Costa Brava is part of Catalonia and stretches from the French border down to Blanes, its most southern resort where the Costa Brava becomes part of the sprawl of the Barcelones comarca.
If you think of the Costa Brava the first thing that usually springs to mind is the popular package tour resorts of Lloret de Mar, Calella and and Blanes. To think that this is all that this part of northern Spain has to offer would be misguided. It has a lot to treasures to share with any visitor, not just those looking for a couple of weeks of sun and sand.
The northern coasts are dotted with small crescent bays of silver sand with some beautiful restaurants and quiet beaches. Inland you can also pay a visit to Figueras and Girona for a little bit of culture and history if you get bored of the coast.
Costa Brava Culture (or Dali Homage)
Salvador Dali is probably the Costa Brava’s most notable export, he was born and spent a great deal of his artistic life along the coast and in the towns of the region. You will also find the museum dedicated to his life at Figueras.
The Tourist Resorts
Lloret de Mar is the king and has everything you need for your two weeks in the sun holiday. It has water parks, bars to meet every taste (even a few gay bars) and as many tourist shops, sun-beds and umbrellas to squeeze in your sunbathing and shopping desires. Similar offerings can be found in Callella, Blanes and other tourist towns. But look a little beyond these well known destinations and you can find some hidden gems.
Towns and Villages
Costa Brava means rugged coast and that is a perfect description of some of the more secluded and lesser known crescent cove beaches along this stretch of coastline. We normally start our journey in southern France and this coastline is accessible either by the fast Autoroute (A9 in France or N11 in Spain) but our preferred route though is much more picturesque and what you lose in time you gain in views.
Starting in Collioure on the coast of southern France there is a mountainous winding road that will get you into Spain passing through Port Vendres, Banyuls Sur Mer and Cerbere, before finally crossing the border into Spain towards Portbou and Llanca . Here is our quick guide to our favourite lesser known Costa Brava destinations.
Being Dali’s birthplace is not unsurprising that this small hilly coastal village has an a distinctly arty feel. It’s not cheap to stay here and the well groomed and fat walleted Barcelonian’s will be found here packing the restaurants and beach during the weekend. It has some fine restaurants and a small pebbly beach, but you are not really here for sunbathing are you? Try Rosas instead.
This place used to be famous for the location of the world famous El Bulli restaurant (some called it the finest restaurant in the world). The place never made any money given the extraordinary lengths the chefs went to in the preparation of the food. The restaurant is now closed and is supposed to re-open as the El Bulli foundation, a space for culinary artist sometime soon. At the time of writing (January 2014) this still hadn’t happened.
Despite this loss the place remains popular with Southern French and Northern Spaniards in search of a beach day or weekend of relaxation. The resort is actually one of the oldest in Spain and sports 1.8km of beach but remains a relatively restful resort choice.
L’Escala further down the coast is another beach lined town with a rich fishing history , the prime catch being the famous Anxoves de l’Escala (Escala Anchovies). A visit to one of the anchovy factories is a must do visit on a trip here. There are plenty of sandy beaches to keep you occupied and without getting to the Lloret scale of busyness, has more of a touristy feel to it than some of the other smaller Costa resorts. It also sports quite a few dive shops if you want to leave the beach and check out the local marine life at the local dive sites of Medes Islands, El Montgrí Coast, and Cap de Creus
L’Estartit is just 20 km south of L’escala and is a similar resort in both style and size to its neighbour, The long beachfront is lined with the larger hotels. The town is overlooked by a small mountain and some more secluded places to stay can be found on the winding roads to its peak. If the large beach is too busy for you then head off to one of the smaller coves and secluded beaches that stretch either side of the resort.
Palafrugell was once a fortified mediaeval town, but its defences no longer exist, only the small narrow streets emanante from Plaça Nova . Despite the loss of the fortifications, the place has remained relatively free from the invasion of mass tourism and retains its small town charm. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was famous for cork manufacture which ended in 1970 which almost decimated the town. Tourism was its savour, but the locals have managed to keep visitors happy without encroaching upon its villagey feel.
It is probably one of my favourites of the smaller resorts if you go and like it don’t tell too many people.
There are three main airports within easy driving distance of the Costa Brava. Girona will give you the easiest access to these destinations, but Barcelona or Perpignan will also allow you to be there within an additional hour driving. May be worth considering if your cheap flights are only available to these airports.
If you go to one of the bigger resorts as part of a package deal, but sure to give yourself some time to experience these lesser known delights.