The beaches of Begur

Far from the tacky image of all day breakfasts and mass package tourism that many people may have of the Costa Brava, this family orientated region has some of the prettiest pine clad beaches and clearest waters in the whole of the Catalan coastline.

Begur and its beaches have long been a favourite summer destination for Spanish and Catalan people, especially from Barcelona, many of whom own a second home in the area.

Begur has eight beaches starting with Platja del Raco to the north of the town. With great views of the Medes Islands this is a long beach which eventually merges into the beach of Pals. Just down from Platja del Raco is the beautiful Illa Roja, a famous nudist beach. Sa Riera, Begur’s largest beach is next in line and is one of our personal favourites. A good sized beach which although does get quite busy in peak season, retains a pleasant, intimate and welcoming air to it with a handful of decent restaurants a stones’ throw from the beach.

Begur beaches

The beaches of Begur

To the East of Begur you find the bays of Auigafreda and Sa Tuna. Not as big and sandy as Sa Riera these are charming and atmospheric nonetheless and are great for people who prefer smaller, quieter beaches.

To the south of Begur you find the beaches of Platja Fonda, Fornells and Auigablava. Platja Fonda is one of the wildest and most unspoilt beaches you can find on the Costa Brava and the best in this region for sunbathing. Accessed by a series of steps this really is one of the gems of the area.

Fornells and Aiguablava are the most southern beaches of the Begur region. Here you will also find the small secluded coves of Estasia, Malaret, Ses Orats and Port Esclanya.

The beaches and coves of Cadaques

Cadaques beaches

Platja de Ses Oliveres

 

Situated within the Cap de Creus headland, the beaches of Cadaques and its surrounding area tend to be smaller, more intimate coves and bays rather than your typical long sandy beaches.

The water quality in this region is probably the best of the whole Costa Brava.

Although not official nudist beaches, don’t be surprised to see nudists in some of the more secluded bays further from Cadaques especially in the Cap de Creus.

In the following Google map you will find the location of all the local beaches of Cadaques.

https://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?msid=201953247244723058522.0004d3601a812c712fc67&msa=0&ll=42.292929,3.289633&spn=0.033142,0.084543

Choosing where to stay on the Costa Brava

Port Lligat, Cadaques

The crystal blue waters of Cadaques

For many people the mention of the Costa Brava can conjure up notions of tacky seaside resorts possibly something akin to Blackpool. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It is true that the Costa Brava was the first “Costa” to open up to mass tourism in the 50’s and 60’s but because of the rugged nature of the Costa Brava (The Wild Coast) the developers quickly moved further south in search of flatter, easier accessible land to build accommodation. So with perhaps the exception of Lloret de Mar, you find largely untouched small towns and villages all down the Costa Brava.

 

A very popular area is the area around Begur. You have various beaches to choose from and is very family orientated. Another popular town, and probably my favourite, is Cadaques. Cadaques is situated in the “Cap de Creus” national park and is somewhat isolated from the rest of the Costa Brava. This is the main reason why it has retained so much character and has not been spoilt by development.

 

What I normally suggest to people is that if you choose Cadaques you should not really be looking at doing much driving around exploring the Costa Brava. The road in and out is pretty narrow and winding and can be a lengthy journey. So if you go to Cadaques, plan on staying there and not travelling very far. Of course there are some little bays along the Cap de Creus which are a short journey by car but other towns are more of a trek. If you would like to spend more time visiting different towns, villages and attractions then I would perhaps look at something around the Begur region or the slightly less crowded L’Escala.

 

Costa Brava towns

Towns of the Costa Brava

If you are looking at a two week vacation and this is your first visit to the area then it may be a good idea to go with two different villas in two different areas. This way you will probably get to see more meaning that it will make your choice of where to return for future visits easier.  And we are sure that once you discover the Costa Brava you will want to return time and again!

 

 

Torras Chocolate Banyoles

Torras cocolate Banyoles

Torras chocolate ceramic signs

We all love chocolate right? Hands up who watched “Charlie and the Chocolate factory” in their youth and since have dreamed of visiting a real life chocolate factory?  Torras chocolates of Banyoles allows this dream to come true.

