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Costa Brava Living - blog area

Walks and other things

Walks on the Costa Brava - click for a larger version One of the joys of the Costa Brava is the variety of landscapes and we like to visit places and walk (a lot), particularly into and around the Gavarres. Sometimes we travel around on bike. In the summer, we swim and canoe.

These then are write ups of walks, hikes and activities that we've done since November 2012, with photos straight from the original walk or activity.

We like to make circular walks and our walks range in length from about 4km (an hour) to around 16km (four hours) - but probably about 2 1/2 hours on average - though if you want to reduce the length, there are usually shortcuts.

To find walks by location, click on the map, which goes to a full sized map with links to individual walks and visits. To our surprise, we were listed in the Sunday Times' Essential Costa Brava (Feb 2017).

The most visited walks are:

Visit to Roda de Ter and Espinelves
14 Oct 2013

lEsquerda archeological site Roda de Ter One of the great delights of Catalonia is how quickly the terrain and countryside changes from one location or one area to the next. It means that you don't have to travel very far to get a completely different landscape. And in particular we can choose where to go for each particular season. So in summer we have the beaches, in winter the snow on the Pyrenees and in the autumn we have Montseny.

Montseny is the mountain situated between Barcelona and Girona rising to about 1700m. In contrast to the more famous arid rocky fingers of the mountain of Montserrat, or the higher mountains of the Pyrenees, Montseny is a more gentle giant - softer and more deciduous, so when autumn comes it's the mountain to visit for mushrooms, chestnuts and to see the changing colour of the leaves.

Roda de Ter In the past year they've completed the C25 dual carriageway link that connects Girona to Vic and on to Lleida so the initial aim of our visit was really Roda de Ter, a town that sits above an oxbow of the river Ter close to the town of Vic. The road climbs up through the side of Montseny over the col and down to the Plain of Vic and as drives go it's very pretty through wooded hillsides and then with a grand vista across Vic and to the Pyrenees. The Plain of Vic is a great contrast to the relatively cultured Emporda landscape - much rougher in appearance with small round dry hills and views to cliff-y rockfaces (cingles) with houses almost tumbled on top of each other in an area that looks much drier than the fields of the Costa Brava.

View over the river Ter at Roda de Ter The reason for visiting Roda de Ter is that above the oxbox is the ruins of an village established by the Ibers that existed until medieval times at L'Esquerda which, from photographs and maps looked like it would be somewhere to explore as the river Ter at Roda is already a broad river even though the town is quite inland. The next stretch of the river would pass through a number of dams and at Roda it is starting to snake its course through the hills before emerging on the other side near Girona.

Roda itself feels like a small town. The church is the most prominent building and there are two bridges over the river. There is an older heart and then newer houses around the outside. We navigated our way to the L'Esquerda prow where there is a small museum and some information signs around the ruins. The promentary is high-ish up with cliffs down to the river on two sides which means we couldn't explore down to river level. Most of the ruins are low stone walls with the exception of one larger standing wall from the old church. It would be fair to say that we were a little disappointed. We were expecting something with more of a visitor focus that made more of what could be seen and the dramatic bow the river makes and with easier access to the river level.

Espinelves The town itself is quite small and sits high above the river. The old bridge has a double row of arches - as if they built a new bridge on top of the older bridges foundations. The one remarkable thing we did find was a high water marker from 1940. We had to look up to see it - it was about 3m above us. Where we were standing to see the sign was already about 4m above the normal river level. So at some point the water must have been about 10-12m higher. There are walks along the Ter - there is a route that links the source in the Pyrenees to Torroella - and we could have explored a little more, but with no map we weren't sure of round trips.

So having run out of things to see we headed back on the C25, but took a brief diversion to Espinelves which we had seen from the road on the way out. Espinelves is a small village in among the hills of Montseny but extremely well preserved and cared for. Each house had flowers in their gardens or on their windows and the old stone houses had almost all been renovated without changing their original style. Even the modern houses were in keeping with the older ethos and it almost felt like a little Swiss village with views of Montseny peaks in the background. There were several restaurants and walkers about and a delicious golden hue to the light through the trees.

Nearby: Castell de Montsoriu - Santa Coloma de Farners - Brunyola - Arbucies autumn walk - Visit to Roda de Ter and Espinelves - Rupit - Ribes de Freser and skiing at Vall de Nuria

Romanya de la Selva to Puig d'Arques
08 Oct 2013

Romanya de la Selva views from the first signpost The highest point on the Gavarres hills is at Puig d'Arques (535m) marked by a tower with a large white dome on top. The dome is visible from miles away and we always thought it was an observatory from a distance. The peak itself sits in the very heart of the Gavarres and is quite remote from other towns or villages. This means there are a variety of places we could start the walk - Calonge, La Bisbal or, as we chose Romanya de la Selva - it's about 7-8km from Romanya.

Because of the relatively remoteness and because other places on top of the Gavarres are only accessible on gravel tracks we didn't want to try to get closer without knowing what the roads would be like. As it happens, there is a tarmacked road to Puig d'Arques which we took as our route back, but we didn't know this beforehand and experience of roads in remote areas disappearing into a pitted track meant we didn't want to take the risk.

So starting at Romanya, rather than trying to get closer seems a good bet. The disadvantage was not so much the distance but we couldn't tell how easy it would be to make a round trip. In the end we took the marked GR92.1 (one of the extensions off the coastal GR92) out and the road back, but there is a path on the maps which descends into Vall Repos as a possible alternative route back. Again, not knowing the area so well we were a little cautious and stuck to an easy route.

Puig dArques tower which looks like an observatory from a long way off We've covered Romanya de la Selva. This time we didn't visit the village itself but headed straight out. The GR92 starts past the cross and then follows the road to Calonge for a little way, on past the roadway to Puig d'Arques, past the cemetary and close to the Cova de Daina - a small neolithic burial chamber - turning to the left and following a track into the woods.

As we entered, there were signs up warning of hunters looking to shoot wild boar in among the woods. Often the hunters bring dogs too, mainly two or three for tracking, and occasionally you will hear the whistles and barking in amongst the trees. The hunters weren't the only people out. October is the start of mushroom season and mushroom hunting is a very popular weekend activity in the hills of Catalonia. We also passed a number of chestnut trees (Castanyas) and they're also nearly ready for collecting - a treat for halloween and the end of October.

The path runs through the woods with a deep valley (Vall Repos) to the right and the occasional view of the sea. It's a gentle upwards climb, but not particularly steeps and down in the valley we can see scattered isolated masias in among the trees. The path continues for a while. It's clear blue sky, but fresh enough to walk, though just in a t-shirt with a definite coolness as we curl around the shadier side of the hill. The track's wide enough for 3 or 4 people side by side, but no more, so we're a little surprised to see car tracks and cars parked in the woods as the mushroom hunters scurry around under the trees.

Puig dArques view across the plains of Emporda Eventually the path curls around to meet the roadway up to Puig d'Arques. As mentioned, we weren't sure what quality of road this was, but it turns out that  though narrow and quiet, it looks relatively recently updated and in good condition. The road itself runs along the first of the hill ridges giving views down the valley to the sea, or on the otherside out across the hills towards Cassa de la Selva and Montseny in the distance. On the ridge itself is a farmhouse in the process of renovation and fields of sunflowers past their best.

We're also not the only ones visiting and we see other walkers, cyclists and the odd car heading to or from Puig d'Arques. Eventually we reach a crossroads. The road itself curls up to the right while we take the left hand path to Col de la Moixa, back into the woods again. This path climbs more vigorously with views out towards the Pyrenees through the trees. We're surprised to pass an inhabited house just off the path - it looks like the track we're on would be their access road but it barely seems wide-enough through the trees.

View over Romanya de la Selva Another junction and we continue to follow the signpost to Puig d'Arques passing under the occasional chestnut tree with the first prickly castanya shells on the floor, but looking like boars might have taken the contents. Onwards and upwards and we get to a choice - Puig de Gavarres, or Puig d'Arques. The sign post says Puig de Gavarres is just a little higher than Puig d'Arques, but we continue to the tower at Puig d'Arques where it says the reverse.

The tower with the dome on top looks more like an observation post - it doesn't look like an observatory from close up, and the tower itself is closed, but next door is a viewing platform and the views are immense - almost a 270 degree panaroma across the Emporda region - and we wish we'd taken binoculars up.

