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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:

Palamos and carnival
15 Feb 2015

Palamos carnival 2015 green wings Palamos, like nearly all the Costa Brava towns has a large carnival procession to celebrate the coming of Lent where people dress up, dance and compete for the best show in town. In Catalonia, as with many European Catholic regions, carnival has developed into a grand tradition even though it was actually banned in Franco's time. The modern festivals are now enormous. Palamos had about 50 floats this year and the amount of work put into costumes and practicing dance routines is huge often with 40-50 dancers in matching outfits following a float blaring out their dance music.

Palamos carnival scarecrow There are carnival processsions is most of the major towns (except for Palafrugell which has a Festa de Primavera at the end of May instead), but rather than having competing carnival processions, the festivities are often staged on different days in different places. This allows the carrossellers to attend more than one festival. For instance, floats from Sant Feliu de Guixols on a Friday would then visit Platja d'Aro or Palamos on the Saturday and then move to a different town on the Sunday.

Palamos carnival 2015 peacock The processions in Palamos this year was reported at about 50 floats (I believe some others got up to closer to 80). The floats naturally follow the procession route but not as a steady moving stream.

At one point (usually towards the end) there is a judges stand where each float and troupe takes the time to show and perform their choreography danced routine for 3-4 minutes. If you count 3-4 minutes per float and 50 floats plus time for walking and changeover it won't be surprising that a typical big carnival procession takes at least 4-5 hours to complete. The early floats starting in the daylight at the end of the afternoon, with the last ones coming in when its dark.

Palamos carnival 2015 red dresses Though the fun of taking part and showing off is a big part, a hidden incentive are the prizes for the best carrossers. There are normally different categories from best large float, best small float, best local float, best dance routine etc and for some of the main categories prize money can reach €1,000 for the winning float - though almost all of this prize money will be reinvested to build a bigger better float for the next year.

Palamos carnival 2015 mad hatter The run up to carnival (or carnestoltes) has children going to school in fancy dress (disfreses) with essentially a big party atmosphere all weekend - slightly amplified this year by Valentines Day, though Valentine's is somewhat new in Spain.

Palamos itself is an old royal port with an old central part and large fishing fleet. The main port is large enough for big ships and through the summer regularly gets visits from smaller cruise ships. Around the main port area and through the older part of the town there are many good restaurants and bars and streets that climb up and down across the headland in the heart of the old town.

Palamos carnival 2015 gold and white At the end of the headland is the new marina and around the corner is the extremely pretty soft-sand bay of La Fosca making the whole town one of many contrasts.

One downside for first time visitors is that Palamos has three enormous ugly tower blocks built just off the main beach and the blocky newer area behind the main beach passeo-walk both of which lack ambience and character which can leave a poor first impression. Our reaction on first visiting Palamos was that we didn't really care for the newer parts, but now we visit more often, we've found it growing on us as a town - it has a strong local character and joie de vivre that makes the place interesting year round.

Ceret (France)
15 Feb 2015

Ceret Modern Art Fountain with copy of Picasso Sardanes Ceret is a delightful French Catalan town, just the other side of the French border, just over an hour from the heart of the Costa Brava with a understated unspoilt charm and a strong connection to the Modern Art movement at the start of the 20th Century. Though it is marked from the autoroute, it's a town we have overlooked as we've headed more to Perpignan, to the mountains (eg Villefranche de Confluent) or to the coast - for instance to Elne on our previous French day-trips.

Ceret main claim to fame was though its connection to many famous twentieth century artists. Pablo Picasso (during his cubist phase) and George Braque were residents in 1911-1912 (eg see Picasso's Landscape at Ceret from the Guggenheim), attracting other famous artists like Chagall, Matisse and Modigliani. Ceret now has a Museum of Modern Art with works donated by these illustrious former residents.

Ceret Pont de Diable Now it's fair to say that we didn't know this before we visited - we were looking for somewhere new to go before doing our periodic foray into French supermarkets for cordial, cheese and a few other French delicacies that somehow never seem to cross the border, or are otherwise have massively over-inflated prices in Spain. As a result we haven't yet visited the museum, but from this one visit, Ceret now ranks as our favourite French Catalan town.

We parked just outside the town's outskirts on the far side of the river Tech and walked across the Devil's Bridge (Pont du Diable) - the old, very high, medieval stone bridge across the river that sits next to a modern road bridge. From here it was just a question of following our nose to reach the old town centre, a pleasant stroll through well-kept houses.

Ceret Porte de France Though Ceret is definitely Catalan (road names are still in Catalan, often with a French alternative), it is a town that feels typically French - shutters on the windows, coloured walls on the outside of the buildings, people sat outside the cafes and tall plain trees for shade.

Ceret Porte dEspagne The first place of interest we came to was the large town gate flanked by two round towers (the Porte de France). This leads to old cobbled streets in the old centre, that curl around what would have been the town wall before coming together in the main town square or placa, with the Gran Cafe and hotel and a tower and arch construction which are what is left of the towns Porte d'Espange, at the back of which is a modern art fountain built to celebrate the towns connection with  modern art with a copy of Picasso's Sardanes work. There are several little squares in the maze of streets and a number of different fountains through the town.