In the 50’s and 60’s Torras installed many ceramic advertising signs on the sides of houses in the Banyoles region and many can still be seen to this day. The sign pictured is in the village of Orfes.

Founded in 1890 the company is one of the biggest chocolate producers in Spain. It is possible to arrange visits to see how chocolate is made and to taste some different varieties. Here is the contact information to arrange a visit:

Girona-Banyoles Road, Km 15

17844 – Cornellà de Terri – GIRONA

Tel.: +34 972 58 10 00
Fax: +34 972 58 09 09

http://www.chocolatestorras.com/

 

What to do in Cadaques

Cadaques

The beautiful coastal town of Cadaques

One of the most sought after holiday destinations on the whole Catalan coastline, Cadaques has an undeniable charm and mystique which draws you back time after time.

Cadaques has for the most part evaded the developers due mainly to the fact that it is situated in the Cap de Creus national park right at the top of the Costa Brava and is somewhat isolated. Cadaques has been around for centuries but the only road in and out of the town was built around 1908, meaning that up until then the only access to the town was by boat.

The Cap de Creus peninsula is the most eastern point of Spain meaning that it is also the first part of Spain to witness the sunrise. The area has also inspired many artists, most notably Salvador Dali who lived in the area for many years and who venerated the light and colour and elements which make up the Cap de Creus and Cadaques.

Cadaques

Cadaques beach

Dali bought a bunch of fisherman’s shacks on the harbour of Port Lligat which I guess you could call a suburb of Cadaques, converted them into one abode and spent a great part of his life here. The house is now a museum which is open to the public.

http://www.salvador-dali.org/museus/portlligat/en_index.html

A great way to spend a day or half a day is to take a boat trip around the Cap de Creus. The Sant Isidre is a classic Catalan fishing boat built in 1925 and which has a capacity for up to 35 people. You will visit isolated bays which are only accessible by boat and have the option of lunch onboard.

http://chartersantisidre.blogspot.com.es/p/english.html

Martin Faixo is a producer of some great local wines http://www.cellermartinfaixo.com/

Cadaques also has some great restaurants and too many to list here but here is a small sample:

Compartir . Opened in 2012 by three local chefs who worked at the world famous El Bulli, Compartir has quickly became one of Cadaques’s most popular restaurants.

http://en.compartircadaques.com/

MOS Cadaques is another new restaurant which opened its doors in 2012. Contemporary food from a Michelin starred chef.

 https://www.facebook.com/moscadaques.moscadaques

Haiku Cadaques is a small intimate restaurant serving Japanese fusion dishes.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Haiku-Tast-Cadaqu%C3%A9s/393340364056848

The Resclosa d’Orfes

 

Orfes

The resclosa near Orfes

Orfes is a sleepy little village situated roughly in the middle between Figueres, Girona and Banyoles and surrounded by arable pasture land.

In ten minutes you will have seen the village but there is a pleasant little walk from the village to the “resclosa” or ford which crosses the nearby river Fluvia.

In the map below take the track indicated by the red line and you will arrive at the ford. You can either take your shoes and socks off and walk across and return on the track indicated by the purple line or return by the same way you came.

Orfes

Walking route to the ford

If you have built up a good appetite, the restaurant in Orfes, La Barretina d’Orfes is a great choice for lunch. They have a great selection of duck dishes and don’t miss their onion cake starter!

Plaça Major, 28 Orfes

972 560 280

Closed Thursdays and Sunday evenings.

 

Pont de Llierca

Pont de Llierca

The 14th century bridge crossing the river Llierca

The “Pont de Llierca” is a beautiful three meter wide Romanic bridge which spans the river Llierca. The date of construction is unknown but the earliest mention is in the 14th century where Sheppard’s were charged a fee to cross with their livestock.

The bridge is located just off the GIV-5231 between Montagut and Saderness in the region of La Garrotxa.

Pont de Llierca

Taken from the underside of the bridge

 

The Llierca has some deep pools which are often used by locals and holiday makers for swimming during the summer months.

