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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:

Cervia de Ter
30 May 2016

Cervia de ter Monestary now ajuntament Cervia de Ter is a village on the northern side of the river Ter not too far from Girona. We headed to Cervia de Ter almost just to tick a box as it was one of the few villages we haven't visited, and then, like many places on the Costa Brava it surprised us.

As with many villages, the main road skirts the fringes and its only by stopping and walking do you find the real character of the place. Our surprise was to discover this was a town with a monestary and a castle (in ruins), part of the Ruta del Santiago from Sant Pere de Rodes and so formerly more important than the current sleepy unknown village it is today.

Cervia de Ter clock tower A monestary and a castle means an older town centre with nooks and crannies to be discovered almost like a rough unspoilt French village transplanted into Catalonia.

Cervia de Ter Town Gate We park near to the school on the east of the town and then walk through towards the centre. The first building we come across is the old monestary and church, now converted into council offices (adjuntament). Inside are cloisters, though we didn't visit this time around.

Cervia de Ter ancient doorway From here we take a bit of a haphazard route through the streets to explore passing through one of the old town gates along cobbled stone streets. On a Sunday, as with many Catalan towns, the place is quiet and sleepy dormant in the spring sun. A carved lintel above an old doorway has a series of three figures marking one of the important town houses.

We find a route marked towards the castle and come to a tower with a clock that marks the route up to the castle and the line of the town wall above the street. Trying to get to the castle we find narrow streets that end with old in-town farm houses with geese and chickens in the yards and hapazard buildings. These are the types of ancient rural living that would be perfectly in place in the Dorgdogne or the centre of France.

Cervia de Ter caste ruins under restoration The road up to the castle is blocked due to renovations, so we walk back into the village and then follow the road up the hill to the castle from the back. The castle stands above the village with views across the roof tops and out tot he valley of the river Ter.

To make it more of a walk than a visit we carry on up the hill past the castle and out into the woods and fields at the back. As we go up the views become better with vistas across to the hills around Girona in the distance. The road is easy to follow as it just loops around and fields of wheat and barley are turning from green to gold in the sunlight, dotted with red poppies.

Cervia de Ter Town viewed from castle The road turns past a couple of farms and we turn into the woods not quite knowing where we're going, but trusting that the track is taking us back to Cervia as the map we have has Cervia just on the merest corner. Fortunately the tracks are broad and easy to follow through the woods and we emerge by a farm at the bottom of the hill with the Ruta de Santiago signs (a scallop shell) marking the way back to Cervia.

Banyoles lakeside walk - Bascara - horses, fords and lost - Palol de Revardit to La Mota - Serinya and Illa del Fluvia - Roman fort at St Julia de Ramis (Girona) - Sant Jordi Desvalls, Colomers and Sant Llorenç de les Arenes

Girona Temps de Flors
09 May 2016

Girona Temps de Flors - Cathedral steps In May, Girona has its Temps de Flors (time of flowers) festival where the city has a floral festival with displays of flowers, and installations in many of the buildings in the heart of old Girona and out in the parks. We visited in the rain which we thought would keep crowds away, but the Sunday was extremely busy with people, the restaurants and cafes looked full and streets packed with umbrellas. Below will be some photos of some of the things that were on. There's too much to see everything, but it's a perfect time to visit the city - even the rain didn't matter too much.

The exhibits are very varied. Street decoration could be very simple with flowers lining the steps, or hanging displays, or some very large installations, including, for this year, a large display with a sword harking to Girona's recent use as a location for the "Games of Thrones" series.

Girona Temps de Flors - Blue chairs and flowers In contrast to the exterior street displays many of the buildings and museums in the old city were open and had various displays - often very artistic in nature. As a time to explore it would be perfect with the city itself acting as a backdrop, but with the chance to sneak a peek in some corners of the city that otherwise might not be accessible.

The only slight problem was the crowds which made everything quite busy. The rain was encouraging people to go to the interior displays perhaps more than might happen in better weather, but in some ways it added to the atmosphere with crowds still eating outside, but underneath the arches or under umbrellas outside the restaurants.