The town boasts two museums - the art museum mentioned and a museum of musical instruments, but this time around we didn't visit, but we may well come back in May for the town's cherry festival.

Also in France close to the Costa Brava

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

Tamariu to Llafranc revisited
12 Feb 2015

Llafranc lighthouse of San Sebastien We covered the walk from Far de Sant Sebastia (Llafranc) to Tamariu two Januaries ago but at the time part of the GR92 path was closed due to construction works and the weather was a little overcast. I added an update to the original to say the path is now open, but until now haven't updated the pictures, so this weekend we took advantage of the sun and recompleted the stretch from Tamariu to Llafranc, this time going all the way in and out of Cala Pedrosa to complete the coastal part of the walk.

Tamariu path to Cala Pedrosa with barriers The bath is popular out of season, particularly on a gloriously sunny January Sunday and there were lots of families taking at least  the first part of the route to the rocky bay and barraca just around from the main Tamariu beach (great for rock pools in the summer). It was good to run into German and English walkers too as the Costa Brava really is a fabulous winter destination for a little sun and good hiking.

Tamariu Cala Pedrosa The main part of the walk which was closed last time runs at the back of two new villas and has been done up very well. The path now consists of a wooden gangway at the back of the houses above a small rocky cala, one of the classic Costa Brava inlet type coves with no access other than from the sea. The wooden gangway turns into a small walled path which a bit uneven where water has washed away the top of the path leaving some pipework exposed. This path then curves into the woods around La Musclera.

Llafranc view from lighthouse The route then climbs around the Musclera headland, getting quite high above a cliffside before connecting to the path down to Cala Pedrosa. This particular path goes steeply down the hillside along a narrow cliff-side path with wooden barriers/bannisters all the way down to the Cala. It's not difficult, but it is steep as it zig-zags up the side of the bay. At the bottom, we reach a large bay filled with large pebblestones. Pedrosa means stony or rocky and the pebbles are chunky inviting you to make pebble stacks or to try skimming the stones out across the water. At the back of the bay is a small house/bar that it often open in summer sometimes serving food straight off the barbeque.

Llafranc view of boats and beach The path out of Cala Pedrosa runs along the stream at the back of the bay, through a shaded valley that was cool in the January air unlike the sunnier parts of the walk. At the top it meets a broader track/path at the back of a view houses before running past first fields and then woods up to the lighthouse (Far de San Sebastien) above Llafranc. The lighthouse can be approached from two directions. The main GR92 path runs high above the sea and gets a little high if you're not comfortable with heights, before connecting to the watchtower next to the Restaurant de Far at the top behind the lighthouse. This time we turned right earlier, following a forestry track that connects to houses on the other side of the hill (Carrer Panama), then taking the road across the top of Llafranc. The views from the lighthouse are spectacular. As this was a particularly clear day, we could see the snow on the Pyrenees behind Palafrugell on one side and the coastline and beaches stretching away to the south past Palamos on the other.

For a walking route see the original: Far de Sant Sebastia (Llafranc) to Tamariu

Ribes de Freser and skiing at Vall de Nuria
05 Feb 2015

Vall de Nuria view of base snow facilities The nearest ski stations to the Costa Brava in the Pyrenees are Vallter 2000 (above Setcases) and Vall de Nuria, with larger ski resorts a little further away in La Molina and Massala near Puigcerda (on a train line from Barcelona) and further options up to Andorra.

With snow arriving in the mountains we travelled up to Ribes de Freser to catch the Cremellera rank-and-pinion train up to the snow at Vall de Nuria - the only transportation link into the resort. Using the train means we don't have the risk of needing to drive in snow but can park at Ribes de Freser and let the train do the work through a spectacular climb up to Vall de Nuria. Our journey time to Ribes de Freser was about two hours with another 30 minutes for the train ride.

Ribes de Freser path by stream with snow Vall de Nuria is not large - there are approximately 6-7km of pistes, around one third of which are blue runs but for beginners or those just wanting a taste of the snow it provides a startling contrast to a a day on the beach.

The train leaves from Ribes de Freser, a small Catalan mountain town on the road to Puigcerda. The stone of the buildings is more muted than the golden hues closer to the close giving the town a sense of rough hewn grit. Ribes actually has two stations for the Cremallera train - one on the outskirts that connects with trains from Barcelona, and a more central Estacio de la Vila in the heart of the town. We parked close to the tourist office which is near the first of the stations and then walked to the central station stretching our legs from the journey and revelling in the sugaring of snow.

Ribes de Freser snowy view from Cremallera Train However, this little walk meant we missed the first train we could have caught so we had to wait for 40 minutes or so in the station as trains leave about every hour. If you want to minimise your travel time, keeping an eye on the train times will help with journey.

The delay did mean we could properly find out what the options were for going up. From the station you can buy the Cremallera ticket which gives you the train ride and access to the main buildings at the top, or for a little bit more buy a Forfait or Skipass for all the lifts if you want to go skiing or snowboarding. Ski and Snowboard hire is done separately when you get to the top. An alternative for small children might be to get the ticket that includes the Parc Ludic - a snow park with slides and rubber ring sledges for younger children.

