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Costa Brava Living - blog area

Walks and other things

Walks on the Costa Brava - click for a larger version One of the joys of the Costa Brava is the variety of landscapes and we like to visit places and walk (a lot), particularly into and around the Gavarres. Sometimes we travel around on bike. In the summer, we swim and canoe.

These then are write ups of walks, hikes and activities that we've done since November 2012, with photos straight from the original walk or activity.

We like to make circular walks and our walks range in length from about 4km (an hour) to around 16km (four hours) - but probably about 2 1/2 hours on average - though if you want to reduce the length, there are usually shortcuts.

To find walks by location, click on the map, which goes to a full sized map with links to individual walks and visits. To our surprise, we were listed in the Sunday Times' Essential Costa Brava (Feb 2017).

The most visited walks are:

Far de Sant Sebastia (Llafranc) to Tamariu
28 Jan 2013

Lighthouse at Llafranc The idea was to try out the marked path to Tamariu from the lighthouse at Sant Sebastia above Llafranc then come back along the GR92 to complete the next stretch of the coast path for the blog.

Sometimes though, when we go walking things don't quite turn out as planned as unfortunately the GR92 was being repaired (winter damage is a continual problem for the path) and so not accessible for the whole of the route. It was also a little overcast, so we'll have to repeat and get some of the classic bluesky photographs (see Tamariu to Llafranc revisited for an update).

Llafranc is an old fishing village with a harbour and large sandy beach, with chic restaurants along the promenade overlooking the sea (the Daily Telegraph describes it as che-che). Though small it is quite upmarket.

To the south is an easy walk around the headland to Calella (described in our Mont-ras to Llafranc and Calella walk).

View from Far Sant Sebastia over Llafranc and Calella Along the coast to the north is the lighthouse of Sant Sebastia. If you see a postcard of the Costa Brava with a picture of a lighthouse, this is likely to be it.

You can obviously walk up to the lighthouse from Llafranc, but having done that a few times, it's quite steep and all roadway and Llafranc can be difficult to find parking. So rather than start in the village we drive directly to the lighthouse (follow the Tamariu road out of Palafrugell) - this is both easier and gives a great view over the countryside and down the coast towards Palamos.

There is parking but it can be busy. We parked just under the hotel/restaurant just above the lighthouse itself.

Remains of Iberic village Llafranc The walk starts and runs down past the excavation site of the Iberic village. We wanted to do a circular route, and we wanted to follow the marked path to Tamariu so we followed the path marked by green-white flashes which runs along the road away from the sea, eventually reaching the Palafrugell-Tamariu road.

The marked path then crosses the Palafrugell-Tamariu road just to the right after the Llafranc junction, rather than down the hill towards Tamariu. On the other side of the road it directs you along a dirt track in among isolated houses in the woods.

The flashes are now yellow-white. Follow the track through the woods and keep looking out for the flashes. You would think the path would go down, but actually it goes up and stays high above the village following the tracks to the houses.

One of the tracks turns to the right, past a couple more houses and then you've got to look out for the turning. It's marked on the tree as you go past, but you have to keep an eye out for the flash as the path doubles back sharply into the woods and turns into a single-track footpath heading down.

This runs gently downhill through the woods to start with, before becoming quite a lot steeper. We had to support ourselves on the trees so as not to slip over.

Tamariu in winter Eventually you reach the bottom and emerge at the top of an estate above Tamariu. Walk down through the estate (we found a short cut down a long flight of steps) before emerging towards the bottom by Camping Tamariu and out along the road to the village itself.

While Tamariu bustles in summer, in winter it tends to close down almost completely. The shops and restaurants were all closed in January. This is contrast to Llafranc or Calella where there is always some activity all year around and obviously in total contrast to the larger neighbouring towns of Begur or Palafrugell which have large permanent populations.

GR92 across rocks near Tamariu The GR92 runs into the village, before leading out across Tamariu's beach where it runs to the left of the beach, climbing over rocks and out to the headland.

Around the headland you have to cross a rocky outcrop dodging among the rock pools - there is no easy flat path here.

Our intention was to follow the path all the way around to Cala Pedrosa but subsidence and some works on a local villa meant it was impossible to follow the path around. We have taken the path before and it is quite wild. There is also a step descent down into Cala Pedrosa.

Coast line between Llafranc and Tamariu Instead we had to head back up to the main road and follow the road out. The road is bendy and though there is not much traffic at this time of year, there isn't any separated walking space.

There are two large estates off the road - the Musclera - a large house with gardens that extend down to the sea; and La Pedrosa which takes up all of the next hillside. After La Pedrosa estate take a track to your left.

This rejoins with the GR92 as it emerges from Cala Pedrosa. The path continues straight on past the farmhouses and back into the woods.

Watchtower at Far Sant Sebatian In the woods, the path climbs gently and you slowly rise above the sea. As you get to the last stretch, the path is about 150m above the sea and though not a vertical cliff, to your lefthand side, the edge falls away below you steeply.

For those uncomfortable with heights the height, closeness of the edge and narrowness of the path potentially make this a little nerve-wracking. As you reach the top you'll see the watchtower at the back of the hotel. The path climbs up steps and then emerges at the top. The path skirts the watchtower and along back to the hotel.

Update: The path to Cala Pedrosa has been reopened with a new high quality walkway (Nov 2013). The route down to Cala Pedrosa also seems to have more guiderails/fences making the route down (or up) easier.

Neighbouring walks: Mont-ras to Calella de Palafrugell and Llafranc - Palafrugell, Tamariu, Begur residential and EsclanyaCalella de Palafrugell/Cap Roig to Castell - classic wild Costa Brava - Fornells and Aiguablava walk (GR92) - Eulogy to the Ruta del Tren Petit (Palafrugell, Palamos, Mont-ras and Vall-llobrega)

Swimming: Swimming at the beach at Tamariu

Aiguamolls d'Emporda (Empuriabrava)
28 Jan 2013

Stork on the Aiguamolls dEmporda Costa Brava The Aiguamolls d'Emporda are a natural park of wetlands and marshes situated on the coast of the Gulf of Roses between the mouth of the Fluvia and Muga rivers between St Pere Pescador and Empuriabrava. Dedicated as a protected area, they are a haven for bird watchers.

If you know of the Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands reserve in Gloucestershire, then the Aiguamolls are similar, but 16 times bigger (Slimbridge is 3 sq km, the Aiguamolls are 48 sq km) and with more exotic species including storks and flamingos.