The crowds though weren't combing very well with bringing our dog Zina with us. So we didn't visit too many of the interior displays and instead headed out through the old city gates towards the Sant Daniel area underneath the cathedral. In this area more of the displays were in the gardens with a little more space than in the confines of the streets. These were also more garden type displays filling the space with colours.

We walked out along the valley for a breather, before coming back into the city at top, just under the walls at the quieter Jardins dels Alemanys to find more exhibits.

Girona walks: Girona valley of Sant Daniel - Gavarres Montnegre and Montigalar - Ruta del Carrilet - Girona cyclepath to the coast - Bescano, River Ter and free-style kayaking - Girona and Castell de St Miquel - Roman fort at St Julia de Ramis (Girona)

Nearby: Figueres and Castell de Sant Ferran - Olot - capital of Garrotxa - Banyoles lakeside walk - Visit to Besalu and Banyoles


Girona Temps de Flors - Palm and strings

Girona Temps de Flors - Game of thrones sword Girona Temps de Flors - Matches

Girona Temps de Flors - Sant Daniel

Ulla to Canet de la Tallada and civil war remains
09 May 2016

Canet de la Tallada house and church Ulla is a small village just outside Torroella de Montgri, set slightly back from the road behind the warehouses for the Costa Brava fruit co-operatives. Our walking routes have taken us to Torroella de Montgri along the Ter, and into the Montgri hills at the back of Ulla, but we'd never gone the other way heading upstream towards Canet de la Tallada - a place we'd not visited before, so this was a little bit of an unknown explore.

Canet de la Talada snails waiting for a ride Unlike the dry lower slopes of Montgri behind Ulla, the area along the Ter is a flat plain of espalliered fruit orchards and, in May, of ripening wheat and other crops. We park in Ulla and cross the busy C31 that connects to Verges and L'Escala, heading into the fields. There are strong notices on the way in that going in among the fruit trees is strictly prohibited so to stay to the path.

The orchards are mostly apple with the last of the blossom just disappearing, leaving small burgeoning fruit buds in their place. The walk is fine as a stroll in the sun along the gravel agricultural track,  which eventually opens out into more fields and views of the trees lining the unseen River Ter.

It's only as we reach one of the farm houses that we see an unusual-shaped building just to the side of the path, a long concreate structure with two open door ways. From a distance we take guesses as to what it was for - it looks like a defensive fortification. As we get closer we can see a sign which explains that the area we are walking was used as a large airfield for the Republican (anti-Franco) Spanish in 1938. The building we're looking at was a large air-raid shelter for the military personnel. What's more the area we're walking provides a tour around several of the sites related to the airfield.

Canet de la Tallada civil war air raid shelter As we walk around the Costa Brava and Emporda areas we keep coming across these types of historical sites. The ebb and flow of wars and attacks from civil wars, wars with France, Napoleon, attacks from Ottoman pirates reflect a land with a turbulent history. When refugees are coming into Europe from the East, Catalonia still bears the scars of the last exodus of Spanish refugees within living memory.

Illa de Canet on the Ter Finding out about the airfield piques our interest and we continue following the marked circular route. The first part links to the Illa de Canet - an island in the River Ter formed where a weir holds back the water leaving a large semi-lake of water full of waterfowl. It feels like an area that is rarely visited it's so quiet, but the path and riverside have been carefully tended with a steel wall that can be used as a hide for watching the birds.

We follow the path into Canet de la Tallada looking out for the curiously shaped farm/castle-cum-church. The houses in the village are spread out and feel as if they are spreading out their gardens like wings taking in the afternoon sun.

Ulla village centre Our route back follows the same marked track up to the point that we divert to the next historic shelter. Instead of following the prescribed route we walk out to a large buildings warehouse on the main road, hoping to find a track back through the fields on the other side of the C31 back to Ulla.

Unfortunately there are no crossing points and no obvious routes to take, so we are forced to follow the C31 by the side of the road. This is seriously unpleasant. The road has no verge or footpath, just a ditch to each side and we are forced to walk towards the rapid oncoming traffic hoping that the cars take notice of our vulnerability. Eventually we find a small bridge and can cross to the other side of the ditch and totter along the edge of the field slightly further away from the road. As the road passes another set of orchards, the walking gets easier but there is still no sign of a footpath. Eventually we come in towards Ulla - forced back on the road to cross a stream with a bus looming at us, and then back into Ulla. If you are taking this route do stick to the pre-marked route - we didn't see any real alternatives to get back to Ulla.

