The Best Guide To The Things To Do In Girona

The Best Guide To The Things To Do In Girona

I was honestly, yet very pleasantly caught by surprise by all the things to do in Girona.

Bridges, cobbled alleys, a mighty looking cathedral, fantastic restaurants and lovely small cafés, and an infinity of small boutiques that will be the blessing (or the curse, depending on how you see it!) for shopaholics: Girona, the main city of Costa Brava, in Catalonia is a gem, and frankly underrated.

You see, most people who visit Catalonia completely ignore Girona. I bet you are one of those, too. You fly to Girona on a budget airline and you immediately jump on a train or bus, headed to Barcelona which is only one hour away. And if you eventually decide to visit Girona, you go there on a day trip at most.

What a shame! With all the things to do in Girona, it’s actually a pity not to spend a few days there and I strongly advise you to pick Girona over Barcelona during your trip to Catalonia.

Girona was the starting point of my trip to Garrotxa, and I got the chance to visit it thoroughly. So, I thought I’d put together a guide on the nicest things to do in Girona, and a few tips to plan your visit.

Planning to spend longer in the region? Make sure to read my posts 17 Reasons To Visit The Volcanic Region of Catalonia, La Garrotxa and The Most Beautiful Hikes In Garrotxa: A One Week Itinerary.

Check out these tours of Girona:

what to do in Girona

One of the things to do in Girona is walking all the bridges. Pictured is the Pont de Ferro

20 Fantastic Things To Do In Girona

Cross all the bridges

Whenever I think of Girona I imagine the colorful buildings set along the Onyar river and the bridges to cross the river. It’s one of the most iconic pictures of Girona. There are eleven bridges that connect the two sides of the river, each of them different, and each of them giving a different perspective and slightly different view of the city. Needless to say, one of the things to do in Girona is walking its bridges.

Among the unmissable ones there is the Pont de Pedra, a beautiful stone bridge with three arches; and the famous Pont de Ferro, also known as Eiffel Bridge because it was planned by Gustave Eiffel and built in 1877, only two years after the construction of the Eiffel tower. If you are looking for what to see in Girona, this is definitely a must!

Then walk the city walls

If you want to get beautiful views of Girona other than those along the river, walk the city walls – it’s one of the ultimate things to do in Girona. A walk along the Passeig de la Muralla affords you views of both the Old City and of the newest part of town, and you can even see the Pyrenees in the distance.

There are three access points, one at the gardens behind the Cathedral of Girona, another by the Spanish Civil War Memorial, and the last one by the Monestir de Sant Pere de Galligants. You can start in one and finish on the other. It takes between one and two hours to walk the walls, depending on how often you stop.

The walls are part Roman and part dating to the 14th century, and there are various watchtowers along them, from where you can get even better views. The best time to walk along the walls is the early morning or the late afternoon – so that you can either enjoy sunrise or the beautiful sunset light.

TIP: Once you get to the Cathedral, make sure to continue walking to get all the way to the Monestir de Sant Pere de Galligants, on the last section of the walls: there are way less people on this section, and the views are stunning. You won’t regret lingering a little longer: it’s one of the nicest things to do in Girona.

Go to the Monestir de Sant Pere de Galligants

Visiting Monestir de Sant Pere de Galligants is one of the best things to do in Girona. This is a fantastic example of Romanesque style architecture, as there are many in Catalonia. It was built in the 12th century, though there is evidence that the original structure was actually built in the 10th century.

what to do in Girona

The beautiful Cathedral of Girona is a must see. The nearby tower is that of Sant Feliu Basilica.

Visit the Cathedral

The Catedral de Santa Maria is one of the landmarks of Girona. It was built between 11th and the 18th century in a mix of styles which include Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque. 90 steps lead to the Cathedral, and a lot of people love taking photos of them and on them.