Even if you aren't much of a bird watcher, the number and variety of species makes it well-worth a visit and it's not just birds. For instance we saw deer that had just left their footprints on the beach.

The guide recommends a mosquito repellent in hotter months, and suggests that March and October are the best times to go for the annual migrations.

Aiguamolls dEmporda The Aiguamolls (sea marshes) were once much larger.

Older maps show a large lake that extended from Castello d'Emporda to the sea. And as we've seen on other walks, the footprint of sea level and the floodwaters of the three main rivers (the Ter, Fluvia, and Muga) define the historical siting of villages but also give vast open views across the plains to the mountains in the background.

The Aiguamolls themselves were originally part of a rice-growing farm that was bought by property developers who wanted to drain and canalise the land to create an extension to the neighbouring resort town of Empuriabrava. However a Catalan outcry in the mid-1970s saw the Catalan government take over the land and so the creation of the park as it is today.

If you want to look at how the developers were thinking, you can visit or see the neighbouring Empuriabrava with its network of canals/marina with each house or hotel having direct access to the water and their own mooring point.

As mentioned, this building only exists because of the draining of previous marshes and lakeland. So modern villages and highrise hotels are now found close to a beach whereas older villages would have been built higher up because of the risk of flooding.

If sea levels rise, most of these newer resorts (including Sant Antoni de Calonge and Platja d'Aro) would be directly affected.

View to Empuriabrava with stormclouds The walk itself starts at the main information centre for the Aiguamolls. It is clearly marked as a turn-off of the road from St Pere de Pescador to Castello d'Emporda.

The day we visited it started with  drizzle so the photos don't have the classic blue sky you would see in summer.

View to Escala from Aiguamolls observation tower The landscape itself is naturally very flat with ponds and water courses reminiscent of the Norfolk broads or the Fens.

The park has several itineraries and the paths are flat and broad.

To watch the birds, they have placed a number of cabins (used as hides) where you can go to watch the birds. There is also information about what birds and animals to look for.

We had hoped to see flamingos (you can also see flamingos on the etangs close to Perpignan) but had to make do with storks, teals and a marsh harrier.

The route we took lead from the main information point along the paths to three towers. Called sitges, these were originally used for drying rice, but when the government took the park over, one was converted into an observation tower and is now the highest point in the park.

From the platform at the top you can see across the wetlands to the sea, the towns of Empuriabrava and Roses, around to the Pyrenees and to Montgri to the south.

From the observation tower we continued away from the centre of the park. Eventually reaching the limits of the park and then down a road towards a campsite (closed during winter) and then followed a footpath around the campsite and down to the sea.

The Aiguamolls are large so this stretch of walk from the centre to the sea is about 5km in length. In practice when we go back we're more likely to stay in the main park area and spend more time looking at the birds. 

Across the Aiguamolls dEmporda to the Pyrenees At the beach is a viewing tower and we saw signs that confused us. Some signs seemed to say the beach was closed, but we had the guide-leaflet which said this stretch of beach could be walked on but is closed for breeding, between April and June. And other signs seemed to indicate that it was OK to walk but to avoid the dune-line where the animals were.

In the end we decided to do the walk, but kept close to the sea. As we were walking we found deer footprints in the sand and we saw a herd of deer in among the dunes.

The walk along the beach is long (about another 5km) and we had hoped to re-enter the park at the next path. However, the next path was marked by another observation tower, but the route to the tower was blocked by water.

We weren't sure if we were allowed to cross the dunes to reach the tower. We did try, but the path itself from the observation tower was also flooded so we ended up having to walk to the end of the beach just by Empuriabrava.

The river Muga reaches the sea here and splits the beach preventing us from going into the town. Instead we followed around the edge of a campsite and then up along by the river before cutting back into the fields and finally re-entering the park in amongst cows and sheep (the sign posting isn't great around the campsite).

Neighbouring walks: Escala, St Marti d'Empuries and beyond - Roses - Canyelles beaches to Cap Falconera - Castello d'Empuries - Sant Pere Pescador river Fluvia - Bellcaire d'Emporda, Tor and Albons

Walking route for Aiguamolls dEmporda

Sobrestany, Montgri and Bellcaire d'Emporda
20 Jan 2013

The mountain of Montgri stands dominates the plains of the Emporda and having already taken the path up to the Castle from the town of Torroella, this was a chance to visit the mountain from 'the back'. This route takes you up the other side from the village of Sobrestany (literally 'above the lake') just outside Bellcaire d'Emporda on the L'Escala side of Montgri. Like Ullastret's lake, Bellcaire also had a lake which was drained in the 19th Century. Bellcaire d'Emporda's other claim to fame is that it's the home village of Tito Vilanova, coach of Barcelona FC.

The walk itself has a range of contrasts and it's strongly recommended that you take a map. The end path down towards Bellcaire is marked with a dashed-line on our Emporda Costa Brava maps. Our experience with the smaller paths marked on the maps has been variable - sometimes they get heavily overgrown and seem to disappear, sometimes they are easy and obvious. Further down towards Sobrestany we actually missed the path back that we really intended to take and ended up with a longer loop.

The walk starts easily enough along the flat following the untarmaced road from the parking area in the village (more a hamlet) itself. Sobrestany has signposts for an animal park which seems to have recently closed and you pass the remnants of this park. Once past the park, is a 'colonias' house with a sundial and tower. Colonias are holidays taken by schoolclasses with all the children together. They are very popular with Catalan and Spanish schools with most year groups having at least one trip away to a colonia for a few days during the year. The colonia itself is like a hostel for children, but with activities outside. For this particular colonia you can see the swimming pool, diving boards and zipwires outside for instance.

From the house the path continues into the woods. At the signpost marking the nature reserve of the Dunes Continental, turn right into the woods and start following the stream. The woods have grown on a sand base (and so Dunes) giving the path a very soft bed. The same type of sandy/dune bed can also be found in the woods near Mas Tomasi in Pals and presumably was established when the sand off the beaches was blown by the North wind until it met the mountain where it was deposited. From what we've seen so far, there is nothing equivalent on the north side of the mountain.

After a while through the woods, the path meets the road again and continues its gentle climb. At a sharp right a track ahead is marked with a 'no vehicles' sign. Follow the footpath and stream up the valley. The woods are fairly open and still sandy underfoot and there was plenty of evidence that the path was well used by mountain bikers and other walkers.