The village itself is a small stone-built medieval village, a little sleepy, off the beaten track. A short walk to the church and the centre for photos and then back.

See also: Torroella de Montgri to Gola de Ter - Torroella de Montgri castle - Gualta, Llabia, Fontanilles and the lake of Ullastret - Serra de Daro, Fonolleres, Sant Iscle d'Emporda


Walking route from Ulla to Canet de la Tallada

Ruta del Carrilet - Girona cyclepath to the coast
02 May 2016

Ruta del Carrilet train The Costa Brava and Girona area is a fabulous area for all types of cycling. Professional cycling teams use Girona as a training base and can be seen riding into the mountains up to Vallter 2000, or doing climbs up to Els Angels or Rocacorba, or tracking around the coastal route between Sant Feliu de Guixols and Tossa de Mar. Others take mountain bikes up into the Gavarres, or out into the hills of the pre-Pyrenees.

For less arduous cycling, a number of old railway routes have been converted into easy flat cycles paths or green-ways (Vies Verdes), that can also be walked. Close to the coast between Palafrugell and Palamos is the relatively short Ruta del Tren Petit, but for something longer the Ruta del Carrilet ( runs from Olot down through Girona and then to Sant Feliu de Guixols via Cassa de la Selva and Llagostera - a total length of 93km.

Ruta del Carrilet from Girona To provide a taste of the route, I walked the stretch from Girona to Cassa de la Selva while the family was shopping in Girona, getting picked up as they drove back home. Girona to Sant Feliu (or diverting north to Platja d'Aro) is about 39km.

The first thing to note is that this is a route that is really best done by bike than on foot. The path is gravel but fairly broad and solid under foot and it encourages you to speed through the countryside on long straight routes through the fields, with not too many diversions for walkers who might like to explore a little more into the centre of the towns and villages.

Our starting point was in Girona at the Pont de la Font del Rei across the River Onyar in Girona. The Onyar is the smaller of Girona's two rivers, but the one that runs along the old city in the centre before meeting the River Ter just beyond the Cathedral on the way out to the sea at L'Estartit.

Ruta del Carrilet box bridge We could track the river in a couple of directions - there's a path along the channel, or two road routes, one either side of the river. The main bike route stays on the south side of the river, but wanting to explore a little we took the left-bank, north side under the hill with the great radio mast and out along the plane-tree lined road.

At the crematorium (Tanatori) I realised we were making a bit too much of a diversion, so we crossed down to the river across a narrow zig-zag foot bridge and out to the Parc Scientific of the University of Girona. From here we took the Ruta de Carrilet proper into the fields tracking the Onyar against the flow. It's spring with a relatively wet April so the fields are full of wheat and poppies and the yellows of rapeseed and marigolds. The rain seems to have put off the cyclists a little and though we see a few on the route, it's not as busy as it has been in the past.

Ruta del Carrilet station at Quart The path reaches the NII and double backs to pass under the road - there's a split point here and it would be possible to continue straight on to walk to the southern parts of Girona. We take the marked path and then cross the Onyar using a green-box bridge across the water just as a group of cyclists meet us. The rules for the path say dogs must be on a lead, and since the bike go relatively fast, I keep Zina on the lead whenever there are bikes about.

The path continues it's very straight, but slightly uphill passage to Quart, the first small town outside Girona. The runs along a back road through the village, past the quaint old station marked with a model train and then past the small Museum of Terrissa (pottery).

On the far side of Quart the path is back to gravel and runs alongside the main Girona-Sant Feliu road so there's the steady hum of traffic. A yellow-painted metal train sign marks the route for the cars but otherwise it's a steady walk to Llambilles and the next disused station. In the park nearby a collection of bike statues mark how popular the route has become for local cyclists.

Cassa de la Selva Can Nadal We track even closer to the road for a while with more box-bridges, but with almost no-one on the path now. The route deviates a little from the road behind a Repsol station and over the hill we can see the tower marked Inresa in stencil letters of Cassa de la Selva. It's a steady walk past the odd farm house through the fields.