For the return journey we head down and find the road. There's the option of going down to Vall Repos, but we've already done 7km and the children don't want to have a diversionary explore into Vall Repos, so instead we take the easy way down and follow the tarmacked road still remarking at how deep the valley seems to our left.

At the lower point we could go back on the GR92 track, but we stay on the road and get the treat of views across Sant Miquel d'Aro and across the valley to Romanya de la Selva. Otherwise it's straightforward and we get back, past the cross that we started at.

Neightbouring walks: Romanya de la Selva - Via Ferrata at the Gorges de Salenys - Calonge (Cami de Molins and over Cabanyes) - Castell d'Aro and estate of Mas Nou - St Pol de Bisbal and Santa Lucia

Walking route from Romanya de la Selva to Puig dArques highest point on the Gavarres

Swimming and wild beaches of Castell-Cap Roig
24 Sep 2013

Mont-ras El Crit beach between Cap Roig and Plajta Castell Costa Brava Between Cap Roig, just south of Calella de Palafrugell and the beach at Platja de Castell, are a series of wild natural beaches and coves that start from El Crit (Mont-ras) and then run into Cala Estreta and around to Cala Senia.

The beaches themselves are mostly sandy in little coves, but with rocky bays and a mass of small islets. It is easiest to envisage as a series of six or eight small beaches or bays connected by footpaths over the headlands. This is very much a natural area, though there is the odd fisherman's building on each beach. As a result the beaches are very popular with naturists/nudists almost all year round (there is a naturist campsite Relax Natur between Cap Roig and Mont-ras)

Although it is possible to drive and park above the beaches out-of-season, during the peak summer months access is only available to walkers and bikers from the path that runs across the top from just outside Cap Roig connected to Platja de Castell. Paths drop off the upper route down the hillside to the beaches below.

The isolated nature of the beaches, and the ease of reaching them by canoe from Calella de Palafrugell or Castell mean that they are popular destinations for canoeists, while the rocky bay makes them popular with snorkellers, though the bays can be a little difficult to get into because of the rocks underfoot.

Facilities at the beaches

There are no facilities at the beach and no lifeguards. These are left wild and open deliberately. Each of the beaches has a fisherman's hut and sometimes one or other of these building is open. The only concession is that the swimming area is marked by buoys out into the bay. The beaches typically sit under cliffs (take care for falling rocks) and visitors to the beach might make fires for barbecues and occasionally you see a tent with people wild camping, but it's not encouraged.

Northern Cala Estreta beaches between Cap Roig and Castell

Sand quality

The sand quality varies according to the beach. From Cala Estreta around, the beaches are mainly of a fine to slightly yellow coarse sand which is fine for sunbathing. El Crit, the beach closest to Cap Roig, has one half of the beach that is coarse sand, and a second half, through the hole in the rocks, that is pebbly. The main problem for swimmers or paddlers, is that the bays themselves are rocky underfoot almost immediately, making entry and exit from the water hard under foot.


The small bays are relatively shallow with lots of rocks at the bottom and clear water. This means the water can be warm even into September, but the rocks at the bottom mean you do need to watch for the depth of water - in some places rocks get close to the surface and in other places a shallow rocky bottom can sudden drop into a deeper hole. It's advisable to wear goggles and to look how far the sea bed is beneath you when swimming - it's very easy to start to treadwater only to find yourself kicking a boulder.

The main problem for swimming is normally picking a path among the rocks when getting in and out. In El Crit, and some other places, it's easier to get in from the rocks at the side of the bay than to get in from the beach itself, but again be careful with water depth - the unevenness of the bottom, means it's not suitable for diving from the rocks into the water.

South beaches of Cala Estreta between Cap Roig and Castell The open and wild nature of the bays mean there are lots of fish, sea plants and wildlife in the water (potentially including the odd jellyfish). Out towards the islands and rocks away from the shore, the sea can become choppy so some care is needed when there is a swell on the sea. The shorter nature of the bays and the risk of hitting rocks mean it can be difficult for long distance swimming, but make it perfect for snorkels and exploring.


Lots of people access the beaches by canoe, or use canoes to explore the rocky headlands or to navigate among the islands. Canoe hire can be made at Platja de Castell. It's easy to pick routes between the islands and the sandy beach makes it safe to take the canoes out of the water. Again, when coming close to the beaches, do watch for rocks. Being relatively open getting out of the bays and around the headlands, the water is more exposed and can be choppy on windy days.


Outside the main high season, when the access road at the top is open there is parking above Cala Senia and a little above Cala Estreta, but the road is a gravel track and driving can be difficult. We would park and walk from Cap Roig to reach the beaches (about 10-15 minutes). The alternative is to park at Cap Roig, but the walk is a little longer.


The path along the beaches was included in the Calella de Palafrugell/Cap Roig to Castell - classic wild Costa Brava walk. The Ruta del Tren Petit path has access points to the beaches if you are coming from Palamos, Vall-llobrega or Mont-ras.

Next beaches

South to Platja de Castell - North to Calella de Palafrugell

Cala Senia view close to the car park area not open in high season

Mont-ras to Fitor and on to Fonteta and Vulpellac
24 Sep 2013

Fitor church on the Gavarres Costa Brava The Gavarres hills are the major inland geographical feature of the Costa Brava. These are hills that rise to about 500m at the extremes and stretch from just behind Girona to the hills at Mont-ras, just behind Palafrugell.

The hills are a protected natural area with a great number of tracks and paths, almost totally accessible to the public.

The terrain is mostly wooded with cork and alzina oak trees, but with lots of hidden valleys and streams with occasional ancient masia farmhouses.

As a natural space, the Gavarres are wonderful for walking and exploring with views to the coast from all directions yet feeling almost completely separate from civilisation as the hills are only crossed by road in three places - at Els Angels, between Sant Sandurni and Cassa de la Selva and between La Bisbal and Calonge.

There are other gravel tracks and forestry routes into the hills but these are only really suitable for 4x4s with good ground clearance. As a result it's a fabulous area for walkers and particularly mountain bikers.

In the hills directly above Mont-ras/Palafrugell is a small isolated church at Fitor from the 10th Century. As you skirt the hills from below, you'll often find a Cami de Fitor referring to a path that climbs into the woods and take you to the church.

For many people here, walking to Fitor is something of an annual pilgrimage to reconnect with the Gavarres and local history.

Gavarres view over the woods to the sea We've walked up three or four times. The first time we did it was pretty much straight up and down, but as it's a relatively long way up to Fitor (about 6-7km) and because from Fitor you can walk down in any direction, now we tend to walk to the church, then down to one of the other towns in a different direction. This means it's a linear walk so we have to arrange transport back.

This time we're just in the middle of September and it's time for our annual visit. Temperatures are still warm but there is a freshness returning and the air is becoming clearer so the views to the distance are returning.

We're starting in Mont-ras with an aim of walking over the top to Fonteta just outside La Bisbal. There are a myriad of routes up into the hills and even though there is good signposting, it's very easy to get waylaid without a map - Google just doesn't show enough routes.

Fitor farmhouse of Cal Carrony We start at Mont-ras church and walk up into the hills along the track with the misnomer of Carrer Major. We walk this area a great deal and there are numerous routes up to the top at Col de Boquera - including the route take on the Mont-ras Fountain walk.

We take one of the easier paths that winds its way up the side of the hill. At Col de Boquera, we're on the 'road' - a wide gravel track that is suitable for vehicles and is used as an access to the farms on the top of the hill.

The road is always a little too broad and a little too dusty so we don't take it too often, but its the main connecting route to Fitor. It runs along a saddlepoint. and through the trees on one side you can look out to the coast at Pals, and then a few minutes later on the other side you can see the sea in the direction of La Fosca with the valley of the 'Mont-ras boar walk' down below.

Fitor farmhouse at Mas Plaja The road runs all the way up to the farm-houses on the top, which is where we're aiming to reach, but we prefer smaller tracks, and half way along the part of the road with views to La Fosca, there's a track that runs up the side of the hill to the right.

This is a narrower path only suitable for walking or biking (it has lots of bike tracks in the dirt). This path climbs around the hill in amongst the woods and trees and we just have to remember to take the left hand fork at the only point the path splits.