As you would expect, the path continues to rise as it tracks the stream up to it's head. At the top. towards the valley head, the path becomes steeper as it climbs out of the valley and past some stone piles that look as if they might have once been buildings. For this particular walk, we were in hunting season and saw quite a number of hunters in the woods and heard a few shots.

After the top of the valley, the footpath comes down to meet the GR92 path. The GR92 covers some fabulous routes and would be worth writing about all on its own. This stretch is popular with walkers and there are signs at various points of interest. This time we follow the GR92 to the right along the ridge of the hill which should have views to the north and south, but unfortunately the trees limit the views.

Eventually you pass across the top of the Torre Vella urbanisation. Between the houses you can look out across the plains of the river Ter and the bay of Pals towards Begur in the south. After the houses peter out, you find yourself on a tarmacked road and follow this to a picnic area at the Casa de Dunes. The view is much clearer here and it marks the start of the GR92's climb up towards the Montgri Castle

However, this time we didn't want to go up to the Castle and instead follow the route around the back of the hill - it's marked with a green and white flash on the trees. This path branches off the road and climbs up a rocky valley past a ruined farmhouse on the right and indications of stone walls built a long time ago. The climb up is steep enough to make you puff. Eventually you reach the top and the landscape is transformed into low gorse and bushes of rosemary. At this point we took a right hand fork away from the marked green-white path. It almost looks like it will take you to a cliff edge, but it doesn't. You will also have great views over the Gulf of Roses towards Cap de Creus and the plains of the Fluvia river.

Unlike the soft dune path through the woods, this path is rocky and stony - classic Montgri - and you can feel the stones even through thick soled shoes. The path cuts through the gorse and up and down two or three valley heads before reaching the top of a small hill (Puig de les Cogullades). From this viewpoint we could see the mountains to the west above Bellcaire brilliant white and covered with snow, to the north the fields with water in them just outside Sobrestany and out along the plain to Empuriabrava and the white houses of Roses dotting the headland on the other side of the bay. To the east is Escala with the tower at Montgo just big enough to rise up and be seen above the hillside behind you. The low vegetation means that you have a clear view the whole time all the way back to Bellcaire.

Our aim, at least on the map, was to find a direct path that is marked towards Sobrestany, but among the rocks and gorses we managed to miss the junction. In the end it didn't matter. The narrow track became a wider track for 4x4s and we followed it to the outskirts of Bellcaire (we didn't visit the centre), before following the road back to Sobrestany.

Neighbouring walks: Torroella de Montgri castle - L'Escala Riells to sea cliffs and viewpoint of Montgo - L'Estartit to Cala Pedrosa and Cala Ferriol - Bellcaire d'Emporda, Tor and Albons - Torroella de Montgri and Ulla


Roman fort at St Julia de Ramis (Girona)
14 Jan 2013

View to Montseny past Girona Geographically and historically Girona is a key gateway to Spain and the Iberian Peninsular. Though Figueres and the pass at Le Boulou (El Volo)/Le Perthus over the Pyrenees mark the border (since about 1659) and start point into the plains of Emporda, the plains of Emporda themselves are blocked to the west by the foothills of the Pyrenees and to the south by the Gavarres. Consequently any invading army wanting to go south for all practical purposes has to pass through Girona to be able to go south, or any army coming from the south has to pass through Girona to go north.

As a result Girona and the hills around Girona have been of major strategic importance for the numerous invasions and incursions across the Spanish French border. According to reports, Girona itself has been beseiged twenty five times in its history. As a result Girona is surrounded by castles and fortifications in various states of disrepair. The city itself was heavily walled during the 17th century, though many of these fortifications have been removed.

Path by the river Ter For the Romans, Girona (Gerunda) was a key strategic outpost on the Via Augusta (now AP7 and N II) leading from the south of Spain all the way to Rome, whilst the easterly route to the coast would have take the Roman's towards the Empordan Plain to the East and out to the Roman city of Empuries following the river Ter. At the point the Ter curves round the Gavarres it passes through the narrow valley between Sant Julia de Ramis and Campdora. The hills around this point have several castles and fortifications that can be seen from the autoroute, but it also remains a major junction point, consequently walking in what is a historic area, has to be done with a background of road and rail noise.

The walk starts in Sant Julia de Ramis by the Ajuntament. To reach it you have to take a right off the N II heading north. Unfortunately it's easy to miss if you're not sure where you're going, so we had to continue on the N II to the roundabout and turnaround before finally being able to make the junction. There is a map of the walk outside the Ajuntament - we kept it simple and just followed the marked route. This takes you along out along the flat of the river following the Ter as it flows through the valley. Around are the road and railways but the walk itself is pleasant enough if unspectacular. We saw our first snowdrops in Spain. The walk continues at the base of the hill past a set of caves and out into the plains behind Celra. The Ter valley at this point all the way to Flaca is planted with birch trees. We were trying to work out why such flat and apparently arable land wouldn't be used for crops and wondered if this is an area that would have been flooded by the Ter with the spring snow melts (before the Ter dam was built higher up) which would have precluded other types of crops?

Church of Sant Cosme and Sant Damia On the opposite side of the valley is a large disused factory built of brick. With the noise of the traffic at this point it feels more like a walk with industrial heritage. Celra itself has a couple of historical factories in a modernista style, but that is for another day. Eventually the path curves turns to the left (careful with the signpost, the sign points right, but the arrow on the sign points left) and starts to climb into the woods passing under the N II. And then it becomes a pretty wooded walk up to the top following the sign posts.

Roman fort at Sant Julia de Ramis At the top is a small church - you can climb the tower. There are views out along the Ter towards the sea and you can see Roses, the small hill at Montgo (near L'Escala) and the castle on the Montgri mountain in the distance. Below, along the N II to the north you'll see the next castle (Madremanya - it looks prettier from further away than from up close). Then follow the path from the church to the Roman remains of the fort Castellum Fractum. This has been excavated and there are signs and information. From the fort you can look south down the Onyar valley towards the mountain of Montseny and on the other side of the valley is Campdora and further castle ruins.

View to Madremanya castle The Roman fort is not the fort that you can see from the autoroute. To reach this area you have to continue the loop around the top and you eventually reach the wall of Castell Forti. This was built in the 19th century and when we were there was totally closed off for works. The signpost said it was a private property, so I do not know if it will be open to the public in future.