As we reach the outskirts of Cassa de la Selva, the Carrilet path tracks through the industrial estate (poligon industriel) past large grey warehouses, quiet on a Saturday afternoon, but not particularly enticing for walking. On a bike you'd zoom through, but on foot it takes a while before the Carrilet turns up towards the town of Cassa de la Selva.

We go past Cassa's old station and the very ornate Can Nadal before heading out into the countryside again. The road leaving Cassa isn't so well marked so at one point we thought we had lost the path, but after climbing past farms and then over the main road we see we're on the right path as the signposts point across the countryside towards Llagostera.

We're about done though. Shopping has finished in Girona so we leave the Carrilet and take a track to the last Cassa roundabout to wait for our lift home.

Girona walks: Girona valley of Sant Daniel - Gavarres Montnegre and Montigalar  - Girona and Castell de St Miquel - Roman fort at St Julia de Ramis (Girona) - Girona - Festa Major of Sant Narcis - Girona Temps de Flors - Llagostera to Sant Llorenç - Cassa de la Selva

Ruta del Carrilet showing route and part walked

Sant Pere de Rodes
01 Apr 2016

Sant Pere de Rodes is one of the emblematic elements of the Costa Brava. Set high in the hills of the Cap de Creus above Port de la Selva (about 500m), this ancient monastery has a bewitching charm with commanding views over the countryside and coast below.

Sant Pere de Rodes

Sant Pere de Rodes can be reached from either Port de la Selva or from Vilajuiga on the Roses side. We drove up from Port de la Selva - the narrow road climbs quickly with hairpins and is relatively open to the hillside falling away beneath you so the drive is relatively dramatic taking about 8km to climb in to the hills of Cap de Creus with grand vistas over the sea behind you.

Sant Pere de Rodes tower We were visiting at Easter weekend, so there were lots of cars and visitors around and we parked in parking about a kilometre away from the monastery. The main building is not the only element of the 'conjunct' - there is a small chapel (Santa Helena de Rodes) and abandoned medieval village at Santa Creu de Rodes, plus a separate ruined castle of Verdera above the monastery.

Sant Pere de Rodes inside view The monastery itself was abandoned in the 18th/19th century, but has been maintained as a historic monument since the 1930s with many elements that have been restored. The site charges for entry (€4 for an adult in 2016) but even if you don't go inside there is enough scenery and interest to make for a worthwhile day trip.

We did go in, and the light through the old windows into the stone nave and cloisters is almost haunting at times with tall arched ceilings. A good visit can be done in a hour, and there is a restaurant with views over the bay of La Selva below.

After the monastery we split into two groups. One went up to the castle of Verdera above, and then along the top with views across to the Gulf of Roses, while the other group went back along the road and took in the sunshine and views from Santa Helena de Rodes

We took the road down to Vilajuiga which wasn't quite as hairpinny as the way up and possibly would be easier access from Figueres.

Neighbouring walks

Roses and Roses Ciutadella -  Llança - Cadaques and Port Lligat  - Port de la Selva - Cadaques to Roses - Espolla to Rabos - La Jonquera to Fort de Bellegarde (France) - Peralada - Castell de Requesens

Sant Pere de Rodes view from Santa Creu



Palafolls castle
01 Apr 2016

Palafolls castle from a distance Palafolls, just south of Blanes is technically just outside the Costa Brava on the far side of the Tordera river tucked a little away from the coast behind Malgrat de Mar - the first of the Maresme coastal towns that run all the way down to Barcelona and if you take the coastal C32 motorway up from Barcelona you pass this crumbling castle in imposing locat to the right as the motorway comes to Tordera - this is the castle of Palafolls.

Palafolls church We came visiting playing it by ear, so without a map aiming just to stop in the town and then follow what paths we could find up to the castle. We came in from Tordera itself on smaller rural type tracks, and discovered later there is easier access directly from Blanes or Malgrat.