Eventually (15-20 minutes) it reaches the top road signposted to Llofriu down, or to the left around the top to Fitor.

We head towards Fitor and can see Mas Torroella on the other side of the hill - the road passes what is a very sturdy looking masia, but we won't reach that far.

Following the road, we pass Can Carrony - a large orange painted masia that stands on the crest with views out across Begur and Calella to the sea. The farmhouse is quiet, but we've passed when there have been great gatherings of visitors taking lunch outside.

The farmhouse also sits in a flat area of fields. It always seems a little surprising that coming out of the dense woods below, at the top it's open with fields. Historically though, this is an area that has been farmed for centuries and for the group of farms on the top, Fitor was their church.

Fitor just in view in the Gavarres We take the road between the fields, still in the direction of Fitor and come to a crossroads. A motorcyclists on a track bike is buzzing across the road - the area is also popular for off-road moto too.

At the crossroads the main signs point to the left along the road to Fitor, but look out for a darker green pedestrian sign which indicates straight-on. The left hand road is broad and runs along the top, but is a longer route to Fitor. The footpath is shorter and prettier so we head straight on looking out for yellow-white flashes, which aren't always that easy to see.

The path runs into the woods and then through to more fields. We're heading to Mas Plaja, but an arrow to the left points to Fitor Viens (Fitor neighbourhood). It takes a while, but we find the yellow-flashes on the right hand path and continue down to Mas Plaja, an old masia festooned with flowers.

Again we lose the yellow-white flashes and have to check on the map. At Mas Plaja we have to take a left along a track that seems to run past their horta (vegetable garden). It's then across a stream - there's water up on the Gavarres even at this time of year - and up to Fitor.

You can see the church at Fitor standing isolated in among the fields from the track as you get closer. It's been renovated in the last two or three years, but it retains a charm and character, not least because the small tower isn't quite vertical.

The church sits next to a small old house which is used as an occasional shop for refreshments, but then that is it - no other village or buildings nearby at all.

Gavarres stream bed As we come to the church we pass a car parking area, so it is possible to drive up the tracks if the walk seems too much.

Normally, we would also see mountain bikers at Fitor, taking a break on the picnic tables, but this time there is no-one about. From the church itself a number of different tracks and paths run off in different directions - to Calonge, or to Palamos or down to Vall.llobrega and Bell.lloc castle.

We keep on the yellow-white route in the direction of Fonteta and just as we leave Fitor we meet another person coming up the other way. The track runs downhill and then splits at Can Cals.

We take the left fork and then take the next track to the left down and across the valley, but it seems that the paths would have converged. Around Can Cals, a small stream is still within the rocks, but still has water it and over the next little while the path follows the stream down until we reach another set of rock-pools underneath a small rocky outcrop.

As an explore we walk along the rocks of the stream, disturbing lots of small frogs who jump back into the water as we pass. In winter with full rain, it looks like the stream could easily be a torrent through here.

Back on the path and we get the first sight of Mas Anguila a very large impressive masia sitting on top of an isolated hill above the valley in the process of being renovated.

The path takes us in a semi-circle around the Mas so we keep catching glimpses of it as we walk. The path continues over the Pujada Rossa and to La Creu dels Frares. At La Creu, we can look out across the Empordan plain out to Torroella and the Isles Medes in the distance.

It's not long now, and we come down the hill emerging past a riding school before finally getting onto tarmac and into Fonteta. We walk through the centre, then out to Vulpellac for our lift home.

Neighbouring walks: La Bisbal, Vulpellac, Castell d'Emporda, FontetaMont-ras Fountain walkMont-ras 'boar' walk -
Calonge into the Gavarres - Bell-lloc and Castell de Vila-Roma (Palamos) - St Pol de Bisbal and Santa Lucia - Santa Susanna de Peralta and Sant Climent de Peralta - Romanya de la Selva to Puig d'Arques

Walking route Mont-ras to Fitor and Fonteta over the Gavarres

L'Estartit to Cala Pedrosa and Cala Ferriol
15 Sep 2013

Estartit from the beach Costa Brava Although originally L'Estartit was a fishing village it has become more of a resort catering to holidaymakers and second-home owners including a reasonable community of British ex-pats. It's also the connection route to the diving mecca of the Isles Medes, which according to diving friends, is one of the best locations on the Mediterranean.

The town of L'Estartit always feels like going to a different country. The town is slightly isolated as access is only possible from Torroella de Montgri with the river Ter to the south, and the Montgri hills to the back preventing any other access. Consequently, the town is almost entirely geared to holidaymakers as it is not really well enough connected for local inhabitants. Having said it's mainly for holidaymakers, this is not in a large or overgrown way, but it does have some well-design holiday hotels and apartment blocks and the main strip in the town is almost entirely shops focused on the tourist trade (and dead quiet in winter).

Cala Pedrosa very narrow bay near Estartit The town's strong point for locals is that it is the main access point for the Isles Medes, two islands off the coast sufficiently large to have a lighthouse, that are the centre of a sea-based nature park famed for the quality of the diving. If you're visitng L'Estartit, then taking one of the many glass-bottomed boats to the Islands is recommended. If you're a diver (we're not), friends really recommend the Isles Medes.

Behind the town is the Muntanya Gran of the Montgri mountains a large and very natural set of hills, cliffs and shrub that separates L'Estartit from L'Escala. We've walked this area before but have never quite got it right. The first time we were trying to follow the coast to L'Escala but came in the wrong shoes (the hills have a seriously rough under foot terrain - anything other than good walking shoes is not recommended). There's also a good walk along the ridge top over L'Estartit. Previously we've also tried to get up in to the hills above the furthest point of the port, and now we've discovered the best access point is the road up behind Camping Estartit which makes the start of the journey much easier. Google Maps doesn't show the paths very well, but they are clearly marked with signposts and green-white flashes and easy to follow on L'Emporda en Detall walking maps.

Cala Foradada or Cap del Castell near Estartit with sea caves We normally park near the photographers' shop who always has a great set of local pictures, then walk down to the beach. The beach has a fine sand  and is gently sloping, but at the back are large areas used for parking. It rained overnight, so there are a few puddles, but out to sea the Isles Medes are the dominant feature. We explore the town a little - it's not somewhere we come to very often, and even at this late stage in the season there are still visitors from the UK and Netherlands about. After a skirt through the town we head out and follow the road in the direction of Camping Estartit and get the first of the walking signs. The route we're following connects to L'Escala/Montgo as well as the hidden Calas.

Beach at Cala Ferriol near Estartit Costa Brava The road runs past the campsite and continues up. To the right, above the campsite are some non-sea cliffs with a path running across the top through the woods (a good local route if you don't want to go fully onto the Montgri hills). Instead we continue with the road and it turns into a track with white painted rocks on either side - part of the access to Torre Ponsa. Our route then splits to the right rising steeply and we can see the grand Torre Ponsa buildings with Montgri Castle behind it. At the head of the road the terrain changes to the more typical Montgri terrain of rough stone underfoot and small shrubs dotted with alzines. At the crossroad, the paths are clearly marked with good signs and we take the route to Cala Pedrosa and Cala Ferriol along a stony track.

The path is clear and easy to follow (we pass a couple of mountain bikers coming the other way), then the path to Cala Pedrosa turns off to the left and becomes a little narrower with more stone. The terrain of the Montgri hills has a tendency to get harsh underfoot. It's a bit like walking over the remnants of a collapsed dry stone wall all the time with stones and rocks pointing up at odd angles making the path very uneven. Our path runs down through the woods and then along a dry river bed and we reach Cala Pedrosa (the stony bay). It's a pebble beach, with access to a channel of sea water. The whole beach/channel is about 10m wide at the widest  Very natural, very stony and fine for skimming stones across the water, but not much else.

View to Montgri hills from GR92 near Estartit The path now climbs out of the bay and up to the top. After an easy climb we reach a viewing point and can look back towards Cala Pedrosa and the Island of Pedrosa (also very stony), and in front of us we can see the remarkable cliffs and headland of Roca Foradada/Cap del Castell which juts out into the sea with sea cave and sea tunnels at the bottom and behind in the distance we can see Roses and Cap de Creus. The cliffs along the coast are high and vertical, and thankfully the path steers around the back.

