[Advertising: Cooperation] Catalonia is the most popular vacation region in Spain. In the northeast on the border with France, most tourists are interested in one thing: visiting the second largest city in Spain and the Catalan capital Barcelona. While Barcelona and the island of Mallorca are bursting at the seams as tourist meccas, the hinterland and the Costa Brava or Costa Daurada remain comparatively quiet.
To see and to do there would be enough also outside of Barcelona, above all the province Girona has to offer a lot. One of the few regions in the world where the mountains and the sea are close to each other. The foothills of the up to 3.The 400m high and 430km long Pyrenees mountain range and the warm Mediterranean Sea are only 50km apart! A dream for all people who can not decide between mountains and sea!
My visit of Catalonia resp. of the province of Girona took place in the course of a press trip to which I was invited by the Catalan Tourist Board. Sustainable tourism and camping in Catalonia was the focus of the trip. For the disclosure you can scroll down. What we did or. what else there would be to do, I have now summarized. Disfruta!/Enjoy!/A lot of fun!
1. ADMIRE WORKS OF ART BY SALVADOR DALI
“When the Tramuntana wind blows over the coast, it bathes the sky in such deep blue that you think you must go crazy or create works of art that transcend the limits of the real.”
This is what the Catalan Tourist Board writes in connection with the wines and the EmpordA region, where Salvador Dalì was born, lived most of his life and also died. In the DalI Triangle you can admire the most famous works of art and the most important residences of the extraordinary artist and the main representative of surrealism.
- the DalI Theater Museum in Figueres: it contains the largest collection of DalI’s works from all his creative periods. In the center of the building DalI was buried in 1989.
- the Salvador DalI house in Portlligat: it was his main residence until 1982 and became a museum.
- the Gala DalI Castle in Púbol: Salvador DalI bought the castle in 1969 as a retreat for his wife and muse Gala DalI, which he designed for her. When Gala died in 1982, DalI moved into the castle and used it as a studio.
2. TASTE REGIONAL WINES& LUNCH AMONG THE VINEYARDS: LA VINYETA WINERY
The Tramuntana wind, which comes from “beyond the mountains,” not only bathes the landscape in spectacular shades of blue, but also shapes the character of the local wine (cf. Catalan Tourist Board). The cool wind that comes from the north can be stormy in spring and autumn. With the strong sunshine, wind and humidity of the sea, all of Catalonia produces splendid and famous wines and … Olives! Catalonia is Spain’s second largest wine region and second largest olive oil producer – protected designations of origin for both included (D.O. – Denominacion de origen at the wine& DOP – Denominacio d’Origen Protegida for olive oil)!
Instead of large-scale production, the trend in Catalonia – thanks to a new generation of young winemakers – is towards sustainable bodegas that are discovering old traditions, d.h. small wineries, to.
The small winery La Vinyeta in Mollet de Paralada in the Alt EmpordA region in the province of Girona, for example, was acquired and revived only in 2002 by the lateral entrants Josep Serra and Marta Pedra. Two vineyards planted with 50- to 70-year-old Carinena and Grenache vines were joined by additional acreage, new grape varieties, a new winery in 2006, and the rediscovery of a forgotten olive grove with the native olive variety Argudell.
They learned the knowledge of wine growing from the original owner of the winery, with whom they agreed on a “wine apprenticeship” as a condition of purchase. Following an “integrated agricultural concept”, they try to produce in a way that conserves resources as much as possible and to use natural regulation mechanisms (e.g. bat nesting boxes for protection against insect infestation) to use. In addition to the wines as the main product, the repertoire includes eggs from free-range chickens, olive oil of the Argudell variety and soon cheese and honey from our own production.
The winery can be visited through guided tours, offers wine tastings and regional meals among the vineyards. I can especially recommend the micro wines!
3. CYCLING THROUGH THE PARC NATURAL DE L’ALBERA
Fortified with lunch at La Vinyeta winery, we went with Ciclo Turisme and the boss Eduard Kirchner with electric bikes through the Parc Natural de l’Albera (Paratge Natural d’Interès Nacional de l’Albera). The nature park is located in the northeastern part of the administrative unit of Alt EmpordA in the province of Girona, bordering the southern side of Serra l’Albera. This mountain range is again the easternmost spur of the Pyrenees and reaches to the sea.
While one part of the protected area Requesens-Baussitges is characterized by a varied vegetation from bushes to forests, the other part Sant Quirze de Colera – Balmeta is Mediterranean with more sporadic vegetation. The Greek land tortoise and the Albera cattle are endangered species living here. What is special about the latter area is: it has the highest density of megalithic monuments (dolmens and menhirs) in all Catalonia.
We comfortably cycled about 15 km with the electric bikes through the village of Sant Climent Sescebes with a short stop at the bar La Societat (tip: go for a drink)!), continue to the famous and largest dolmen of the area, the Dolmen de La Carbana Arqueta, to Espolla to the cooperative “Celler Cooperatiu d’Espolla”, existing since 1931, where guided tours are offered and finally through Mollet de Peralada.
Ciclo Turisme with its main base in Girona offers short sightseeing tours as well as tours of several days with touring bikes, racing bikes or mountain bikes. Of course it is also possible to simply borrow a bike for independent tours to e.g. to explore the province of Girona in parts or as a circular route on the 125 km long Viesverde bike path network. Special Bed& Bike offers along the way like e.g. at the campsite SalatA.