The road down then brings you back to Sant Julia.

Girona walks: Celra, Juia and the Castle of Palagret - Girona valley of Sant Daniel - Girona and Castell de St Miquel - Cervia de Ter - Bascara - horses, fords and lost - Palol de Revardit to La Mota - Bescano, River Ter and free-style kayaking - Celra, Juia and the Castle of Palagret

Walking route Sant Julia de Ramis

Calella de Palafrugell/Cap Roig to Castell - classic wild Costa Brava
14 Jan 2013

Bays of Cala Estret on Costa Brava Costa Brava means wild coast, but if all you see are the main bays and resorts Brava can seem anything but wild.

Unlike the French Riveria where you can practically drive along the cliff top and see the coastline, the Costa Brava is a little more hidden and like many places in this area, you really need to get out of the car to appreciate what it offers.

This walk runs from the botanical gardens at Cap Roig above Calella de Palafrugell to the beach at Castell and takes you past some of the classic 'wild' natural unspoilt bays and coves of the Costa Brava.

Cap Roig itself is a 'castle' and gardens built from 1927 onwards by a Russian emigre Nicolai Woevodsky and his aristocratic English wife Dorothy Webster just above Calella de Palafrugell.

The castle itself was designed as their dream house, but they also established the gardens and bought much of the neighbouring woodland which are now part of the Cap Roig-Castell protected area.

Cap Roig Castle itself is situated to the south of Calella de Palafrugell on the cliffs with views to Calella de Palafrugell and Llafranc.

At the time the castle was built, Calella de Palafrugell in the 1920s was little more than a small group of houses by Port Bo - the current heart of the village. However, in order to raise money to build the Cap Roig castle, Woevodsky and Webster introduced an number of other wealthy English aristocrats to the area, in some ways helping to establish the first international interest in the Costa Brava.

View along Cap de Palafrugell The castle itself and gardens are now owned by a public foundation and the public can now pay to access the botanic gardens (or it's free for La Caixa account holders).

The woodland and natural areas surrounding Cap Roig however are freely open to the public for walking, though car access is normally restricted during the main summer months.

If you're interested in music, Cap Roig is the venue for a series of music concerts during the summer and has played host to Sting, Tom Jones, Tony Bennett, Bob Dylan, Kiki Tekawana, Simple Minds, Lady Gaga and a host of other local and world famous artists.

Our walk could start by parking the car in the car park at Cap Roig itself, but this time instead we start in Calella and park just above the bay of El Golfet where there is easy parking just off the road (at least outside the high season).

A diversion down a flight of stairs will take you down to a viewing point over the pebble beach of El Golfet bay, the last of the four beaches of Calella de Palafrugell.

We're keeping to the road though as it snakes up to the upper estates above Golfet.

The road splits at the top of the hill just before the farm on the entrance road towards Cap Roig - left to Cap Roig or upwards to the top estate or a signposted track in front of us.

This particular crossroads point meets with several paths including those from Ermedas and Mont-ras. It makes it a good starting point if you want to explore the fields and masia farms in the hills and plains away from the coast (also see the Ruta del Tren Petit).

We follow the signposted path towards Platja de Castell. At one point we could pass through the Cap Roig car park and reach the path on the other side, but this has been closed off, so the track is the main access to the woods.

View back to El Crit beach We walk following the track past the boundary of the Cap Roig estate - in winter some brave car drivers use the path. In summer it is usually closed off to all but the people who live in the scattered houses in the woods.

We follow the track as it climbs gently into the woods up to a fiveways point, again with a signpost.

To the left we can see two gate posts and a track that winds down the hillside towards the sea. This is the entrance to the Mont-ras bay of El Crit.

We follow the path down the cliffs to a clearing at the bottom just above the beach. In principle, people can drive down, but the path is steep and pitted and we've seen cars that have become trapped at the bottom. unable to make it back up the slope.

Hole in the rocks to follow path at El Crit From the clearing above the beach there is a set of steps and small wooden bridges lead down to the bay. In the bay is a small fisherman's hut/refuge and when we were there we were surprised by the number of families and nordic walkers - normally it's quite quiet, but from time to time the Montrasians make family trips to the beach.

El Crit itself is a sandy beach under the cliffs, but with a rocky bay and just off the bay are some small islands. It's excellent for snorkelling, though for swimming in the bay, some swimming shoes or flippers are recommended to protect your feet.

To the right is a wall of rock, but with a hole in the middle. We go through the hole to the next bay, this time stonier.

Ahead of us is a stairway up the cliff, but the bottom has been washed away, so to reach it we have to scramble up the rocks at the bottom. After this scramble the path is well laid and easy to follow.

We go over the headland and then come down at to another fishing hut which marks the start of a series of sandy bays. These bays are isolated and natural and attract naturists in the summer. Even in January someone was sunbathing naked on one of the bays.

Cala Estret The path then follows the beaches for as long as you can along Cala Estreta  ('narrow bay') and round three or four small sandy thin beaches.

Eventually the path leaves the beaches and climbs into the next headland and then above Cala Corbs. In the bay beneath us we were lucky enough to see cormorants playing in the shallows of the beach.

The path then passes through a car park to meet the track at the back. The footpath climbs to the left up and over the top of the next cliff. It's steep and relatively close to the cliff's edge.

Climb all the way to the top and you are greeted with a view over the ruins of the Iberic village and ahead of you Castel, La Fosca and Palamos.

View to Platja de Castell Costa Brava We descend through the woods to Castell beach and then follow the road past the car park and back. Our aim was to take the wood route back via the view point at Roques d'Ase but we didn't take the first left which we should have and instead continued past the abandoned Mas Canyet and along the track that connects the houses above the bays. The track is OK, but we would have preferred walking the wooded path back.

Neighbouring walks: Mont-ras to Calella de Palafrugell and Llafranc - Platja de Castell and La Fosca - La Fosca to Palamos - Far de Sant Sebastia (Llafranc) to Tamariu - Eulogy to the Ruta del Tren Petit (Palafrugell, Palamos, Mont-ras and Vall-llobrega)

Swimming and canoeing: Beach at Platja de Castell - swimming and canoeing - Swimming and wild beaches of Castell-Cap Roig

Visit: Gardens of Cap Roig - Palafrugell

Walking route Calella Cap Roig to Platja de Castell via El Crit and Cala Estret


Rupia and Foixa
08 Jan 2013

Rupia in the town itself Some times going out for a walk you run into a happy accident. Though Rupia is just off the main route from Girona to Torroella and L'Estartit for us it's not on our normal route home so we rarely go past. And even if you do drive through it's easy just to miss the towns so this was a little bit of an explore for us, but one that turned up a couple of interesting towns/villages off the beaten track.