Now as we're walking we run into a couple of other families with children younger than ours, properly shoe'd up for the rough ground. It feels like we're in the middle of nowhere surrounded by low shrub with no buildings or other access around so it comes as a slight surprise.

View over Estartit and down to Pals and Begur We reach the top of the hill and our children cop out of the next stretch down to Cala Ferriol to avoid another climb out of a bay. We continue though and walk down along a broad but stonily-uneven track to get to Cala Ferriol another pebble beach but broader that Cala Pedrosa. There are a couple of small islets in the bay and a huge cliff above. Among the natural scenery, it looks like humans have created a space for fires in among the rocks.

On the map there's a second path out of the bay and back to the top, but we have to go back the same way we came. We walk past the families we saw earlier coming down. At the top we follow the flattish path in the direction of L'Escala (still well signposted), and then follow a flat track GR92 back towards Torroella and L'Estartit. We can't see the sea, but to the right as we go south are views towards Montgri and out to Bellecaire d'Emporda and the Pyrenees beyond. The GR92 bears off to the right, but we continue straight on the path to the crossroads where we took the route to Cala Pedrosa. We carry straight on and get to the heights above L'Escala, continuing along the top until we find a route down and back into town.

Neighbouring walks: Torroella de Montgri to Gola de Ter - Sobrestany, Montgri and Bellcaire d'Emporda - Torroella de Montgri castle - L'Escala Riells to sea cliffs and viewpoint of Montgo

Walking route from Estartit to Cala Pedrosa and Cala Ferriol on the Costa Brava

Swimming and beach at Sa Riera (Begur)
15 Sep 2013

Beach at Sa Riera Begur Costa Brava Sa Riera is the largest of the three Begur beaches (Sa Tuna and Fornells/Platja Fondo/Aiguablava being the others) and the closest directly to the Begur town itself, though it is still 2-3km downhill.

The beach is situated in a small older village directly around the beach surrounded by hills with select luxury villas.

The village area has a handful of restaurants, a couple of shops and a small supermarket all of which are open during summer, but normally closed out of season. It's picturesque with views, but feels a little more touristy than Sa Tuna or Aiguablava.

The beach is large and sandy at the base of the stream that runs down from Begur, with space for fishing boats to the right-hand side with boats on the beach and in the water.

It is framed by rocky cliffs to the left looking out to sea with a path that runs over the top to Platja de la Isla Roja and Platja de Pals. On the right is a smaller second beach and a small rocky headland with a villa on it.

The beach is north facing and looks directly towards the Isles Medes. If there is a south wind blowing, Sa Riera is protected and remains perfectly calm for swimming.

At the back the road comes down from Begur on a windy road that becomes a relatively narrow valley with low-rise holiday apartment blocks as you come into the main Sa Riera village and the number of villas mean the area is very popular for villa and apartment rentals, but it is typically closed up during the winter.

Facilities at the beaches

Being relatively large and popular there is canoe hire, lifeguards and a diving school at the beach. As mentioned, in the village area are a few seasonal restaurants.

The swimming area is marked off by buoys far into the bay and in fact the buoys are situated so that the swimming area extends right around the cliffs to the beaches of Platja de la Isla Rojo and Platja de Pals.

Sand quality

The sand is coarse to grainy and a little grey and dusty and not really good for sandcastles. it's also a big beach so there is a lot of sand to cross in order to get to the water.

Boats on the sand at Sa Riera Begur Swimming

Swimming is best towards the left hand rocks. The main bay area is mostly a sandy bottom with little to see, though with the buoy positions, it's possible to swim out a long way.

The rockier left hand side and more of interest in the water and for long distance swimmers it's relatively easy to swim around the cusp of the bay into the next beach and beyond.


Parking is mostly along the entrance and exits roads with a charge in season for the parking closest to the beach. We were swimming just out of season (mid-September) and there were no problems parking. In season, it will be busy which will mean parking a little further away and walking down to the beach.


The path over the cliffs connects to Platja de Pals and there is a route up along the stream back to Begur. See Masos de Pals, Begur, Sa Riera and Platja de Pals

Next beaches

South to Sa Tuna (Begur) - North to Platja de Pals/ Isla Roja

Via Catalan and the Diada
12 Sep 2013

Estrellada Catalan Independence flag at Fornells near Girona for the Diada September 11th is the Catalan National day known as the Diada. Though a national day, it is more a day of commemoration, rememberance and politics than a day of celebration. The date is the anniversary of the fall of Barcelona, and so Catalonia, to the Bourbon Spanish in 1714 at the end of the War of Spanish Succession. Next year will be the 300th anniversay and in recent times the day has been marked by a great outpouring of hope and wishes for Catalan independence. Last year more than a million people were out on the streets of Barcelona. This year was marked by a linking of hand in a human chain that stretched 400km from Le Perthus in the north to the southern border with Communitat de Valencia in the South. (The photos are from the Via Catalan at Fornells, just south of Girona).

As with most people arriving in Spain, when we arrived  several years ago, we weren't particularly aware of Catalan nationalism. We would have known more about the demands for Basque Country independence. If you don't know the history it can seem strange that the national day commemorates the takeover of Catalonia by Spain. Surely Catalonia was always Spanish?

The history of Catalonia is long, confusing and vanishes in parts. In many ways it is like a romantic tragedy with a people yearning for self-determination only to see it snatched away at the last instant each time. The history is also confusing, because Catalonia hasn't really been independent in its history. It has always been intertwined with Spain in one way or another.

The modern independence movement and Catalan history as taught in schools idealises the great flowering of Catalonia between its formation in around 700 as a march (a semi-autonomous border territory) between the Franks and Moors of Spain, and its high point in the middle of the fourteenth century when Catalans controlled territories across the Mediterranean all the way to Athens.

Diada 2013 long human chain along the closed N II road calling for Catalan Independence However, as modern Spain grew out of the amalgamation of the Spanish kingdoms and principalities via the unions by marriage of the various kings and queens, Catalonia slowly became marginalised, though it maintained its own governance and laws as the kingdoms within Spain kept to a loose federal structure. For instance, Catalonia had its own parliament from 1057 - the oldest in Europe and 200 years early than England and kings had to present themselves to the Catalans to be legitimised.

As the kingdoms coallesced in the thirteenth and fourteenth century's, Catalonia's rulling family married into the kingdom of Aragon and became the kings of a united Aragon (Aragon was a kingdom, with Catalonia was a collection of Duchy's and the principality of Girona). The empire claimed for Catalonia is more properly the Aragon empire. Around the end of the fourteenth century and the beginning of the fifteenth century, Catalonia started to struggle and began to lose influence. The black death decimated the population and the crown and court started to become entwined with the larger neighbouring kingdom of Castille. Catalonia went through an economic crisis followed by a civil war (1462-1472) which vastly diminished Catalonia's political power and allowed the burgeoning French kingdom to interfere both wooing and betraying different Catalan interests.

The result was that though Spain discovered America in 1492 with the consequent riches the Spanish empire brought, the rights to trade in America were restricted to the Castillans who only licensed trade ships from Cadiz and the ports in the north. Spain was growing rich, but for Catalonia it was a time of hardship and kowtowing to the dominant Castillans  (known as La Decadencia and skipped over in much of Catalan history). And while Spanish Galleons were reaping their bounty in the Americas, the Catalan coast was being raided by Barbary Pirates - more strictly Corsairs agents of and supported by the Ottoman empire out of Constantinople the dominant force in the Mediterranean.

The Spanish empire continued to flourish through marriage leading to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V becoming Carles I of Spain (1516) bringing his northern European dominions in the Low Countries into the Spanish fold so countries like the Netherlands became a Spanish territory for instance. Spain was the first worldwide empire on which the 'sun never sets', but Catalonia was still just a marginal outpost. And then the military expense of wars and battles to stave off revolts in this grand empire hit, and the empire started to disintegrate with revolts in the Netherlands and conflict with Britain and France..

Catalonia had only a marginal part in a Spain dominated by the Castillians and felt it was suffering indignities at the hands of the Spanish army leading to another uprising (the Reapers War or Catalan Revolt in 1640-52). This led to a self-proclaimed short-lived Catalan Republic in the year of 1641 under French protection. However, the French were playing their own game and in 1652 took Catalonia North, formally coming to an agreement with the Spanish in the Treaty of the Pyrenees of 1659.

