Siurana, a small town that rises 740 meters above a ravine, dominated by a medieval castle and from where you can enjoy views of the Sierra del Montsant, in Tarragona, is possibly one of the most beautiful towns in Spain. But this does not mean that it wants to appear on a list of the most charming municipalities, even more so when they already receive a good dose of visitors that forces them to close access on many holidays.
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This nucleus, in which between 25 and 30 inhabitants live and has five bars and restaurants and two hotels, was surveyed this summer to apply to enter the association ‘The most beautiful towns in Spain’, which serves to promote rural towns with the most charm in the country. But Salvador Salvadó, mayor of Cornudella de Montsant, a municipality on which Siurana depends –which is administratively a district–, did not see it clearly. “We cannot overcrowd the area, because the orography is what it is and because it even harms quality tourism,” he says.
In a telephone conversation with elDiario.es, Salvadó (ERC) explains that he received a visit from a representative of the association in the summer, who told them that they could opt to be part of his entity, which has a hundred municipalities. “They went to the town hall, because one of them was in Siurana those days, and they sent us the proposal,” says the mayor. But for now, he adds, they have not considered it and have “parked” the idea seeing more harm than good.
In addition to the visitors for the indisputable charm of the town, the fact that it has become a mecca for climbing adds to the pressure of the area. Every year 419,000 people visit the area, 53% of whom access the inhabited nucleus. According to the mayor, they commissioned two studies on the carrying capacity of the area precisely due to the increasing massification. Being a town perched on top of a ravine, there is no room for more. One of the most obvious conclusions of this report is that the two car parks in the town have capacity for 200 vehicles.
On the busiest holidays, such as long weekends or Easter, the car park fills up. “When this happens, the Mossos d’Esquadra put a checkpoint on the road before reaching Siurana [es una vía de montaña con muchas curvas] and they give the information that it cannot be uploaded. Some days there are queues of 15 minutes or half an hour waiting for cars to come down”, describes the mayor of Cornudella.
“Overcrowding is a big problem, which also affects the environment and heritage, which are not prepared for what,” continues the mayor, who also emphasizes that Siurana is already part of the Catalan Pobles amb Encant list. His priorities, he adds, are right now that Wi-Fi and the Internet arrive.
The entity refuses to promote overcrowding
after appearing this information on TV3Salvadó is aware that perhaps there are neighbors who may be interested in joining the association and clarifies that, despite the fact that they are not supporters, they do not rule out opening the debate and studying it either.
However, even if they did want to join the association, just like the Catalans Beget (Girona) and Bagergue (Lleida), or other charming towns such as Aínsa (Huesca), Albarracín (Teruel), La Alberca (Salamanca) or Urueña ( Valladolid), it is not so simple. From ‘The most beautiful villages in Spain’ they specify that in order to integrate this entity, the application must be approved in the municipal plenary session and meet a long series of requirements, among which are having certified natural and architectural heritage, well-kept green areas, facades in good state of conservation or a notable cultural activity. To give an example, last year twenty opted and only one entered.
From the association they explain that the meeting with the mayor of the town was rather informal, seeing “potential” in the town. And they forcefully reject that being considered one of the ‘most beautiful towns in Spain’ could lead to problems of overcrowding, since they defend that they precisely work to promote the “deseasonalization” of tourism. “We are looking for tourism that values the municipality 365 days a year, with activities so that the town’s restaurant can open on a Tuesday, and not just on weekends,” say sources from the entity.