Santa Maria church The walk started in Rupia. There's easy marked parking just outside the centre. Rupia is a small town with an inner square that, like many Empordan towns, is actually walled in by the surrounding houses for protection so you need to go into the centre to get a proper sense of the town. Consequently the first thing was to walk around the village to find out where everything was.

Having got locations we headed north out of the village back to the main road. The path follows a track marked as a bike path (the brown signs) on the right hand side of the bus stop and the right hand side of the hill in front of you. After a few hundred metres the path opens up to broad open field with views to Torroella in the distance to the right and up past Jafre to the north. The views are very clear at this time of year.

We walked along the track until the cross roads near the pretty, but strangely isolated, church of Santa Maria - that is it's an impressive church built near a masia farmhouse but with no apparent village nearby. The quirkily named village of Ultramort is just the other side of the hill with it's own church. At the cross-roads is a metal cross just as you reach the tarmacked road. Instead of taking the road we turned left and followed the track towards the castle of Foixa to your left.

Foixa castle from below Foixa around the castle The castle is private and stands above the plain and following the track will take you all the way to the top. At the top take the chance to explore the small huddle of houses around the castle before following the path to the village of Foixa itself down to a stream and another cross - stone this time, before gently going up to the village itself. From the village road you have very clear views across the plain of the river Ter below and out to L'Estartit and the Isles Medes in the distance. And across the valley from the church are a number of sizeable old masias.

Being unfamiliar with the village we're not sure if we saw all of it, or the best of it, but we headed up through the centre until the road turned into a track through the woods and we followed the track through the woods. At the end of the track, the path met a tarmacked road. This was a little bit of a surprise as our map still had it as a footpath. The walk is a little dull along the road so there is probably a better route for next time. When we reached the Foixa-La Pera road a brief left followed by a right along by what looks like an airstrip and then over the top of the hill and back down to Rupia.

Crossing the main road again, the path follows a small stream back into Rupia itself.

Neighbouring walks: La Pera, Pubol and around - Serra de Daro, Fonolleres, Sant Iscle d'Emporda - Verges, Tallada d'Emporda and Maranya - Sant Jordi Desvalls, Colomers and Sant Llorenç de les Arenes

Walking route between Rupia and Foixa on the Costa Brava

Gualta, Llabia, Fontanilles and the lake of Ullastret
06 Jan 2013

Gualta church with Montgris behind I've been looking at old maps and photographs of Emporda to get a sense of how the countryside has changed over time. Emporda is an ancient land - it was settled originally by Greeks, then came the Romans and after the Romans came Visigoths, Muslim invaders and then the Franks. Catalonia itself is one of the Spanish Marches - that is a body of land separating two opposing forces as a kind of buffer state. As a result it is a land which is full of castles and towers and fortified villages on top of hilltops.

Ancient bridge over the Daro at Gualta The other feature of Emporda is water. If you look at old maps you will see the coastline changes over time. For instance Pals was once on the sea and Torroella had access to the sea along the Ter. Over the centuries the lowlands and marshes at the mouth of the rivers Ter and Fluvia (and Muga higher up) have been drained and dried out. One intriguing feature on older maps, even to the early 20th century was that there were several inland lakes marked and routes and areas described as Estany - or lake in Catalan.

Ullastret Iberic village standing over the now empty lake or Estany of Ullastret One of the largest of these is the lake of Ullastret - a large (3km long) depression now completely emptied, but in the past a broad body of water between Ullastret (the Iberic village of Ullastret would have stood above the lake), and the hills of Llabia/Fontanilles on the other side. Reading the history, the lake itself was drained mechanically with a steam-engine taking about 30 year to  pump out the water between the 1850s and 1880s. It would probably have been smelly in summer as it dries out - so locals were all in favour of drainage. Apparently in heavy rain parts of this lake can re-appear.

Llabia village with views to Gavarres  The walk starts at Gualta. There is parking near the old bridge over the Daro. The first part of the walk is on the road to reach Llabia - it means walking on tarmac, but the road is quiet with very little traffic. Llabia is a small village on a hill with broad views in all directions and particularly good views of the Pyrenees. We walked through the village and out the other end along the Carrer Major (like many 'main roads' in small old villages it isn't really 'major'). One of the streets you pass at the end of the village is Carrer d'Estany showing how the lake is captured in the place names.

Continue out and Carrer Major turns into a gravel track with what would have been the lake to the right. The lake bed is now a collection of what look like very fertile fields beneath you and across the 'lake' extremely clear views to the mountains. On the other side of the lake you should be able to make out the village of Ullastret and the museum building for the Iberic village.

Fontanilles village with castle of Montgri behind The road continues south past olive groves to a cross roads at the end of the hill on your left. Turn to the left and follow the path to Fontanilles. Fontanilles is actually on the GR92 and looks over the bay of Pals. The village is a little bit tumbledown and unkempt. For me this is less pretty than the view across the lake on the other side of the hill so if you are walking the GR92, you might consider a diversion. Nonetheless, the path from Fontanilles climbs up the hill past the cemetary. At the top is a viewpoint with views to the south to Pals and Palafrugell and to Torroella and the Isles Medes to the north-east.

View to Fontanilles and down towards Pals and Begur across the plain Follow the path down the hill and then turn to the right to get to Gualta. The village has a character to it without necessarily being particularly photogenic. Before the church is an old mill with water conduits that would be used to control the water entering into the bay of Pals. Pals has a large and complex system of irrigation for the rice paddies with water coming from the Daro (via Gualta) and the Ter. Continue past the church and back to the old bridge. You can see the tracks worn by the carts as they crossed the bridge to get to the Torroella road.

Neighbouring walks: Canapost, Poblet Iberic and Ullastret - Palau-sator and PeratalladaTorroella de Montgri castle - Serra de Daro, Fonolleres, Sant Iscle d'Emporda - Torroella de Montgri to Gola de Ter - Evening walk Pals to Sant Feliu de Boada

Walking route from Gualta to Llabia past the empty lake of Ullastret and back via Fontanilles

St Pol de Bisbal and Santa Lucia
06 Jan 2013

Village of St Pol de Bisbal On the walk around and through La Bisbal I had the aim of reaching the hamlet of St Pol but not having a map with me I didn't quite reach the village. So a few days later we went back to find St Pol and walk in the woods to Santa Lucia del Bosque.

