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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

Swimming at Platja de Pals and Platja Illa Roja
06 Aug 2013

View along Platja de Pals Costa Brava towards lEstartit and Torroella de Montgri Platja de Pals is a reasonably large community of houses and villas located at the sea about 4km down from the historic Pals village itself. It's one of the most seasonal areas on the Costa Brava. In summer the houses and villas fill up, parking spaces can be something of a premium and there is a huge bustle around the many bars and restaurants in the area and children's amusements on the beach. In winter by contrast it feels empty with driftwood the only thing you might see on the beach.

The Platja itself is very long and broad, running all the way to L'Estartit about 10km to the north past a number of campsites on the beach and a golfing complex. To sea are views out to the Isles Medes and down to the headland of Begur just around from Sa Riera. On a clear day you can see all the way to the hills around Cap de Creus in the Roses area. Being broad and open, the main beach (Platja Gran) can become windy. The area is popular with kitesurfers and windsurfers away from the sunbathers.

Platja de la Isla Roja neighbouring Platja de Pals To the right as you look at the sea are a series of rocks sloping down into the sea. On a busy day there will be a steady stream of people taking the path around the corner to the bay of Isla Roja a small beach tucked under a large red rock island that is used by naturists. This path runs over the top of the cliffs behind this island to reach Sa Riera. The beach is very pretty but the cliffs behind does mean it loses the sun in the evening quite early. If you watch commercials on Spanish TV, this beach was used as the backdrop to the Damm Limon advert.

Facilities at the beaches

The main Platja de Pals has all the facilities you would expect of a popular holiday resort including children's amusements and in the village/shopping area numerous bars, restaurants and holiday shops. On the beach itself are a number of chiringuitos and amusements like trampoline bouncers for children. In the bay there was a banana-boat (a big inflateable towed by a motor boat until everyone falls off).

Platja de Pals The bay of Isla Roja has no facilities near by, but people like to jump off rocks jutting over the water (about 4-5m high).

Sand quality

For Platja Gran the beach is quite broad with dunes at the back. The sand at the top part of the beach is coarse but not stony while at the lower part of the beach near the water the sand feels much finer. The sand is a type of grey colour rather than the classic sandy yellow.

For the beach of Isla Roja the sand is a little coarser, though still not sandy, and is more of a classic yellow in colour.

Swimming

Boys jumping off rocks into the sea Costa Brava Swimming is as you might expect from a broad long sandy beach with few distinguishing features in the water, but obviously the potential for long uninterrupted swims. The beach shelves quite quickly and there tends to be a current in the water - a gentle northward drift. If the wind picks up the water can become choppy as it's unsheltered as a bay.

Parking

Parking at the height of summer can be tricky particular around the main beach village area. Parking spaces have to be paid for and there are both parking meters in operation and traffic wardens. We've found the best place to park is to take the left fork at the Spa roundabout towards the golf clubs and park on one of the roads near the picnic area and tower (masked by the trees if you're looking for it) as it tends to be quieter.

Walks

The GR92 runs past Platja de Pals and it is possible to walk all the way up to Gola de Ter (the mouth of the river Ter). If this is crossable, which it isn't always, you can carry on to L'Estartit. For us this is a great walk for the winter when the beach is more deserted. The prettier route is to head south and follow the path to the beach at Sa Riera the next beaches along and then possibly up to Begur.

For walks see: Pals beach to Gola de Ter, Masos de Pals, Begur, Sa Riera and Platja de Pals

Next beaches

South to Sa Riera (Begur) - North to Gola del Ter (Pals/L'Estartit)

Swimming and beach at La Fosca
05 Aug 2013

Beach at La Fosca under the castle La Fosca is situated just to the north of Palamos on the Costa Brava. The beach is large formed by two crescents of some of the softest sand with a rocky outcrop in the centre. The right half as you look out to sea is backed by houses and a number of modernista buildings. The left half further round has a selection of seasonal shops and restaurants. Above the left hand side is the ruin of Castell d'Esteve. Behind the beach are a number of small low-rise hotels and a number of larger campsites including Kings and Palamos International. The beach is popular with families and young children. The quality of the sand and the space available means it also attracts regular volleyball players who put up nets in the evenings. La Fosca also very popular with the French. Most days there are regular boules/pentaque games being played just next to the shop area.

The neighbouring beach below the other side of the castle is pebbly, but attracts divers and snorkellers looking to explore the underwater terrain on the far side of the castle.

Facilities at the beaches

The beach includes a large bay which is marked off for swimming. The rocky area to the right has a number of small boat slipways and is sometimes used as a boat access and is the only place where boats might get close to swimmers. The right side of the beach (looking out to sea) has pedalo hire with slides and normally there are several pedalos out in the bay. The left hand side has a canoe rental area. For such a beautiful beach, there aren't so many bars or restaurants. There are a couple of chiringuitos (bars actually on the beach itself), but mostly the area is surrounded by low rise houses and flats for rent.

Sand quality

Beach at La Fosca right hand side The sand is very fine - probably the softest on the Costa Brava and is perfect for bucket and spade or sand castle making. Even in the rocky extremes to the left and right, there is sand under foot.

Swimming

La Fosca has the gentlest entry into the water. It is possible to walk out 30-40m and still touch the bottom. This gentle shelving means that the water has the warmest water. Early in the season at the start of June, La Fosca will be the first beach that many people choose to go to because of the temperature of the water.

However, there is a downside. Because of the warmth of the water, the bay can turn green and cloudy because it encourages the growth of a harmless algae in the water (if it was France, they'd probably sell it as a beauty treatment). This happens at the hottest periods and has the effect of discouraging many swimmers. In practice the algae is little more than a cloud that accumulates around the central rocky outcrop. It is possible to swim out beyond the cloud and find clearer water further out.

The bay itself is sandy with some fish, but relatively plain. There are rocky areas to the left and right where you will find more fish and if snorkelling or diving are important, the area on the far side of the ruined castle is deep and clear with lots of nooks and crannies. Just be careful as out here the water is more open and less sheltered than in the bay.

