La Garrotxa, set between the Pyrenees and Costa Brava, is one of the most beautiful, unique yet undiscovered regions of Catalonia, located in the province of Girona and part of the Girona Pyrenees region. It borders with France on the northern parts, and it’s about 120 km from Barcelona, and 45 km from Girona.
For as little known as it is, visiting La Garrotxa is truly worth it, for it is packed with interesting sights, untouched nature, and beautiful villages and small cities. If this isn’t enough to convince you to go, let me add that gourmets will find plenty of mouthwatering reasons to visit: food and wine in this part of the country are delicious.
La Garrotxa What?!
There’s probably not a person in the travelers’ community that doesn’t know about Barcelona. The capital of Catalonia is an incredible city; an old time favorite of Europeans and North Americans who go there for the ultimate weekend getaway.
Girona, the biggest city of northern Catalonia, is also becoming increasingly popular. Call it the power of budget airlines, which started flying there en masse to avoid the high landing fees of Barcelona El Prat airport. And Costa Brava is now a favorite summer destination thanks to its lovely beaches and charming villages.
La Garrotxa though? Most people outside of Spain have never even heard of it. I was one of them, to be honest. I discovered it thanks to my obsession for volcanoes and volcano hikes, as I was researching for volcanoes in Europe. I was thrilled to find out that a place that was within easy reach from Sardinia was actually packed with extinct volcanoes, and home to some of the most incredible hikes in Europe.
By the way, if you are curious to know more about my experiences hiking active volcanoes, check out my posts “Everything You Need To Know To Visit Mount Bromo, Indonesia“ and “Everything You Need To Know When Going On A Hike Of Pacaya Volcano, In Guatemala.”
I visited La Garrotxa in October and spent 10 incredible days there. I foresee it will become a very popular international tourist destinations in the near future, for it has anything a traveler may want to.
In this post, I will highlight some of the reasons that make La Garrotxa a great travel destination, and share some tips to help you organize a trip there and make the most of it.
La Garrotxa Travel Guide: Why You Should Visit The Volcanic Region Of Catalonia
It is still quite undiscovered
One of the things I enjoyed the most about La Garrotxa is that it’s still relatively undiscovered. Don’t get me wrong: there are tourists around, but most of them are local ones, coming for a day trip or for a weekend getaway from Barcelona, or from the neighboring regions of France, on the other side of the Pyrenees. And those that visit come prepared, knowing that restaurants may not open at all on a Sunday, or that there’s no place to have breakfast on a Monday morning, because hotels and coffee shops deserve a rest day as well (and frankly, who am I to say they shouldn’t?).
Only in Besalù, quite possibly the nicest village in La Garrotxa, there were a bit more visitors, and even then it was hardly a crowd.
The overall impression I had in La Garrotxa is that of a place that throughout time has managed to retain all of its local character, all the while being very welcoming to those who want to discover it.
The villages are gorgeous
Scattered around La Garrotxa there are a bunch of small and at times tiny medieval villages. All of them are nicely preserved and worth exploring. They are the kind of places where you are likely to find reminders of the medieval past, such as narrow cobbled alleys, red roofs, old mills, church squares and medieval bridges
Among the villages worth exploring there are Sant Esteve d’en Bas, the most important village of the Vall d’en Bas, which was likely founded before the year 900 (the first mention of the village dates back to 904). The most important building in the village is the 12th century church. The views of the village from a distance, when walking to the nearby tiny (and just as pretty) Els Hostalets d’en Bas, are stunning.
Hostalets d’en Bas main feature are the pretty balconies decorated with geraniums, though I have to say that the sight of the church is also quite impressive. Joanetes, a nearby village, is in a beautiful setting, right on the slopes of the Puigsacalm mountain (where there are some of the nicest hiking trails of La Garrotxa).
Santa Pau is one of the most charming villages of La Garrotxa. Declared of Historical and Artistic importance in 1971, it has retained all its medieval charm, with tiny irregular alleys, walls and access points. The village was built around a Baron’s castle starting in the 13th century. The castle (which unfortunately can’t be visited) remained the residence of the lords, and later on the center of the village. The nicest view of the old historical center of Santa Pau is from a terrace located by a rather old fashioned (but extremely local) coffee shop called Can Pauet.