4. KITE& LEARN WINDSURFING IN THE BAY OF ROSES
On the Costa Brava, the so-called “wild coast” the wind blows – sometimes more and sometimes less. The notorious Tramuntana, which can be very stormy from autumn to spring, blows from the north, the Llevant from the east, the Migjorn from the south and the Ponent from the west. The good thermals, especially in the summer months, offer optimal conditions for all levels of ability.
The bay of Roses is considered an absolute kite and windsurf hotspot. International competitions are also held on the beaches. With direct beach access and their own surf schools, the Las Dunas and La Ballena Alegre campsites are ideal starting points for learning to kite or windsurf or as base camps for advanced riders.
More about the surf school of Camping Las Dunas here, about the surf school of La Ballena Alegre here.
5. WATCHING BIRDS WHILE KAYAKING OR STAND UP PADDLING ON THE RIVER FLUVIA
Perfect for families is the exploration of the river FluviA by kayak or stand-up paddles. The calmly flowing estuary of the river FluviA leads through the nature reserve “Reserva Integral dels Aiguamolls de l’EmpordA” and past the “Illa de’en Caramany” to the Gola de Fluvia beach, where you can swim in the river or in the sea. Numerous bird species are resident in this protected wetland all year round or pause on transit. Bitterns, purple herons, storks or marsh harriers are just a few examples.
SK Kayak starts this tour from Club NAutic de Sant Pere Pescador. SK Kayak also offers other tours or courses on the river or sea in LLanca and Empuriabrava.
Bird watching, of course, also goes on foot. It is recommended to visit the visitor center El Cortalet in the nature reserve Aiguamolls de l’Emporda. From there there are paths to and around the pond “Estany del Cortalet” with observation huts. In the whole observation area there are 13 of these huts. If you want to ask a specialist for advice, you can stop by at the Castell del Mar campsite, where the ornithologist Jordi Sargartal Vicens is in charge.
6. DISCOVER MEDIEVAL VILLAGES IN THE INTERIOR OF THE COUNTRY
Catalonia is versatile: mountains, sea, art, numerous sporting activities or culinary delights. In Catalonia there are also a lot of well preserved medieval villages to discover. Unfortunately so far only seen while passing or flying over, they are a reason why I really want to return to Catalonia.
Since some of the focus of this article is on the province of Girona, here are some of the most famous and impressive medieval villages in the region:
- Castellfollit de la Roca perched at 700m on a limestone cliff
- Besalú, which is a popular photo motif mainly because of its Pont Vell over the river FluviA or
- Peratallada, whose name means “trimmed” or “hewn rock”.
7. enjoy beaches at costa brava, costa barcelona or costa daurada
The coast of Catalonia stretches for 320km along the Mediterranean Sea. Depending on the division, it is divided into three or four (resp. five) sections:
- the Costa Brava (the wild coast) starts at the french border and extends to the town of Blanes. It is 135 km long and the most popular bathing area in Catalonia. The Costa Brava is the coast of the province of Girona.
- the Costa Barcelona (the coast of Barcelona) means the stretch of coast in the province of Barcelona. Strictly speaking, this was previously divided into
– Costa del Maresme (the tidal flat coast) with a length of 40 km and the
– Costa del Garraf (the Garaff coast) with 55 km of length and
– sometimes even in addition to the coastline just outside the city of Barcelona (about 30 km)
- the Costa Daurada (the golden coast) has a length of 60 km and reaches in the south to the Valencian Community. It is the coast of the province of Tarragona.
Around 90 beaches in Catalonia have been awarded the blue flag, an eco-label for sustainable tourism. Where there are the most beautiful beaches in Catalonia resp. on the Costa Brava, the Catalan Tourism Board tells us.
8. STARS& OBSERVING PLANETS IN ALBANYA
Bassegoda Park campsite near Albanya is the first private campsite in the world (I think there are three in Europe with this distinction) to be awarded as a professional in the field of star tourism. The specially installed lighting does not contribute to light pollution. It itself is located in a valley and surrounded by a forest protected from the light pollution of distant cities. Recently he opened his observatory where campsite guests and external visitors can observe the shining stars, luminous planets, the moon and even the Milky Way.
9. HOT AIR BALLOONING OVER THE VOLCANOES OF GARROXTA
Yes, there are volcanoes in Catalonia. Don’t worry, they are inactive since about 10.000 years. Since 1992, they can be flown over by hot air balloon with the company Vol de Coloms. From the bird’s-eye view, there is a magnificent view of the crater cones densely covered with oak forests, the cultural landscape and medieval towns like e.g. Besalú. In good weather, the view extends to the Pyrenees and the sea. Dreamlike!
10. FAR HIKING RESP. HIKING ALONG THE COAST OR THE PYRENEES
If you prefer solid ground under your feet, you can also hike very well in the nature reserve Volcanoes of Garroxta. The Camino Catalan (Camino Sant Jaume), the Catalan Way of St. James, passes through the area.
For those who love the mountains, there is the GR11 Pyrenean Trail (Senda Pirenaica), which runs from Vall d’Ixalenques along the southern slopes of the Pryrenees to Cap de Creus, connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. Along the sea, the GR 92, the Mediterranean Trail (Sendero Mediterraneo), which can also be found on the Costa Brava under the name CamI de Ronda, leads from Portbou via Roses always along the coast to Lloret de Mar.