Parking

Parking can be difficult partly because of the need to navigate the one-way streets. There is parking under the pine trees a little way away, or near to the tennis courts at the back, but it's rare to find a park place right down by the beach at the heart of the summer. If you have a canoe, you can drop the canoe off close to the beach, then drive off to park.

Walks

The GR92 runs past La Fosca. South is Palamos, but more interesting is the northern walk around the headlands past tucked away fishermen retreats to Platja de Castell.

For walks see: Platja de Castell and La Fosca, La Fosca to Palamos

Next beaches

South to Palamos main beach - North to Platja de Castell

Swimming at the beaches of Calella de Palafrugell
04 Aug 2013

Platja de Canadell in Calella de Palafrugell on the Costa Brava Calella de Palafrugell is one of the Costa Brava's gems. It's a small town on the coast with whitewashed houses, good restaurants and completely unspoilt by high rises or tacky tourism. The town runs along the coast over a series of small bays and coves. As a result there isn't a single town beach, but several different beaches nestling in among the low cliffs and rocky rises. Traditional Calella de Palafrugell was a small fishing village and it still has fishing boats on the beach or out into the water. The town is very picturesque, but it also looks out to the headland of Cap Roig and the islands of the Formigues site of a Catalan naval battle in 1281. There are four beach areas each of them is relatively small so they can get crowded. The first beach from the direction of Llafranc is Platja Canadell. The main (smallest) beach in the centre of town is Port Bo. This is the site of the main Havaneres festival (sea shanties) in July. South from the town are the two beaches of Port Pelegri - the beaches share the same bay, but divided by rocks. Further south before Cap Roig is the pebbly beach at Golfet. Calella de Palafrugell is also an easy walk to Llafranc.

Facilities at the beaches

Beach and restaurtants around Port Bo Calella de Palafrugell Canadell is the largest of the beaches (though still relatively small). It sits under a promenade with a number of old traditional Indianer houses. On the promenade itself above the beach are a number of bars and resturants and at the left hand end looking out to sea is the Hotel de la Torre, site of the historic watchtower for Calella. Under the promenade are a number of beach huts, some of which have been converted into bars. The beach has a boat taxi service out to the numerous boats that moor at Calella. The beach has lifeguards and it is possible to rent canoes.

Port Bo is the smallest of the beaches, but the most central. Bars and restaurants practically fall onto the beach and there is a raised wooden walk way where you pass so close to the people eating that you could pick at the plates. This beach is used by the fishing boats and has a number of rocky outcrops that are readily used as scramble and play areas. It's less used for swimming than the other beaches.

Port Pelegri splits in two and to reach both sides you have to take the path and steps from the promenade just in front of Hotel Mediterrani. The other hotel over looking the beach is Hotel Sant Roc which has private steps down to the sea. At sea level the beaches have houses/huts cut into the rocks and these have typically been turned into beach-side bars and restaurants now but without spoiling the charm of the beach. There are lifeguards and showers at beach level.

Golfet is the furthest beach from the town centre and is practically a wild beach. You can reach it via the Cami de Ronda that runs around the bays through a series of tunnels cut into the rocks, or from the top via steps (there is parking higher up). The beach itself is pebbly and unspoilt, but in some ways this is it's main charm - it's not touristy and has a very natural setting with a pillar of rock to the left and cliffs above. The bay is sandy initially then rocky which make it easy to enter the water.

All the bays are marked off with buoys for swimming.

Sand quality

Port Peligri beach Calella de Palafrugell left side The sand is generally coarse with the exception of Golfet which is made up of pebbles. The bays themselves are rocky but there is a run of sand before the rocks so getting in the water you can wade without a rocky surface. The exception is Canadell where the rocky part of the bay comes quite quickly in some places which can make the transition from warm on the beach to cool in the water difficult on the feet. Here, the best place to enter the water to start with is just in front of canoe area as the sand extends further into the bay.

Swimming

Swimming is excellent particularly if you like to see fish. The beaches slope quickly into the water and the bays are rocky when you are in the water - hence the number of fish. Being quite sheltered, the water is rarely wavy and typically smooth and clear. In certain bays the rocks in the bay get quite close to the surface, so it's advisable to wear goggles. Stopping in the middle of the bay to admire the view, in some places you can find your feet kicking rocks.

Port Peligri beach Calella de Palafrugell right side Canadell is long enough to allow for a good distance swim and 'laps', but Port Pelegri has the longest stretch of water once you get out to the buoys.

Do watch out for the boat markings and if you do decide to cross a channel (eg to make a longer swim) keep an eye out for the boats. Calella is popular with sailors, so there are several channels for the sea-taxis ferrying people in and out of the town and these tend to be quite busy.

Parking

Parking in Calella can be difficult at peak times. There is a pay-for multistory just above the town centre which tends to be quiet as most people try to park on the main connecting road above the beaches. The chances are that you will find a space, but you may need to walk a little to reach the sea.

Walks

The GR92 runs past Calella de Palafrugell. There is a very easy well walked route around the headland to Llafranc. To the south the GR92 takes you past Cap Roig and out to the wild beaches of the Cap Roig/Castell protected area. There is also good walking inland through Ermedas or to Palafrugall and Mont-ras.

For walks see: Eulogy to the Ruta del Tren Petit (Palafrugell, Palamos, Mont-ras and Vall-llobrega) - Calella de Palafrugell/Cap Roig to Castell - classic wild Costa Brava - Mont-ras to Calella de Palafrugell and Llafranc

Next beaches

South to Cala Estreta and wild beaches to El Crit and Cap Roig - North to Llafranc

Swimming at the beach at Aiguablava
30 Jul 2013

Aiguablava beach on the Costa Brava in the late afternoon Aiguablava is a sandy beach located in the municipality of Begur, but just on from Tamariu. The beach is famous in that it is used as the poster-image for this part of the Costa Brava with sheltered clear turquoise sea under the cliffs and soft golden sand beach. The beach itself sits below a Parador (a type of luxury historic hotel run by the Spanish government), with rocky inlets to the left as you look out to sea and around a couple of these coves you come to Fornells, a tiny but exquisite fisherman's village with two hotels. During summer the bays fill up with luxury boats and yachts both for the scenery, the sheltered harbour and the quality of the swimming and water. One of the best features is the view across to the headland of Begur. As a result Aiguablava can get very popular (and crowded) at the height of summer. Almost the only way to reach the bay is by car which can make parking tricky.