The most visited village in La Garrotxa is Besalú, and after having been there I can only say that I am not surprised it is: this small medieval village is incredibly well preserved. Besalú has been inhabited since the Iron Age, and there is proof that a market existed already in the 11th century. This grew so much, that the village became the commercial center of La Garrotxa by the 14th century.
The first sight of Besalú that visitors get is that of the medieval stone bridge, Pont Vell. This was built in the 12th century in Romanesque style. If this is not impressive enough (as if!), the village has plenty else to offer. It is home to the Monastery of Sant Pere; Casa Cornellà, which is a nicely preserved medieval house; the church of Sant Julià and there also are the remains of a synagogue, a reminder of how the Jewish community thrived in Besalú and the rest of Alta Garrotxa, from the end of the 9th to the 15th century.
I also recommend going on a walk along the river – on both sides of it, if possible. The views of Pont Vell are equally gorgeous from both sides of the river; those of the village from the southern side are stunning; whereas on the northern side there are just as many nice viewpoints. The northern side is also where the “humble chair” is located. This is a nice piece of artwork that comes from a collaboration between Besalú inhabitants and local artists who create their version of a chair.
And so are the cities
Olot, capital of La Garrotxa, is one of the nicest places to visit in the region. It’s actually quite a small city, with only 35000 people living there. Set on a plain crossed by the Fluvià and Riudaura rivers, and surrounded my mountains, Olot was an important market center already in the 13th century.
Olot is a fantastic place to get a good feel for the local atmosphere (people are lovely!), to go shopping, and to get a better idea of the history and culture of La Garrotxa.
The city is packed with small yet interesting museums, beautiful buildings such as the Church of Sant Esteve, dating back to the 18th century, and the Renaissance Claustre del Carme, which used to be a convent cloister and it now houses the Olot School of Art.
Adding to this, there are a bunch of beautiful Art Nouveau buildings scattered around town, and the small but beautiful Mercat d’Olot, a lovely indoor market where it is possible to buy the best of local produce such as meat, fish, vegetables and fruits, bread, spices and nuts. There are also weekly markets (the Monday market on – errr – Mondays; and the Rengle Market on Fridays) where to buy foods, crafts and even clothes; and other craft markets are hosted throughout the year.
Olot is known as the “City of Volcanoes,” and it is part of La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park – so you can really see why I wanted to visit it! Indeed, there are a whopping four volcanoes in the boundaries of the city: Montsacopa and Montolivet are easily accessible from the city center (more about the hikes and the volcanoes of La Garrotxa in a bit!); but there also are Garrinada and Bisaroques.
The Volcano Museum, in Olot, and the Parc Nou Botanic Garden, outside the city center, are two excellent places to learn more about the volcanoes La Garrotxa.
Last, but definitely not least, Olot has some of the best accommodation and dining options in Garrotxa. There are good places to stay for all budgets, as well as restaurants that go from budget eateries to fine dining.
There are some truly quirky museums
Forget about your typical art gallery or archeology exhibit. Museums in La Garrotxa are truly interesting. Besalu Miniature Museum is the first of its kind in Catalonia. The collection of miniature displays – going from a 14th century pharmacy to a 20th century hair dressing salon – is fun to admire, especially as you do so through magnifying glasses thanks to which you get to see all the details of the various pieces.
Another incredibly quirky museum is the Museu del Sants (aka the Museum of Saints) in Olot. It’s the kind of place where visitors go to peep in, and end up spending a couple of hours learning about what once used to be the most important craft in La Garrotxa. Indeed, Olot used to be famous for its production of religious images, and there used to be dozens of workshops scattered around town where statues of saints were manufactured to then be sold around the world.
Nowadays, the production of religious images has been moved to Olot Museum of Saints, which is housed in a beautiful neo-gothic building in the center of Olot. All visitors are handed a headset, so they can browse the exhibit while learning about the creation of the statues. On the lower level, through a glass wall, they can observe artists at work as they create new statues.
More traditional museums include the Museu Garrotxa, in Olot, which has a nice exhibit (some pieces are permanent, others temporary) of local history and art pieces of the School of Olot; and the Volcano Museum, which is located in a 19th century villa in the Parc Nou Botanical Gardens of Olot, and explains a great deal about the formation and activity of volcanoes, with a strong focus of those of La Garrotxa.
