Sunday, 7 February 2016

Hiking in Costa Brava

Barcelona is visited by millions of tourists every year, yet most of them never think to venture outside of the city. What a mistake! There are dozens of interesting places in Catalonia, from enchanting medieval towns to marvellous beaches. A stretch of the coast that is really worth exploring goes from Blanes, to the north-east of Barcelona, to the French border. It is called Costa Brava, which means "rugged coast". 
The rugged coast of Costa Brava
Pretty much all of Costa Brava is lined by Caminos de Ronda, coastal footpaths used in the past by the Guardia Civil to control the coast and stop smuggling, and now offering excellent hiking possibilities. They are dotted with calas, small charming coves, surrounded by pine groves and wild flowers. There is no shortage of secluded beaches, fishermen's retreats and water grottos, making the hike very interesting and varied.

A cove near Palamos
One day last summer, I took a bus from Barcelona to Palamós (17€, 2 hours), and I began to explore the coast to the north of this point. I found the small town of Palamós a bit underwhelming, apart from the church of Santa Maria, with its nice façade. The real beauty starts of course when you start following the footpath along the coast. The water is very clear, the landscape keeps changing because of the many small bays and cliffs encountered. Some of the beaches are crowded, for example the famous La Fosca, not far from Palamós, but others, especially the hardest to reach, are not.

The beauty of Costa Brava

One of the most charming coves I have encountered is called Cala S'Aguer, and it's dotted with colourful fishermen's houses and boats. In another country this cove would have been taken by souvenir shops and restaurants. Here, instead, I could still see bits and pieces of quiet life: an old man painting, a woman cleaning the fish for the dinner, and so on.

Cala S'Alguer
Another image of this cove

Around Cap Roig I lost my path, and it took me a while to get back to it. Here, I discovered, there is a famous music festival with international artists, and a botanic garden. There is no lack of culture in this area of Spain: one of the towns of Costa Brava, Cadaqués, was chosen by Dali, Picasso and other artists as a summer home.

Near Cap Roig

It took me about 3-3,5 hours to reach my final destination, Calella de Palafrugell, including a stop for luch in one of the few small restaurants along the path. Unfortunately I did not stay long in Calella, because the clouds that had started to gather towards the end of my hike finally decided to give in to a good downpour.

Peace and quiet in Costa Brava
Next summer I hope to pick up from where I left and explore a little bit more of this beautiful area.
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