Facilities at the beach

The beach does not have a village as such around it. Instead there is just a car park, then as you get down towards the sand there are a small number of seasonal bars and restaurants right on the beach some of which are only accessible across the sand. The bay is marked off for swimming and there is a lifeguard service. However, one of the attractions is that it's easy for experienced swimmers to swim into the other bays or even all the way round to Fornells.

There is a canoe and pedalo hire station to the right hand side. The area would be excellent for canoeing around the bays and cliffs.

Sand quality

The beach itself has a fine sand which is soft between the toes. It would be perfect for making sand castles, but it can get busy and tightly packed during the peak season. The neighbouring bay to the left, reachable walking over the cliff to the left, is an entirely pebble beach. The bays near Fornells are sandy but tiny with barely enough space for more than 2 or 3 families. Platja Fondo further round will be covered later.

Swimming

Swimming is wonderful, though the water can get cloudy when the beach is really busy. For children the main beach shelves gently into the water and is mainly a clear sandy bottom, though the centre part has a line of pebbles just as you enter the water (the extreme left and right are softer). The exception are the rocky areas to either side with boulders and giant stones in the water teeming with fish. As mentioned, for a good swimmer there should be no problem swimming all the way across to Fornells. Each of the small bays is relatively rocky below the surface and there is excellent visibility for shoals of fish or other aquatic life. The only slight downside is that you have swim outside the protected area and among the boats. But mostly they are stationary and there shouldn't be any problem - certainly many people swim directly from the boats.

If Fornells is too far, then there is also good snorkelling in the area to the right and some caves in the rocks that are only accessible from the water.

Parking

Parking can  be difficult during the height of summer. The car park directly at the back has parking meters so you will have to pay (and a theoretical maximum time limit so you might need to re-ticket the car). In these sorts of places in the height of summer you can be pretty much guaranteed there will be ticket wardens around. Unfortunately the car park does fill up, and many people park on the road at the top, but again space can be limited. For this reason getting there either early-ish in the morning, or alternatively later in the evening are recommended.

Walks

The GR92 runs past Aiguablava and the walk up the cliff to the left will take you right round to Fornells and ultimately onwards and upwards to Begur. In the other direction the GR92 runs away from the coast to Tamariu - it's a relatively steep climb though.

For walks see: Fornells and Aiguablava walk (GR92)

Next beaches

South to Aigua Xelida - North to Platja Fonda (Begur)

Swimming at the beach at Tamariu
27 Jul 2013

Tamariu bay on the Costa Brava showing swimming area Tamariu is a small fishing village set in a dell with hills to all sides. Officially it's part of the municipality of Palafrugell with the main town of Palafrugell approximately 3-4km away. There are two beaches - the main beach, and a second much smaller pebble beach to the left as you look at the sea. The bay is hemmed in by two rocky headlands. To the left it is quite steep, but to the right you can follow a footpath around the headland to Cala Pedrosa - a wild beach. In the hills behind and around the village are numerous villas and houses. It's a popular resort with French and Dutch holidaymakers. The village centre is quite small so there isn't so much to see, but it is quite picturesque. In summer Tamariu opens up and there are a selection of bars and restaurants on the sea front around the bay  It has a seasonal supermarket and clothes/gift shops.At the back of the village is Camping Tamariu in a quiet valley location.

Facilities at the beach

The bay is marked off for swimming with boats mooring outside this line and a boat-taxi service out to the boats. The bay is compact - it's easy to swim from one side to the other. During summer there is a lifeguard service and there are practical things like toilets and fresh water showers. It is possible to hire canoes and there is a scuba diving place at the beach.

Sand quality

Main Tamariu beach with bars and restaurants behind The main beach is a mix of coarse grit-type sand with small pebbles in places, in other places the sand is a little finer. Sunbathers have three quarters of the beach, the last part is reserved for fishing boats. The main beach has a small rocky outcrop to one side. The area to the right of the outcrop is generally quieter and more private. In the evening this quieter part loses the sun first.

The quieter pebble bay to the left is all pebble and hard on barefeet. Best with shoes or flipflops on. The people using this bay tend to be snorkellers and swimmers as it fabulous for seeing fish.

Swimming

From the main beach, there is a layer of pebbles as you enter the water. The beach then shelves away steeply so you are quickly out of your depth. The main bay area has a sandy bottom all the way out to the buoys which means there aren't so many fish so swimming is mainly just swimming.

Around to the right, out towards the headland there is a diving board off the rocks about 2m above the water level. This has always been a splash with children. This rockier area is also better for wildlife.

Small pebble snorkling beach at Tamariu - great for fish The pebble bay to the left has a rocky bay. It shelves gently, though this is tough on the feet as it's rocks all the way in. A better bet is to jump in from the side. The water here is normally crystal clear and there are usually shoals of fish in the bay. You can also swim around to an otherwise inaccessible bay.

Canoeing

Canoes can be rented from the beach and there is excellent canoeing particularly as you get around to Aigua Xelida and then on to Aiguablava and Fornells. The bays immediately after Aigua Xelida beach have rocks and cliffs with narrow canyon type inlets and crystal clear water sheltered from the wind and waves of the sea and almost inaccessible other than on the water.

Parking

Parking can  be difficult during the height of summer. There are two smallish car parks along the main street through the valley. Alternatively road parking can normally be found on the road out towards Aiguablava/Begur - though it can mean a few minutes walk to get to the beach.