Piano and police car The weekend we were visiting was start of the Easter holidays and in our part of the Costa Brava the Mediterranean International Cup was taking part, a youth football tournament that attracts the youth teams of leading clubs from around the world like AC Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid. At the same time as the MIC, a lesser tournament takes place in and around Palafolls for more everyday teams.

So when we arrived we were surprised to see an number of buses from Italy and England at the Palafolls football stadium so we parked near by to see what was going on and saw small groups of supporters with Italian flags.

Palafolls castle view from the top From the stadium we followed the road in towards the centre of the town. The castle was easily seen across the fields up to our right and we ignored the Cami de Castell to continue to the centre of town. Much of the town is newer and it was closed on a quiet Sunday afternoon, but towards the centre there were a small nestle of older buildings and we eventually navigated to the church in the centre next to two or three imposing municipal buildings. The surprise was the police station which seemed to have been extended very distinctively with a walls of spaced bricks jutting out at odd angles. The oddity of the police station was made more strange by a police car parked beneath a grand piano that was positioned on top of the local theatre.

The town itself is quite open to the fields at the back and we headed out along the dry river valley towards the hills and castle. We found a crossing of the river and walked up past the school which stands in the open before taking what we hoped was the right path up the valley towards the castle. The area has many masia farmhouses spaced along the valley and, to our surprise, the fields were full of lettuces, which must be the main spring crop.

Palafolls Castle interior ruins The road continued linking all the masias along the edge of the valley, but we didn't see an obvious route up to the castle - many of the paths we saw were private.  So we found ourselves walking past the castle and practically all the way to the motorway and the housing estate at Mas Carbo.

At this point we were climbing up to the top and it was very clear how to reach the castle along the estate roads. From the vantage point above the valley we could look across to the sea and the gridded town and hotels on the coast and then through the lettuce green valley to the hills that mark the start of the Serra Litoral that runs behind the Maresme.

The castle itself holds a prominent position on top of a tongue of hill with views to Blanes on one side and towards Malgret on the other. We spotted the slides of Marineland, a water park that we hadn't come across before on the hill behind Palafolls.

The castle was open with no restriction on access. It's large enough that we had thought we might have to pay, but it is probably enough out of the way not to draw casual visitors. The castle has some parts that are prepared for visitors with metal steps and a small ladder to get half way up one of the towers. However, other parts, like those round a small chapel and in amongst the old keep feel much more like ruins with rough ground and, in some areas, open drops so visitors need to take care.

The castle must have been pretty large in its hayday in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries as many of the remaining structures are quite imposing. The small inner chapel is quite quaint, though dark and decaying inside and it would have been interesting to find out more about the history and situation.

When we'd seen enough, we headed down back towards Palafolls and the shouts of the football stadium that drifted up to the castle walls. The path is actually labelled as being in the direction of Tordera, but connected us straight back to where we'd parked the car. And whereas the walk up had been in the region of 40 minutes, getting back was only about 20.

Nearby: Hostalric stroll - Lake at Sils - Castell de Montsoriu - Santa Coloma de Farners

Lake at Sils
01 Apr 2016

Sils village and church If you take the train from Barcelona to Girona, one of the towns you'll pass through is Sils which looks from the train window to be an unprepossessing place of new houses and villa estates of the type that are scattered just south of Girona at the far end of Barcelona's Rodalies train network. There are isolated housing estates dotted all the way up from Maçanet, across to Lloret and up to Vidreres and Caldes de Malavella, some visible from the train or motorway and others much more hidden away. 

We discovered by chance that Sils has a lake (Estany) driving through on an explore so took the chance to call in. This was the end of January so we're a little behind on adding to the blog this year for a variety of reasons.

The lake as it is described on the maps is more accurately described as an area of wetlands with much of the water filled with reeds and, in a number of places around the lake hides for bird watchers.

Sils lake (estany) Access is easy - with parking at the railway station. The older parts of the town are relatively small with a church and a collection of older buildings, before spreading out into newer areas beyond. The lake is well signposted with an easy broad path around it, though the reeds keep open water, and so birds, a little into the distance.

Like many flat wet, or previously wet areas, the lake is lined by regimented rows of trees in plantations. In spring when the leaves come this would be very pretty, but in winter colours the trees were bare and the plant life in winter dormancy.

