings, Port Fairy

A photo of boats in a river surrounded by houses.

Port Fairy is a historic fishing town located on the Moyne River.

Griffith Island Lighthouse, Port Fairy

A photo of a lighthouse on the edge of the ocean and surrounded by rocks

Sunset shoot of Griffith Island lighthouse


Griffith Island Lighthouse is situated at the end of a 400-metre walk along the causeway from Martin’s Point in the historic town of Port Fairy. It was built in 1859 and saw the last lighthouse keeper in the 1950s when the light, visible over 19 kilometres out to sea, was automated. The lighthouse is still fully operational, guiding ships into the Moyne River.

Port Fairy groynes

A photo taken at sunrise of timber fencing on the beach and leading into the ocean.

Sunrise shoot of the timber groynes at East Beach, Port Fairy


Groynes are structures (usually made of wood, concrete, or stone) built out into the sea from a beach to control erosion and drifting. Port Fairy’s groynes were placed at the southern end of the East Beach to stabilise the sand that had been eroding.

Tip: Fingerless gloves would be a good investment for sunrise shoots.

Where we stayed

I recommend the accommodation chosen by Mark Gray Photography on our Great Ocean Road Photo Tour.

On our five days / four nights trip, we stayed one night in Apollo Bay, two nights in Port Campbell, and one night in Port Fairy.

Seafarers Getaway, Apollo Bay, is situated opposite a private beach with all accommodation offering uninterrupted beach and coastal views. I had a well-equipped Beach Studio Unit with a furnished front deck and spectacular views of the breaking waves on the sand. The only downsides were six wall pegs in place of a wardrobe – okay for one night but would be annoying if staying longer – and the rug-less tile floors, which are great in summer but cold on the feet in winter.

Southern Ocean Villas, Port Campbell, is luxury accommodation on the edge of Port Campbell National Park and only a five-minute drive to the Twelve Apostles. Each villa is fully self-contained with two or three bedrooms, an open-plan kitchen and lounge/dining area, laundry, and an outdoor deck with table and chairs. While the bedrooms were dark (not an issue), the living area was light and airy.

Victoria Apartments, Port Fairy, is in the heart of the township of Port Fairy. I stayed in a one-bedroom suite, but other accommodation types are available. The suite’s living area was open planned, but the kitchenette was tiny. However, its winning features were a separate bedroom and a private courtyard. The accommodation was small and a bit cramped but adequate for a short stay for one person.

The 5-day Great Ocean Road Photo Tour with Mark Gray Photography was not a holiday but a dedicated photography workshop and is advertised as such. Our days were long and busy, often starting at sunrise, with little time to relax. But it was a unique way to visit the Great Ocean Road’s fantastic attractions and certainly met my long-term desire to ‘see’ the Great Ocean Road. Furthermore, I learned so much about my camera and landscape photography and came away with photos I am proud of.

You don’t have to be a photographer to appreciate the spectacular scenery and landscapes that the Great Ocean Road offers up at every turn. Take your time to discover and explore this most iconic Australian road trip along Victoria’s rugged southern coastline.

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Just Me Travel.

© Just Me Travel 2018-2022.

Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts. Has this post aroused your interest to take a road trip along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road?


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A picture with two images. One image is of rock stacks in the ocean near the coast. The second image is of timber groynes on a beach.


A picture with two images. One image is of an arch rock formation in the ocean near the coast. The second image is of a lighthouse.


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Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.

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OLD BEECHWORTH GAOL GUIDED TOUR – An Authentic and Educational Step Back in Time

Old Beechworth Gaol – A Horrible History Tour.   The Old Beechworth Gaol guided tour is much more than a walk through a heritage-listed building. It is the perfect way…

Old Beechworth Gaol – A Horrible History Tour.


The Old Beechworth Gaol guided tour is much more than a walk through a heritage-listed building. It is the perfect way to explore the gaol and have history come alive. Beechworth Gaol is a time capsule that offers an authentic and educational look into the past. Visit the cells that housed notorious bushrangers, learn about convict life, and uncover some of the gaol’s darker history. Step inside and go back in time with an expert guide.


Beechworth is North East Victoria’s best-preserved gold rush town, leaving a legacy of colonial architecture that boasts 32 heritage-listed buildings. Old Beechworth Gaol is one of those buildings, and it is heritage-listed by the National Trust for its historical, architectural, and archeological significance to the state of Victoria.

Getting there

A short drive from Albury (45 kilometres), Beechworth is in my backyard.

For those living further afield, Beechworth is a 3-hour drive northeast of Melbourne (284 kilometres), 4 hours southwest of Canberra (391 kilometres), and about 6 hours southwest from Sydney (593 kilometres).

Don’t have a car? From Melbourne, Canberra, and Sydney, take a train to Wangaratta and then the bus to Beechworth on Wangaratta Coachlines.

Old Beechworth Gaol is located on the corner of Williams Street and Ford Street, Beechworth.

Tours of Old Beechworth Gaol operate daily at 11.00 am and 1.00 pm and take about one hour. You can purchase your guided tour tickets at the Old Beechworth Gaol Cafe located in the gaol wall near the main gates. Alternatively, you can book your tickets in advance online. Please check their Facebook page, The Old Beechworth Gaol, for updates on tours.