View over Cruilles from St Pol de Bisbal St Pol is a small hamlet (about 10 houses) with a small church just outside La Bisbal in the direction of the Gavarres and Calonge. The main street is quite narrown, but there is parking just next to the church. The village itself appears on old maps, though now it is relatively isolated with one drivable road in and out, and it is connected to the GR92 coastal path network which is also usually a good sign.

From the church we followed the road out of the village and up into the woods. At a T junction we followed the road to the left (not the GR92 route) towards Santa Lucia del Bosque. This is actually a drivable track and provides access into the masias in the hills. The path is pleasant with views over Cruilles and to the Pyrenees in the distance, though it is largely a typical wood trial. About three quarters of the way along, an signpost indicates a split - a small walking track to the right or the main road. We followed the track down into the valley and then out up the other side through the woods. At the other side another sign points to the Font de Santa Lucia - a small fountain with drinking water, then it's a rough climb following the path up to the chapel of Santa Lucia at the top.

Chapel at Santa Lucia del Bosque Again, avoiding the GR92 we followed the main drivable track past the chapel and back down into the valley then up the other side to the large masia that stands over the valley. Climbing up and then past the masia, we took the next lefthand path around to the next valley (note there is a signpost 50m ahead of you for a different path - we didn't take or reach the signposted path).

The track curves around the valley head giving views across the plain, then turns to the left and along back out to the St Pol village.

Neighbouring walks: La Bisbal, Vulpellac, Castell d'Emporda, Fonteta - Cruilles, Monells and Sant Sadurni de l'Heura - Madremanya, Els Angels, Sant Marti Vell

Walking route from St Pol de Bisbal to Santa Lucia chapel

Mont-ras 'boar' walk
06 Jan 2013

Frog pond on Mont-ras woods walk Mont-ras is our neighbourhood, so we start and finish a lot of walks in the village. Fortunately there is a wide variety of walks available with lots of different paths - we can go up into the Gavarres or out across the plain towards the sea or the towns. As a result we pretty much walk in the Gavarres two or three times a week and we're still finding new routes.

One of the things we've found is that there are a lot of tracks and smaller routes in the hills that aren't actually marked on the maps. The tracks aren't just used by walkers - there is a great deal of mountain biking through the woods.

The main walk on the maps is a round trip circling Puig Cucala - a hill with an electricity pylon right on top (with great views, but it's a steep and rough climb up and down to the top). This 'recommended' route is a fairly decent Sunday afternoon stroll up into the hills with views to the sea on broad paths.

Mont-ras woods walk The following walk is a more interesting variation taking you down through the woods on a smaller more wooded path, criss-crossing a small stream. Unfortunately wooded paths don't really photograph well - it just looks like a path in the woods - so you'll have to try it to see why we like it.

We used to call it the frog walk because towards the bottom the stream forms a pool of water and on one occasion in spring we walked past to the loud singing of a full blown frog chorus.

It got renamed in the summer when our dog got spooked by loud rustling in the undergrowth and the appearance of wild boar tracks. We didn't see anything but are pretty sure the boars (senglars in Catalan) were rooting about in the undergrowth.

In summer the senglars have litters of young and you are warned not to get too close as the parents (who are normally shy) can get aggressive to protect their young. There is also no hunting allowed during this period.

In the winter the hunting season starts again and many of the tracks are used by hunters looking for the animals.

Fork from the Puig Cucala Mont-ras path down to the boar walk The walk starts from Mont-ras church and heads up to the top of the hill. There are a number of routes up. In this case we take Carrer Major into the woods, but almost immediately turn left and head up the hill past the top two houses of the village.

Keep going up until the path flattens out right at the top. You'll pass a field on your left and the path splits.

Take the left hand path around the field. This meets the next path at a T junction.

Take the left path (part of the Puig Cucala route) past the red and yellow stripped water indicator and Bosch de Dalt house.

In front of you the path splits. Instead of following the main Puig Cucala route, take the right had split into the woods of the next valley. This path runs down to a clearing that looks out over the sea through the trees.

The path continues past the clearing and you just head down into the valley - there are a few spur paths, but basically you keep left and head down.

Some of the path gets rocky and then suddenly you're on a narrow muddy footpath towards the base of the valley. As you walk you'll find yourself following a small stream and the way the path goes (still keep to your left) you'll cross the stream about three or five times. The frog pool is down towards the bottom.

At the end you emerge at a broad track road and follow the path towards the houses of the Molines urbanisation. Again keep to the left and follow the road back through the older part of the Mont-ras village.

Neighbouring walks: Mont-ras to Calella de Palafrugell and LlafrancMont-ras Fountain walkLlofriu, St Llop and Torrent - Eulogy to the Ruta del Tren Petit (Palafrugell, Palamos, Mont-ras and Vall-llobrega) - Mont-ras to Fitor and on to Fonteta and Vulpellac

Walking route for Mont-ras into the Gavarres Costa Brava


La Bisbal, Vulpellac, Castell d'Emporda, Fonteta
04 Jan 2013

La Bisbal dEmporda church and castle seen from river Daro La Bisbal d'Emporda is the principle town of Baix Emporda and former seat of the Bishops of Girona. Situated inland, when you drive through for the first time it's easy to think of the town as just one long stream of ceramics/pottery shops on the way to the coast. In many ways this view comes because the main through-route for the town (linking Girona to Palamos) runs perpendicular to the main interest/historic axis. If you stopped in the centre where the road crosses the river Daro and went along the river either to your left or to your right you would have a completely different view of the town. La Bisbal was an important religious and political centre which is reflected not just in the town, but in the villages around.