TIP: Make sure to check the opening times of museums on their website before visiting, as they vary depending on the season and the day.
And wonderful examples of Art Nouveau
There are some incredible examples of Art Nouveau scattered in La Garrotxa – thanks to the work of many Catalan artists who took a liking into the curved lines, decorations that were rich in details, plant motifs and asymmetry. I only got to see some (there are really many!) but those who are interested in this cultural and artistic movement will be pleased to know that there is a La Garrotxa Art Nouveau route which can be explored from the Carrilet cycle lane.
Olot is the best place to visit for anybody who’s interested in this artistic style, with several beautifully preserved buildings in the center of town.
One of the most famous Art Nouveau buildings in Olot is Casa Gassiot, on Carrer Sant Rafael. The Firal (market place) is home to two buildings: the Solà-Morales House, which in 2000 was included in the European Art Nouveau Route; and the Gaietà-Vila House, an eye-catching colorful building. Some more Art Nouveau buildings can be found along the ramblas of Olot. It just takes an observing eye to spot them, as some are shadowed by the trees.
More examples of Art Nouveau in La Garrotxa can be found in La Vall de Bianya – the most famous works here are the Mas La Riba, which is located in L’Hostalnou; Casa de la Coromina and the altar piece and entrance door of the Romanesque church of San Salvador de Bianya.
In San Feliu de Pallerols there is the Can Casas, a building that nowadays hosts a chemist, dating back to the beginning of the 20th century (which marks the final years of the Art Nouveau movement) and decorated with colored glass, painted ceramics and worked wood and iron.
Romanesque churches and hermitages are stunning
La Garrotxa is packed with Romanesque churches and hermitages. These are churches built in a very simple, functional style that started appearing in the 10th century, and whose typical traits are orientation towards East, an apse, thick walls, a curved ceiling, very small windows (so hardly any light gets in) and a Latin-cross layout. Another thing that Romanesque churches have in common is the setting: they are often in the countryside, or in what appears to be the middle of nowhere.
I am a massive fan of this style churches. My parents got married in one in Sardinia – in fact, it’s a family tradition as pretty much all my family members got married in the same church. This is to say, I was truly happy to come across a bunch of Romanesque churches in La Garrotxa – though I couldn’t possibly visit them all.
Most of the Romanesque churches of La Garrotxa are still active and consecrated, but as it is often the case with these small countryside churches, they are only used for special occasions such as the celebration of the saint patron. This means that they are often locked.
TIP: If you are particularly interested in visiting one or more Romanesque churches in La Garrotxa, get in touch with the tourism office beforehand and look for the person who has the keys.
If you are particularly keen on Romanesque churches, there is a dedicated route – you can start in Vall de Bianya Landscape Interpretation Center in Sant Salvador the Bianya where you can get more information on the churches and even arrange a guided tour of the church of San Salvador de Bianya, which is right next to the center.
TIP: make sure to call or email the Landscape Interpretation Center in advance as the opening hours can be sporadic!
The good news is that, even if you don’t want to follow the Romanesque Churches of La Garrotxa route, you are bound to see many of them – just as I did.
One that I truly loved discovering is that of Santa Margarida de Sacot. Aside from the fact that the church looks really pretty, it’s the setting that caught me by surprise: the church was built at the center of the crater of Volcano Santa Margarida, and – like many others in La Garrotxa – was destroyed during the earthquakes of 1427-1428, and eventually rebuilt in 1865.
Not far from it, Sant Miquel de Sacot is another example of beautifully preserved Romanesque Church in La Garrotxa, which was however enlarged in the 18th century following a more neoclassical style.
San Miquel de Castellò Hermitage can be reached on a hike from Hostalets d’en Bas – it takes about one hour to get there on a steady uphill trail, and once there you can either go back to Hostalets or continue to Joanetes. The church is pretty, and the view of the valley from there is breathtaking.
Another hermitage that requires quite an effort to be visited is that of Santa Magdalena del Mont. Various hiking trails of medium to high level difficulty lead all the way to the hermitage, from where there are beautiful views of La Garrotxa below.
I stumbled on the Church of Santi Fructuosi de Ursiniano and the Sanctuari dels Arcs while hiking. Both of them are beautifully kept and isolated, but, as many other Romanesque churches in La Garrotxa, closed.
