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Alt Empordà (from L'Escala to Portbou)
Side Trips & Excursions on the Northern Costa Brava


Side trips along the northern Costa Brava offers great experiences for the travelers with its many sights and beautiful towns. The northern region of Costa Brava corresponds to the Alt Empordà district where it is bordering on France. Alt Empordà is situated on a large plain traversed by the Muga and Fluvià Rivers flowing into the Gulf of Roses. Figueres the capital of the district where Salvador Dalí was born.

Trip to northern coasts may start from L’Escala, by the south of the Gulf of Roses. L’Escala is a fishing town famous with its quality of anchovies. Visitors should taste and buy some. Later on, a visit to the Empúries archaeological site is a must. Ruins are spectacular with a splendid terrace over the Mediterranean. It is said that over 2,500 years ago, the first Greek sailors came and established the colony of Emporion here. And also the Hellenic and Roman civilization was here too.

Castelló d’Empúries, nearby town at the mouth of the River Muga, on the Bay of Roses boasts a rich architectural heritage with the magnificent Gothic Church of Santa María (St. Mary), its Romanesque bell tower, and the City Hall. Local fauna and flora of the coast is a great opportunity to take a nature walk or bicycle tour. The reserve area lets the visitors to have a chance to get a close-up view of the many species of birds in their natural habitat. Castelló d’Empúries is a spot of Bay of Roses lying along the gulf and to the south of the rugged peninsula formed by Cape Creus. It is also one of the main fishing ports along Catalonia’s northern coasts. The bay and long sandy beach here is perfect for the beachgoers. Bay of Roses has variety of quality hotels and other tourist facilities that rivals Platja d’Aro beach. The area is Costa Brava’s second leading resort after Lloret te Mar.

The residential areas on the outskirts of the town are surrounded by a beautiful landscape of the coast in the company of the secluded coves and soaring sea cliffs. Cape Creus hosts a Nature Reserve of special scenic beauty. There is a spectacular megalithic monument here dating back to some five thousand years.

Cadaqués comes next. It is located on the eastern shores of the Cape Creus. The town is spectacular as it is nestling in the folds of a beautiful natural harbor. Pablo Picasso painted famous cubist canvases here in 1910. The town eventually have become a popular place with the visits of Dalí, Éluard, Magritte, Duchamp, Buñuel and more. Gala and Dalí’s houses is located in Portlligat bay on the north of Cadaqués. The houses may be be visited.


Bay of Roses




From Cadaqués, after a short trip on the scenic road, travelers arrive the seagoing town of El Port de la Selva. The Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes welcomes the visitors. It is the most extraordinary monumental examples of Catalonian Romanesque that rises from a slope high up on the mountainside. There is a truly spectacular beauty and great landscape over Cape Creus. The architecture and the beauty of the town will be unforgettable visit. Travelers may have a lunch at the monastery’s nice cafeteria. A climb up to the Sant Salvador de Verdera Castle with its stunning bird’s eye view is a must take attraction for the nature lovers. Later on, from Sant Pere de Rodes the road descends inland to Vilajuïga.

Before going to famous Figueres, a stop in Peralada town would be nice. It is a town known with its historical traditions and also being the capital of the first Catalonian counties. The mediaeval town centre, the wine cellars with their own seal of origin, the innovative wine spa or health centre based on ampelotherapy (grape cure), the golf course and the castle are the places of interest in the town.

The restored Gothic church and adjoining cloister, the glass and winemaking museums, the splendid French-style gardens where the prestigious Castell de Peralada International Music Festival is held every summer complete this remarkable privately owned complex.


Continuing the trip then it comes small town of Vilabertran on the way between Peralada and Figueres. The town is built around an old Augustinian monastery dating back to 11th century. Here, a summer music festival Schubertiada is held. The town worth seeing with its mediaeval canonical architecture.

Figueres is the district capital and an important junction point of the region. The town is the birthplace of Salvador Dalí. The Rambla, the shady main square is the center of social life in Figueres. Its fortress, Castillo de San Fernando (Sant Ferran Castle) is the second biggest one in Europe which was built in 1743. The gothic Sant Pere's Church rises in the middle of the town. The biggest reason that Figueres is mostly visited for is the Dalí Theatre Museum. It is the second most visited museum in Spain after Prado Museum in Madrid. Dalí had spent over a decade here before its official opening in 1974. It is the symbol for the city of Figueres. Everything reminds Salvador Dalí in the city of Figueres. There are also his works in the square in front of the museum. Visitors are able to buy Dali related souvenirs from the variety of souvenir shops with fancy names such as Art Surrealista & Dalícatessen.

The tour of Alt Empordà on the northern Costa Brava ends on north coast by the French-Spanish border. The villages of Llançà, Colera and Portbou are located here in an area of sheer cliffs interspersed with small bays and sandy beaches.

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