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Walks and other things

Walks on the Costa Brava - will be updated as more are added - click for a larger version This is our blog about living in the Costa Brava. We like to visit places. We walk (a lot) particularly into and around the Gavarres. Sometimes we travel around on bike. In the summer, we swim and canoe.
 

The walks have been walked since November 2012, and we add one or two a week(ish - though we're slowing down now). The photos are straight from the 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. The map on the right shows where the walks are and will be updated as we continue to add more.
 

The entries on swimming and beaches also start from Summer 2013. Unlike the walks which are reported as we did them (including photos), for the swimming and beach articles we're going to update them over time.
 

Most Viewed

Sadernes and river pools of St Aniol d'Aguja
07 Sep 2015

Sadernes river and gorge Just to the north of Besalu and Castellfollit de la Roca (both worth visiting in themselves) are the the largely unpopulated hills and mountains of Alta Garrotxa that run to the French border. In amongst the hills is the small hamlet of Sadernes and a popular Catalan walking route through gorges up to a small refuge/chapel at Saint Aniol d'Aguja, along a small river that in summer forms a series of deep pools of crystal clear water that attracts families and locals for swimming. Along the way we walked past steep overhangs and sheer cliffs that were being tackled by intrepid climbers.

The path and walk is well-known among those who live near Girona and there were lots of families on the path, but it's well off the tourist trail. We saw it on the Costa Brava & Girona Hiking / Biking Meetup Group run by local English resident Nigel Perrin, who organises group hikes and walks in this area.

Sadernes river pools for swimming The walk itself is relatively long. Though the river runs through Sadernes, from what we could see the best parts of the river pools start about forty-five minutes up the gorge, so there is a a good walk to be had before 'the start' along a somewhat dry track. Once the pools proper start, the path becomes a narrow track along the river that continues for about 60-70 minutes until you reach St Aniol with opportunities for swimming or dipping all the way up.

Despite the relative length of the walk, we saw lots of families with young children, and some groups laden with picnic boxes walking up for swimming. In fact the swimming is fabulous, so do take swimming trunks, but water shoes (or trainers you don't mind getting wet) help under foot.

For our walk, we parked at Sadernes itself. The small car park by the church and hotel/hostel was full when we arrived and we went back to park in an earlier layby, but as we started the walk we discovered there was additional parking past the chapel.

The track heads out along the valley and though the signs said no vehicles it is used occasionally by locals for the two or three houses along the valley. The track itself runs along the edge of a gorge to one side, but mostly we couldn't see the bottom, and where we could the river bed seemed to be dried out, so we weren't sure whether we'd see water. The path continues up, crossing the river at one point just below an high rocky overhang being used for climbing. As we were getting to the bridge we could hear shouts and splashes, possibly of a group canyoning through the streams, but again we could not see.

Sadernes refuge at sant aniol dAguja From the bridge, the track continues but with high cingles (escarpment cliffs) above us on the far side of the river. The scenery feels a little harsh with the bare rocks, trees and dry path with a sense of remoteness were it not for all the people walking as we passed a group every five minutes or so.

The path makes its way up steadily but after about 40 minutes or so we weren't sure if there was anything worth going on for and we might have turned back were it not for the other people who clearly knew something we didn't.

The change came as the track turned across the river with stepping stones needed to cross the water and became a small single track path. Ahead of us we passed a group of Argentinians hauling big picnic boxes up the path, wearing flipflops of all things, though this was a proper walking path.

The path then continued along the side of the river up and down, meeting the water at points and climbing up over the sides high above the water in others. The river has a very rocky bed with large rocks smoothed by the water that have created large deep pools that are separated by small streams and waterfalls. The pools are full of cystal clear water, a little cool, but with the rocky ledges around, perfect for jumping into the pools and swimming around. As we walked up the path, families would drop off to take a place by one of the pools setting out for an afternoon enjoying the water and the scenery.

We continued up taking the path all the way to St Aniol where a small chapel and an old refuge house in the process of being renovated stand in a small dell reached by crossing a small suspension bridge. The place was busy with hikers and families sat around eating picnics with large numbers of rucksacks outside the building.

Above the refuge are two further paths. One goes up to a waterfall Salt de Brull (Salt is jump or used for waterfall in Catalan) with a deep blue pool of water where teenagers were jumping into the water. The second makes a loop back towards Sadernes via the Salt de Nuvia. We did try this path, but the path goes up and crosses across the top of some cliffs which triggered a dose of vertigo, so we eventually came back down the way we came.

Update 2016:

Returning this summer a little earlier in the season (July) there's more water, but it's a little chillier - though fine for a hot day. This time we were a little more prepared and though we didn't go all the way to the top, we had a great time coming down the river for part of the way back through the rock pools and waterfalls with water shoes in and out of the deep pools and over rocks.

Nearby: Mollo (Camprodon) - Pyrenees to France - Serinya and Illa del Fluvia - Banyoles lakeside walk - Olot - capital of Garrotxa

Swimming at Gola del Ter (Pals/L'Estartit)
31 Aug 2015

Gola de Ter beach in Spring with waves Gola del Ter is where the river Ter meets the sea mid-way along Pals beach between Platja de Pals at one end and L'Estartit at the other. For our swimming series this is a little unusual because it's not so much about the beach, or the swimming and more about the wonderful novelty of swimming between fresh water and salt water environments.

