Catalonia’s Costa Brava

Friedrich Nietzsche once said that “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking”. Hoping for some time to think, and to register some steps on our Fitbits, we came for a week to the seaside city of Platja d’Aro to walk Catalonia’s Costa Brava.

Catalan Flag trail

The Camí de Ronda footpath through the ritzy S’Agaró Estates

Along the Costa Brava, we followed the Camí de Ronda, Catalonia’s legendary long-distance coastal footpath. Our steps led us past tourist-friendly beaches, retired fishing villages, ruins of former civilizations, and an inspiring landscape of rocky headlands, coves, and pocket beaches beside the deep blue Mediterranean Sea.

Crowded Beach

Platja Sa Conca beach on the first weekend in September

The Costa Brava, or “Rugged Coast”, forms Girona’s provincial coastline and runs almost 100 miles (165 km) to the French border. In the 1950s, the Spanish government developed this seashore into the first package holiday destination in Spain. The sandy beaches, teeming with French and northern European visitors, retain their jammed yet tourist-friendly feel.

Fishing Village

Former fishing village at Cala S’Alguer

Before the invasion of holidaymakers and their colorful beach umbrellas, wooden fishing boats lined these same Costa Brava beaches. The once-peaceful string of former fishing villages now bustle with atmospheric inns and seaside restaurant terraces serving the “gotcha of the day”.

Palamos Fishing boat

Fishing trawler in the port city of Palamós

Just a half-day coastal walk from our rental apartment is the city of Palamós, the only remaining commercial harbor on the Costa Brava. On a daily basis, trawlers return to port to unload their harvest, including deep red-colored shrimp, famously known as the prawns of Palamós.

Iberian wall

Ruins of Iberian wall at Castell de la Fosca

Just beyond Palamós, along the Camí de Ronda, we found Castell de la Fosca, a fortified Iberian settlement on a rocky promontory. Inhabited between the 6th and 1st centuries BC, only low walls and scattered blocks of stone remain of this ancient tribal community.

Empurias

Ancient Greek coastal ruins at Empúries

Further up the coast, the walking trail passes the important Greco-Roman archeological site of Empúries. Here, in 575 BC, the Greeks founded a trading colony, which became their gateway to the Iberian Peninsula. In 218 BC, the Romans built their own larger city here, coexisted peacefully with the Greeks, and finally abandoned the site in the 5th century AD.

Cap de Crues Trail

The Camí de Ronda on the Cap de Creus

At the northern end of the Coasta Brava, we hiked a portion of the Camí de Ronda from the medieval seaside city of Cadaqués to the Cap de Creus, and the easternmost point in mainland Spain. As we ascended this windswept headland, we walked between terraced rows of olive trees in competition with cactus and scrub for its arid rocky soil.

Persistence of Memory

Salvador Dalí’s “The Persistence of Memory”

This barren land was home to Catalán surrealist painter Salvador Dalí, and was one of his lifelong inspirations. We passed his house on a small cove in Portlligat, and surveyed the contorted coastal geology that he featured in his most famous painting, “The Persistence of Memory”.

Callel de Parafrugell

View of Calella de Palafrugell from the Camí de Ronda

These rocky headlands, coves, pocket beaches and deep blue waters also inspired us as we hiked the Camí de Ronda. Walking, we may or may not have conceived any truly great thoughts, but we did experience another fun and interesting part of Spain, while leaving behind over a quarter-million footsteps along Catalonia’s Costa Brava.

Red Shrimp

Prawns of Palamós

 

Feature Image: The “Rugged Coast” of the Costa Brava, near Sant Feliu de Guixols

 

12 thoughts on “Catalonia’s Costa Brava

    • Thanks, Sue and Dave. Looking back at the pictures in this post, I just noticed that all of them include the water, except the picture of the prawns. I must really have been craving it too. Hope you soon find your way back to the ocean.

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    • Dalí was a very interesting fellow. He was born and died at the age of 84 in Figueres, about 10 miles from the Costa Brava. In between, he lived in France and the U.S., including Monterey, California. He lived the last four decades of his life with his wife Gala back on the Costa Brava. The inviting water of the Costa Brava was very calm, temperate, and buoyant. Every evening after our long walks on the Camí Ronda, we would walk to the beach for a refreshing swim.

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    • I wholeheartedly agree, Gilda. Walking the coast is easily the most beautiful and rewarding way to go. The coastal hiking along the rugged Costa Brava involved a lot of stairs, but the views were worth every step. Along the way, we did sample several of the Catalán specialties, but we are really saving our appetites for our time in the Basque Country next month.

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    • Thank you, Janann. We are so pleased that you enjoy the blog. For Esther’s birthday, there was a festival in the town where we were staying. They had live music, a parade, confetti, and fireworks, all in her honor. All the best to you and Wayne.

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  1. What a great introduction to an area of Spain where I’ve not spent any time. Although the sight of tourist filled beaches doesn’t appeal to me, the rest of your pictures are gorgeous and make me want to pack my bags! There’s really no better way to explore than on foot!

    The history lesson was interesting, as well. While developing the tourism trade is good for business, I can’t help wondering what some of the area residents thought of the big changes that followed. I’ve certainly witnessed the decline of some of the once-popular, but now mostly deserted seaside holiday towns in the UK. Time marches on.

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    • Thank you, Leah. I agree with you about the over-crowded tourist beaches. The Camí de Ronda footpath was not crowded at all, and a lovely way to experience the coast. Although the Costa Brava was originally developed over 60 years ago, it seems to be as popular as ever. We noticed an obvious lack of friendliness with the locals and the other tourists. The Cataláns seem somewhat annoyed by all the demanding foreigners, but clearly tolerate them for the revenue they bring. Most of the tourists we encountered just seemed to be in their own little worlds, with no interest in sharing even a pleasant hello.

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    • Thank you very much, Ann. It sounds like your days of future travel are right around the corner. I read that Spain gets the second highest number of tourists, after France. For a country about the same size and population as the state of Texas, there is a tremendous variety of beautiful landscapes and cultural events. I hope you and your husband get a chance to see it, and look forward to seeing your own fabulous photos!

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