Our guided tour of old Beechworth Gaol started with a double vaccination status check. Walking through the main gates, the courtyard provided a venue for Daniel, our tour guide, to give us an overview of the history of Beechworth gaol.

  • Taking approximately six years to build, Beechworth Gaol was opened in 1864 and initially housed men and women.
  • The outer stone walls are granite.
  • The razor wire on top of the gaol’s walls replaced the original barbed wire.
  • The current iron gates replaced the original wooden gates in 1879 when there was a suspected prison outbreak.
  • Beechworth Gaol was a medium-security prison.
  • The prison has a history spanning 140 years, closing in 2004.

From the courtyard, our tour took us to the hard labour yard where male prisoners were put to work crushing granite rocks into gravel for roads and footpaths. The guards in the towers overseeing the hard labour yard worked 12-hour shifts.

A painting on a brick wall of a man in metal armour and helmet with a gun in each hand. Also painted is a man with very muscly arms and chest.

The mural in the hard labour yard painted by the inmate, Woodsie


Moving into the cell blocks was like entering a time capsule, where time has stood still since the prison’s closure in 2004. The feeling of being locked in time was confirmed by Daniel when he advised the cells have not been touched since 2004.

A prion cell in an old gaol with toilet, hand basin, bench, cupboard, and iron single bed.

A cell on old Beechworth Gaol – a time capsule


In the men’s cellblock, the gallows with the hangman’s noose was visible on death row – the top floor of the men’s cellblock. Eight men were executed in Beechworth Gaol between 1865 and 1881, and they are buried in unmarked graves in the exercise yard against the western wall.

A prison cell block with open doors to cells on the lower floor and gallows and hangman's noose on the upper floor.

The gallows and hangman’s noose on death row in the men’s cellblock


Daniel regaled us with stories of Ned Kelly’s misadventures (murder, assault, theft, and armed robbery) that landed him in Beechworth Gaol. Daniel was an entertaining storyteller. See below for details of who was Ned Kelly and his connection to Beechworth Gaol.

An image of four dummies wearing metal body armour and helmets

Effigies of Ned Kelly and the Kelly gang


In the women’s cellblock, cell 10 was the designated mother’s cell with its two doors. One door (the front door) led into the cellblock, and a guard could open the back door to allow the mother to let her children outside to play. Daniel explained that the children were not prisoners but were locked up with their mother.

A prison cell with front and back doors

Cell 10 – the mother’s cell with its double doors


At the end of the women’s cellblock is the solitary confinement cell where a prisoner was locked in the cell 23 hours a day. The prisoner was allowed outside in a caged area for one hour a day.

A large cage within a grassed and walled area.

The prisoner solitary confinement exercise cage


Our final tour stop was the exercise yard, the burial site of the executed men. An empty swimming pool dominates this lawned area.

Image of a lawned area with empty swimming pool, surrounded by stone walls with razor wire and overlooked by a watch tower.

Old Beechworth Gaol and the Ned Kelly connection

Ned Kelly was Australia’s most notorious bushranger and known for wearing a suit of iron armour during his final shootout with police. He was immortalised in the 1970 Ned Kelly movie starring Mick Jagger in the title role.

For those not familiar with Australian colonial history, escaped convicts who used the bush to hide from authorities were the original bushrangers. By the 1820s, the term had evolved to refer to those who took up armed robbery as a way of life, using the bush as their base.

Ned Kelly first became intimately acquainted with the inside of Beechworth Gaol at the age of about 13. Over the ensuing years, he became more familiar with the gaol on at least two other occasions.

Daniel was a wealth of information about Ned Kelly and his time spent in Beechworth Gaol. He held our undivided attention when telling of Ned’s imprisonment for lewd behaviour and assault when he was 16 years old. According to Daniel, Ned sent a package to a lady containing a man’s testicles and later assaulted her husband. There is great truth in the story as Ned did indeed send testicles to the lady. However, depending on your resource will determine the nature of the testicles. A man’s testicles, a calf’s testicles, two calves’ testicles – believe what you will. I suspect the story has grown legs.

For the lewd behaviour and assault crimes, Ned Kelly received 6 or 8 months (once again, depending on your resource) imprisonment in Beechworth Gaol.

Time for lunch

Whether you do the old Beechworth Gaol guided tour in the morning or afternoon, you must eat in Beechworth.

You are spoiled for choice for places to eat in Beechworth. I have eaten at several places and never had a bad meal.

On the day of my old Beechworth Goal tour, I ate at the Beechworth Pantry Gourmet Delicatessen & Coffee Shop on Ford Street. I ordered the Asparagus, Leek and Cheese Quiche with apple and Pear Salad and couldn’t resist the Hazelnut Meringue with Berries and Cream. I left the cafe very satisfied and with bars of fruit nougat in hand for later enjoyment.

My final review

If you plan to visit Beechworth, do yourself a favour and take a step back in time with a guided tour of old Beechworth Gaol. The tour provides all ages with an authentic and educational experience in which local, expert guides bring a dark history to life. It is a unique experience not to be missed and highly recommended.

A corridor with numerous open blue metal doors with heavy metal bolts on the doors. Two set of stairs are in the middle of the corridor.

The female cellblock in old Beechworth gaol


Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Just Me Travel.

© Just Me Travel 2018-2022.


Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts. The only other prison tour I have taken was to Alcatraz when I was visiting San Francisco. Where have you taken a prison tour?


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Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.


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