The river reaches the beach and forms a large lake of fresh water behind the beach. In the summer, Rosa del Vents a specialist in children's camps for Spain has a windsurfing and canoe hire centre for the lake. On the other side of the beach, the sea brings waves into the shore on a sand bar while the river cuts the beach in two, the north to L'Estartit and the south towards Pals. In winter this means you can't take the beach path all the way up, but have to find the first crossing of the Ter in Toreolla de Montgri (6-7km). But in summer, if you don't mind the swim you can swim across the Gola, or just play between the fresh and salt waters.

Because the beach and river are quite a way from the towns, dogs are permitted on the south side (just not on the sand dunes) and part of the beach a little further north towards L'Estartit explicity allows dogs, so this is a popular area for dog-lovers, and the dogs tend to really enjoy the fresh water.

We wouldn't come here for long swims or snorkelling, but the two types of water make for a fun experience. On the river side, the water is a little murky and lake-like and of uneven depth from where the channel of the river moves. Parts are very shallow (less than 50cm deep), and then other parts drop away rapidly, so take care with small children. The lakeside water tends to be quite warm - several degrees hotter than the sea.

Following the river to the sea, the channel through the beach is often more for wading or paddling than for swimming before reaching a low sandbank. As the river reaches the sea, the water becomes wavy and much cooler with a scent of saltiness. Further out it's just like swimming in the sea again, albeit on a big open bay.

Facilities at the beach

Rosa del Vents has an area with windsurfers and canoes for use on the river/lake side. There are no other services and no apparent lifeguards - the beach is a bit remote, though popular, so don't expect anything nearby.

Sand quality

The sand is soft both into the river mouth and along the beach. If the wind is blowing it can feel quite windswept.

Swimming

For real keen swimmers it's not the best location, but the novelty of the two types of water is worth discovering. Take care over water depth though if you have children. All the children from Rosa del Vents wear life vests when doing their water activities.

Parking

There are gravel tracks out to sandy areas used for parking from both Torroella and to the south. We usually park by the Balena Verd campsite to the south. You should expect to need to walk as this is a remote location.

Walks and exploring

See our walks Pals beach to Gola del Ter.

Next beaches

South to Platja de Pals/ Isla Roja - North to L'Estartit

Serinya and Illa del Fluvia
31 Aug 2015

Serinya church Serinya is a small village situated between Banyoles and Besalu and we're walking here for no other reason than to explore the area a little. As with exploratory walks, we're probably not taking the best route or seeing everything the area has to offer, and in fact we did go the wrong way several times, ending up on tracks that were blocked or that lead to houses or farms.

However, we were particularly impressed with the almost secret lake made from the weiring of the river Fluvia at the Illa de Fluvia.

We start just outside the centre of the village looking at the church, which from the outside looks strangely lacking in windows. The old village centre is quite small and behind the church is a small courtyard that leads out to a lane over a small brook. As we're off the coast and August has been quite stormy this year, the brook has water. Following our nose we head out towards the neighbourhood of Bosqueros along a small quiet road that passes a different farm house every two hundred metres or so. Unlike the tight clusters of houses towards the coast, this is farming country and the houses are more spread out with big gardens and yards.

Our route is taking us towards a couple of horse riding centres, firstly past Equinatur and as the road bears to the right directed towards Hipica Bosqueros, we take a gravel track straight on and in towards the woods. On the map we think we're trying to get to a path at the back of the riding centre, but the route runs to a large gate and private road at Mas Pelegri, so we take a previously passed track down towards the woods, passing a small group of riders on the way up.

The track curls down the hill, past a couple of fields towards the river at the bottom where we can see evidence of the horses. The path on the map is marked as going along the river, but we can't see the path, so we have to go back up a little in order to take a smaller track into the woods which does go the way we want snaking through the overgrown scrub of the woods above the river.

We emerge at a much larger road with a large expanse of water in front of us. This is the Illa del Fluvia a broad lake formed by a weir on the river with soft greenish water that looks like it would be better for fishing than for swimming. We can hear the weir, so we walk along to find a large embankment and old electricity station seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The trees around are tall and cool the air and with all the greener around we could be in the middle of France.

Serinya Illa de Fluvia Returning from the weir we cross a bridge across the river, a small terrapin perched on a stick in the river dives into the water to hide.

The track climbs gently back towards fields at the top, and we can see from the map that we have a busy road ahead of us. A marked path seems available to avoid at least some of the road, so we follow it down the hill, only to find ourselves practically in the garden of a house, with a big imposing gate barring our way. So back to the top, the August heat now starting to get to us and a stretch of unpleasant fast road to contend with.

Crossing the road we find a quiter route along the old road, connecting with one of the GR routes. This takes us back towards Serinya - at least it would if I hadn't mis-read the junction, so we have another double back before finding the proper route under the road, then through the small woods and back. For our explore, the Illa del Fluvia was delightful, but next time we'd want to find a better way to make the round trip that doesn't involve so much road.