Walks

The GR92 runs through Tamariu. You can follow the path around the headland to the right through one wild beach and up to the lighthouse above Llafranc (San Sebastien).

For walks see: Far de Sant Sebastia (Llafranc) to Tamariu - Palafrugell, Tamariu, Begur residential and Esclanya

Next beaches

South to Llafranc - North to Aigua Xelida

Summer thunderstorms
23 Jul 2013

Summer thunderstorm over Palafrugell Costa Brava Our experience since we arrived in Spain has been that from around mid-June to mid-September the weather has pretty much been classic summer blue skies with the occasional wispy cloud. This year, we've just had about a week where the heat of the day has turned into big (and quite spectacular) summer thunderstorms by the end of the day. The morning and afternoons have been bright blue sky as normal, but from four o'clock onwards clouds have started to gather until at about 5 or 6pm huge dark storm clouds full of thunder and lightening have passed overhead with some torrential rain and even hail. From what we've experienced before, the storms don't usually come until mid-September at the earliest so these are probably to do with the later start to the summer this year.

We had to go out to Girona airport on one of the days and you could see the storms in the mountains over the airport and as we came back the clouds seem to follow across the Gavarres and across to the sea. It wouldn't be a problem, but when you're working here, you like to go to the beach in the evening - the sea's a bit warmer and it's easier to park or find space. The storms put paid to that idea. There's also a second downside, which is the rain tends to wash a lot of flotsam and jetsam into the sea and it can make the water mucky for the next day too. At least we're not in Barcelona where the storms clear out the indescrible debris of the city into the sea.

 

Summer on the Costa Brava
12 Jul 2013

Beach at Llafranc in mid July Mid-July and the weather is now officially hot (in the 30Cs). From the beginning of July onwards the roads start to fill from Friday evenings with weekenders up from Barcelona. Naturally there are tourists from across Europe arriving too, but at the start of July, it's still quiet enough to find a car park place. The really busy period starts in the middle of July all the way to the end of August when everywhere is full. But if you're prepared to walk it's still possible to find more out of the way places.

If you've been following the walks, we've slowed down too. We are still walking, but more frequently to the beaches or just in our neighbourhood. Spanish school holidays start at the last week of June and run all the way through to the second week of September - almost three months so we also spend some time travelling back to the UK or more northern parts of Europe. It's actually relatively common and we know of people who do house swaps during July and August. If you're on the Costa Brava all summer, then a couple of weeks somewhere a little cooler where the risk of rain won't ruin the whole summer is an attractive option.

The pattern of walks is also changing. We typically walk to the beaches in the evening, just as everyone else is going. Mid-day, like most people here, we're looking for shade. If you are in the woods or out and about, the tracks and paths are more dusty - your feet get covered by a thin crust of fine dust and many of the streams have dried up.

As we move into the middle of July, there are the numerous festivals around. Calella de Palafrugell has Havarnes (sea shanties) on the beach with people watching from fishing boats lit with candles on the sea. Calella de Palafrugell also hosts the Cap Roig Music Festival. Elton John was due to open, but has called off with appendicitis. Mark Knopfler is playing one of the other dates too.

The local villages also have their Festa Major, the village fete, with activities and naturally sardanes, the national dance of Catalonia.

We want to add some descriptions of the beaches - the types of sand, water, facilities, but we also want some proper photos to illustrate. May be, now the trips are out of the way, we'll follow this up a bit more.

Roses - Canyelles beaches to Cap Falconera
16 Jun 2013

Roses Canyelles Petites Platja Costa Brava Summer's here. The first gloriously hot day in June with sunbathers on the beaches and the odd intrepid swimmer in the as yet slightly chilly water at the start of the season. We needed to go to the big retail parks just outside Figueres and so took the chance to make a day of it with a walk by some of the smaller beaches past Roses - Canyelles Petites and Canyelles Grans.

Roses itself sits on a broad wide beach that connects all the way around the Gulf of Roses down to L'Escala. We'll include Roses more fully at some other time, but it is one of the main towns on the coast full of French holiday makers, many of which have popped across the border for the day or have holiday houses here as it's only about 40km from the border and closer to Perpignan than Girona. The town has a huge Ciutadella - a walled fortified area that used to surround the old town as Roses had an important strategic and defensive position militarily.

Roses Canyelles Grosses Platja Costa Brava The walk though starts on the other side of Roses at the beaches of Canyelles and then more into the Cap de Creus area.  We're two weeks away from July on a blazing hot day and yet the parking is relatively easy. It's always surprising just how short the summer season is. At the height of summer parking would almost be impossible.

Canyelles has two beaches - Petites and Grosses. Both are fine golden sand with clear blue water and a gentle gradient into the water and are backed by relatively steep slopes peppered with houses overlooking the bay. We join the path (GR92 again) at the corner of Canyelles Petites - for a longer walk you could start from Roses itself. Almost immediately we are walking past one of the many beach-side restaurants. The path curls around the headland past a small string of rocky islets that you can wade across to. There are views everywhere. Straight ahead of us across the Gulf of Roses we can see down to the Isles Medes and make out the castle on top of Montgri. To the right is the beach line that runs along the bay with the huge apartment block at Empuriabrava dominating the beach line. At this distance it looks quite majestic. Behind the beachline are the mountains in the distance fading into the background in the hazy summer air.

Cap Falconera near Roses As we walk around the headland various orienteering race competitors come round the headland looking for the next marker on their race. We walk above a water-side restaurant that has topped it's sunshades with palm leaves then pass another string of islets to the right, before turning down to the beach of Canyelles Grosses. As it's name suggests this is a longer beach, but the same golden sand. Behind the beach, almost directly on sand are another collection of beach side restaurants. It's a little early for lunch, so holiday makers are taking coffees and beers at the tables.

The GR92 runs along the beach, but we're walking with a dog and in summer dogs aren't allowed on the beaches. Strictly they're not supposed to be on the beaches in the winter either, but if there's no-one about no-one complains, particularly if you leave the beach as clean as when you arrived.