Vulpellac village main street The walk itself starts in the village of Vulpellac just outside La Bisbal. This is a historic medieval village complete with small castle by the church and stone houses that are found in all the villages around La Bisbal. There is plenty of parking just off the roundabout at the entrance to the village. We walk through the village and out the other side, then into the fields along a track. A Tramuntana wind was whipping through the vale on this particular day. The Tramuntana is the northly wind that blows down from the Pyrenees to the coast and so can be quite cold (the southerly wind that blows cool off the sea in the summer is the Garbi). However, it also clears the air and in winter gives fabulous visability.

view to Corsa with snowy Pyrenees behind from rise above La Bisbal sports club on the walk After a while the path turns up towards the woods and we follow a track to the top of the hill. The hill itself is like a finger pointing out from La Bisbal so there are views on either side. At the top you reach the first row of houses of La Bisbal, but instead of going into the town, turn to the right and keep along the top of the finger. After about 200m you should see a sports club below the path and the first views out to the mountains. In this particular case the Tramuntana had also left a little more snow on the peaks so not only was the view extremely clear, the mountains were also shrouded in white. Keep along the ridge until you see a set of gates below you. The path curves down to the gates. This marks the entrance to Castell d'Emporda.

Castell dEmporda from the fields below the castle Castell d'Emporda itself sits on the end of the finger giving it a broad sweep of a view over the lands to the north and west. The castle itself has been turned into a luxury hotel, but retains the original building as it's centrepiece. Follow the road below the castle and turn to the left along the street with the no entry sign marked viens (neighbours) - we're walking so it doesn't apply. You find yourself in a narrow street of old houses that would have been the original hamlet for the castle. On old maps Castell d'Emporda is marked as a distinct place - it is not bound up with La Bisbal. Walk down the street and at the bottom turn left and the path takes you down off the finger to the fields below.

La Bisbal dEmporda with castle and old bridge over the river Daro At the bottom double back slightly to get to a track to cross the fields in order to reach the path that runs along by the river Daro. Although the riverbed is broad, in practice the Daro is an occasional river. Unlike the neighbouring Ter or Fluvia which take their water from the Pyrenees, the Daro rises in the Gavarres so in winter there will often be a steady flow of water, in summer the river can be dry (in Catalan there is a distinction between a Riu - a river that runs all year round, and a Riera which is a river that is dry in summer; there is also a Torrent which is a river that flows only after a downpour).

La Bisbal dEmporda Palace-Castle of the Bishops of Girona We follow the river along the riverbank. On the other side of the river are ceramics factories and across the view of the town ahead there are the occasional high chimneys, remnants of La Bisbal's most important industry. Although the industry has declined relatively speaking, there are still a number of potteries in La Bisbal and the town also has a Terracota museum. Most of the clay is dug in pits on other side of the town, but you would really have to know where to go to be able to see them.

The first view of La Bisbal will also give you a view of the main church but also one of the most ill-placed blocks of flats on the Costa Brava - a great bleugh of a building that is both too high (by about eight floors) and terribly placed sitting right in the centre of the town. You can't help but see it and it ruins the skyline and dominates over the more interesting and important historic buildings in La Bisbal. Unfortunately the building craze in the 60s and 70s left a few of these monstrosities across the Costa Brava. Fortunately building standards in the 1980s and onwards have much better protected the townscapes.

convent in La Bisbal from path close to Fonteta with mountains in the distance We follow the path into the centre of town. You can take the path on either side along an avenue of plain trees. It's worth exploring the centre a little.  The old centre is to the left as you walk towards it but you might want to keep to the right then cross the Daro at the ancient stone footbridge. Ahead of you is one of the old town gates and going through the gate is a networks of small streets, arches and small squares. On market days (Fridays) the whole centre seems crammed full of stalls selling produce, clothes and almost anything else you can think of. You will also find the old palace-castle of La Bisbal - former residence of the archbishops of Girona (La Bisbal means bishop).

After looking around the centre cross the river at the stone bridge once more and continue along the footpath following the river upstream and out of town. Cross the main bypass (it's not too busy) into fields and then cross the river again at the next ford. Even if the river has water there is normally a dry crossing possible. This takes you into an older part near the open-air swimming pool. Continue walking along the river past the swimming pool and out of the town. At the next junction go left. Cross the road and head into the fields. The aim is to circumnavigate the town from the back.

Fonteta village On the hill you'll see the Convent standing proud. As Bisbal is a former religious centre the convent is large and dominates the space around it. Some of the older streets and more interesting historic places are those that link the convent to the main town centre. Technically, I had the aim of trying to reach St Pol - a small hamlet a little further on, but I neglected to take a map and found I couldn't connect the paths to reach the village. So in this case we follow the footpath around the back of the convent. You'll find signposts and we follow them to Fonteta.

Fonteta is another small village that winds up a slight incline towards the entrance to the Fitor road on top of the Gavarres. From Fonteta, it is a flat walk back around to Vulpellac.

Neighbouring walks: Canapost, Poblet Iberic and Ullastret -Corça, Casavells, Matajudaica - Clots de Sant Julia (Vulpellac) - St Pol de Bisbal and Santa Lucia - Cruilles, Monells and Sant Sadurni de l'HeuraMonells and Mont-negre - Palau-sator and Peratallada - Mont-ras to Fitor and on to Fonteta and Vulpellac - Madremanya, Els Angels, Sant Marti Vell - Canapost to the medieval fair at Peratallada

 Walking route from Vulpellac to Castell dEmporda, La Bisbal and around the back of La Bisbal via Fonteta on the Costa Brava


Regencos to Pals via Quermany Gros and Petit
01 Jan 2013

view of Pals Peratallada and Pyrenees from Quermany Costa Brava Pals is the most famous inland village on the Costa Brava, often frequented by coach trips from the bigger resorts like Tossa or Llorett to the south. The village is medieval and stands on a low isolated hill surrounded by levels (used for growing rice) and consequently stands proud above the surrounding countryside.

The village itself is a collection of narrow streets and arches that wind their way to the church and lookout tower at the top of the town. There are quite a few recommended restaurants in the town and nearby and every year Pals holds a festival de arros (rice festival). The levels around the town come about because at least until the middle ages, much of the surrounding area was either sea, or a sea-etang/marsh area. These have been drained, or the sea has receded, to leave rich fertile flat plains with plenty of available water from the river Ter.

Regencos from Quermany walk This walk starts in Regencos. Regencos is also an old village of about 50-100 houses and a church. Most people would follow the road as it bypasses the village heading towards Begur and never stop in Regencos itself. Behind Regencos is a small hill called Quermany (pronounced Querman) which is only about 220 metres high, but because of it's position above the levels gives fabulous views up and down the coast and out to the Pyrenees.

There is parking in Regencos, then it is a simple walk following the obvious track up the hill to the top of Quermany Gros. The path splits at the water-deposit and you take the left fork onto a smaller path that winds you around the hill to the top.