Nearby: Sadernes and river pools of St Aniol d'Aguja - Banyoles lakeside walk - Esponella and River Fluvia - Sant Miquel de Fluvia - Bascara - horses, fords and lost - Waterfall at Les Escaules (Boadella)

Walking route Serinya and Illa del Fluvia

Sant Esteve d'En Bas (Olot)
03 Aug 2015

View from Sant Miquel del Castello to Pyrenees August is upon us and every car park on the Costa Brava is full, boats are moored in every cove and the whole place is buzzing in French, Dutch, German and English. So we headed out for a day to the Vall d'En Bas just south of Olot - a beautiful flat valley, verdent in the summer sunshine, beneath the hills and escarpments of the Garrotxa and Puigsacalm/Collsacabra. Starting out as mainly a visit, as we passed this way as we headed to Rupit, we found a walk up to the Emitage of Sant View from Sant Miquel del Castello Miquel de Castello perched on a promontory high above the valley with great views along the valley to Olot and out to the Pyrenees.

The starting point was in the village of Sant Esteve d'En Bas a small village with some character and hidden streets of vaulted archways, but otherwise not particularly distinguished.

We park by the swimming pool, having discovered that the main road runs past the village quickly without obvious signs of parking by the church. We the head up the small hill to the older streets above the more modern parts of the village on the flatter plain below. The village looks out across the Bas Valley towards the escarpments on the other side of the valley, and on top of a small peak we can see the signs of a small chapel.

Els Hostalets dEn Bas Taking a guess we leave the older streets and find a footpath marked by the scallop symbol for the local part of the route of Saint James (Sant Jaume), part of an old pilgrims route to Santiago de Compostella. This takes us into the flat of valley through the fields high with corn towards Hostalets.

Just before we get to Hostalets, we see the sign for the path to Sant Miquel. Guessing that this is the chapel above us we take the road up towards a few small farms. At the back of the last one we spot another sign which leads into a narrow track running around the back of the farmhouse climbing into the woods. Being August, the temperatures are still relatively high, so it's good to get into the moist shade of the woodland.

Sant Miquel del Castello hermitage above Bas Valley The path climbs steadily - at parts steeply through stream beds, but the route is very clearly marked. It's a very steady 40-50 minute energy sapping climb through the woods leaving us sweating and breathing hard at times (do take water!). The trees around make it difficult to judge how far up we are, or how much further there is and the path zigs and zags as we climb.

Eventually we hear voices above us and our steep path emerges at a flatter path at the top where a couple of families are heading down. The path passes through a cutting in the rocks before curling around to the promontery and the refuge of Sant Miquel del Castello. The refuge is run but GEiEG - Girona's long established excursion and sports club and in theory it should be possible to stay a night in the refuge, but it was shut when we were there, so probably requires prior arrangement to use it as a stay-point on a walk.

Sant Esteve dEn Bas view from the valley to the cingles Sant Miquel is high above the valley floor with views almost all around. To the right we can look to the farms and meadows above the escarpments which almost Swiss-like with cows grazing, while to the left we can see the peaks of the Pyrenees devoid of snow now in summer, but presumably bright white in spring. Beneath us we have the valley floor a few hundred metres below us. The whole area is fenced off, but the drops are quite steep down.

After a little lunch and recovery, we return to the the path, following the route taken by the families down a steady downward path along the edge of the beech woods, leaves crunching underfoot. This is the GR2 - so another of the Grand Radonee major national footpaths and is marked by red-white flashes on the rocks and trees.

Downhill is easier than up, though there are a few steeper places. Midway along we pass through a sheep/goat field where the trees have been removed and the hillside opened to pasture - another Swiss-like feature. One of the amazing and enjoyable things with Catalonia is just how many different landscapes are in such a small area.

The path continues down and we pass other hikers coming up. As we get closer to the valley floor again, our path splits from the local path (to Joanetes) and we keep following the red-white flashes emerging, to our surprise, through the gardens of a hotel newly created from a restored masia farmhouse. We feel a little uncomfortable following our path (still the GR2) past their swimming pool with guest lounging at the side.

At the end of the hotel gardens, the route is a little unclear. I was going to head down the road, but instead we find the path a little over grown running along the side of the hill. Again for a national route the overgrown and unkept nature here is a little strange and we keep having to check we're on the right route. Eventually we emerge at the fields at the bottom and it's an easy stroll across the flat of the plain before turning back up to Sant Esteve.

Walking route Sant Esteve dEn Bas

Swimming and beach at Platja Fonda (Begur)
18 Jul 2015

Platja Fonda Begur under the cliffs Platja Fonda in Begur is an almost hidden beach around the corner from Fornells on the Costa Brava on the same stretch of coast as Aiguablava. The contrast with Aiguablava almost could not be greater. Whereas Aiguablava is a fine sandy beach that opens into coves and the sea, Platja Fonda is a dark brooding beach sitting under the cliffs that rise up to the top of Cap Begur with dark grey pebble-grit stone and high steep vertical hillsides behind.

We tend to swim in the evening, and as the beach faces east, the beach was in shade by the time we arrived, but the sun was still catching on the waves and few yachts out in the bay. We may also have been lucky, but the water was almost millpond still,  and with superb water clarity the swimming was like being in a giant fish-aquarium. The bay itself is relatively deep with a rocky bay below and as we swam we almost got a stationary column of fish hanging like a mobile in the water.

The beach itself only has one entrance and exit via a relatively steep set of stairs from a small lane from a smallish car park above through the small estate of established hillside houses (the turning is marked on the main road, or a connection to the road to Fornells). A walking path also runs along the coast to connect to Fornells village and hotels.