We were travelling with a dog and weren't sure what the reaction was. We had read it was possible to take dogs and when we got there it was pretty obvious this is quite normal. The formal rules say dogs should be muzzled. Our dog is very passive and though we took a muzzle with us, we didn't have to use it. Bigger or more noisy or aggressive dogs might be different.

Vall de Nuria getting off Cremallera Train The journey up takes about 30 minutes of steady climb - it's not express type of speeds, but there is a good amount of climb and spectacular scenery on the way with a small viaduct, cliffs, cuts through the rocks, gorges and dramatic mountain scenery. For us the train journey was worth the trip.

We arrived at the train station at the top which is right next to the large almost barracks type building that acts as the centre for all the activities. The day we were visiting it was cold - around -7C and snowing, but with a gusting wind that created white-out snow flurries from time to time. So not the best day for photographs, but lots of fresh powder snow for skiing.

The first thing was to get kitted out. There is a big and very efficient rental hall which means hiring skis, boards, boots and helmets was fast and painless. The only slight look-out is that you will need a passport or identity card for identification when making the hire. I'd left mine in the car at the bottom, so it was a good thing my better half had hers.

Vall de Nuria main building with skilifts behind For ski-ing there is a telecabin lift and a chair lift to the higher parts, and around the lower parts a small button lift. For beginners, the skiing starts from an almost flat green slope. For other skiers there are a number of blue runs, 2-3 red runs and one black run. Not really so much for more experienced skiers but possibly enough for the occasional one-a-year day out.

So while our children went off for skiing we explored the lower area. The main building actually works very well if you're not skiing. There is a small cafe, a shop, a large restaurant and, very welcome for us given we had a dog with us, a large room for 'picnics' - basically somewhere warm to hang out without feeling that you have to buy something. The rest of the building is partly hotel, partly church and sanctuary (Vall de Nuria has a history as a place of religious devotion), and partly museum. While not particularly exciting, the museum is interesting and helps set the scene for the history and ecology of the valley.

Around the main building children were messing about on sledges. Unlike Switzerland or bigger ski resorts where there are often long specialist sledging tracks for free for those who don't want to ski, the areas for sledging were relatively small and really just for smaller children.

Vall de Nuria view to the snow covered lake The day of visiting, the snow was deep making walking difficult and it was bitterly cold and we didn't really want to get too far from the shelter of the main building. For summer walking there are routes down the valley all the way back to Ribes de Freser (marked as being 5h50) - the traditional pilgrims route.

The end of the day for us came a little earlier than planned, partly because of the cold. Obviously for day trips you can try to pick and choose the day for visiting to both have snow and good weather. The train was efficient and ran on time and we worked out that from the time the train left at the top to getting home was about two and an half hours. Not bad for a little bit of winter wonderland.

White water rafting in Quillan (France) - Andorra La Vella - Mollo (Camprodon) - Pyrenees to France - Visit to Setcases - Villefranche-de-Conflent and Mont-Louis (France) - Olot - capital of Garrotxa - Puigcerda and Bourg-Madame

Sant Grau and Cadiretes near Tossa de Mar
20 Jan 2015

Sant Grau Cadiretes view towards Girona Tossa de Mar is one of the most famous towns on the Costa Brava because of its walled village next to the sea and beautiful bays. However, it has a relatively isolated location as it and Sant Feliu de Guixols are separated by a very windy road along the coast and the hills of the Massis de les Cadiretes. For walkers, the GR92 coastal path between the towns goes inland over the hills, while the coastal route up and down a number of cliffy calas is all road with no natural walking route. However, the road is extremely popular with cyclists (amateurs and professionals) as it's extremely scenic and too slow and bendy to be a main route for cars.

The Cadiretes hills therefore form a relatively isolated and empty wilderness between Tossa and Sant Feliu with remains of chapels and fortifications and a few scattered houses but not much else. This is a walk on the GR92 from just about Sant Grau - marked as the castle at Montagut (though we somehow missed the castle). The first part of the walk has views inland towards Llagostera and Girona, and comes back to Sant Grau on the sea-view side. It's a fairly typical wooded walk with some interesting rock formations and some views because of the height, but would otherwise be relatively unremarkable except for the rave party we walked past.

Cadiretes Rock Formation We arrive by car from Llagostera on the road to Sant Grau winding into the hills with a valley to our right. The area marked as the castle for Montagut has a track with a wide-ish entrance and space to park, so we stopped at the track. We were however surprised at the number of cars around. Initially we thought it was for hunting, as we'd just passed a collection of hunters with what looked like four or five boar further down the hillside.

We start to walk along the broad gravel track and pass yet more cars and it becomes clear from the number of young people milling around and the slightly odd looks that we get that there we're passing some form of music gathering in one of the abandoned farmhouses. No doubt this was a one off, but it feels a little strange and incongruous for a Sunday afternoon stroll in the middle of nowhere and as we pass the last of the cars the music starts we find ourselves walking to the accompanyment of a bass-and-drum beat.

The track runs along the side of the hill with small mounds of rocks 10-20m high in places and from the top of the rocks, the view is spectacular out across towards Girona and Lagostera. The path is a fairly standard wooded path though without much in the way of other highlights.