The Spanish conflict with France re-emerged in the Netherlands and Germany leading Spain to look to strengthen its borders. But it did so imposing taxes on Catalonia for fortification and soldiers (which is why there are the great fortresses and ciutadellas on the French and Spanish side of the border) leading to the revolt of the Barretinas.

Stymied, broken and betrayed between the politics of the great powers of Spain and France, Catalonia had a chance for revenge in the Spanish War of Succession - a grand European struggle played out across the continent between the house of Bourbon (the French kings) and the house of Hapsburgs (of Austria and the Holy Roman Empire). The lack of an heir to Charles II of Spain who was also the Holy Roman Emperor meant Spain was caught between the two major families of Europe leading to a long and very complicated war that involved most of Europe. The British played for their own interests supporting the Hasburgs and taking possession of Menorca at one point, and eventually getting Gibraltar to accept the Bourbon king. Marlborough House outside Oxford is the direct result of the successes of the Duke of Marlborough in this war, though his part was played out in Spanish Netherlands and Germany.

Diada 2013 human chain to Girona At the time of the war, despite the ups and downs in Spain's fortunes, Spain remained broadly federalised as it had since the middle ages. So when the time came to choose, the Catalans remembering the way they had been used by the French and still against the Castillians, chose to side with the Hapsburgs. Much of the rest of Spain was pro-Bourbon for Philip V a grandson of Louis XIV of France. As had happened before, Catalonia was on the wrong side and was squeezed by the power politics of its grand European neighbours. In 1714 on September 11th, the Bourbon Spanish under the control of Duke of Berwick (taking French colours - his uncle the Duke of Marlborough fought for the British-supported Hapsburgs) broke the seige of Barcelona and Catalonia was taken over by the Spanish. Not in the federated way of the past, but in a crushing takeover in an imperial style like Louis XIV had done France, centralising control and stripping away local customs and laws.  Catalan institutions were closed and central Spanish control put in their place. Catalan was discouraged and Castillan Spanish promoted. Basically Catalonia was subjected to the new Spanish King's will. This is the reason for the Diada.

In the eighteenth century, across the rest of Europe great figures of the Enlightenment emerged but as with the period of La Decadencia, Catalan history disappears, subjugated by Spanish influence. Not until the 19th Century did Catalonia find its voice again during the Reneixement - a flowering of Catalan national hopes and increasing interest in the older medieval history of Catalonia.

By the start of the 20th Century Catalonia blossomed as the centre of modernism and the roots of modern art and an economic engine for Spain. And in the 1930s under the Spanish Republic, Catalans thought they could at last be independent. Hopes that were dashed by the civil war victory of Franco and his overbearing dictatorship. Catalans fled. Catalan was banned and Catalan politicians were shot. Within living memory are indviduals forced to learn in Spanish at school. And others who worked subversively to teach Catalan and keep Catalonia alive as an idea during Franco's reign.

With the return of democracy the old ideas and dreams have returned, and Catalonia seeks its chance once more. This is why 1.6m people came onto the streets to call for Catalan independence this year.

La Jonquera to Fort de Bellegarde (France)
09 Sep 2013

Walking route from La Jonquera Spain to Fort de Bellegarde France La Jonquera is a border town just below the main pass in the Pyrenees that separates France from Spain. This pass has been used for thousands of years by peoples moving between the Iberican Penisular and mainland Europe. The Roman's came this way and built the historic Via Augusta road that runs all the way through Spain down to Cadiz and links with the Via Domitia on the French side of the border.

La Jonquera historic centre

With such a long history and with such strategic importance, both sides have built castles and forts to defend the border. As you drive along the modern autoroute if you look up, you'll see Fort Bellegarde - a Vauban chateau fort built in the 1690s after France annexed Catalonia North.

The road itself was also important as it was the main route out of Spain for tens of thousands of Republican refugees fleeing Spain at the end of the Spanish Civil war. La Jonquera has the museum of exile which states that at one point La Jonquera had around 500,000 people in the town looking to flee into France.

Col de Penissars tower above El Perthus - La Jonquera

Nowadays, La Jonquera is a brash shopping area for day-trippers from France coming to stock up on perfume, wine and cigarettes at the Spanish lower tax rates, and as a truck holding stop with artic lorries from across Europe parked up to avoid the French restrictions on when truckers can be on the road. As you drive past it's not obvious that there is an older town hidden behind all the gaudy supermarkets, advertising and petrol stations.

The idea for the walk was from our children who were thrilled with the idea of walking to France (and we did take passports just in case). Despite being a Sunday, La Jonquera was busy with cross-border tourists out for a bargain and it was the Festa Major in town, so we had some difficulties parking. We eventually found space on the south side of the town, which meant we could walk through the centre to see more of the town on our way north.

Col de Penissar Roman ruins right on the border between Spain and France The Via Augusta route is one of those suggested on the website and we were looking out for yellow-blue marking. These, together with scallop shell symbols, mark the Route of Saint James (Camino de Santiago) which connects all the way to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. Unfortunately where we started from we couldn't find the symbol, and the marked walking routes and maps in the town tended to be more circuitous routes into the hills longer that we planned.

So instead we followed our nose through town. The centre had decorations up for the festival and a line of ladies making lace with needles on cushions and dozens of bobbins linking threads to make the patterns. The centre is small but has older buildings and a church and is very pleasant for a stroll. We continued through the town past the numerous clothes and souvenir shops including a big pile of mexican sombreros - something which isn't really Spanish, let alone Catalan.

Eventually we started to come out of the town and it still wasn't clear where to go. Outside the customs house, the main road split to the main motorway or the N II - neither of which we wanted to walk along, and ahead of us was an large empty expanse of concrete that presumably would have been used to hold trucks before the border was opened under Schengen. We guessed and crossed the concrete and just the other side of the last town roundabout finally saw the first yellow-blue marking. The path itself didn't seem that well used with gorse and brambles growing across the track. However, after the first stretch we crossed the NII and under the motorway and started across the fields towards the hills.

Fort de Bellegarde from the outside The path now ran through fields with the motorway on one side and the new AVE high speed train line on the other. At the end of the fields the path joins a road that leads up to the service buildings for the new Pyrenees train tunnel into France. Our path continued up and over the top of the tunnel following a track that climbed steeply into the woods.

Last year (July 2012), a huge forest fire that burnt a stretch of woodland and forest nearly 40km long from the border back down almost to Figueres, and so much smoke that that it reached Barcelona. We drove past about a week after it happened and it looked like total devastation - with every tree seemingly caught by the fire and left as black leafless sticks as if nothing had survived. Now walking through the woods you see the resilience of the corks trees and the forests. The fire has cleaned out the undergrowth, but the woods are back to green as new plants have grown. And the cork-trees with their blackened bark are back in leaf. Foresters are clearing out the genuinely dead trees, but the thing with cork-bark is that it is a fire protection. Only the very outer part of the bark burns and as cork bark continues to grow from the inside out, slowly the damaged outer bark is rejuvinated by the bark underneath. It's the same principle that enables cork to be harvested by stripping the bark from the tree, without damaging the tree itself as the bark grows back.

Chapel inside Fort de Bellegarde We climb steadily past large boulders and rounded weathered rocks. Ahead of us we can see the fort, but also a strange tower-house which looks like it has a face. We carry on following the marked signs up to Col de Panissers and arrive at the ruins of the Roman fort built on the col. As we look around the fort and read the description of the ruins we're not entirely sure if we've crossed the border, but we discover that the pyramid just above the ruins marks the border so we can stand one foot in Spain and one foot in France. The sign on the ruins marks the change of road from Via Augusta into Spain to Via Dolmitia into France. To the north are great views down the Vallespir valley and onwards to the plains of Roussillon and the Corbieres mountains in the distance. Behind up we have a view that looks all the way to the Montgri hills.

Above us is the main fort that can be seen from the autoroute - Fort de Bellegarde so we walk up to the fort itself. The fort is one of the Vauban forts like that of Villefranche de Conflent and Mont-Louis further up in the Pyrenees - a large dominant fortification built after the annexation of Catalonia north in the seventeenth century with thick walls and remparts and few comforts. It stands above the main autoroute and we can look down at the crossing point with lorries passing over the now open border. The town beneath us is Le Perthus - distinguished by being half in France and half in Spain with the border running straight down the middle of the main road.