Platja Fonda entrance from right The path gets into the beach on the right hand side with the main cliffs at the other side of the relatively long beach. The signposts warn of potential falling rocks as you come into the beach. To the right looking out to sea is a house on a rock promontory and a handful of teenage boys were climbing to get to points on walls and rocks to jump into the sea.

As mentioned, the sand is mostly small dark grey pebbles with some larger rocks in the beach and occasional patches of finer grey grit-like sand. The pebbles are relatively smooth so it's not too bad underfoot, but not good for sand castles.

Entering the water, the bay shelves steeply into the very clear water. The bottom of the bay falls away quickly leaving a deep column of water with the rocks below in the depths. For swimmers there is no need to look out for obstacles and the swimming is clear and easy.

Facilities at the beach

There are no facilities at the beach. It is left natural and there are no lifeguards. The closest facilities are in Fornells along the path.

Sand quality

The sand is unusual in that it's small rounded pebbles and grey grit (almost like the type of stones you might use for a garden path). Some patches are sandier than others, but in general the rounded pebbles predominate and run into the water.

Swimming

We might have been lucky, but the water was super-still and being relatively deep and clear it was like swimming in a fish tank. The bay has enough distance for laps and we guess that it would be possible to swim around to Fornells and Aiguablava for longer distance swimmers.

Parking

Above Platja Fonda is a small carpark and a lane down to the beach. The car park is also used for Fornells so may get busy. For us on a Friday evening in the height of summer it was actually quite quiet with plenty of spaces

Walks and exploring

Walking would involve connecting with Fornells and then routes to Aiguablava Fornells and Aiguablava walk (GR92). To get to Begur would involve going back up the hill to find the steep path up the hills.

Next beaches

South to Aiguablava/Fornells (Begur) - North to Sa Tuna (Begur)

Swimming at Aigua Xelida (Tamariu)
12 Jul 2015

Aigua Xelida small main beach After a very hot June, summer is fully with us for July and we're returning to the beaches for swimming and canoeing. Having revisited Aigua Xelida near Tamariu for a walk, we returned by canoe from Tamariu, and then a third and forth time for swimming because of it's lovely hidden coves and ravines which make for excellent adventure-style swimming.

Aigua Xelida itself is just around from Tamariu, a diversion off the Tamariu to Begur road that runs past Aiguablava and Fornells. As a beach it is tiny - space for less than forty people with a mix of grit and rocks and a small stream cutting through half the beach. Normally the water is a beautiful crystal clear emerald colour with a bay that is framed by cliffs and rocky outcrops. The beach actually sits on the righthand side of the bay (looking to sea), but the bay continues around two fishermen's houses to a second even smaller gritty beach surrounded by rocks and a headland/island.

What we hadn't realised until we explored by canoe, was the number of coves and hidden passageways in between the rocks and islands. In particular there is a long narrow sea-ravine just behind the second gritty beach, a hidden cove, and out of the cove and into deeper sea, too the left is another hidden bay under the cliffs inaccessible except from the water, but with lucent clear water.

Aigua Xelida tiny beach on the other side of the bay For swimmers who like to explore there are lots of rocks, fish, clear water pools and even opportunities for jumping from rocks into some of the deeper pools like in the ravine. The one piece of advice would be to wear water-shoes when swimming both to help clambering in and out of the rocks, but also because the bay is a little stony in places and there are occasional sea urchins in the water. Goggles to keep an eye on the water depth are also recommended.

We also discovered that there is now a long-distance (1.2km) Vies Braves swimming route around the headland to the right ending at Tamariu. This is the first time we've seen these routes, but there are now ten long-distance swimming routes up and down the Costa Brava.

Facilities at the beach

There are no facilities at the beach. It is left natural and there are no lifeguards. Neither are there shops or other facilities nearby. Because it's tiny in summer there is barely enough space for all the towels.

Sand quality

The sand is rough with occasional small stones and runs into rocky outcrops under a small barraca (fisherman's hut) at the back of the beach. Although not too bad underfoot by the water, getting into the water there are pebbles and stones under foot. Water-shoes makes the swimming much much easier.

A second, even smaller beach, is accessible by the path behind the fisherman's houses with grittier sand and a shallow but rocky bay.

Swimming

Aigua Xelida ravine or sea canyon Into the bay from the main beach the shelf is gradual to start but then runs deeper. Once in the water you're almost immediately swimming in a bay lined with rocks and underwater ravines in among little islands and rocky outcrops. There are plenty of fish and items of interest under water. The rocky outcrops and islands mean that you should keep an eye out for water depth as many rockier areas get close to the surface.

The water further out gets deeper and the bay fills with boats, so would be good for longer distance swimming, but the whole area is just excellent for exploratory and adventure swimming.

If you swim across the bay, you'll need to navigate through the gaps between the rocks, or clamber over the low islands but there is a lot to explore. Our favourite feature was the ravine behind the second grittier beach on the left hand side. The whole headland has small sea canyons - the main ravine is accessible from the beach side of the bay and cuts through the headland/island. It has steep walls but deep pools and we've seen people jumping from high into the water. The ravine is very sheltered and occasionally boats and canoes visit. At the far end it opens into the open sea, but from the sea side there are further hidden coves under the rocks.

The ravine has a channel off to the right (looking out to sea) and this gives a small channel that accesses back into the bay after a scramble over rocks. Next to the ravine to the left is another small bay which also opens out to the sea. The gap is narrow and if the sea has a swell it might be difficult to get in and out.