As we get towards our turning point (where the GR92 meets a local yellow-white sender), we can see the remains of a chapel just around the next bend in the hill looking back at us. However, we reach the junction first and so don't explore further, instead turning back towards the right across a small col and walking on the other side of the hill. From this side we now have views to the sea and across to some of the more isolated housing estates that dot the route between Tossa and Sant Feliu.

Sant Grau village house The walk is then a steady path that curls beside more strange rock formations before we get the sight of the church of Sant Grau above us. We curl around the hillside and across a small stream before what is a relatively sharp incline upto the village of Sant Grau.

The village itself consists of the church with attached house, presumably as part of a monestary at one point and a scattering of old masias and a few isolated villas in the woods with views out towards the sea, quite a long way down below. The area looks like it was once ear-marked as a tourist development as there is an abandoned swimming pool overlooking the valley and a few unconnected roads abandoned before construction started.

We take the road back. The map marks a couple of points just off the road, but we just head back. The road is quiet with no traffic. Towards the top we reach the connection to the GR92 once more and follow the path towards the telecom masts at the top of the hill expecting to find the castle of Montagut, but we miss it again.

Back at the car we then take the hairpinned road down to the coast to get back via Sant Feliu de Guixols half giddy from the curves. In general, the walk was OK without being spectacular and lacked a little in terms of points of interest for the driving involved.

See also: Tossa de Mar north to Cala Pola - Sant Feliu de Guixols Pedralta - Solius, rocks for climbing and ruined castle - Llagostera to Sant Llorenç - Swimming and beaches of Tossa de Mar

Walking route Sant Grau and Cadiretes between Tossa de Mar and Sant Feilu de Guixols

Fontclara and Fontanilles and Pals rice paddies
20 Jan 2015

Fontclara Church The area between Pals and Torroella de Montgri is a flat area full of fields for growing rice as it was once the site of an ancient lake or sea marsh fed by the waters of the river Ter. The neighbouring villages of Fontclara and Fontanilles fringe these paddy-fields until they turn into  fruit-growing areas close to Fontanilles. As you pass through this area over the course of a year, you'll see the paddy fields flooded, planted, rice growing and then being harvested.

Fontclara view to Pals Flatness generally for me, doesn't make a good walk as it lacks variation, but this is an area we hadn't explored and there is an old rice mill (Moli d'Arros in the middle of the paddy fields). What was more of a surprise was the number of birds we saw. Being January with water still in the fields, they are like a wetlands for birds and we were lucky enough to see a stork, lots of herons, plovers and a number of birds of prey. The downside that we discovered was that the route from the mill to Fontanilles was exclusively on the road. We may have missed a turn, but other tracks into the fruit espaliers were marked as private.

Fontclara walk view to Can Boch We start in Fontclara, a small but well-to-do hamlet close to Palau-sator and from here we take the path across the fields in the direction of Pals - actually part of the GR92. The path is raised from the level of the fields and each field is bounded by a low mud bankl. When the time comes, farmers flood the fields using the many pumps that can be seen around the field edges. At this time of year (January), the ground is muddy and natural rain water sits in the bottom of the fields. The presence of water and, we suspect, frogs and snails in the water means we can see a heron in just about every field that we pass. On the drive in we were even lucky enough to see a stork. And between the heron fields there are plovers and smaller birds sometimes being monitored by a larger bird of prey.

Fontclara Pals Moli dArros view to Montgri The walk is naturally flat, though being lower than the surrounding countryside we have views up to Pals, standing almost as an island over the fields, and to Quermany and Begur with a sweeping vista towards the hills and then more distant Pyrenees mountains in the background.

The first place of interest is Can Bach, just across the road that connects to Peratallada. This is an enormous square masia, part of which has been converted into a restaurant. The main part of the building still needs renavation work, but the restaurant is open and busy by the number of cars. One concern that visitors have coming to the Costa Brava out of season, is that places will be closed up. While this is true closer to the coast, inland there is a great vitality all year round with many places open and catering to local and more widespread Catalan visitors.

Fontanilles Many of the year round restaurants are therefore off the coast - often in older masia buildings a little way from a village. There a large number in the area of Pals, Palau-sator and Peratallada area with a particular focus on Catalan cooking.

Fontclara stormy sky at sunset From Can Bach we continue towards Pals up to a signpost where we turn left (marked towards Les Basses d'en Coll - a small wetlands area by the beach). To our right we have Pals standing above us like a castle and the villas of Masos de Pals gleaming in the afternoon sun. The path runs just along the main road, and then crosses to get to the Moli d'Arros. The Moli is closed, but is where Arros de Pals is collected and packaged from the rice fields around. As a rice growing area, Pals is relatively small and select, particularly compared to the Delta d'Ebre, the other source of Catalan rice - but is available in local shops and supermarkets.

Montgri hills reflected on the rice fields From the Moli, we continue on the east side of the Torroella road looking out to the small airfield, before crossing the road again and heading towards Fontanilles. Our route back to Fontclara is all road passing next to the espalier orchards that bear the other produce of this area - apples and fruit. The road is relatively newly built and quiet wide, but actually very quite in terms of traffic. As we're walking we can watch a storm crossing over Montgri bringing rain and lightning to L'Estartit in the distance and thunder echoing over the plain. We're still in the last sun of the day which lights the fruit-trees against the dark black of the distant storm.