The path around the lake seemed popular with people in the area. In all, if you are nearby its a good place to walk, but probably not one that you'd travel miles to do.

Nearby: Palafolls castle- Hostalric stroll - Castell de Montsoriu - Santa Coloma de Farners - Brunyola - Arbucies autumn walk - Visit to Roda de Ter and Espinelves - Caldes de Malavella - Cassa de la Selva - Volca de la Crosa - Sant Dalmai (Girona Airport)

Hostalric stroll
25 Jan 2016

Hostalric town walls Hostalric is a walled town with a large castle on the river Todera at the start of the Valles Occidental beneath Montseny heading towards Barcelona from Girona. Its location made it an important strategic post and the town retains its fortified walls and large castle. Despite its impressive history, the town is small and easy to bypass rushing through from Barcelona to Girona on the AP7 or on the train, so even for Catalans its an easy place to miss.

We've visited a few times, firstly from Barcelona as it's on the main train line and easily accessible. For visitors to Blanes, Lloret or Tossa de Mar, Hostalric is relatively close for the chance to get away from a beach to somewhere a little different. It would also be easy to combine with a visit to Montsoriu castle which sits high on an isolted hill with fabulous views all around, and to Montseny itself.

Hostaric castle Our aim was more a day out than a walk so we found a stroll rather than a long country walk, though there is plenty of walking and hiking nearby. The town has a main square with parking, but this was full so we parked down the hill closer to the station. This meant we had a good view of the impressive grey granite walls of the town from the outside. The walls are well preserved and in places have been converted into modern accomodation. There are a handful of gates into the town, but we headed to the main square area were a couple of cafes look out over the river plain below.

Hostalric castle walls We wanted to get down to the plain so we followed the Carrer Ravel down the hill past an isoltated, tall defensive tower. The tower has steps and presumably it would be possible to go up to the top, but when we were visiting it was closed.

We walked all the way down the street before we realised that there was no access to the river from the lower end. It was only as we were walking back up that we found the path and we walked down and across to the river. There was water flowing and the size of the river bed suggested that in spate it could get quite wide, but at the moment in January it was quiet and lititle more than a big stream.

The path follows the river under a few tree plantations before turning back across the fields. Above us we could see the castle - a proper fortress - dominating the view. Our path reached a road and we followed the signs up to the castle walls.

Hostalric town viewed from castle The castle itself is a ciutadella type castle with big earthern walls at jagged angles in the style of the 17th century fortresses, designed to resist cannon fire. The building of the walls is in brick with view points above the moats and spaces created by the angles. A signboard explained how the fortress was captured in the War of Spanish Succession in 1713 as the Bourbon Spanish king conquered Catalonia.

The castle has good views over the plain and Hostalric below, and through to the hills and Montsegur on the other side. Walking around the walls is free, but there is a restaurant at the heart of the castle with a bar and terrace if you want to enjoy the view.

The path down from the castle crosses the old walls and down into a corner of the old town. Hostalric's old town sort of only has two streets running in parallel down from the castle with cut-throughs from time to time. We took Carrer Major with it's houses tucked behind the town wall. It's quaint but still very much as working type town. And we emerged at the bottom by the placa to sit in the sun and watch the world go by.

Nearby: Palafolls castle - Lake at Sils - Castell de Montsoriu - Santa Coloma de Farners - Brunyola - Arbucies autumn walk

Walking route Hostalric

Collioure (France)
13 Jan 2016

Collioure view across the harbour Collioure is a very pretty picturesque French town on the Mediterranean coast just the other side of the Spanish border (Cotlliure in Catalan). We visited in early December (2015), but as we've been busy prior to Christmas and having Christmas in England, this is the first chance to write it up. Zina, our dog, is now fully recovered so we can venture out more easily once more, though a very active sporting agenda for our teenagers means getting out and finding new places to explore at the weekend is getting more challenging from the point of view of time so posts to this blog are likely to be more sporadic.

Collioure Royal Chateau Collioure is accessible from Spain either from the very windy coast road up from Llanca, or more easily over the main autoroute crossing between France and Spain at Le Perthus, then driving along the plain beneath the Albera hills towards Argeles-sur-Mer. Collioure is then the first time into the hills south of Argeles. It would also be possible to reach by train and foot from Port Vendres - the next town along.