Since the ravines and coves are often hidden from view or inaccessible from the land, we'd recommend swimming in pairs or with a boat nearby. It would be easy for an inexperienced or younger swimmer to get into trouble unseen and then find swells and rocks baring access to safer waters.

Canoeing

Canoeing is excellent, but there is nowhere to launch the canoe from, so it would involve paddling around either from Aiguablava or from Tamariu. We went from Tamariu with a south wind, which meant a swell on the sea, but very calm conditions protected by the bay in Aigua Xelida.

Parking

The estate above Aigua Xelida has parking. If the car park is full, so is the beach.

Walks and exploring

We covered Aigua Xelida recently on our walks Tamariu - Aigua Xelida. A route is available that connects with Tamariu town (lots of steps though), or it's up-hill on the road and over to Aiguablava.

Next beaches

South to Tamariu - North to Aiguablava/Fornells (Begur)

White water rafting in Quillan (France)
29 Jun 2015

The days are getting hot and summer has just about reached the Costa Brava. For us, that makes it a good time to travel north out of some of the heat and so we took the chance for an overnight camp in Quillan, a small town just south of Carcassonne on the river Aude and close to spectacular gorges as the river comes out of the Pyrenees.

I wasn't originally going to write it up in this Costa Brava blog, as it doesn't seem that close, but in fact it is just over two hours drive from here - so closer than Andorra or skiing in Ribes de Freser, and we had such a great time doing white water rafting with Sud Rafting from their base near Axat that we just had to add it yet another possibility for people who live in the Costa Brava.

For holidaymakers who are starting to flock here for the summer season, it might seem strange that as the temperatures rise, we might look to places further north, after all summer on the Costa Brava is why most people come to visit. But we have the advantage of being able to pick and choose, and so while the beaches are filling with sunbathers it's also a time to take a few days here and there to escape the heat and hordes of the high season.

Quillan White Water Rafting Quillan is a small town in the Cathar region of France tucked into the foothills of the Pyrenees and the rivers that have carved deep gorges coming off the mountains. The Cathar region is famous for the Cathar Heresy and as the location of the Albigensian Crusade in 1208 with the remains of strong castles built on isolated peaks and hilltops that led to later legends of secrets and myths, that modern times have added to and transformed including the story of the Holy Grail and the Da Vinci code which draws on Rennes Le Chateau.

For a weekend, it's relatively easy to throw tents in the car and head into rural France without needing to book and taking advantage of the cooler weather compared to the heatwave on the coast. So we took the road to Perpignan, turned left just past the airport and headed out along the dry landscape of Roussillon towards the mountains and valleys south of Carcassonne.

The countryside becomes greener and more wooded as the roads head inland reaching the river Aude at Axat, a small valley village at the head of the tourist train route (Le Rouge) that runs up the from Rivesaltes just outside Perpignan. The first day we spent touring, but we called in on the tourist office and were informed that rafting needs a reservation, so we booked for the next day and so found ourselves on one of the white water raft trips with five guys from Southampton and Julien, our guide. The experience was fantastic - eight of us on a rubber inflatable boat going down a fast moving wide river running into rapids and falls and drops and lots of white water.

Of the eight on the raft/boat, all but one had never rafted before, so the first stage was to get going and get instructions. We were on the longer route, so we started about 6km above Axat - taken there by minibus all kitted out in wetsuit, life jacket and helmet - and through the early parts of the journey and lots of tumbling into the water we were shown through a series of jokes, deliberate calamities and practical demonstrations, how to get safe on the raft, how to stay on the raft (mostly, or at least when Julien wanted us to stay on) and a variety of practical ways to cope in the fast moving water. So as the boat moved through the more advanced rapids and ran into rocks or bounced off the gorge walls we'd have some idea of what to do.

Over the course of the next two hours we travelled some 13km down the river paddling when Julien said paddle, stopping when he said stop and falling in the water any time he wanted to prove a point. He steered and seemed to know every rock and pool of the river.

Along the way, we got thrown out of the raft a few times, jumped off rocks into the river and swam across the stream, flipped, spun, slid forwards and backwards and bounced across the waves, occasionally scraped a hand on a rock, or took in water from a sudden unplanned disembarkation. And then considered tested and ready we ended on some big category four drops and rapids for the last two kilometres of the gorge. It was just such good fun out among the elements, wet (but not cold in the wetsuit), and having a real natural roller coaster ride with moments to enjoy the wagtails tracking us down the river below the 100m high walls of the gorge, before the rush of another rapid bouncing the raft off rocks as we bobbed down the river.

The Aude also offers other forms of white-water sports including canoing, hydrospeed. The area is also obviously also very French, which means a complete change in landscape and culture to the one we find in Catalan Emporda with the more open French-style towns and broad rivers and the raft of French produce and wine sold by the roadside.

For white-water rafting on in Spain, we would need to go to Sort - towards the Val d'Aran - to have the same type of opportunity, which would be more like four hours drive from here, so sometimes we need to look laterally to find other ways to get into the mountains.