We take the chance to explore the fort a little. Many of the rooms are now used as galleries displaying paintings and sculpture but it still feels like an indomitable castle. In the tower on one corner is a deep deep well that was the main source of water. The height of the walls and the castle's position means there are fabulous views in all directions and down to the former border, but it is a harsh building with few comforts - perhaps in keeping with it's history as a prison used by the Gestapo in the Second World War.

Though we prefer circular walks, the route back to La Jonquera mostly takes us back the same route as we came up - a slight diversion around the military cemetary links to the same path down to the top of the AVE train tunnel with views along the tracks down towards Figueres. At the bottom of the path, rather than follow the overgrown route we had discovered with difficult, we take the Pyrenees 8 Bike path along the side of the railway and motorway which is more open and rural and follows a stream back under the railway and motorway and back into La Jonquera and the mad stream of cars and people bustling around the cross-border supermarkets.

Neighbouring trips: Day trip to Villefranche-de-Conflent and Mont-Louis in France - Espolla to Rabos - Perpignan  - Elne (France) - Ceret (France) - Mollo (Camprodon) - Pyrenees to France - Figueres and Castell de Sant Ferran - Waterfall at Les Escaules (Boadella) - Sant Pere de Rodes

Swimming and canoeing at Sa Tuna (Begur)
09 Sep 2013

Beach and boats at Sa Tuna Begur Costa Brava Sa Tuna is one of the three beach area connected with Begur (Sa Riera and Fornells/Platja Fondo/Aiguablava being the others).

Sa Tuna itself is at the back of Begur around the Circumval.lacio down a 2-3km long windy road to the sea.

At Sa Tuna itself is a small hamlet of what would have been fishermen's houses sitting above a quiet bay with fishing boats, and a handful of restaurants above the main beach. Around the corner is the bay of Aiguafreda with the large hotel of Cap Sa Sal on the neighbouring headland.

The bay itself is enclosed on three sides and protected from the sea by a promentary/penisular marked with a Catalan flag that juts out into the sea on the opposite side of the bay.

The main beach sits in front of the restaurants with boat access, but once you get out into the water, you can see a second beach around to the right, accessible easily from the water, or a scramble down from the path that runs over the cliffs.

From the water itself you also see the small sea caves in the cliff walls. The beaches are pebbly rather than sand, with rocks in the bay. The natural landscape of the bay makes it perfect as an area to explore by canoe, or for diving.

Facilities at the beaches

Sa Tuna Begur beach under the cliffs Though the beach itself is stony, it does attract holidaymakers and there is a lifeguard service and canoe hire.

Directly behind the main beach are a handful of restaurant and the occasional small shop that blend in with the traditional fishing hamlet ambience. The second beach is isolated and accessible via a scramble off the path, or directly from the water.

Sand quality

It's fair to say there is little in the way of sand at the beach, it being almost all pebbles. The bay is also rocky which makes entering the water somewhat cautious and tentative when the water's chilly.


Swimming is good with a good variety of places to explore. The boats are moored on the left-hand side looking out to sea, so though it is possible to swim around the headland to Aiguafreda (also a pebbly beach), it would mean swimming across the main boat channel.

Swimming to the right gives views of the cliffs and caves with rocks under water. Though the bay is rocky close to the shore, in the centre it tends to be a little more sandy.

Sa Tuna Begur swimming area under cliffs and second hidden beach Canoeing

The geography with the promentary/penisular and the neighbouring bays makes this a rewarding area to explore by canoe with plenty to see in an hour or two's canoeing, particularly if you're kayaking and swimming.

The shelter of the bay gives good protection and smooth water, but if you go out around the headland, the water becomes more open and can become choppy.


Parking can be difficult as there are a limited number of places. Parking extends up the access road, and the general advice would be that if you see a space take it. Parking around the main harbour is tricky.


The GR92 runs around the Cap de Begur headland. From this beach see Sa Tuna, Cap de Begur, Begur or see Begur, Ses Negres and Sa Riera - Palafrugell, Tamariu, Begur residential and Esclanya - Masos de Pals, Begur, Sa Riera and Platja de PalsFornells and Aiguablava walk (GR92)

Next beaches

South to Platja Fonda (Begur) - North to Sa Riera (Begur)

Swimming and bay of St Antoni de Calonge
09 Sep 2013

Beach at Sant Antoni de Calonge looking to Torre Valentina with artifical reef Sant Antoni de Calonge sits next door to, and is sometimes confused with, Palamos as the long sand beach links the fishing port at Palamos around the bay to the hotel and rocks at Torre Valentina.

Although there is a traditional old heart to St Antoni, in the main the town consists of more modern apartment blocks, hotels and terraces of houses that line up 4-5 rows deep from the beach back to the main road that connects Palamos to Platja d'Aro.

The town has other areas and links to Calonge and villa estates and campsites above Torre Valentina but it has the feeling of a faintly underused purpose-built holiday area that lacks a little in character or pizzazz.

The beach area consists of a number of artificial bays protected by groynes of rocks to keep the sand from being washed away. If you're familiar with the beaches in Barcelona, this area has a very similar feel and quality.

At the back of the beach is a long promenade that would take you all the way to Palamos or round to Torre Valentina. Though there are a few smaller hotels, the area is mainly residential and quiet, with a handful of bars, shops and restaurants.

The beaches with protection running parallel to the beach form a number of small and very sheltered bays. Some are used for mooring boats in addition to sunbathing, and because of the protection, the water keeps warmer than the open sea, and the sand shelves gently making it family friendly for smaller children.

Unfortunately that doesn't get round the artificial feel. If it was a city and the only beach it would be OK, but with so many other better Costa Brava beaches nearby, there's not really a reason to use this one.

Facilities at the beaches

The beaches have lifeguard stations and in places on the promenade at the back there are occasional shops and bars. 

Swimming areas are marked out with buoys. The beaches with long groynes reaching out to the sea are more open and feel more natural, with fresher water and more chance of waves.

The beaches behind the parallel rocks are warmer and more sheltered by feel much more artificial.

Beach at Sant Antoni de Calonge looking around the bay to Palamos Sand quality

Sand quality varies along the beach. In parts it feels fine, in other areas it is grainy and stony.

If you do use the beach, walk along the sand to find the best areas. Even in the parts that are stony, the area at the water's edge can still have softer sand.


The only positive benefit for swimming was the possibility of warmer water earlier or later in the season.

The bays have a sandy bottom and the odd fish can be seen, but it feels very man-made.

If you are in the direct local area, swimming across the small bays would be good exercise, but nothing to really get excited about.


There is parking at the back of Sant Antoni closer to the main road.


This is an area for passeo from Palamos to Torre Valentina rather than a mainstream walk.

Next beaches

South to Belladona and bays to Torre Valentina - North to Palamos main beach

Blanes, Lloret de Mar, Tossa de Mar by GR92
30 Aug 2013

Blanes view from the tower of Castell de Sant Joan Costa Brava The two best known tourist towns on the Costa Brava are Lloret de Mar and Tossa de Mar - the first for its nightlife and the second for its panaroma and old walled town by the sea.

The two towns are at the southern end of the Costa Brava and are much busier and livelier than the more genteel towns that further north in central Costa Brava.

However, before we moved here, our first experience of walking in this area was travelling up by train from Barcelona to Blance on the local Barcelona train network (Rodalies) that runs up the Maresme coast.

The first time we took the 70 minute train journey up to Blanes and then made a walk to Lloret, before returning to Blanes on one of the regular Dojijet passenger boats that run schedules up and down the coast calling in at the towns and beaches.

The second time we also went by train but took the bus to Lloret from the train and then walked to Tossa, again before catching the boat back down the coast.

If you're staying in Barcelona, both options are very practical ways of seeing the start of the Costa Brava by public transport for an adventure out of the city.

Platja de Boadella between Lloret and Blanes Costa Brava However, despite the popularity of the towns for holiday makers, we don't go to the southern towns of the Costa Brava very often. We'd be more likely to go to Girona for shopping, or to keep to the beaches closer to home than make the trip to the more southern resorts.

Today, however, our children have a visit to Lloret's Water World water park, to make use of the remaining 2x1 tickets they got as part of their day at Platja d'Aro's Aquadiver Park Water Park when their cousins came to visit (one ticket gives you access to both parks).