Two churches which are truly lovely and easy to reach are those of Santa Margarida de Bianya and Sant Miquel de Pineda. In the first case, the former rectory (the house where the priest used to live) has been restored and is now a cozy bed and breakfast; in the second case, right next to the church there is a beautiful boutique hotel from whose rooms there are splendid views of the Pyrenees.
It is packed with volcanoes
Volcanoes are what drew my attention to La Garrotxa to begin with. La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park is known as one of the best examples of volcanic landscape in Europe, with more than 20 lava flows and a whopping 40 inactive volcanoes. The park is so big that within it there are 26 different natural reserves, and an infinity of hiking and biking trails, some going to the craters of inactive volcanoes, others through the thick forest.
TIP: If you want to get a stunning view of the volcanic landscape, go on a hot air balloon ride. It’s costly, but mark it down and one of the most highly recommended experiences in La Garrotxa.
Among the most accessible volcanoes in Alta Garrotxa there are Montsacopa, which is literally in the center of Olot (it’s a short but steep hike that takes between 15 and 30 minutes and there is the beautiful Sant Francesc church as well as a 19th century watch tower at the top: the views from there are incredible); and Montolivet, also in Olot, and which is an easy hike that goes around the crater (which is now covered in vegetation!) and eventually along the banks of the river Fluvià.
TIP: Montsacopa and Montolivet are easy hikes and you can do both in one day. Plan to have lunch break in Olot to enjoy La Garrotxa volcanic cuisine at La Quinta Justa in between the two hikes.
Another nice volcano La Garrotxa that can be accessed quite easily is Volcano Croscat, a Strombolian volcano which with its 160 meters is the highest volcanic cone in the Iberian Peninsula. One of its sides used to be a quarry, which can now be seen when hiking in La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park. Nowadays it’s a place where families enjoy spending a day out, and schools take their students on day trips.
If you are curious to know what it’s like to hike an active Strombolian volcano, head over to my post “Why Stromboli is the best volcano hike.”
Volcano Santa Margarida is a freato-magmatic volcano. Here, right inside the crater, there is the Romanesque church of Santa Margarida. Nowadays the crater floor is pasture land, while the slopes are covered in a beautiful oak forest.
TIP: Volcano Croscat and Volcano Santa Margarida can be seen on the same day when visiting La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park. There are several trails in the park that can be combined to see as many places as possible and are all easily accessible.
I recommend adding the Fageda d’en Jordà on the itinerary: this is a beautiful beech forest, at the center of which there is also an organic dairy factory (which children love visiting). Leaving the Fageda, the trail goes by the beautiful Romanesque church of Sant Miquel Sacot.
And incredible hikes
La Garrotxa is an incredible hiking destination. People from Costa Brava and even those who live in Barcelona go there on day or weekend trips to hike. Some of the best trails are in La Garrotxa Volcanic Natural Park. As I have already pointed out, the natural setting of the park, with its beech forests, extinct volcanoes and nature reserves is ideal for hiking, and sure enough I made the most of it.
But there is more. La Garrotxa is set between Costa Brava and the Pyrenees and counts with an excellent network of local, regional, national and even international trails of various levels of difficulty and various lengths.
All trails in La Garrotxa are marked. The Vìas Verdes (literally “Green Ways”) are a series of old railway lines throughout Spain that have now been turned into trails for hikers and cyclists (and some parts are even wheelchair accessible): these trails are marked in green. In some cases, the Vìas Verdes coincide with the GR (Gran Recorrido in Spanish, or Gran Recorregut in Catalan) trails, which also run through La Garrotxa and which in Spain are marked with white and red lines.
I have walked parts of Vìas Verdes, but I have the mostly followed the Itinerannia trails, a network of paths in the counties of El Ripollés, La Garrotxa and L’Alt Empordà. These are marked in yellow and, like the Vìas Verdes, at times coincide with the GR trails.
The good thing about Itinerannia is that there are trails of various lengths and levels of difficulty. At times, I put together various short trails so that I could continue walking; other times, I walked longer and significantly challenging trails, for which you’d be better off hiring a guide or joining a group.
TIP: Most trails in the Pyrenees of La Garrotxa are well marked, but at times, the crisscrossing trails and the marks on a rock or a tree that may not be easily visible (or ruined by the elements) can cause some confusion.