Also in France close to the Costa Brava

Collioure (France) - Villefranche-de-Conflent and Mont-Louis (France)  - Perpignan - Elne (France) - Ceret (France) - Andorra La Vella

Walking by the border

Mollo (Camprodon) - Pyrenees to France

La Jonquera to Fort de Bellegarde (France)

Corça fields and views
02 Jun 2015

Corca central square Corça is a little bit of a hidden gem situated just outside La Bisbal d'Emporda. This is the third or fourth walk from Corça for our blog, but it's still a super-charming village off the beaten track as far as tourism goes, with honey-stone houses, archways and nooks and crannies that wouldn't look out of place in the Cotswolds or the Dordogne. Yet it's so easy to miss. As is so common here, the main road, full of travellers rushing from Girona to the coast, skirts by leaving no impression of centre.

So we're back to fill in a little gap heading towards Rupia with views across the plain to the neighbouring villages and out towards the Isles Medes in the distance.

The entrance to the older part of the village is just off the main Bisbal-Girona road where from the rush of traffic on the main road, we emerge in a village placa shaded by plane trees with a children's playground just besides a small stream. There's some parking here, but we normally park just outside on the main road and walk in past the seemingly sunken cottages and school.  The playground is buzzing with the noise of children and mum's but the small main bar is quiet and empty.

Cow in the fields near Corca We're mainly after the walk today so we skip the centre of the village and navigate along the lanes by the old village defensive wall crossing in and out of the old gate arches. At the top of the village we follow the sign towards the Camp de Futbol along a road of stone terrace cottages that look as if they could be twinned with Bibury. The road reaches a small chapel and we turn to the right up the road along a small track climbing gently.

The noise of music and a marquee tent tell us we're just passing a colonies house. In Spain, it's extremely common for schools to arrange visits to different parts of the country for casal or colonies with children staying in special centres - usually old farmhouses - in the country with a range of outdoor activities. In summer, with the long three-month holidays, many children get a week or two at the same colonies houses either just for the fun of it, or often taking part in sports, music or learning languages.

Our track continues upwards before turning right past an overgrown field with cows hiding among the bushes. If you're used to walking in England where every route seems to go through a field with cows, you have to appreciate that cows aren't that common by the coast - you see them more in the hills towards the Pyrenees - so it's a little surprising to see them here and hidden in amongst the shrubs.

The track turns to the left and we follow the signpost towards Rupia. From the hillside we can look out and see six or seven villages in the distance - small huddles of buildings nestled around the church - Ultramort, Casavells, Matajudaica closer to us and then further out to Llabia and the church of Palava standing tall. We also get to glimpse the Castell d'Emporda and in the distance we can see the estates of L'Estartit and the tops of the Islas Medes.

The wheat in the fields as we walk is not so dry that's it's almost magnolia in colour despite just being the first of June. The path though continues along the hedgerows towards Rupia, but rather than go to the village itself, we shorten the route past an equestrian centre before meeting the road we took on our last walk in this area.

As we get back to the village it's gone quiet. A dad and his son are racing through the empty streets, but the playground by the placa is empty as Corça goes back to being another sleepy hidden village.

Walking route Corça fields

Rupit
18 May 2015

Rupit view over town and valley Rupit is a small village situated almost centrally between Girona, Vic and Olot isolated in the hills above the barrage lakes like the Panta de Sau of the river Ter. It had been recommended to us several times by different people, however, the relatively remote position - it's about 26km from Olot or about 30km from Vic with one road in or out - meant that we hadn't found an opportunity to visit. Taking advantage of the May sun, we discovered it really is a jewel comparable to the best Catalan villages like Besalu, Pals or Peratallada and well worth the journey.

Rupit suspension bridge We've included the route we walked, though in practice this was more of a visit and explore than an actual walk. However, the area is full of interesting looking footpaths and geography - like the cingles cliffs (escarpments) of Collsacabra and rivers and streams that drain into the Ter, and the extinct volcanoes. The village is at 822m, so relatively high in the hills with cols at 1000m at the entrance and exit to the plain - both cols giving excellent views across the countryside below. The village was also busy with visitors including several walking groups and we noticed there is camping and accommodation nearby for a longer stay.

Rupit village centre The journey really starts in the car and we drove through the valley by Angles, close to Cellera de Ter which marks the exit of the river Ter from the hills with some huge artificial lakes. We knew Rupit was to our right, but it's not until we got to Sant Esteve en Bas, about 4km from Olot that we reach the road up to Rupit. The drive climbs steadily, winding up until we get over the Coll de Condreu (1010m) and onto the top. The road was quiet - one pro-cyclist doing some hill training - so we were a little suprised by the number of cars and buses in the large car park at Rupit village.

Rupit stepped road The first sense of the village was looking to the houses perched under and on rock-sides and the river running clear over sheets of rocks down into the heart of the village. To get to the centre, the access route is over a small wire-and-wood pedestrian suspension bridge that is limited to 10 people at a time, as it sways and bounces as we walk over the small river below.

On the other side of the bridge, step lead up to the narrow main road through the village and rows of old 17th Century houses built in grey stone reminiscent of a remote alpine village. The road only has two or three junctions, so we explore a little, following the path up into the higher parts of the village up steps cut into the rock past houses with geraniums and old wooden balconies sitting underneath a weathered rock outcrop.