See also: Masos de Pals, Begur, Sa Riera and Platja de Pals - Palau-sator and Peratallada - Regencos to Pals via Quermany Gros and PetitEvening walk Pals to Sant Feliu de BoadaPals beach to Gola de Ter - Gualta, Llabia, Fontanilles and the lake of Ullastret

Walking route Fontclara to Fontanilles

Cruilles and masias and streams
12 Jan 2015

Cruilles view to village Cruilles is an ancient village just to the west of La Bisbal d'Emporda both of which are important in Emporda's medieval history as locations of lords and bishops, and as such there is a timeless beauty to what the rural countryside in this area stretching across ancient meadows and into the slopes of the Gavarres Hills.

The route we're taking consists of two yellow-white senderisme paths which follow river valleys and which are connected with a route over the top of the hill that separates them. The route is broad and well maintained with markings are clear and easy to follow with signposting at crucial junctions, so it's actually easier to walk than describe. It is marked in yellow on the Emporda Costa Brava maps, but difficult to work out from Google maps.

Sant Marti de Cruilles Church We're walking in January which is currently very warm - 14-15C, but there is still water in the streams and the paths are lightly muddy rather than the dry summer sand and dust. We had to cross a lot of streams and fords which was fun, but many of the streams would probably be dried out in summer.

We park just outside the centre of Cruilles just off the road to La Bisbal d'Emporda. We've included a visit to Cruilles in a previous walk for a fuller description of the town and its famous tower, but this time we were more interested in heading out into the countryside.

Cruilles stream by the mill The initial part of the walk is on a quiet road and splits just in front of a masia farmhouse. We take the right fork and continue along the road and through the fields and meadows towards the next old farmhouses. These masias are large buildings with thick walls and small windows sitting under long sloping roof. Close to the sea the buildings have towers added on that would have been used to watch for pirates, but here tucked away towards the hills they are just large practical buildings built three or more centuries ago to work the surrounding land. Many have now been updated and renovated into luxury houses with large gardens and pools, but it is also still possible to find masias in a more original state.

The path we're taking is marked yellow-white and is clearly marked. At prominent junctions there are also signposts, so it's easy to follow the route as it crosses a couple of more junctions. Behind us we can see Cruilles and it's tower and church, and next door the older more isolated church of Sant Miquel de Cruilles. At this stage we're still in fields, but we can see woods ahead of us as we move towards the slopes of the Gavarres and see the domed tower of Puig d'Arques almost straight ahead.

Cruilles view with Montgri behind The path runs past another masia and converts into a gravel track then a little further on branches to the right and climbs a thinner walking path until we are above the top of an old mill and millstream giving views into the Gavarres valleys and back to Cruilles. Coming down the track we pass the outer wall of the mill - almost like a ha-ha (a wall with a ditch on one side) and what looks like a traditional charcoaling oven.

At the end of the wall we find the stream that feeds the mill - a glistening early stream that forms the River Daro as it passes past La Bisbal downstream. We don't have to cross this time and can just admire the location - but there is water in the stream in January and to get across we have to tiptoe over the rocks in the stream.

Cruilles view to Sant Sadurni This is now just the first time we'll see water. As we go on, the path runs into the woods continually cutting across the stream line. Mostly the track goes through the water of the brook, and in drier periods it is most probable that there would be no water to worry about. We have the fun of creating stepping stones with great splashes that delight our dog.

One of the oddities of a warm January afternoon in the woods is that in the sun we have proper warmth, but in the shadow and shadier parts there is a frisson of chill. Close to the stream at one point we even found frost on the ground and a mystical mist rising from the water into the still cold air.

After about 3-4 crossings, the path turns upwards and into the hills giving views of a more isolated masia hidden in the woods. The path runs up to the top of the hill and about half way up we pass what seems to a very large and very old oak.

The top of the hill gives further views and we can see to Sant Sadurni, the neighbouring village to Cruilles and more hidden masias in the valley.

Across the top of the hill, we look out for the crossing points as we want to change paths. The first crossing point is just by the fence to another grand masia and on a good drivable track. This road then takes us down the hill a little to the next crossing to the left, where the sign has fallen down, but would point back towards La Bisbal.

The return through the woods is a pleasant stroll along the bottom of the valley but lacks the fun of crossing the stream that we had in the other valley. Eventually the path emerges back into the fields and now pig farms before tracking to a large walkers bridge over the Daro. The bridge looks much too big for the amount of water, but we know that in heavy rains, many of the rivers quickly become swollen which is probably why the bridge needs to be so high and long.

We divert along the side of the river through the woods instead of going straight back to Cruilles - we can see a river crossing on the map. However, when we get there, there's another minor problem - the river is up and the crossing we can see is a ford. Luckily we find another few bricks in the shallower water and can cross without getting feet wet and have an easy walk back to the car.