So we're getting dropped off in Blanes for the walk while everyone else splashes about on the slides of Water World, then meeting up again in Tossa (about 21km) later in the day.

It means this is a linear walk rather than circular walk that we prefer, but as mentioned, the Dofijet boats run up and down the coast, so giving you the novelty of completing the loop by sea if you want to get back to the start point.

Fenals beach in Lloret de Mar The walk starts in Blanes which is officially the start of the Costa Brava as it's the first point where you come into the rocky headlands that distinguish the Costa Brava coast.

To the south of Blanes is the Maresme coast, a long stretch of fairly featureless beach than runs all the way to Barcelona taking in the Maresme towns of Malgrat de Mar, Santa Susanna, Pineda de Mar and Calella de la Costa (different from Calella de Palafrugell), that are often mislabelled as Costa Brava by less scrupulous tour operators.

Cala Banys Lloret de Mar In many ways Blanes resembles the Maresme towns more than those further north.

Streets are laid out in blocks which gives the town a more industrial type feel and it's a town more orientated towards Catalan visitors than those from overseas.

The ease of access from Barcelona means it is popular with locals, but it has far fewer non-Catalan tourists.

Reaching the sea-front after passing through the town, we're greeted by a long broad Passeig Maritim full of restaurants and bars built for people who want to take an evening passeo, but in the morning it's quite quiet.

The beach itself is very clean and looks as if it has been raked, but as the day is a little early and overcast there aren't too many sunbathers on the sand.

The beach splits in two - a long sandy Maresme-type stretch to the south, then a rocky headland (Sa Palmora) - almost the marking stone for the Costa Brava and then the first proper Costa Brava type bay (Badia de Blanes) up to the port area.

First view of Lloret main beach We walk along the Passeig Maritim to the port and then realise that we've missed the turning for the GR92.

When we first did this walk, several years ago, we made the same mistake and had to negotiate the roads and estates above the town to get back on track.

This time we double back but either we've missed the sign or the signposting isn't clear and we have to hunt to find the starting point, walking past the tiny church of Nostra Senyora de l'Esperanca before finding the connection at a loop at the back of Carrer Camadasa and then up a concrete stepped footpath at the back of the houses rising above the sea line.

We're heading up to the tower of Castell de Sant Joan the highpoint above the town - and the ideal site for photos.

The path between the houses runs out into a park-like area, and we run into the first proper flight of stairs.

This part of the walk is almost all stairways. I only counted the steps on the upper third of the walk (250), so my guess is that this is a climb of 600-1000 steps to reach the tower at the top - so we reached the top sweating and with slightly aching knees.

The view from tower at the top looks down across Blanes and its beaches and down along the Maresme coast across the mouth of the Todera river. To the north you can make out the villas and urbanisations around Lloret in the distance.

The popularity of this area means there are large numbers of vast urbanisations such as Aguaviva Park scattered across the hills and down to the coast, each house straining for a distant sea view.

We're not keen on urbanisations as they normally lack a centre and facilities and seem to be more a sprawling mass of holiday homes, either with dogs, or shut down in the winter.

Beach and Castell dEn Plaja at the end of Lloret beach The GR92 continues past the tower and through the woods before reaching the road to Sant Cristina.

The sea is to the right, but we're walking away from the coast on the ridgeway, with the area to the right firstly more of a gated urbanisation, and then subsequently the fenced off area for the Botanical gardens of Pinya de Rosa.

It's a pity as it means we're walking on the road past houses and vilas when it would be much more rewarding to be closer to the sea, but without local knowledge and a long walk ahead of us we're not exploring to see if there are better alternatives.

Cala Trons around the corner for Lloret After the botanical gardens the next fenced off area is for the Hermitage of Santa Cristina with road access down to the beach of Treumal and Santa Cristina.

Since we're aiming for a long walk we don't take the diversion down to the beach. If we were exploring more we'd look to see if there were other routes closer to the coast as the GR92 is proving a little disappointing at this point between Blanes and Lloret.

Finally we find a route off the road and down towards the Platja de Boadella.

We're in trees and can see the coast with the sandy unspoilt beach below us which looks as if it is popular with naturists.

The GR92 now connects with the Jardins de Santa Clotilde at the outskirts of Lloret. The GR92 runs around the outside, but as we go past the other side, we realilse we could have gone through the gardens for a small fee.

Just the other side of the gardens the GR92 is back on the road at Fenals, but we quickly dip back into the woods above Platja de Fenals - Lloret's second (and quieter) beach.

There's a headland over the beach with views back down the coast towards Blanes.

We walk along the back of Fenals beach which is full of children and families. In the bay someone is parascending being towed by a speed boat.

Platja de Canyelles between Lloret and Tossa de Mar Costa Brava Around the other side of the bay it looks like the path should pass through a tunnel to the next headland, but the tunnel has been closed by a rock fall (probably from some time ago) so we have to double back and find the GR92 marked near the souvenir shops at the end of the beach.

It would be easy just to follow the road directly to Lloret, but the GR92's red and white flashes actually take us to the back of a small park and up a flight of steps heading back to the sea.

At the top we continue straight on to reach a watch-tower on the cliffs above the coast. This is another tower called Sant Joan and a twin to the one above Blanes.

The path now takes steps down towards the sea through the rocks and through what seems to be the middle of a bar/restaurant down into the rock pools of Cala Banys - there's no beach here but lots of places to scramble.

We also notice that it's starting to get busier with lots of tourists around and we can make out other languages including Russian (the Costa Brava is proving very popular with East Europeans).

Beach at Platja Canyelles Around the headland from Cala Banys we get the first sight of Lloret's beach and the town itself.

Lloret's main beach is long with a castle at the far end from where we're standing.

There are lots of people on the beach and swimming and dotted along the beach front are numerous stalls offering water-based attractions like jetskiing, or boat trips.

Around Lloret the hills are full of urbanisations with holiday villas and houses that can be seen from the rocky end of the beach. We're not here to visit the town, but Lloret is the busiest and liveliest town on the Costa Brava and very popular with young people from across Europe looking for bars and clubs.

Outside the main season though, its actually still popular with Catalans and walking in winter we'd find retired Catalan folk enjoying the town.

Tossa de Mar view over the walled old town Instead we walk along the promenade at the top of the beach around to the castle.

There are numerous bars, hotels and restaurants selling cheap food like burgers and pizzas, but the sea front buildings are only about 7-8 storeys high so it doesn't feel over-built in the way other package holiday towns like Benidorm can feel (though, as ever with Costa Brava towns, there is one over-sized edificio).

With the people and the scenery it's not an unpleasant beach to walk along.

Platja Codolar Tossa de Mar We reach the far end of the beach under the castle (Castell d'En Plaja) - a mock castle built in the 1930-40s.

The beach at the far end is rocky again and a small islet just in the sea beyond the holidaymakers is full of cormorants enjoying the sea.

The path curls around the base of the castle and round to the next bay. Suddenly Lloret is behind us and we're back to a more regular Costa Brava scene with a rocky bay and pebbly beach beneath us.

We still have tourists around, though after another set of steps up, the tourist numbers drop off as we round to the next bay a small sandy beach of Cala Trons with a handful of holiday makers in the water.

We try to continue on the path, but the route is closed for Cala Tortuga, so instead we have to double back and take the road through the urbanisation meeting the GR92 again as it returns to follow estate roads - so yet more tarmac.

The sun has also come out so it's starting to get hot and dry - one of the challenges of walking in August - we've brought water but it's going fast.

The path curves up and around the urbanisation and then down towards Canyelles past more villas with sea views and mature gardens.

The road runs past the urbanisation centre - little more than a diving centre, an restaurant and an estate agent - urbanisations always seem to have minimal facilities and then turns down to the beach.

The red-white flashes are easy to follow, and we turn left just before a tunnel and go right down to the sand.

Platja de Canyelles has a small marina on one side and a sandy beach divided into one main beach and a couple of smaller coves.

It's a very pretty beach, but relatively quiet, and would be somewhere to visit as an alternative when Lloret is too busy.

We refill with water and I dip my hat in the shower to cool down as the day is now getting properly hot.

Fortified old town of Tossa de Mar from the main beach The walk out from Canyelles is all up hill and still largely road and estate houses.