Rupit townscape Gently weaving our way back to the heart of the village, the bars and cafes next to the church are filling up for lunch and walkers with proper hiking gear are returning from their morning trip. A number of different paths are marked, but its quite busy, so we follow the quieter route marked towards the Ermitage/Hermitage that can be seen on the opposite side of the valley. The path goes down to the river and a solid stone bridge and the water just tempts exploring, so rather than go direct to the Ermitage, we follow around the river to the right under a dripping waterfall and under rocky overhangs with shallow water playing over the rocks, only to find ourselves on the river underneath the suspension bridge for a different view of the town.

Rupit river through village We return back to the stone bridge and follow the path up through the woods to the Ermitage - a small chapel standing isolated in a field with the best views back over the village and also, from the far side, views to a stunning landscape of escarpment (cingle) cliffs and wooded valleys.

From the chapel we turn to the right taking us away from the village and the path we came up, slowly navigating our way down to the river base below. In amongst the trees we see people sitting on the rocks above a waterfall (a Salt in Catalan is a waterfall) - the Salt de Sallent - which was also marked from the village.

Rupit view to Cingles The waterfall is quite high as we can tell from the sound and the fact we can't see the base from the top. We climb down to see if there is a better view, but though we see smaller falls at the bottom, we don't quite see the full extent of the waterfall (online pictures suggest there is a viewpoint that we didn't find).

We return back through the woods, following the river emerging in the fields at the bottom of Rupit before taking the path through and archway and back into the village. With more time there would be much more to explore in this area. From Girona, Olot or Vic there are a lot of possibilities for things to see. Our drive back via Vic/Roda de Ter was also very picturesque with views of Collsacabra and then grand vistas to the mountains over the Plana de Vic.

Nearby: Sant Esteve d'En Bas (Olot) - Banyoles lakeside walk - Olot - capital of Garrotxa - Palol de Revardit to La Mota

Walking route Rupit

Spring sea mists on the Costa Brava
04 May 2015

Just back from a walk across to Calella de Palafrugell and there is a beautiful sea mist rolling in from the sea. These early season mists are the result of the hot days starting, but the still relatively cool sea. The water warms the sea water lifting out a soft cool mist into the air.  The can be quite mistical the way they roll in across the hills into otherwise bright sunny days.

Actually in Calella de Palafrugell, the town is wrapped in shroud of fog lifting across the sea into the bars and restaurants by the port. There were some disappointed holidaymakers around and no-one on the beach, probably completely unaware that if they went up to the top of the town, or a half mile inland the weather was completely different - perfect blue sky and one of the warmest days of the year so far.

The best thing about the fogs is that they keep the moisture in the air, so now in May, we have fields of green wheat just about to reach first harvest, and meadows of red poppies and all manner of flowers. So as a hint, early in the season, if the sea mist comes in, then head inland to the villages of the Costa Brava for the abundance of flowers and colour.

Sea mists in May rolling in over Begur behind Palafrugell

Tossa de Mar to Cala Llorell
04 May 2015

Tossa de Mar town centre Tossa de Mar is one of the most popular destinations on the Costa Brava for holiday makers who come for the beach, the castle and old town walls that almost seem to tumble into the sea, and the busy bars and restaurants that run along the back of the two main beaches.

We've walked to the north (towards Cala Pola) and from the south on the GR92 from Lloret. This walk takes us down to Cala Llorell - the next beach to the south of Tossa de Mar.

A grumble for the GR92 from Lloret is the way the path passes across the top of some of the estates away from the beaches and coast itself. This can be for practical purposes, such as a lack of access for a beach framed by cliffs at one end, but also a number of the beaches have almost become private estates, fenced off and with a single point of access from the top with the route for walkers often a dull fence lined path through the hills at the back, without obvious diversions or routes down to the sea. Cala Llorell is case in point, and was one of the few beaches on the Costa Brava we still hadn't visited, so this was a bit of an explore south from Tossa.

Xalet Vermell above Tossa de Mar Our first problem was that Tossa de Mar on a May Day weekend was full of visitors, though the beaches were still pretty empty as we're not quite into swimming season yet. However, it did mean that the car parks were very busy, so not being afraid of a little walk, we parked on the outskirts by the sports centre and walked along the stream path into town.

The roads through town were jammed - fine for browsing and strolling in the spring sunshine, but a little too slow for what we wanted to walk. So instead of taking the route to the old town and the castle and then up over the hidden pretty beach of Codolar and the Cami de Ronda, we nip through the quieter backstreets up to the top path.

Tossa de Mar view over Cala Llorell The top leads to some spectacular views from the Mirador de Codolar high on the cliffs over the town and there were plenty of people making the walk to take in the view. We carried on out though, joining the GR92 through the pine woods as we climb up and away from Tossa de Mar. The path is broad and gravelly and well used.

At a point just after the Xalet Vermell (the Red Chalet) - so called because it's a small red house and the only real feature on the path, the path splits. The GR92 turns to the right and the path down to Llorell continues downhill towards the sea. The path is fairly plain through the trees, but you have to be careful to keep to higher paths to the right - marked with arrows - as the routes down to the left are all dead ends.

Cove close to Cala Llorell Tossa de Mar The path emerges into the campsite of Camping Cala Llevado which takes up a huge part of the hillside. In fact the campsite looks excellent with large amounts of terraced spaces and some quite luxury looking wood cabins around. To get down to the beaches though you have to walk on the roads through the campsite. In May this is not a problem, but in the height of summer, access may be more restricted for non-campers - something to check.