So to get round the beach we have to climb a long flight of steps up to the road and then walk around the outside. There are more parked cars and it seems that almost every other car is French, and as we pass a group of houses the 'to let' sign is in French (A Louer) rather than Spanish or Catalan.

View from Cap Falconera into Cap de Creus The road takes us around the beach and out to the edge of the estate. We then follow the sign on to a single track path heading towards Cap Falconera. The path is relatively dry with just a few cypressa trees for shade and a rocky shore below us. The path runs up and down following the coast and we have to step aside a few times to let more orienteerers pass. Mostly Cap de Creus is covered in low shrubs so there is relatively little shelter from the sun (do take water, hats and sunscreen). In the bay to our right speed boats are racing around the cape, possibly heading to Cadaques and we can hear the screams and shouts of the passengers as the boat skims and bounces along the water.

Following the path we reach the tip of Cap Falconera. To the right are the houses and villas of Roses. To the left are the barren wilds of Cap de Creus and in the distance boats moored in the bay of Montjoi, where the famous El Bulli restaurant is situated. We continue along the path along the other side of the Cap. Ahead of us, the orienteers have marked off half of the side of the hill and we can see someone competitors waiting with climbing gear - it seems they will have to climb down the cliffs to get one of their markers.

As we walk around the next inlet we can look back and see some competitors abseiling down a cliff-face of 20-25m in height but with instructors present to make sure nothing goes wrong.

View to Roses and Empuriabrava We have to scramble down to the next bay - the dry gravel and steepness of the slope down is slippy underfoot. At the bottom we reach a pebbly naturist beach. It seems isolated apart from the footpath and a couple of boats. Our aim was to walk down to Montjoi, but the path connections back aren't so good and the heat is getting to us (and our dog) a little because of the lack of shade. So we decide to start the loop back a little earlier than planned. It's a straightish route up to the road, though we have to take a right at a T-junction when our instinct would have said go left.

The road is the connecting road from Roses to Montjoi and there are a handful of cars, but being high up the views are immense over coastline. At sea level in the distance we can see a light mist rising around the base of the distant cliffs. It's not unusual to get sea mists in early summer or autumn when the air temperature and water temperatures are far apart.

At the top of the road above Cap Falconera, we decide to take a gravel road down. Again, the connecting paths back to Canyelles aren't so great on the map, so we take the road down. At the bottom is a picnic site and some of the orienteerers seem to have finished and are eating and sharing stories. The road returns us to Canyelles Grosses. This time, being hot and sweaty, some of us go down to the beach and into the water.As the temperatures heat up, the water will continue to get hotter through the summer, but in June it's chilly, though passable. We swim a little then meet up with the rest of the party at the far end of the beach and follow back round the headland to the car.

The restaurants have filled up with people eating great plates of Paella and seafood. We return to the car and head back to Figueres for shopping.

See also: Port de la Selva - Aiguamolls d'Emporda (Empuriabrava) - Cadaques and Port Lligat

Walking route Roses Canyelles beaches to Cap Falconera

Solius, rocks for climbing and ruined castle
01 Jun 2013

Size = 280 x 179 Solius is a small community (more scattered buildings, a small urbanisation and a golf course) near to Sant Cristina d'Aro into the Ardenya hills (confusingly called Cadiretes in Spanish) on the south side of C65 and Vall d'Aro - the hills on the other side of the valley being the Gavarres. We park next to the monastery of Sant Maria de Solius (Google labels it as Sant Agnes), which according to the information board outside is famous for its Gregorian chants at mass.

To reach the monastery the road passes by some well-tended masias and farm fields but the road after the monastery almost immediately climbs into the woods of the Ardenya hills. We're walking in the sun and the first hottish day (26C) of the year. June has just arrived and it feels like someone has just turned the oven up from an unusually cool wet May.

Solius - Sant Maria de Solius Monastery The route out from Sant Maria is slightly peculiar because it starts as a broad two-lane tarmac road then suddenly turns into a rough dirt track as soon as it reaches the trees, and as soon as it reaches the trees the landscape changes immediately..

The Ardenya's at this area (and behind Sant Feliu de Guixols) are quite barren with a lot of bare rock and with the heat of the day it feels quite arid and dry even though there was rain in the past two days. We have water, but also need to ensure we have sun-lotion on for walking in the summer. The trees around are relatively sparse, most of the vegetation is low undergrowth and as we climb we get views across Vall d'Aro to the sea at Platja d'Aro. After a few hundred metres we notices that the trees, though green in full foliage, have blackened trunks and burnt stems from a forest fire last year. It's amazing though how quickly the vegetation has recovered.

Rock landscape of Ardenya The road continues upward into the hills. Large isolated bare stones of 20-30m in size stand out from the terrain like huge oversized boulders. At the top of the forest path we meet a tarmac'd road. From a previous exploration we know this just leads to a composting centre. We turn to the right and continue into the hills. A few hundred metres on a few cars are parked in a layby and a handpainted sign points to Puig Ponça. We follow the track into the woods and down slightly and emerge at a clearing above a number of the isolated boulders standing like fingers pointing into the air. The map marks this as a climbing area and we can hear climbers around us and see a Catalan flag on one of the fingers.

The elevations are not sharp and vertical, but they are smooth on the sides. We're not entirely sure of the path or how to get down so we follow a small track downwards. There is dry gravel on the stone surface and it's quite slippery so we end up scrambling and sliding down in various locations. We can see the path we're trying to reach down below us and just hoping the track we're on doesn't lead to a climbing point at an edge.

Fortunately we find a way through and reach the road and start with the walk back towards Solius. Ahead of us we can see the ruins of Solius castle on one of the jutting rocks. At the second junction we turn left and walk up to a ridge. At the top we can see the path that passes by the castle - part of the standard castle walk for the area.

Solius castle at the top of its hill The terrain changes for the second time, shifting from the rough, arid, barren rock-scape to a gentle path under pine trees with a cool breeze blowing off the sea. Ahead of us another family are taking a picnic underneath one of the rocks and we can see pins and clamps knocking into the stone. It's a lovely picnic area with the pine trees and level - ground.