 

Banyoles lake and market

A view of Banyoles lake along a jetty

A view of Banyoles lake just after sunrise

Banyoles, a medium sized town close to Girona is famed for its lake. Scene of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic rowing events the lake serves as the central hub and focus of the town and is a popular training location for rowing teams from around Europe. With the increased popularity of triathlons Banyoles is also becoming one of the main locations for triathlons in Europe with the world cup being held here in 2012.

However one does not need to be an Olympic rower or triathlete to enjoy the charms of the lake. At around 2kms long and with a perimeter of just over 6kms the lake makes for the perfect mid morning or afternoon stroll. It is also possible to hire canoes and bikes.

Banyoles lake

Sunrise over Banyoles lake

If you are planning a day trip to Banyoles a good idea would be to do this on a Wednesday when the weekly market is spread out between “Placa Major” and the large “Placa de Rodes” which is close to the lake. The market mainly consists of fruit and vegetables, cured meats and cheeses with many of the stalls offering local and organic products. The market starts early at around 08.00am and starts closing up around 13.00

Banyoles

Some recommended restaurants in Banyoles include;

Famed for its seafood Gils is a popular lunchtime destination for locals. Located close to the lake. http://www.marisqueriagils.com/

La Magrana (The Pomegranate) is a small family run restaurant in the old quarter of the town offering a modern twist on traditional Catalan dishes using fresh seasonal produce. http://www.restaurantlamagrana.cat/restaurant-banyoles/

Can Xabanet is another family ran restaurant located just between Placa de Rodes and the lake. Traditional flavoursome dishes in a friendly atmospheric  setting. http://www.canxabanet.cat/ca/

Bascara Sunday market

The village of Bascara is perhaps better known as that village which the NII dissects between Figueres and Girona on the way to the Costa Brava beaches.

Bascara market

Sunday market at Bascara

The majority of people just drive through on the NII and never get to see the real village.

Although there may be more picturesque and historical villages around, Bascara does have some great positives. There is a busy weekly fruit and vegetable market on Sunday mornings in the main square next to a great authentic bar where you can soak up the local atmosphere. The first Sunday of every month sees the market expand with the incorporation of local antiques and bric-a-brac stalls.

Bascara on a Sunday morning also has a small supermarket and great butchers which are open until 13.00.

If you are looking for a good quality restaurant look no further than Can Carles in Bascara. Their lunch speciality of “arros” or paella is definitely worth the visit.

Addresses:

Butchers. Giro Burset. Ctra, Girona, 26 17483 BASCARA Tel 972 560 021

Bar/Restaurant Bar Fluvia. Next door to Giro-Burset butchers. Very economical and good value 9€ lunch during the week. Closed Mondays.

Can Carles restaurant. http://www.cancarles.com/cat/index.php

Aiguamolls de l’Empordà

Aiguamolls de l'Emporda

Aiguamolls de l’Emporda in the direction of Roses

The Aiguamolls is a beautiful natural wetland area situated on the Costa Brava roughly between Sant Pere Pescador and Empuriabrava. With a total of 4800 hectares and over 300 species of bird this makes a great day out for nature lovers.
Entry into the park is free but there is a car parking fee during the summer months. You have various routes to choose from and at the visitor centre you can buy route maps for around 30c.
We went for a family day out recently and walked from the visitor centre at “El Cortalet” to the southern boundary of the park towards Sant Pere Pescador. From here you can access the beach where we decided to walk back along in the direction of Empuriabrava. After a couple of km’s you pick up a track which heads back to El Cortalet making a nice circular route of approximately 5 or 6 km’s.
This stretch of beach is one of the least populated along the whole of the Costa Brava and is perfect for those who wish to escape the maddening crowd.

Aiguamolls

The beach of the Aiguamolls

The full address of the Aiguamolls is:

Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de l’Empordà
El Cortalet,
Ctra. De Sant Pere Pescador km 13,6
17486-Castelló d’Empúries
Tel. 972 45 42 22
Fax 972 45 44 74
pnaiguamolls@gencat.cat
www.gencat.cat/parcs/aiguamolls_emporda