A picturesque village at the foot of the Montsant. Not even 10 km away from Torroja. The road alone makes it worthwhile to drive there. For cyclists (we prefer to ride on horseback) it must be a dream. The Priorate is definitely a land for cyclists, whether BMX or racing bike. The routes around the Montsant invite on countless adventures and the well-maintained roads are virtually empty. Surely a dream for all those who travel to Mallorca only to find themselves constantly dodging the mad tourist drivers in their small rented cars.
But as I said, Scala Dei is definitely a place worth visiting. The winding road coming from Torroja will slowly take you up to the Montsant’s high plateau with its steep cliffs. After the final curve you will suddenly be face to face with the village. This is a good spot to stop for taking pictures.
The village itself is quite small. There is a small Romanesque church, which, unfortunately, is closed all the time. Then there is a plaza obviously dating from Medieval times which is surrounded by fantastic patrician houses built from convent bricks. On the plaza you will find the long-established wine cellar Scala Dei (now owned by some Cava producer or other from the Penedés, now that the feisty former proprietress and long-term mayor has succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease. Scala Dei sells both bottled and unbottled wines.
Right next to it you will find Neus’ shop (an organic store similar to the one in Gratallops) which offers all kinds of delicacies and the incredible Cabacés oil I mentioned earlier (her family produces their own oil).
A second shop, which is a bit hidden at the village entrance, also offers wine, as well as excellent cheese (the liver sure grows with its tasks…).
Be sure not to miss the Cartoixa convent of Scala Dei which is about 2 km outside of Scala Dei (there is a parking lot in front of the convent, but a hike from the village is also a pleasant experience).
Formerly the biggest Carthusian convent in Spain, the compound is currently under restoration. The ruins cover a wide stretch of terrain and are beautifully situated at the foot of the Montsant. There are guided tours in Spanish, Catalan and English, and visitors get to see detailed reproductions of a “monk’s cell“ (more of a little villa with a garden and all that goes with it) and of the entrance arch where all matters worldly stopped and silence began; not to mention the impressive church, virtually a basilica, made of red sandstone.
It is worth taking a hike to the Hermite (hermitage) of the Pietat right above the Cartoixa. The route there has been renovated and the plaza in front of the building permits a great view of the countryside. Those who feel like it can keep hiking on the farm roads (bearing left of the Cartoixa) all the way to the foot of the Montsant (or ride their bikes there, provided they are in good shape).
This place is really a synonym for unlimited hiking. We discover new routes every year. Hiking maps are available from the tourist office in Falset or the bookstore.