Inside the church there are beautiful stained glasses and the Cathedral Treasury Museum, where the masterpiece is the Tapís de la Creació (Tapestry of Creation), a Romanesque embroidered panel dating back to the 11th century that is incredibly well preserved.

With so much to see outside and inside the church, it’s hardly surprising that visiting the Cathedral is one of the things to do in Girona.

Then the Basilica de Sant Feliu

Right next to the Cathedral there’s the beautiful Basilica de Sant Feliu, which used to be Girona’s cathedral until the current one was built. It’s a good mix of Gothic and Baroque styles. Since it’s so close to the Cathedral, visiting is one of the things to do in Girona.

Go to the Convent of Sant Domenec

One of the first Gothic buildings of Catalonia was the Convent of Sant Domenec, built between the 13th and the 14th century. Nowadays, parts of the Convent are used by the University.

what to do in Girona

Walking around the Jewish Quarter is one of the things to do in Girona

Explore the Jewish Quarter

Girona used to have one of the largest Jewish communities in the Iberian Peninsula. Here, much like in Besalú, they contributed to the development and wealth of the region. Visiting the Jewish Quarter is one of the things to do in Girona. Located inside the Força Vella and dating back to between the 12th and 15th century, this is a maze of narrow, cobbled alleys where you will enjoy getting lost and taking endless amounts of photos.

You can even go on a guided tour of Girona and Besalu that takes you through their Jewish history – you can book it here.

To learn more about Besalú, read my post “11 Fantastic Attractions In Besalu, Spain.”

Visit the Museums

One of the nicest things to do in Girona if you get stuck in the rain – like it happened to me – is spending some time in one (or all) of the excellent museums. Here are my favorite ones:

The Jewish History Museum: if you are a fan of history, then visiting the Jewish History Museum is what to do in Girona. This nicely details the history of the Jewish community of Catalonia and Aragon between the 9th and 15th century.

TIP: Don’t skip the lovely courtyard at the back of the museum!

The Archeology Museum of Catalonia: housed in part of the Monestir de Sant Pere de Galligants and the church of San Nicolau, you can visit after you are done with the monastery. It has a good exhibit witnessing human activity in the region until Roman time.

The Art Museum: housed in the old Episcopal Palace, it’s a good art museum with pieces that date back from the Romanesque period until the 20th century.

The Museum of Cinema: Girona became a more popular tourist destination when it started being the set of films and tv series. Visiting this museum is what to do in Girona if you want to learn about the history of film and the techniques used in cinema.

Discover the Game of Thrones Locations

For all the fans of Game of Thrones, one of the unmissable things to do in Girona is visiting the filming locations of the sixth series that are scattered around Girona. After seeing some GoT filming locations in the Basque Country, I was pleased to see more in Catalonia.

There even are Game of Thrones walking tours of Girona:

things to do in Girona

Make sure to walk around – Girona is very pedestrian friendly!

Walk around the Old Quarter

One of the top things to do in Girona is going for a walk in the Old Quarter in search of the many hidden gems. You’ll get to enjoy the cobbled alleys, the archways and the many pretty corners of this beautiful city.

Check out the Arab baths

The Arab baths of Girona were built in the 12th century. Their design was inspired by both Roman and Arab influences. They were in use until the 14th century, and can now be visited for a mere €2 – one of the nicest (and most budget friendly) things to do in Girona.

TIP: Apparently the Arab baths also were a Game of Thrones filming location!

Kiss the Lion’s bottom

Lots of peple – visitors and locals alike – stop at the statue of a lion and kiss its bottom. Apparently doing it means that you’ll go back to Girona. I suppose it works, since I have already been twice! Anyways, this is one of the ultimate things to do in Girona, apparently – so much so that they even have steps to reach it more easily.

Chill at Plaça Independencia

This is the biggest square in Girona, and from there you can easily cross the river and walk towards the Old Quarter. It’s a large, airy square with lots of nice cafés where you can have lunch for a real steal. Locals love to go there in the late afternoon, to chill and have a drink. Hanging out here is what to do in Girona to catch a bit of local action.