Eventually the road turns into a track through the woods at the back of the next urbanisation.

It's dusty and there's not that much to see. it would be nice to reach Cala Llorell - the next bay, but the GR92 skirts round the fences at the back of the estate and it's not clear if it's because the beach or urbanisation is private or because the geography prevents the path getting down to sea level again.

Instead we're heading up and over the top of the urbanisation - the fence always to our right and little to see, and when we reach the top, the main Lloret-Tossa road in earshot (but not visible).

We continue around the top of the estate and start to see the hills at the back of Tossa de Mar.

The GR92 runs along the road for a while before turning off to the right along a ridge way through the woods towards Tossa.

Mar Menyuda beach in Tossa de Mar As we get closer to Tossa de Mar we decide to take the Cami de Ronda to the town rather than the GR92 as the GR92 runs through the back a little, while the Cami de Ronda runs around the cliffs and then down to the old walled town.

Suddenly we can see the sea again from the tops of the cliffs and Tossa comes into view.

Tossa itself is one of the most picturesque towns in the Costa Brava. The old town is walled and fortified - like Carcassonne by the sea - and stands above the sea on a peninsular with beaches on two sides.

The modern town and beach sits below the castle walls and are full of good quality restaurants and hotels. It's very popular, but whereas Lloret is more for younger people, Tossa feels more refined and middle aged.

As we walk down the cliffs we see the first turrets of the fortified old town and the houses in the middle with boats in the bay in the background. Beneath us, people are swimming in the turquoise sea of Platja d'Es Codolar, clear enough to see to the bottom beneath them.

We walk down and past the restaurants outside the old town walls.We'd visit more but we've been before and the walk has been tiring and we have a lift to meet.

On the other side of the old town we return to the main beach and walk all the way along to Tossa's third beach (La Mar Menuda)

Though we've walked this before I think our expectations have changed from the first times we walked this way out of Barcelona. In all, it was a little disappointing - the GR92 is normally a reliable high quality interesting route.

Perhaps surprisingly the coastal areas around Lloret were the best walking. Elsewhere there were simply too many fences and estates and just too much tarmac - probably about 70% of the walk was on the road.

In particular the area to the south of Tossa is particularly frustrating and obviously on a longer distance walk we don't have time to explore so much.

The next time we return we'd want to look for more local alternatives to the GR92 that take us closer to the sea - so shorter distances and not trying to link the towns.

Neighbouring walks: Platja Sant Pol to Sant Feliu de Guixols - Tossa de Mar north to Cala Pola - Tossa de Mar to Cala Llorell - Sant Grau and Cadiretes near Tossa de Mar - Cala de Sant Francesc (Blanes)

And more details on the stretch between Sant Cristina and Lloret de Mar: Lloret's Platja de Boadella, Platja de Santa Cristina and The Fence

Swimming and beach: Swimming and beaches of Tossa de Mar - Swimming and beach at Fenals, Lloret de Mar

Walking route GR92 from Blanes to Lloret de Mar and Tossa de Mar

Verges, Tallada d'Emporda and Maranya
30 Aug 2013

View to Verges from Maranya Costa Brava Normally the weather holds out until the first weeks of September, but this year it seems that the first overcast days have arrived in late August. With the change of weather we decided to go back into the countryside for walking, this time from Verges towards the hills of Castellar at the back. This is an area not so far from L'Escala.

We last visited Verges for the Dance of the Dead (Verges - Dansa de la Mort) which takes place in Easter week, but it was more to see the procession than to see the town. This time we're in daylight so can explore a little further afield.

Verges village mill Verges itself is a small village that acts as a junction point for cars coming from the north going either to Torroella de Montgri, or continuing south to La Bisbal and then to Palafrugell or Palamos - so it has a sense of being something of a transit town.

We park just up by the football field and then walk back down to the village. In an open space just next to the junction for the two routes, a small flea market has set up and we walk around the stalls bewildered to see rusty saws and old glass drinks bottles for sale in amongst the older furniture and book collections.

Verges castle in the middle of the village We walk down the road in the direction of La Bisbal to see an old water mill that we often see on the way up to Figueres. Verges sits just above the river Ter, which is a broad river which always has water and is navigable by kayak or canoe (hire point at Colomers, two villages along the river from Verges) and Verges itself has a small stream that runs around the village before passing underneath the disused mill.

Following the road around the back we can see the stream which almost looks like a moat protecting the central houses with small bridges across the water to reach the gardens. We turn up across the stream and enter the main village part and head towards the church. The church tower always looks impressive and well cared for from a distance, In the main square is an old castle-like structure - a big stone building with a tower but despite Verges fame, the rest of the houses and streets in the town are rather plain and drab and without the darkness or candle light, the village lacks much in the way of charm.

Leaving the centre we head back towards the football field where we take the right hand fork (marked as a health route) to the fields and on towards a farm. Some times walking through fields feels delightful with crops growing, fertility and butterflies and insectts. In this case, he ground is flat but rough and feels unkempt. It's not helped by the small drainage ditch to the left of us which had been filled by the recent rain, and is now smelling as it dries out again. We walk past a number of cheaply-made red-brick farm buildings which seem to be the norm for this area.

Church at Tallada dEmporda We continue across the landscape in a sullen plod and turn towards Tallada d'Emporda. In the background we can see the Castle of Montgri and in the distance the hill at Montgo near L'Escala but the it feels uninspiring. As we reach Tallada d'Emporda there are series of newer buildings as we enter the village and we can see the clock on the church, just above the bells. We navigate the backstreets and find the church besides the castle in a medieval area strangely away from the village centre. An old farm sits in what would have been the castle forecourt with a barn in the same roughly laid red bricks style which looks so tatty. The area is being refurbished so this might not be totally fair, but at the moment the area feels uncared for.

Chapel at Maranya Costa Brava We have the option of continuing to Tor or going up directly to Maranya. As you might be able to tell, we're not finding the walk so attractive so we decide to go directly to Maranya and up towards the hills of Maranya. We're definitely in pig farm country and numerous low red brick buildings dot the fields or sit along side the path.

Maranya is a hamlet on the fringes of the hills and has good views to the distance and down towards Verges. Behind the hamlet into the hills, the vegetation changes more to trees and low scrub with broad tracks. We take a break at the very well restored chapel at the top of the village, then rather than continue into the scrub, we take the path down and start heading back.

It's peaceful and rabbits sit on the track in front of us, before darting into great sandy burrows to the right of the path.  We turn left and head through a small wood full of pine scent before zig-zagging our way back down to Verges slightly disappointed by the walk and the area.

Neighbouring walks: Colomers and Jafre - Vilopriu and Valldavia - Serra de Daro, Fonolleres, Sant Iscle d'Emporda - Verges - Dansa de la Mort - La Pera, Pubol and around - Bellcaire d'Emporda, Tor and Albons - Rupia and Foixa

Walking route Verges, Tallada dEmporda and Maranya

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17 Feb 2014 19:46
What a great blog. I am planning a walking holiday in the region and wonder if you can recommend the best walking maps, like UK ordnance survey ones.

I shall be reading more of your walks over the coming days as we plan.

Many thanks
24 Feb 2014 17:25
Glad you're enjoying it. We have recommendations for maps in our 'Advice and FAQ' section
13 Jul 2017 12:46
Sorry I missed the comment, so I hope it's not too late - use the contact box if you'd like to send a message. For the coast, the GR92 is best and if you have driver you can just take it piece by piece. For hikers, around Cap de Creus is great, though it can be dry and hard walking in summer. For us, the stretch between Palamos and Palafrugell and on to Begur is the prettiest part of the whole Costa Brava and really good for walking. I'd probably also take the walk up and over Montgri, possibly starting at Pals, or L'Estartit to L'Escala. And though you said you prefer the coast, don't overlook inland routes as there are some wonderful villages and countryside out towards Girona, La Bisbal, or Olot.
Sven-Gunnar Furmark
24 May 2017 11:43

My name is Sven Furmark. I am from Sweden. I plan to go to Costa Brava with some friends (totally about 10 people) for hiking for one week (5 walking days). We are experienced hikers and we usually walk 4-6 hours per day. We prefer to walk along the coast as much as possible. We plan to rent a house and travel to each days hiking with a bus & driver which we plan to book for the whole week. Which five hikes would you recommend for us.

Warm Regards
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