For our initial path we just head straight down for the first beach, down a long stretch of steps marked out with wood to a very small (and in summer naturist) beach at the bottom. All the way back up and then around the road to the pretty double-bayed beach of Cala Llorell. This beach is backed by a beach-club bar with an estate of houses dotted around the hillside to the back feeling like a private club-type resort. The sand is the same gritty sand of Lloret and Tossa and is split by a rocky outcrop in the middle. We could see a third smaller beach at the far end with a walkway around the cliff, but didn't go that far around.

Cala Llorell beach near Tossa de Mar Coming back we took the main campsite road up to the top and the main entrance (just opposite a rugby ground). This is back to the GR92 which for this part across the top of the campsite follows the main Lloret to Tossa road. On the first path off, the GR92 turns into the woods and after a while we find ourselves back at the Xalet Vermell.

Instead of repeating the route back, we take the first left after the Chalet down into the woods, following the stream making for a very pleasant descent through the woods with new leaves on the trees. Above us we can see the Torre de Moriscos - the Moor's Tower. The path emerges at the back of the main car parks for Tossa close to the bus station and would be an option for walking avoiding the centre of Tossa and the route by the cliffs.

Walking route Tossa de Mar to Cala Llorell

Roses and Roses Ciutadella
27 Apr 2015

Roses modern town boulevard Roses is the main tourist town of the northen part of the Costa Brava sitting with one half of the town reaching into the Cap de Creus, and the other side stretching around the beach of the long bay of the Gulf of Roses to the modern marina-towns of Sant Margarida and Empuriabrava. With easy access to Figueres and the French border, the town is extremely popular with French visitors, or overland travellers from Germany or the Netherlands.

Roses Costa Brava Ciutadella The location is fabulous with a big town beach, hidden chic beaches at Canyelles, views down the bay to the south, a large port, and views (on a clear day you can see the Pyrenees). However, the modern town itself though a bustling holiday town, can feel a little uninspiring if you are looking for nestling fishermen's cottages and historic wending streets. But there is a reason for that, which is deeply entwined with the history of the town and the more you know the history, the more intriguing the town becomes.

The reason why Roses lacks a medieval type centre is because the town moved in the 17th and 18th centuries. The remains of the medieval town of Roses can actually be found completely inside the fortified walls of the Ciutadella of Roses - the large fort that you pass on the way into the town from Figueres.

Roses Ciutadella from inside looking across the Greek town to the Medieval town Roses actually has a history that stretches back to the Ibers, then as a Greek colony, linked to Empuries further south, before the Roman's moved in. The Roman's built at Roses, but also left a defensive fort above the town. In medieval times Roses became more important as a centre of trade and grew with a full town wall with defensive towers.

Roses defensive position made it an important strategic location and as pirate raids increased in the 16th Century as the Ottomans, known as the Barbary pirates, under Barbarossa, it became clear that the medieval walls were no longer considered adequate to safeguard the town from cannons on land or from sea.

Roses Costa Brava Ciutadella view over Medieval town So instead of starting again, the town was enveloped in the massive earth and fortifications that can now be seen at Roses Ciutadella. Completed in 1553, the medieval town remained with streets, houses and still with it's original walls but now completely within the fortress. In actual fact the fortress is about double the size of the town inside, which should give a feeling of scale both of the building as it is now, but also the enormous effort needed to create the fortifications.

Roses Costa Brava Ciutadella outer wall The Ciutadella was part of a wider defensive network of towers and castles that can still be seen around the town. The Ciutadella didn't just house the town, it also held a garrison for soldiers and progressively parts of the population moved outside the town walls.

The Ciutadella became part of the ebb-and-flow of the wars and power struggles between France and Spain. Starting with the Catalan Revolt when Catalonia became independent under French protection), and ultimately into the War of Spanish Succession, revolutionary France, and then into the era of Napoleonic conquest. At the end of the Napoleonic era, the Ciutadella and the town inside were destroyed, leading to the full development of modern Roses along the bay.

Ciutadella wall damage The evidence for this remarkable history is through the town, though it means the modern centre feels functional rather than pretty. The fortifications and older buildings can be seen dotted around, such as the Castell de la Trinitat above the port or various towns situated on the hills at the back of Roses (Puig means hill).

However, inside the Ciutadella walls, it is still possible to see the remains of the old Roses. Archeologists have discovered the remains of the Greek and Roman Roses - also inside the Ciutadella, but outside the Medieval town, while parts of the Medieval walls and towers still exist within the Ciutadella itself.

Visiting the Ciutadella costs €4 for entry which includes a small museum with artifacts from Greek and Roman times. For visitors, it's worth going to the museum first to get a sense of the multiple layers of history and how they overlap within the same site. Entering into the Ciutdella from the front, the old town is to the left, with walls and towers still visible and a clockwise tour around the walls will give an ample overview of the scale and sense of what it would have been like to live in a town with a wall going up around the outside.

Neighbouring walks

Llança - Cadaques and Port Lligat  - Port de la Selva - Sant Pere de Rodes - Figueres and Castell de Sant Ferran - Roses - Canyelles beaches to Cap Falconera  - Castello d'Empuries

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Comments

adam@veggingoutwithadam.com
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
Adam
Saul
24 Feb 2014 17:25
Glad you're enjoying it. We have recommendations for maps in our 'Advice and FAQ' section
Saul
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
Hi,

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
Sven
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