The castle ruins are above us to the left. There really is barely anything left of the castle. Even the steps carved into the rock seem to have worn and fallen away with large tree roots growing over them. It's still possible to climb up though and appreciate the views back over towards the monastery.

The last stretch is into the small urbanisation near Solius where the houses are broadly scattered and as we leave the landscape changes again, back to the fields and grasses as we return to the car.

Update: If you're interested in climbing, near Solius is a Via Ferrata (an 'iron' route across rock faces with iron pins, wire-walks and suspended bridges) at neighbouring Carcaixells and Montclar. An easier route can be found at Gorges de Salenys on the opposite side of the valley by Bell.lloc. There is also a cliff-face via ferrata over the sea just outside Sant Feliu de Guixols

Neighbouring walks: Romanya de la Selva - Romanya de la Selva to Puig d'Arques - Castell d'Aro and estate of Mas Nou

Walking route Solius and Solius castle

Platja Sant Pol to Sant Feliu de Guixols
26 May 2013

Beach at Platja Sant Pol Costa Brava This walk from Platja Sant Pol to Sant Feliu de Guixols in some ways is an extension to the walk between Platja d'Aro and S'Agaro. S'Agaro is just around the corner from our starting point at the beach of Sant Pol. Like S'Agaro, both Sant Pol and Sant Feliu were some of the earliest areas of the Costa Brava that were developed for tourism. Originally Sant Feliu de Guixols was a naval and ship-building town and important medieval port for the Costa Brava area. However as the fashion for water therapies developed, Sant Feliu opened its first spa in 1870 - but based on fresh water springs - not around the beach as such. The neighbouring area of Sant Pol was developed a little later and has a handful of Modernist villas in the style of Gaudi built around 1910-1915, just a little earlier than the development of S'Agaro.

Modernista houses on Platja Sant Pol Costa Brava The main beach at Sant Pol is a wide sandy crescent with small hotels and the Modernist villas looking over the sand. The not particularly pretty connecting road between Sant Feliu and Platja d'Aro sits behind this area with no view over the sea, so it would be very easy to drive past and not realise there is one of the most romantic beaches on the Costa Brava a stone's throw away.

We start at the far end of the beach, almost at the point we started the return journey for the Platja d'Aro and S'Agaro walk. Along the start of the beach is a long run of brightly coloured beach huts but the weather this May has been relatively overcast with more rain than usual and though there are bursts of sun, the beach is empty apart from a group of children taking out canoes out on to the water.

Inlet beach reached only by canoes Sant Pol Costa Brava We follow the promenade along the front, passing the three main Modernista villas and the notice board explained when and how they were built. Like many Modernista buildings they are decorated with coloured glazed tiles making mosaics and pattens, with glazed tile roof parts. Two of the buildings are exceptionally well preserved (one is a restaurant), but the third and most notable, with a series of small turrets like a disney-style fantasy castle, is actually in a poor state of repair from close up, though it looks as work is being down for repairs.

At the end of the beach the path runs out along the rocks of the headland - the GR92 again. To begin with it's very much a maintained footpath with walls to the rock edge and wooden beams helping create steps. However, as soon as you're off the main beach the views are remarkable with gold-coloured rocks and clear turquoise water inlets into tiny inaccessible beaches. Around the first headland is a tunnel made into the rocks, with an exit to the Mirador del Tunel from where you can look back over the Platja de Sant Pol across the rocks.

The path, though maintained, climbs up and down as it runs around and across the inlets climbing up to the road that connects the flats and houses above the bay. After we leave the road for the last time, the path turns more into the woods and is more of a natural trail almost feeling completely isolated from the surrounding houses. The path climbs up over the cliffs and we can see sea gulls nesting on the ledges, or seemingly sunbathing on the trees on the slopes below. The sun comes out again and sparkles on the water below.

Island and inlet Sant Pol Costa Brava At the top, we reach another estate, before cutting down the back of the houses and further along the headland. Ahead of us is the port and bay of Sant Feliu. Historically, Sant Feliu is one of the important ports on the Costa Brava with a natural harbour and former shipyards and strong naval (and corsair piracy) connections. However, despite being one of the early spa towns on the Costa Brava and having a long promenade just off the beach with a long row of traditional bars and restaurants, it is not particularly touristy, the town behind the main beach area is mainly a sprawl of older residential terraced streets.

We take the path down from the cliffs and the viewpoint and emerge at a car park at the back of the port close to the fishing wharfs and large modern fishing boats. We follow the road around the corner and reach the main beach promenade. The town and restaurants on the first line from the sea are set back from the beach in the shade of tree-lined park.

Our route takes us along close to the beach. There are signs every so often explaining the history and naval exploits of the town in addition to old photographs of how the town looked pre-tourism. The beach has a long broad expanse of sand and fills up during summer, but with its position in the same bay as the port, it isn't a main beach location.

View over Sant Feliu de Guixols port and bay We follow the path around and along to the next headland. At the end of the headland is Hotel Eden Roc and the path should run around the back of the hotel. But for various reasons it seems closed. We do find a route around, though in places we feel we're walking in areas the hotel is claiming as its own private areas.

As we round the headland we can look south down the coast. In the distance we can see the white house and headland at Tossa de Mar. The connecting route from Tossa to Sant Feliu is notoriously bendy by road, and from the headland you can see the range of cliffs and hills between Tossa and Sant Feliu. For walking the Tossa - Sant Feliu route requires some planning as it's difficult to do in a round trip.

Sant Feliu de Guixols Around the headland we continue up and through the estates at the top of the headland. From here there are views back across Sant Feliu de Guixols, but the view is marred a little by one or two overlarge apartment blocks. As we've mentioned elsewhere, many of the historic towns in the Costa Brava have one, possibly two badly placed high-rises. It's not quite like Platja d'Aro which was almost made for tourism, but for historic towns like Sant Feliu (or La Bisbal) these badly sited high-rises can really diminish the town.

