If Spain is world renowned for anything, it is for fantastic weather and incredible beaches. And few places illustrate this fact as well as the unbelievable Costa Brava (“Wild Coast”). With its long coastal stretches full of coves dotting the Catalonian region, this place is the quintessential holiday destination for many people. Tucked away beaches among wild vegetation, its Roman ruins, its nature reserves -the envy of the rest of the peninsula- and villages taken straight from the big screen. Answering the question of what to see on the Costa Brava is not easy one for this is a land filled with undiscovered surprises.
When thinking of the Costa Brava, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is a village of whitewashed little homes against a backdrop of crystal-clear inlets and sunny blue skies. Indeed, this is the village of Cadaqués, a paradise that has become an icon of the area. Located only a few kilometers from the French border, this place even managed to seduce Salvador Dalí. Merely taking a stroll through its streets to enjoy the shopping and its outdoor dining would suffice any holidaymaker, though its greatest attraction is, undoubtedly, its beaches and clearwater coves inviting one to take a dip.
The Costa Brava is teeming with charm and history. Cadaqués was where Dalí decided to settle for a while, but surely Calella de Palafrugell made his short-list. Here it is believed Joan Manuel Serrat composed his anthem Mediterráneo. During the months of July and August, this small fishing village attracts many tourists while the off-season has the Bohemian air of yesteryear. A must-see stopover to make the most of the entire coastline.
Though the whitewashed villages and sailboats are gorgeous, the Costa Brava seduces in so many other ways. Beyond its gastronomic offerings and rural destinations, there are also its national parks and natural reserves. One of the most outstanding is Cap de Creus to the north of the Golfo de Rosas (Rosas Gulf). A rugged, rocky area with dozens of coves where few people visit. The clash between green flora and crystalline blue waters enchant one and all who make the journey.
A good part of Spain’s coasts basks in the Mediterranean climate. In this particular area, its ecosystem has been very well-preserved giving rise to unparalleled landscapes and now protected natural parks such as the Parque Natural del Montgrí (Montgrí National Park), Islas Medas (Medes Isles) and the Bajo Ter (Lowland). Here, not only are there little villages where one can have a bite and take a swim, there is also a broad range of things to do. The Medes Isles in particular, having one of the most diverse seabeds in Spain, would be an obligatory visit for any scuba diving enthusiast. The bravest of whom will be able to catch glimpses of two shipwrecks from the end of the past century.
Together with Cadaqués, Blanes is another archetypal and much visited village on the Costa Brava. Located only an hour from Barcelona, this tiny fishing village has gained recognition not only for its wide range of tourist offerings, but also for fabulous attractions like the Marimurtra Garden. Designed by the botanist Carl Faus, it now has one of the most beautiful cupolas overlooking the sea. As well, idyllic coves like Sa Forcanera can be found just outside the village centre.
This place was designated an Asset of Cultural Interest in 1972 and it is no wonder why. There are many seaside enclaves popular for its beauty and ambience and Cala S’ Alguer (S’ Alguer cove) is one of those authentic places still anchored in another time. It is small assortment of fishermen’s houses –aged and coloured– on a stony beach hidden away in a small inlet of crystal-clear water. All of which is surrounded by lush vegetation and mountain.
Though beaches might be the first thing to come to mind if one thinks of the Costa Brava, this coast is much more than that. One fine example of this is the Roman archaeological site at L’Escala, where the ruins of Empúries lie, dating from 545 BCE. Considered by many to have been the most important city of its time on the peninsula, being the gateway to Latin and Greek culture. The ruins today reveal the almost intact foundations of what was the ancient city. The site is open to visitors throughout the year.
It should not be overlooked, despite its location, the Costa Brava not only distinguishes itself for its seascapes, but also for its inland villages replete with history and reminiscent of a vintage film. Peratallada is one of the best examples. A designated Historical Site, there are historical records of this place dating back to the tenth century. A tiny stone village clearly influenced by its feudal past with its narrow streets, archways and town wall, all of which are well preserved. Every year, the palace located there receives millions of visitors who venture inland to enjoy this country village.
Another essential village to visit on any Costa Brava tour is Port de la Selva, a place filled with things to do and historical monuments. There are plenty of coves with waves sure to impress any water sports enthusiast and its fishermen´s bungalows turned into café terraces to be enjoyed after a swim. Moreover, the village lies on a steep slope. Nearby are the beautiful monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes and the castle of Sant Salvador de Verdera, from where incredible views of the area can be seen.
Located in Tossa del Mar, this place is an old medieval fortress. From the top of its seven watchtowers can be seen the entire beach and its picturesque sailboats. Declared a Historical Interest Monument in the 1930s, it has since welcomed thousands of visitors every year.
To conclude this list of charming places to see on the Costa Brava, one of its most popular medieval villages should not be forgotten. And that is Pals, a medieval village located not far from Peratallada and Begur. With its ancient city walls and watchtowers such as the Hores, this place has perfectly upheld its past. Additionally, from the heights of Pals at the Josep Pla observation point, named in honour of the Catalonian writer, a breathtaking panoramic view of the marvelous Costa Brava can be seen.