The path itself is not special (and on the way down will be rocky so it needs good footwear), but as you start to reach the top, the landscape around starts to unfold to give great views towards Begur, then the Isles Medes and up to Roses/Cap Creus, then across to Torroella and Montgris. Then Pals and the villages of Peretallada, Palau-sator and Torrent and out to the mountains, and looking south across Palafrugell to the high-rises of Palamos and St Antoni de Calonge. All of the photos here were taken on the walk from the various viewpoints available.

View from Quermany Gros towards Montgri and Roses Once you've finished admiring the many views from Quermany Gros it's time to continue onwards. Below you, towards Pals, is another hill - this is Quermany Petit. As you head down follow the path signposted towards Pals. There are quite a few routes on the way down so diversions are possible, but it's also easy to take the wrong path and end up behind rather than in front of Quermany Petit. The route we took went to the left and then down to the campsite. As you pass the campsite - almost at the campsite edge with caravans below you - a path heads back up to the right. This takes you to Quermany Petit.

The reason for going to Quermany Petit is because this gives the best view of Pals. If you judge the day right you get Pals standing off the plain with the snow on the Pyrenees directly behind the village.

The path off Quermany Petit actually ends at the main roundabout on the way in to Pals village. This can be quite busy to cross. An alternative is to follow the path by the farm to the right which will wind around a little more until it meets a road that passes under the main Pals bypass and saves crossing the road.

Pals village in the Costa Brava with snow on the Pyrenees behind taken from Quermany Petit Obviously you can also stop and visit Pals, but on this occasion we carried on with the walk. To the south of the village is a broad gravel track which is used as a bike path (marked with brown signposts). It's an easy flat cycle if you want to explore the neighbouring villages. We follow the signpost directions towards Palafrugell which takes us down to the main Torrent-Pals road by the waterworks. This is also busy so care is needed crossing. On the other side you pass open fields and a couple of pig farms before turning towards a farm and a cross-roads. At the cross-roads Regencos will be sign posted and you can walk back to the village.

Neighbouring walks:Masos de Pals, Begur, Sa Riera and Platja de Pals - Evening walk Pals to Sant Feliu de Boada - Palafrugell, Tamariu, Begur residential and Esclanya - Llofriu, St Llop and Torrent - Pals beach to Gola de Ter

Walking route from Regencos over Quermany to village of Pals Costa Brava

Pals beach to Gola de Ter
28 Dec 2012

Pals beach lifeguard hut near Delfin Verd Platja de Pals is a huge long beach that stretches for several kilometres from the main holiday urbanisation past Masos de Pals and all the way up to L'Estartit and the Isles Medes in the north. From the southern part of the beach you can reach the hidden Platja del Roca beach and round to Sa Riera which is technically part of Begur.

driftwood on Pals beach The beach itself is the basin for the outflow of the river Ter. Away from the two ends it's quite flat and in the Middle Ages when sea levels were higher much of this area is marked as being a large sea lake. Now the same flat fields and wide availability of water means it is a prime rice growing area full of rice paddies. Until the mid 2000s, the beach itself was the location of a number of very large radio masts used for broadcasting propaganda into Russia. These have been dismantled giving much of the beach a wild natural feeling.

We walked this in winter which is the best time of the year for beach combing. Drift wood washes up on the sand and the wind half buries it leaving spooky white branches reaching out of the sand. Along the edge of the beach are dunes and sand grasses and people are far and few between.

view across Gola de Ter on Pals Beach towards Estartit There are really two options for the walk. You can start at the bottom by the main Platja de Pals restaurants (usually shut up in winter), and then have an extra long walk, or you can short-circuit it and start higher up the beach by the Green Dolphin Campsite (Delfin Verde). Since this is pretty much an up and back type of walk we tend to start at the Delfin Verde.

The walk is easy. Head north towards L'Estarit. The sand isn't too soft to walk on and our dog just loves the freedom of running on the sand (ok in winter, not ok in summer). If it's windy you might find kite surfers on the sea. On a clear day the Isles Medes and Torroella de Montgri will be clear to see. Eventually you reach the Gola de Ter - the mouth of the river Ter as it cuts across the beach to reach the sea. Behind the mouth a huge fresh water lake builds up in winter often with reeds and birds.

Unfortunately you can't cross the Gola without getting wet. In summer when the river is lower you can swim across - it's only a few metres wide. In winter it's too cold and that bit wider.

Of course another option is to start at L'Estartit - that would be another walk though.

Neighbouring walks: Masos de Pals, Begur, Sa Riera and Platja de Pals - Torroella de Montgri castle - Torroella de Montgri to Gola de Ter - L'Estartit to Cala Pedrosa and Cala Ferriol - Sa Tuna, Cap de Begur, Begur

Swimming: Swimming at Gola del Ter (Pals/L'Estartit) or L'Estartit

Swimming at Platja de Pals and Platja Illa Roja

Walk on Pals beach to Gola de Ter

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17 Feb 2014 19:46
What a great blog. I am planning a walking holiday in the region and wonder if you can recommend the best walking maps, like UK ordnance survey ones.

I shall be reading more of your walks over the coming days as we plan.

Many thanks
24 Feb 2014 17:25
Glad you're enjoying it. We have recommendations for maps in our 'Advice and FAQ' section
13 Jul 2017 12:46
Sorry I missed the comment, so I hope it's not too late - use the contact box if you'd like to send a message. For the coast, the GR92 is best and if you have driver you can just take it piece by piece. For hikers, around Cap de Creus is great, though it can be dry and hard walking in summer. For us, the stretch between Palamos and Palafrugell and on to Begur is the prettiest part of the whole Costa Brava and really good for walking. I'd probably also take the walk up and over Montgri, possibly starting at Pals, or L'Estartit to L'Escala. And though you said you prefer the coast, don't overlook inland routes as there are some wonderful villages and countryside out towards Girona, La Bisbal, or Olot.
Sven-Gunnar Furmark
24 May 2017 11:43

My name is Sven Furmark. I am from Sweden. I plan to go to Costa Brava with some friends (totally about 10 people) for hiking for one week (5 walking days). We are experienced hikers and we usually walk 4-6 hours per day. We prefer to walk along the coast as much as possible. We plan to rent a house and travel to each days hiking with a bus & driver which we plan to book for the whole week. Which five hikes would you recommend for us.

Warm Regards
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