The path from the headland meets the road we started on, and so we double back. Rather than follow the path by the beach, we head into town. Despite being a Saturday, it's lunchtime, about 3pm, so the shops are pretty much closed and the streets are empty. We head out of town through the backstreets then out on the main road to Platja d'Aro. There are more hotels and built up buildings on the way out, but it also connects with the 'Ruta de Carrilet'. This is another former train route now converted into a bike path. This one though connects all the way to Girona (about 50km) and is the main Via Verde in the Costa Brava and well used by cyclists, either in part or taking the whole route.

The main road is not particularly attractive to walk on so we cut down past some holiday apartments and return to the beach of Platja de Sant Pol, just between the Modernista buildings. The children are still on the water, but now on stand-on surfboards balancing precariously as they paddle into the bay. 

Neighbouring walks: Blanes, Lloret de Mar, Tossa de Mar by GR92 - Platja d'Aro and S'Agaro

Walking route from Sant Pol to Sant Feliu de Guixols

Port de la Selva
21 May 2013

Port de la Selva Costa Brava Being based in Baix Emporda, our trips to the more northern Alt Emporda are relatively sporadic so we haven't done that much walking in the areas boarding the French border. Specifically, we haven't explored that much of the Cap de Creus areas - one of the most celebrated walking areas in Catalunya which is about an hour to an hour and a half from home.

The Cap de Creus is a hilly/mountainous cape that sits to the north of the Bay of Roses and geologically forms the final extent of the Pyrenees before the sea. The area is famous for its light attracting famous artists such as Picasso and Dali in the first half of the 20th Century. It's also the area of Cadeques, one of the best known white-walled fishing villages in Catalonia.

Traditional boats at Port de la Selva The landscape itself is relatively harsh. It's quite rocky, barren in places with a covering of gorse and shrubs and in the height of summer is dry and windswept. In some ways it reminds you of Scottish moors and mountains. There are plenty of bays and views and isolated pebble or stony beaches. Routes through and around the Cap de Creus are full of curves and bends so car travel is slow. Walking wise, the GR92 passes through the area as do a number of other paths and routes. For instance it would be possible to walk from Port de la Selva to Cadeques - about 16km - though this is a long route if you have to come back too.

So this is more of a visit than a walk, but still the chance to see a little bit of the surroundings of Port de la Selva on the northern side of Cap de Creus. Port de la Selva is just around the corner from Llanca, so easily accessed. The town sits in a 3/4 bay and looks back towards Llanca and up the coast to Colera. Behind the town are hills/mountains that reach around to Cadaques. As you drive in from Llanca, you can see a monestery (Sant Pere de Rodes) and a castle up to the right. The monestary is a grey colour which can get camoflaged by the rocky hills around it.

Hills of Cap de Creus behind Port de la Selva Port de la Selva has a small semi-pebbly beach and a small church. The time we were visiting most of the tourists seemed to be French, possibly from just across the border. Houses are built up the hills almost leaning precariously over the relatively steep hillsides.

We park in the car park before the town and walk along the beach. Even though we're in mid-May there is practically no-one on the beach. It's true it's a combination of sand and pebble and the day is overcast but the whole town looks quiet. As we get nearer to the buildings though, we can see that the restaurants look pretty full. Catalans (and French visitors), typically take dinner around 2-4pm, and take dinner very seriously. Shops close and shoo the last customers out as dinner time approaches and whole towns close down over lunchtime. At the weekend and for festas, 'lunch' - more properly dinner as in Christmas dinner type timing - can run from 1pm to 5pm, which to us who like to be out and active at the weekends seems to knock the stuffing out of a Saturday or Sunday.

Cannons and the bay of Port de la Selva We walk round the edge of the town harbour. It's a proper working harbour, not a marina and fish nets, ropes and lobster pots are laid out carefully on the quay. There are other boats, but also the traditional Catalan Llagut/Sardinals boats made of wood and latin-rigged with a long yard arm that sail like a Dhow.

As we leave the town on the far side, the terrain becomes harshly rocky. We follow the sea over the rocks. On one of the pebbly beaches an set of French divers are exploring the water. The rock pools have crabs and snails and bits of sea-weed. Out of the last of the small pebbly beaches we walk up the stairs. The path is made for strollers and tourists. At the top of the steps we join the road as it climbs over a cove and up to the next headland. The road turns the corner and we can look out over the craggy hills around the next bay. These are deserted, just low scrub in a mottled green with dots of yellow from the gorse, which is in full flower.

There are still houses here though. It feels quite bleak and the houses and walls show the effects of the sea, salt and wind. Even though it's the Mediterranean in front of us, it could almost be a Scottish glen - except that is for the small swimming pools in the gardens.

The rock formations are strange. The movement of the earth has turned the stratification of the rocks around 90 degrees. So rather than lying flat, it juts up, and the rain and water has got in giving the rocks a jagged top that looks as it could cut. Down below we see another beach, pebble again, but we follow the estate around the top. We're back on the GR92 and though we're just doing a few hundred metres we can see the signs and maps pointing the way across the harsh landscape out towards Cadaques. And, at the top of the estate we turn back down and into town. We can see Sant Pere de Rodes in the heights above the bay looking grimly out over the sea. The restaurants have emptied and now the town genuinely is empty and closed. We walk round and there's a sense that everything could benefit from a little bit of TLC, white buildings tend to show the rain.

We'll explore more - this was really little more than a taster, but we're not sure about the terrain. It's dry and harsh with abandoned agricultural terraces (suggesting it was once more fertile?) and few trees. Some people love it. I'm not so sure.

