Catalunya’s Costa Brava lies a mere hour’s drive or train ride north of Barcelona will take you to an area full of charming coastal towns, secret coves, luxurious villas and medieval towns. It’s a destination more associated with adventure and luxury than weird and wonderful, but we manged to search out a few alternative things to see in the Costa Brava.
The river on an aqua trek
Something you may not have considered on your trip to the Costa Brava is going aqua trekking – not quite swimming and not quite canyoning; this is a unique way to learn about the local flora and fauna. Dressed in full dry suits and helmets, we had the chance of trying this out with Aventura Girona. The afternoon saw us wading down a riverbed, swimming in serene pools and jumping off rocks – a very different Costa Brava experience to lying on the beach.
The Dalí Theatre Museum in Figueres
Visiting Salvador Dalí attractions may not be particularly unusual, but one look at this bizarre building and you’ll see why we’ve included it in our list of alternative things to see in the Costa Brava. Topped with Dalí’s iconic white eggs, golden figurines and covered in what can only be described as piles of poo, this is certainly an interesting sight. Inside, the building takes on more quirky appearances – round and open to the sky, it’s covered in vines and more figurines, while the artist’s famous Rainy Cadillac takes centre stage.
Unique beaches and coastal trails in Palafrugell
One of the unique things about the Costa Brava are the number of coastal trails, which have been used for years by both fishermen and smugglers. They extend over 200km along the coast and make for excellent hiking routes. During our time staying in the area, our villa was connected to the small beach of El Crit (the Scream) via these outback-like trails. Only accessible on foot, these tiny inlets, coves and bays make for the perfect day of exploration.
A crêpe restaurant filled with old vehicles
For the best crepes outside of France itself, head to the quirky Creperie Bretonne in Girona. Crepes are served from an old campervan inside the restaurant itself and the bathrooms are housed inside part of an old bus – and let’s not forget the array of bizarre memorabilia covering the walls.
Dalí’s summer home in Cadaqués
The Costa Brava is Dalí country and nowhere is this more so, than in the quaint town of Cadaqués and nearby Portlligat, where Dalí had his summerhouse. Also topped with his quirky eggs, the house is filled with weird and wonderful statues, wall hangings and pieces of furniture, as well as some of his artwork. Since the house is very popular, it’s necessary to book in advance. You’ll also be able to see the surrounding landscape, which provided inspiration for the artist’s paintings.
The medieval streets of Besalú
The historical town of Besalú is quite different to many of the towns around the Girona/Costa Brava area as it has a strong medieval feel. The charming town is bisected by the River Fluvia and straddled by a magnificent 12th century Romanesque bridge. Walk around the narrow winding streets and you can’t help but think you’ve stepped back in time and turned into a medieval knight. Even the surrounding shops all seem to be selling swords or bows and arrows.
Aolcanoes in the Garrotxa National Park
Situated 45 minutes to the west of Girona, near the town of Olot, sits the bizarre landscape of the Garrotxa National Park, a volcanic area covering approximately 12,000 hectares. This is certainly a worthy contender for alternative things to see in the Costa Brava, and is not the type of scenery you’d usually associate with Spain. There are around 30 craters and volcanic cones in the park, which are all now extinct. The best way to see them though is not from the ground, but from the heights of a hot air balloon – flying over the top of them.
Where to stay?
The Costa Brava has a wealth of accommodation options to choose from, but if you really want to have the freedom of exploring various parts of the region and experience an alternative to a hotel, why not rent a villa? Charming Villas offer a range of unique and beautiful villas throughout the area and during our stay in the area we tried out two of them.
The first – Mas Grevol – is situated in the Emporda region, 40 minutes inland from the coast and close to Besalú. This stunning property can only be described as our dream house. Think old stone arches, luxuriously large bedrooms, smooth plaster walls, stunning views and a serene pool surrounded by lemon and olive trees. Oh and the best and most well equipped kitchen we’ve ever seen (three ovens!).
The second was Mas Canyelles, although newer in age than Mas Grevol, was filled with old antique style décor and dark wood beams. It too had a beautiful swimming pool, as well as an outdoor kitchen area and cosy indoor lounges. Its best feature though was its location – a 20 to 30 minute hike along pine-covered trails to the hidden El Crit beach.