Arriving with hosts by car in the morning, we took the most efficient clean & modern train to the monastery (the old one lost control, bowled down the mountain & crashed !) Here, by eleven o'clock we found the monastery & churches are so extremely overcrowded with tourists and groups, all standing on what we'd come to see, it was oppressive and hopeless to attempt photography. One reviewer has advised similar, that there are hundreds of tourists, I'd say thousands would not be an exaggeration, it was truly packed. So our advice is to walk and as another reviewer has pointed out, make the most of the advantages of the morning sun for some excellent rock photography. The trails leading up from about 800 metres to over 1,000 metres above the Monastery area are highly recommended, not too demanding, affording possible access in a limited way to those with poor mobility or wheelchairs, providing they have strong people to push or hold them on the moderate slopes. However, using the funicular railway, we continued on to the far flung & more demanding parts of the rock, on which you pass some excellent climbing opportunities for those who relish climbing vertical slopes or overhangs on conglomerate rock structures. Along the way are various hermitages where monks lived after retirement and places of worship here and there, sacred to the history of the area and most tall rocks have a cross atop them, but not for attaching climbing ropes, only climbers can reach these inaccessible places. The views are spectacular, from the snow capped Pyrenees where one of my hosts was walking the next day, so this was his practice run, to the sea & Barcelona, far below is the brown river that arrives into the sea near Barcelona airport, still equally brown. After two and a half hours to three hours walking trails and canyons, at over 1,000 metres above sea level, with scrub & flowers en route, we returned to descend down a gorge to the monastery. Here I took photographs of the view & the sculpture by Josep Subirachs, 'stairway to heaven' I think it's called, and passed the market stalls selling quality local produce. Then to an excellent cafe, many tourist groups seem to have departed by now and we were able to enjoy the monastery, the statues were not blocked from view, neither was the floor before the church. To visit the Virgin Mary and child statue, a privilege, unhurried, quiet & respectful, the mid afternoon visit proved an advantage & could not have been possible in the morning due to the extreme overcrowding. This is worth a day's visit but take you own snack & drinks for the morning, or have a late after-walk lunch and eat in the cafes / restaurants at about three p.m. before checking out the inside of the monastery as you'll get the best photography light & avoid the ridiculous number of tourist groups of the morning. Walk first, sightsee afterwards, my local hosts knew this & acted accordingly. For somewhere so modern it all seems very tasteful for the most part but don't be surprised by the extreme commercialisation, the hotels for visitors, the lack of peace or privacy. Find peace on the trails winding around the rocks as we did from time to time and enjoy the views, avoid bad weather, there is no shelter apart from in the tourist areas.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.