See also: Cruilles, Monells and Sant Sadurni de l'Heura - Monells and Mont-negreCorça, Casavells, Matajudaica - La Bisbal, Vulpellac, Castell d'Emporda, Fonteta - St Pol de Bisbal and Santa Lucia - Madremanya, Els Angels, Sant Marti Vell

Wlaking route Cruilles past masias across streams and into the Gavarres

Centre Cani de Pals dog kennels
06 Jan 2015

This Christmas we headed off to snowier climes to meet up with relatives, but this meant that we needed to leave Zina our dog here as we were flying. She's not a special pedigree or anything sophisticated - in fact we got her from the Rodamon dogs rescue centre just outside Palafrugell when we moved here (they're always looking for dog walkers). However, perhaps because she was in dogs home, she's quite timid around other dogs and our one other experience of leaving her at a dog kennel (Elena's near Regencos) in summer wasn't very positive. So it was with some trepidation that we booked her into the Centre Cani de Pals over the winter break.

However, this time the experience was much much happier. The Centre Cani de Pals is both a kennels and dog training centre with a strong sense of care and affection for the animals. The dogs were segregated into smaller areas with a handful of dogs of similar size in each pound so smaller sized dogs weren't dominated by too many bigger dogs and there were internal spaces and housing so the dogs could find their own spaces. We were allowed to leave Zina at the centre to acclimatise for an hour or so a few days prior to the trip, which settled our nerves and meant it wasn't so strange for Zina. It also meant we could see how well the staff treated the dogs and their care and attention. And while dogs are never keen on going to kennels, when we got back at the end of the trip Zina was being sociable with the other dogs in her area and looked very fit and healthy with no signs of problems or trauma. Definitely a dogs kennels to be recommended.

09 Dec 2014

Port de Llanca Llança is in the northern part of the Costa Brava between Cap de Creus and France. It is on the train line from Figueres to Cerbere and so easily accessible by public transport. Until recently this was the only trainline out from Spain to  France on the Mediterranean side but from Llança north it is a slow and steady journey along the coast. There is also a road that follows the coast, weaving and bending with the rugged coastline by hills of low scrub and olive groves - again not a journey if you want to travel quickly.

Llanca view to the north Llança, like it's neighbour Port de La Selva, has the feeling of a harsher landscape than the gentler fields and welcoming calas further south - there is an air of untamed wildness in the scrub-covered hills and the rough rocks that jut at angles leaving sharp edges. The sand is dark grey, soft in places, but pebbly in others. This wildness which was increased for us by the strong wind and white horses on the sea and the fill of driftwood from the recent storms that scattered across the beaches.

Llanca bays to Les Tonyines We're a little behind on our walks over the last month. The early part of November was unseasonably hot, with people sunbathing and swimming in the sea in the first week of November. And then rain and fog came (including floods in Figueres) which, combined with being a taxi service for some very active children, meant that we've been walking closer to home and revisiting walks we've already added.

Llanca view to Port de la Selva This weekend though, blue sky is back and the autumn temperatures have returned to something normal for the time of year (more 14-17C) and for the first time this autumn we have our mountains back - the crystal clear views to the Pyrenees that we get once the dusty haze of the summer blows away. There's snow too. Canigou's white top can be seen from the Palafrugell to La Bisbal road again.

So we're up to visit Llança. The town is slightly separate from the port, so we park near the Port in a strong Traumuntana wind which is whipping up the sea. From the car park we walk to the sea itself for some bracing sea air, then follow the promenade past the modern houses which faces the nest of buildings of Port de Llança and the small marina in front of us. Behind us, the hills climb to the back of the housing estate and along the coast we get views of the windswept headlands towards France. And out at sea there are some hardy souls on jetskis using the rough conditions for jumping.

Llanca tower in the town A bridge crosses a small river into the bay of the port, which has a crescent shaped sandy beach in the dark sand typical of this area. Ahead of us is a small hill (the Castellar) with a number of people out for a breezy sunday afternoon stroll. We walk up the hill and get views up the coast to Port de la Selva. The village of the Port is separate from the main town of Llança and consists of a small nucleas of houses, bars, restaurants and shops that climb up on the headland.

There is a marked coastal path (green-red), however from the port side closest to the sea, the route has been blocked, so we have to navigate through the streets up the hill of the headland. At the top we find the path continues above the cliffs with pre-prepared steps, but the wind is sufficiently strong that we actually stick to the estate roads among the houses and villas until we reach a lower point (it's not particularly high, but the wind was quite fierce).

After curling through the streets we navigate back towards the sea and reconnect with the coastal path, following it around the rocky headlands. The stones and rocks in this area are quite dark and jagged with sharp corners so we stick to the path. It follows around a number of small bays with beaches of grey sand in places, pebbles in others.

The storms have brought driftwood in to the bays and they are littered with trees and branches washed clean by the sea, lying among seaweed that lends a nautical smell like an English beach. The path is undergoing some recontruction, but we walk round with no problem coming to Platja les Tonyines before turning back to the town above Cala de la Loup.

We walk the straightest route to town along a relatively plain street, heading directly for the church. The inner part of Llança has a core of small streets, in amongst shops and a commercial district. The church is quite grand and stands next to an old Romanic tower in a placa in the centre of the town.

We're suffering from wind noise and so don't explore too much, but instead head back to the port.

