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