See also: Roses - Canyelles beaches to Cap Falconera - Peralada - Cadaques and Port Lligat - Llança - Sant Pere de Rodes

Walk Port de la Selva

 

Madremanya, Els Angels, Sant Marti Vell
19 May 2013

View over Madremanya Costa Brava The best viewpoint across the Costa Brava is from the Santuari dels Angels above Madremanya. Els Angels is a monestery (but with cafe and viewing terrace), situated at the second highest point on the Gavarres (488m high) with huge views in an arc of about 270 degrees, from Montseny, across Girona, the mountains of the Pyrenees, out to Banyoles, across to Figueres, the sea from Roses and then around to Torroella Montgri around just about to Begur and the bay of Pals. The road up to the Santuari is very popular with road cyclists as a challenging hill climb and is used as a training climb by professionals (apparently including Lance Armstrong when he was based in Girona).

View from Santuari dels Angels (El Angels) Costa Brava This is a long walk (close to 5 hours) as we stretched the route to make a round walk via Sant Marti Vell. Though the village of Sant Marti is very pretty, the walk down from Els Angels is mostly a track through the woods with only trees to see, so for a shorter walk consider a more direct route back to Madremanya. The paths also run off the edge of the walking map we use (Emporda Costa Brava 1:30,000) - we don't know of a good walking map for the area around Girona - so it is difficult to plan alternative routes (update 2014: we've now found an ICC walking map for Girona area including the Gavarres). The walks are very clearly marked from Els Angels down. The markings (yellow and white) for the path up have faded/disappeared in some places.

Santuari dels Angels (Els Angels) Costa Brava We start in Madremanya, a small medieval town with very thick town walls and arches at the foot of the road up to Els Angels. We decide to start into the hills and leave looking around the town until later and head out of town past a couple of garden restaurants (missing the signposted walk) on the road and then down, across the main road and along through the hamlet of Vilars - a collection of 4-5 renovated farmhouses. As the road passes the last house it switches to a dirt track which climbs gently into the hills through the woods. As the path climbs, we have views back down the valley towards Madremanya and the higher we go the further we can see, with views of the sea behind the village.

View from Els Angels path to the Coast As we reach the limits of our map, the path divides. We're trying to follow a yellow-white marked path, but find we have to look very carefully to find the markings. At the divide it looks as if the path continues straight on, but we spot the cross and follow the track to the right as is snakes around the curves of the hill. We were expecting to still be going up, but this is relatively flat, though with fabulous views out across the Empordan plain to the sea.

We're slightly worried that we've taken the wrong path as it doesn't seem to go up, and we can see the hillside above us, but eventually we reach a junction, and the first proper signpost. We follow the direction to the Santuari dels Angels and path quickly turns up and starts to climb more quickly running across a ridge. We are on Itinery 1 and as we go up, the path seems to steepen with quite an energetic climb through the woods.

Village of Sant Marti Vell Eventually we reach a junction which meets the Itinery 2 path (the way down) and we make the final climb up to the Santuari past the picnic tables (it's very popular in summer), and up to the main building itself. The Santuari has a cafe and restaurant in addition to the church and main religious building. There is a viewing path and if you walk around the centre you can see for more than 50km in all directions. There are also a handful of cyclists who have stopped for a breather before taking the route down. A range of cycling plaques and medallions can be seen on the walls.

Poppies in a wheat field near El Pedro Madremanya  After taking a pause to take in the view, we head back to the Itinery crossroads and start to follow Itinery 2 out towards Sant Marti Vell. It's a gentle slope down and to start there are views, but after a while the path dips into a wooded valley past a chestnut grove and the views are replaced by the sheltered isolation of the trees and the valley. Wooded paths are pleasant, but not good for pictures.

After a while we emerge from the woods past some small vineyards and isolated farmhouses along the edge of a stream, and eventually reach Sant Marti Vell. Sant Marti Vell is a very small ancient village, but with what looks to be a well-adorned church, almost in an English style, with a steeple. We sit for a while enjoying the sun playing on the golden stoned buildings on the long stone bench that runs around the Placa Major. Sant Marti has a maze of narrow little streets and we follow them down emerging at the bottom of the village by a small stream.

Archway in Madremanya The easiest route is to follow the road back to Madremanya, but it's actually quite a fast and modern road recently updated so instead we follow the road for a while, then turn into the neighbourhood of La Vilosa in order to take a more leisurely route. At the top of the hills to the right we can see the white building of the santuari up above us in the distance.

Towngate Madremanya La Vilosa is another hamlet of large old houses with big gardens. There seems to be the constant smell of roses as we walk through. At the end, the road switched back to a track, but it's so prettily done that it looks as if we're about to enter someone garden and we ask the owner of the house if it's the right route. It is and we carry on. The path leaves the gardens and we turn right onto a track just past a farmhouse, and head out past fields of wheat and poppies. This is the area we walked from Pubol with the firedamaged woods on the side of the hill and we can see the path we walked then from this track.

Madremanya archway over street We're now pretty much walking through open countryside, but when we turn and look behind us we can see the Pyrenees still capped with snow. The heat of the day has lifted the cloud making it almost an alpine type scene. We're drawn on by the sound of a Cuckoo and the summer red of the poppies in the field contrast with the cold white on the mountains. The path meets up with a road and we have the option of following the road, or turning and taking the path up to a group of houses on the hill. We take the path and pass along what seems to be an isolated single street of stone houses perched on a ridge. This is El Pedro and it looks almost like a scene from the Cotswolds.

A few hundred metres further on we reach Madremanya and enter the town through an old town gate, passing under two long arches. From the width of the arches, the town walls seem very thick. Ahead of us is the Placa Major and the church. Churches always seem to be squeezed in among the houses and Madremanya is no exception - the church sitting pressed in on all sides by narrow streets and medieval terraced houses. All the streets seem to pass through archways that would have been part of the town wall. It's all very well preserved and restored. We find our way out and walk back to the car. In the garden of the town hotel, a great arbour of roses is perfuming the air.

Neighbouring walks: Monells and Mont-negre - La Pera, Pubol and around - Cruilles, Monells and Sant Sadurni de l'Heura - Celra, Juia and the Castle of Palagret

Walking route from Madremanya to the Costa Brava viewpoint at  Els Angels and back via Sant Marti  Vell

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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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