Neighbouring walks: Port de la Selva - Espolla to Rabos - Cadaques and Port Lligat - Sant Pere de Rodes - Figueres and Castell de Sant Ferran - Cadaques to Roses - Peralada - La Jonquera to Fort de Bellegarde (France) - Collioure (France) - Portbou to Cerbère (France) and back

Walking route for Llanca and Port de Llanca

Andorra La Vella
28 Oct 2014

Andorra la Vella autumn view to the mountains Andorra is one of Europe's smallest countries, located in the high Pyrenees between Spain and France and known for cheap skiing and duty free shopping. From Barcelona, Andorra can be reached in about 2-3 hours, but it's a little further from the Costa Brava as the most direct route along the foothills of the Pyrenees is relatively slow and windy.

Andorra has a certain novelty value because of its size and there is a steady stream of traffic that passes through just to see what it is like - from both France and from Spain. We've driven through about three or four times, but not really stopped - so it can seem like just one road with few shopping centres at one end and a few ski resorts at the other. However, the last weekend my son had a handball match against an Andorran team with a bus to take us, so we took the chance to explore a little more.

Andorra main shopping street The journey up to Andorra from the Costa Brava is relatively long as the best route goes via Vic, then connects with the main road from Barcelona to Berga, the Tunnel of Cadi to La Seu d'Urgell. Our journey by bus took four and a half hours including a brief stop at a service station outside Vic. The landscape on the journey is quite varied. The plain of Vic up to Berga is quite a harsh dry type of terrain, then from Berga north it becomes more vertical and mountainous past the spectacular lake at Cercs before going through the Tunel de Cadi (this has a relatively expensive toll). On the other side of the Sierra de Cadi the landscape is transformed to soft fields and pasture to La Seu d'Urgell before  climbing up to the frontier.

As we arrived, it was a great surprise to run into traffic jams on the road up to the border. Partly this were some spot checks by the local police, but there was also quite a lot of traffic. Andorra, being a duty free zone, attracts many visitors and shoppers who travel up from Barcelona. The bus dropped us in the centre of Andorra la Vella so that we had a couple of hours to explore before the match.

Andora la Vella river to the mountains Andorra la Vella is the capital city of Andorra and has become wealthy as a tax haven for Spain and as a location for tax-free shopping. Most of the city is therefore modern and commercial with many private banks, jewelry and electronics stores, fashions and of course, tobacco and spirits outlets. The city sits in quite a vertical narrow valley with mountains all around and though there were some lovely autumnal colours on the mountain-sides, the setting is not particularly picturesque.

There is a river and older parts of the city that can seem a little lost among all the new buildings and villas clinging to the sides of the hills. The northern part of the city is Les Escaldes with an ancient bridge and a handful of older buildings by the river. Then following the river downstream you pass a large glass and steel centre before coming back into the main commercial axis.

The commercial areas of the city are mostly pedestrianised with a number of large malls and shopping centres. If you are shopping, it's important to realise that this is a genuine old-school duty-free area. That is there are restrictions on how much you can take back out into Spain (or France) and customs and police regularly do spot-checks as you cross the border.

Andorra la Vella historic quarter The heart of the old part of the city is further towards the frontier above the river area with a small church, a small castle and a handful of older buildings. Almost like a Catalan village surrounded by modern apartment blocks and buildings. This is also the only country (currently) where Catalan is the national language and you do see signs in Catalan around the town. There is also a strong French influence and because of the skiing, a number of English bars around town which gives Andorra more of an international feel.

Our overall impression is that there's a novelty in visiting once but that, unless you're into skiing, with the long journey it's not a place we're drawn back to.

Also in France close to the Costa Brava

White water rafting in Quillan (France) - Collioure (France) - Villefranche-de-Conflent and Mont-Louis (France)  - Perpignan - Elne (France) - Ceret (France)

For the mountains

Ribes de Freser and skiing at Vall de Nuria - Mollo (Camprodon) - Pyrenees to France - Visit to Setcases - Puigcerda and Bourg-Madame

See also: Figueres and Castell de Sant Ferran - Girona - Festa Major of Sant Narcis - Perpignan

Santa Coloma de Farners
20 Oct 2014

Santa Coloma de Farners placa Santa Coloma de Farners statue Autumn's beckoning and as has become an annual habit we head to Montseny - this year to Santa Coloma de Farners just to the South West of Girona. It's a town we've visited several times mainly for the walk in the hills to the Ermitage that looks over the town and the wonderful autumnal park of Sant Salvador - a glorious crunchy leaves and dappled sunlight type of park that runs along the river.

This year October is proving to be surprisingly warm - 26C or 27C. At the coast people are still swimming, let alone sunbathing. Inland at Santa Coloma the temperatures are also warm so rather than walk to the Ermitage we take a shorter route around the unusual rock formations of Roques Alls.

Santa Coloma de Farners river in the park Santa Coloma de Farners Park of Sant Salvador We park in the centre of the town and for the first twenty minutes or take a short walk through the town streets which, being Sunday, are pretty much empty of people. The main placa for Santa Coloma is just the other side of the church and has been decked out with Catalan flags. We're between the Diada (11th September) and its massive demonstration for Catalan independence and the impending date of the Vote for the Consulta which will ask Catalan people whether they want to be independent or to have more autonomy within Spain.