The best thing to do is to get a good map of the trail you want to follow, and if possible download an app. Itinerannia has an app with all the trails. Another good one which I have used and found helpful is View Ranger, which once you upload the tracks works offline (so also in areas where there is no network) and tells you exactly where you are and in which direction to go.
Needless to say, if you are planning to hike in La Garrotxa (or anywhere else, actually) I recommend wearing appropriate hiking gear – first and foremost good hiking boots.
I will be writing a more extensive post about my hiking experience in La Garrotxa, so stay tuned for that. Meantime, you may read my post about the best hikes in the Pyrenees.
Waterfalls add a refreshing touch
I visited La Garrotxa in October, when the temperatures were incredibly pleasant. Yet, this part of the country does get quite hot in the summer time. The good news is that La Garrotxa is packed with lovely waterfalls and swimming holes, which are easily accessible on foot, by bike and by car.
The name San Joan Les Fonts quite obviously indicates the vicinity to water of this lovely village. There are various natural springs in the area – the Ruta de les Fonts takes to a few of them.
Another route in La Garrotxa that takes to a couple of swimming holes and some lovely small waterfalls is the Ruta dels Gorgs (gorgs actually means bathing pool), which is a circular hiking trail of 12 km that starts and ends in the lovely Santa Pau, and takes to the lovely natural pools of Can Batlle and sanctuary of Els Arcs.
San Feliu de Pallerols is crossed by the river Brugent, a tributary to river Ter. The municipality is dotted with around 50 natural springs – several of them can be easily reached by foot. The nicest ones are the Gorg d’en Duran and the Gorg de la Mola.
The views are just incredible
If you, like me, enjoy a good view, you’ll be in for a real treat. La Garrotxa is packed with viewpoints from where to catch a breathtaking view. The nicest views of Olot are those from Volcano Montsacopa. It’s an easy hike from the city center, and the views of the medieval town are darling.
The view of Santa Pau from the terrace by Can Pauet, as well as those of the village from various viewpoints, are precious.
The hermitage of Sant Miquel de Castellò, which can be reached on a steady uphill hike from either Joanetes or El Hostalets d’en Bas, is the best place to get stunning views of the Vall d’en Bas. The hike to Santa Magdalena and of Puigsacalm also afford some of the best views in La Garrotxa.
Especially from a hot air balloon
Yet, the best views of La Garrotxa are those from the sky. A hot air balloon ride is a fabulous way to get full appreciation of the volcanic landscape of Alta Garrotxa as it reaches an elevation of up to 1600 meters above sea level. Throughout the flight, the guide provides plenty of information about the area, pointing to various places of natural interest as well as landmarks, and gladly shares a number of anecdotes.
Flights depart at around sunrise from Vol de Coloms, right outside Santa Pau and last between one and two hours (mine was just short of two hours). Depending on the size of the gondola, there can be up to 13 passengers on the same ride.
A hot air balloon ride is quite costly, but the experience is worth every penny. During the flight, passengers get to enjoy a glass of cava, munch on traditional Catalan sweets, and even celebrate birthdays.
Once down, passengers are taken back to the base camp where they can enjoy a traditional brunch of La Garrotxa, with lots of dishes of what is locally known as volcanic cuisine. This usually involves a lot of cold cuts, traditional sausages (which here are called botifarra), beans which are typical of the region, and lots of bread and tomatoes.
TIP: Hot air balloons don’t fly if it rains, if it is windy or if there is poor visibility. If you are keen on going on a hot air balloon ride, make sure to allow at least some flexibility and plan to spend an extra day or two in La Garrotxa, in case the flight has to cancelled on the day you are booked in for. The weather was quite bad for a few days and the flight was cancelled when I was scheduled to go, but thankfully I was still in the region when it finally cleared and I could enjoy a fabulous flight!
The food is delicious
One of the perks of visiting La Garrotxa is that the food is really delicious. There are restaurants for all budgets (I am a fan of local eateries that serve home cooked style food) that serve food for all tastes: fine cuisine, international, indigenous and traditional food.
The soil is incredibly fertile in Garrotxa, with the result that local products are of a very high quality. The region produces onions, potatoes, buckweat, white haricot beans (known locally as fesols), kidney beans and even truffles which are used to accompany pork and other meats. Local goat cheeses are renowned too.