The journey into France is normally very easy, but because of the terrorist attacks in Paris, the border to Spain now has checkpoints as in the days before Schengen. For us, this meant a queue of traffic about 4km long from Spain to France which added about an hour to our journey. And over Christmas, we saw reports of queues of 21km to cross into France on some of the busiest days of the year.

Collioure fort above the beach Collioure itself is tucked under the hills so you can't really see the town from the main Argeles to Banyuls-sur-Mer road and you don't really see the centre until you actually reach the centre of the town. Since, as per usual, we hadn't looked up another about the town it was therefore a very pleasant surprise to see how charming the old port and castle (Le Chateau Royal de Collioure) were, backed by the old Fort Saint-Elme in the background up on the hill. The town itself is not large with a few small back streets and an easy stroll along the sea front.

The chateau is large and you can pay to visit (we didn't). It was founded by the Knights Templar and formed a strategically important defense of the old Catalonia before the separation of Catalonia into the northern part now in France in 1659. After the French took the town, it became and important part of the French defences and is another of the Vauban strongholds that lie along the French side of the Spanish border (eg Bellegard above Le Perthus and Mont-Louis in the mountains, or Palace of the King of Majorca in Perpignan).

More recently, during the mass exodus of refugees fleeing the Spanish Civil War (the Retirada), Collioure and Argeles were used to house refugees, with Collioure Chateau being used practically as a prison to hold refugees considered dangerous.

The town has connections with impressionist artists, like Matisse and Signac and maintains many galleries in among the back streets. For someone interested in art, a tour combining Figueres, Port Lligat, Ceret and Collioure would encompass many famous early 20th Century painters.

Also in France close to the Costa Brava

White water rafting in Quillan (France) - Villefranche-de-Conflent and Mont-Louis (France)  - Perpignan - Elne (France) - Ceret (France) - Andorra La Vella - La Jonquera to Fort de Bellegarde (France) - Portbou to Cerbère (France) and back

See also: Llança - Port de la Selva - Cadaques and Port Lligat

Fish hooks
15 Nov 2015

Hectic weekends going hither and dither with children means we've slowed our rate of new walks considerably, returning to old favourites close to home. And so we are in November with temperatures up and over 20C during the day and headed to Platja de Fonollera (Pals Beach) with Zina, our dog heading to Gola de Ter.

Out of season, this is a lovely open beach scattered with driftwood and mounds of white sea-washed sticks and tree-trunks. The Gola de Ter where the river meets the sea forms a vast lake with views across the reeds to Montgri, and open water across the sea to the Isles Medes in the sun. The fresh water is great for Zina to swim and chase sticks in the water.

This weekend though it didn't turn out so well. Walking along the beach Zina found something to eat washed up high above the waterline. We didn't pay too much attention as she often finds something washed up and is either sniffing and occasionally finds a fish washed up.

It wasn't until after she came out of the water at the Ter that we noticed a line of fine thread dangling from her jaw, glinting in the sunlight. At first it looked like a long hair possibly that had been floating on the water. No. Unfortunately whatever it was that she'd eaten further up the beach had been attached to a line and an hook. We pulled once to see if the line would dislodge, something we probably shouldn't have done, but it was stuck fast and she coughed up a little blood.

A poorly dog after her operation to remove a fish hook So straight to the vets (there's an animal hospital next to the bus station in Palafrugell). Overnight the vet operated to remove the hook which was caught in her oesophagus, leaving us with a vet's bill of about €800 and a confused and uncomprehending dog with a big shaved patch, a scar on her side and a catheter on her leg who needed several x-rays and several days of observation. We can't say whether the line and hook had been discarded by a careless fisherman, or had washed up from a boat offshore, but a big lesson to be careful with dogs on the beach.


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 - Sant Esteve d'En Bas (Olot) - Rupit - Els Set Gorgs (Campdevanol)

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.


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.


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 - Regencos to Pals via Quermany Gros and Petit - Masos de Pals, Begur, Sa Riera and Platja de Pals

Next beaches

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

Total found: 206
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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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