From the Placa we walk up to the Carrer Dalt (upper street) just above the town with views across to the hills and Montseny in the direction we'll be walking. The street isn't too long and we soon come back into town and then find a path past allotments to the main park of Sant Salvador, crossing the river by a small footbridge.

Santa Coloma de Farners Roques d The park is a highlight of Santa Coloma, tall trees planted in formation rise above a flat grass area next to a wide, but shallow river. The autumn light piercing the leaves leaving pools of illumination in among the shaded paths. The paths are patterned with leaves that crunch under foot, while it's still warm enough for children to be splashing in the river shallows.

The park is quite large, running along the river for about 1000m and includes a playground and a natural water spring that people visit to fill up water bottles making it a great place for a picnic or to bring younger children.

Santa Coloma de Farners rocks part 1 We head up though, taking a path on the far side of the park from the weir/waterfall. There are a number of routes into the hills and our path quickly narrows, following what would be a torrent (a steep dry stream bed that channels water when it rains). It's not too far and we emerge at the base on large bare rocks and boulders. There are views from here across Santa Coloma and out towards the plain of Girona.

We continue to head into the hills and then follow the signpost for Roques Alls - more rocks, some which look like they're balancing precariously above our heads. The path is a bit of a scramble between the boulders into a narrow gully, then up and out the other side emerging at another view point.

Our walking path then connects with a dusty gravel road track and we start to head down, but rather than keep to the road, we take a different path to the right and curl our way back down the hill to the park and back through the town to the car.

Nearby: Hostalric stroll - Lake at Sils - Castell de Montsoriu - Brunyola - Arbucies autumn walk - Visit to Roda de Ter and Espinelves - Caldes de Malavella - Volca de la Crosa - Sant Dalmai (Girona Airport)

Walking route Santa Coloma de Farners

Banyoles lakeside walk
14 Oct 2014

Banyols - lake view towards town The Lake of Banyoles is the largest inland freshwater lake in Catalonia and is situated about a hour from the Costa Brava. The lake and town are surrounded by wooded hills and make for a perfect Autumn stroll in amongst the golden leaves as the trees turn colour.

We park by the main sports centre where a festival or function is taking place, then walk across the paths through the sunken meadows to the side of the lake. The lake is about 5-6km around the outside so an easy flat stroll, but a large enough lake to really enjoy the water and views.

Banyoles autumn trees The lake itself has a number of boathouses that jut out into the water in fanciful shapes like castles above the water. We walk away from the town to start with towards the more natural end of the lake. This takes us past the reconstruction of a neolithic village that has been created to show how Banyoles' history goes back in time with exhibits of wattle and daub houses raised on stilts to protect them from flooding.

Banyoles Neolithic Village Our path continues around the lakeside into the woods which gleam in green with the light coming through the trees. We have our dog and given we're in natural woods its disappointing that she can't come off the lead, but that's also a challenge with a popular walk for families. The woods are full of ferns and water channels feeding into and out of the lake. And then we emerge at the other side by a sea of reeds and a modern wood design observation tower that's open for visitors. The extra height doesn't change the view too much but we can see the tourist boat on the lake taking tourists for short trips on the lake (€7 per person).

Banyoles - observation point over lake Banyoles Poqueres chapel Our path continues past the top of the lake and past the first of two bathing areas we would pass. This one is natural and open, but swimming is only allowed on the lake in July, August and the first parts of Septmber. We cross over a number of small streams that either feed or take water from the lake. The meadows are full of a white daisy-like flower that grows almost on vines.

We turn down the other side walking back in woods but with the sun in front of us. The occasional side path runs to a jetty or the waters edge. After a brief while the path emerges by the side of a a road and continues along the roadside (separated and a proper path) until we pass the chapel at Porqueres. For this part of the walk we can see the water through the trees, while on the other side of the road are freshly ploughed fields with a rich deep brown soil that seems to extend up to the hills in the distance.

Banyoles boat houses on the lake At Porqueres we get to the small church of Santa Maria and back into a more developed part of the lake with a campsite (still operating in October) and meadows that run to the side of the lake under a boulevard of plain trees. Along the edge of the lake we can see more of the boat houses and as we walk the area slowly becomes more commerical with sports stadium and bars and restaurants, and also more people walking and enjoying the sun. This is also where visitors can take a rowing boat or catch the boat trip on the lake.

Banyoles bar-restaurants over the lake If you want to stop and take a drink or something to eat there is a small bar or restaurant built out over the water. The path continues along past the boat houses until we reach the large installations of the Club Natacion de Banyoles - a swimming and sports club and also the location of the second lido on the beach, but this time more private. The sports club is large with boats, an indoor pool and tennis courts and has to be negotiated around the back.

Then it's back along by the sunken meadows - presumably sunked to act as flood controls, and back to the main sports pavillion. We never did know what the event was.

Nearby:  Sadernes and river pools of St Aniol d'Aguja - Sant Esteve d'En Bas (Olot) - Serinya and Illa del Fluvia - Olot - capital of Garrotxa - Palol de Revardit to La Mota - Bascara - horses, fords and lost - Esponella and River Fluvia - Bescano, River Ter and free-style kayaking - Visit to Besalu and Banyoles

Swimming at the lake: Swimming at Lake Banyoles

Walking route Lake of Banyoles

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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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