La Garrotxa is known for its “volcanic cuisine,” a network of local chefs and restaurants that have been actively promoting the products and recipes of the area throughout Catalonia and the rest of the country.
One of the nicest dishes to try in La Garrotxa is the “patates de Olot” (Olot potatoes) which are stuffed with a mixture of ground meat, onions and then fried until crispy on the outside, and moist and tasty on the inside. Coca is a sweet bread cake, often served for breakfast but at times even with pork scratchings (in which case it is called coca de llardons)
Adding to the cuisine, there are also the drinks. The local liquor is ratafia, which is made from green walnuts, mixed herbs and spices.
I honestly never thought of La Garrotxa as a place for chocolate. However, rain forced me to change my plans on my second day there, and as I looked for things to do, I enrolled in a chocolate making workshop at Pastisseria Ferrer in Olot. That’s how I ended up spending more than two hours (which really went in a zip!) with Jordi Ferrer, who showed me the secrets to some of his nicest chocolate pralines.
Jordi uses high quality ingredients to prepare some unique pralines. My favorite one is the salted corn (yes, you read that right!) one, for it is crispy, salty yet sweet and bitter at the same time, and it melts in your mouth.
If enrolling in a chocolate workshop isn’t your idea of having a good time, make sure to at least pay a visit to Pastisseria Ferrer to try some of the pralines. The bonus is that it is located in a beautiful historical building.
Locals are welcoming
One of the things that I enjoyed the more in La Garrotxa is how welcoming, helpful and genuine people are. Whenever they spotted me from their balconies and had the impression I may be lost, they called out and suggested a route to follow to get where I wanted to go. When they noticed that I was full of appreciation for the views I was sharing with them, they engaged in conversation about their lives, their city and even their pets.
Of course, the fact that I speak Spanish (people in Garrotxa speak Catalan, they all speak Spanish as well) helped out a lot. But I think that such genuine and kind hearted people would be helpful no matter the language barrier.
Practical Tips To Organize A Trip To La Garrotxa
How to get to and around La Garrotxa
La Garrotxa is easy to get to. These are the various options available.
You can either fly to Barcelona El Prat, which is the largest airport in the area, or Girona, which is actually closer to La Garrotxa. Both airports are served by budget airlines. If you arrive by plane, you then have to continue to Garrotxa by either car, bus, taxi / shuttle or guided tour. Various companies offer competitive rates for car rental. You can check prices here.
It takes less than two hours to drive from Barcelona to Olot, the main city in La Garrotxa, or from Barcelona to Besalù. Driving time from Girona is even shorter – a mere 30 minutes to Besalù, and 45 to 50 minutes to Olot. If you are thinking of renting a car, you can check the rates here.
The main cities of La Garrotxa are well connected to the rest of Costa Brava; but it is trickier to get to some of the small villages and attractions in the area. You may want to use a local taxi service or, even better, rent a car – find out the prices of car rental here. Teisa Bus website has updated information on the bus routes, times and fares.
There are no trains that go all the way to La Garrotxa. You can arrive to Girona by train, but once there you have to continue by either car, bus or guided tour.
On A Guided Tour
Guided tours are probably the best way to visit La Garrotxa if you don’t want to rent a car or use public transportation. They depart from either Barcelona or Girona.
These are some of the best guided tours of La Garrotxa departing from Barcelona:
- Besalu and medieval towns small group tour from Barcelona includes stops in Santa Pau, Besalù and Castellfollit de la Roca, and it drives through the Volcanic Park.
- La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park and Besalù includes a hike to Volcano Santa Margarida and the beech forest, a traditional lunch and stops in Besalù and Castellfollit de la Roca.
- This tour includes a hot air balloon ride, brunch and a guided tour of Besalù.
- This tour departs from Barcelona and goes to Santa Pau, Besalù, Vic and Castellfollit de la Roca.
These are the best tours of La Garrotxa that depart from Girona:
- Volcanic Garrotxa day trip from Girona goes to La Garrotxa Volcanic Park, stops at a waterfall and in Santa Pau and Banyoles. A packed lunch is included.
- Besalu and the historical Garrotxa stops in Besalù, Castellfollit de la Roca, and Banyoles.
- Alta Garrotxa half day hike from Girona is a lovely hike of varying distance depending on the season, with the chance of seeing beautiful Romanesque churches, bridges and gorges.
There even are multi-day guided tours of La Garrotxa that involve activities such as hiking, biking, exploring various villages and other parts of the Pyrenees and Costa Brava.
These are some of the nicest multi-day tours that also go to La Garrotxa:
- Seven day bike tours from Olot volcanoes to the Costa Brava
- Pyrenees – Costa Brava bike tour starts and ends in Barcelona
- These are a few more multi-day cycling tours that go to La Garrotxa
When to visit La Garrotxa
I visited La Garrotxa in mid October. The temperatures were mild and pleasant, and though it was mostly sunny when I visited, the whole of Southern Europe was hit by a wave of terrible storms, so even La Garrotxa got quite a bit of rain.
All in all, the time you visit La Garrotxa really depends on what you want to do there and what your interests are. Generally speaking, autumn and spring are pleasant and there are less people than in the summer months. Summer is nice as the days are longer and the entire area is more lively, but the prices are higher and certain places may be more crowded. Winter is a perfect time to visit if you are keen on snow and winter sports – though you can’t really go skiing in La Garrotxa, you can easily reach other areas in the Pyrenees where you can do that.
TIP: No matter the season you intend to visit La Garrotxa, make sure to be prepared for the rain with rain gear and boots, as this part of the country gets quite a bit of rain throughout the year. Winter is the driest season, but you will need winter tires or snow chains if you intend to drive to the Pyrenees.
The best places to stay in La Garrotxa
La Garrotxa is packed with good hotels for all tastes and budgets. These are scattered around the region, and as I moved from one place to the other, I visited quite a few of them.
These are the nicest places to stay in La Garrotxa:
- La Rectoria is a beautiful, cozy bed and breakfast located in Sant Miquel de Pineda, right next to a Romanesque church and not far from San Feliu de Pallerols. Rooms are incredibly cozy, the common areas have plenty of historical flavor, the hosts are kind and welcoming. They serve breakfast and a delicious dinner. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Casa Rural Mas El Ferrés, in Joanetes, is a basic guest house with very large rooms with beautiful views of the mountains. Dinner and breakfast are home cooked (and very good) and the owner is incredibly kind. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Hotel Vall de Bas is a fantastic boutique hotel in Joanetes, with very large rooms and a great restaurant serving delicious traditional food with a modern twist. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Hotel La Perla, in Olot, is a nice hotel with clean comfortable room. There is a dining service for guests. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Pensio Hostal Can Mencio, in Santa Pau, is run by an incredibly nice local family. Rooms are basic, but clean and comfortable. The view of the main square from the rooms at the top floor is worth the ride up the stairs. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Hotel Mas La Ferreria is another beautiful boutique hotel next to a Romanesque style church. It’s located in La Vall de Bianya. Rooms are large, beautifully decorated and comfortable and the view of the Pyrenees from the terrace is stunning. Breakfast and dinner are scrumptious. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
Where to eat in La Garrotxa
Here’s a secret: no matter where you go in La Garrotxa, food is bound to be good. Having said that, I have had the pleasure to dine at a bunch of excellent places.
Ca l’Esteve, in Els Hostalets d’En Bas, is a nice small local restaurant that, judging by the amount of people who were there on a week day, must be very popular. The good, fresh food and the unbeatable prices (a mere 12 euro for a set menu!) explain why.
La Quinta Justa, in the center of Olot, is one of the restaurants adhering to the Volcanic Cuisine movement. The restaurant is located in a beautiful building, and the food is delicious. It’s so popular that it is better to make reservations, especially during the weekend.
La Deu, right outside Olot, serves delicious local food and impressive portions. One of its specialties if Olot potatoes (you can even order them to take away).
La Cuina del Mercat is located right next to the covered market in Olot. The service is friendly and informal and the food delicious. It’s very popular with the locals.
Other useful information
More information about La Garrotxa can be found on the website of the local tourism board. Most cities and villages also have their own website, although at times the site isn’t completely up to date.
Stay tuned as I will be writing more posts about La Garrotxa!
Have you ever been to La Garrotxa, or do you plan to go? Feel free to leave a comment with your questions!
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Patronat de Turisme Costa Brava Girona during my trip to La Garrotxa for the #InPyrenees #LaGarrotxa #lagarrotxatotlany and #itinerannia campaign, and wish to thank them for helping me out with the organization. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain my own.
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