TIP: Together with the rambla, right on the other side of the river, Plaça Independencia is one of the best areas in town for a night walk.

You can even take a night tour of Girona. Book it here.

Visit Casa Masó

Of the lovely, colorful buildings that cling on the banks of the Onyar river, Casa Masó is one of the very few you can actually visit. It used to be the house of Rafael Masó, one of the most famous Catalan architects of the 20th century. Everything in the house is still set up as it used to be when Masó lived there.

Go to the Hospital de Santa Caterina

Now housing part of the offices of the Catalan government, this was a working hospital between the 17th and the 20th century, and one of the best preserved historical hospitals of Southern Europe. If you have some extra time in town, this is one of the places to visit in Girona.

TIP: You can book a guided tour of the Hospital de Santa Caterina through the Art Museum.

Chill (or run) at Parc de la Devesa

One of the things to do in Girona is you want to mingle with the locals is going for a run or a walk at Parc de la Devesa. It’s the largest urban park in Catalonia. You’ll definitely pass by it on your way to Plaça Independencia.

things to do in Girona Spain

Breakfast or brunch at La Fabrica – one of the things to do in Girona

Have breakfast or brunch at La Fabrica

One of the things to do in Girona is eating at La Fabrica, located in one of the many tiny squares in town, near yet another flight of stairs. This lovely café is known in town as the best hang out for cycling fans. It was established by a Canadian couple – Christian Meier, who used to be a professional cyclist, and his wife Amber. It’s the kind of place where you are likely to find other cyclists, see bikes outside (and even inside, to be fair) and you may have a chance to discuss the Giro.

For the non-cyclists, the good news is that La Fabrica is a fabulous place to have breakfast, brunch or a light lunch. For a healthy yet tasty breakfast opt for the breakfast bowl with lots of oats, coconut flakes, honey and fresh fruit.

Then get a gelato at Rocambolesc

Eating gelato is one of the best things to do in Girona in the summer. Come to think of it, why keep it seasonal? This is really what to do in Girona any time you feel like a treat. Rocambolesc is the place to go – if you trust the Italian here, you’ll end up eating one of the best gelati out there.

Rocambolesc was founded by Jordi Roca, who in 2014 was recognized as the World’s Best Pastry Chef. The choice of flavors is great – though they change daily, apparently. They even have lactose free and vegan ice cream!

Dine in one of the fabulous restaurants

One of the best things to do in Girona is eating. Girona is one of the food capitals of the world, home to El Celler de Can Roca, one of the best restaurants in the world. Should you not be able to get a table at this restaurant – founded by the Roca brothers, including the same Jordi Roca of Rocambolesc, Joan Roca who is the head chef, and Josep Roca who is the sommelier, and for which you will need to make reservations in advance – worry not: Girona is packed with excellent bistrot were you can dine like a king.

If you happen to visit Girona in the spring or summer, you’ll be happy to dine al fresco: this is what to do in Girona to enjoy a delicious meal and continue taking in the lovely views. And if you are vegan or vegetarian, you’ll be pleased to know that there are plenty of options for you – my favorite is vegan restaurant is Bionéctar.

TIP: For lunch, do like the locals and opt to get a fixed menu. With something between €12 and €15 you’ll get an appetizer, a main course, a dessert and a drink.

You can even take a Girona walking tour and tapas dinner. Book it here.

Go shopping

Girona is packed with lovely small shops and boutiques were you will love rummaging to find the item you didn’t even know you needed. Whether you are looking for souvenirs to bring to your family and friends, or just want something nice for yourself, rest assured that you’ll have plenty of opportunities here: shopping is one of the things to do in Girona.

things to do in Girona

Girona has some of the best restaurants in the world!

Practical Information To Organize Your Trip To Girona

How To Get To Girona

Girona is incredibly easy and cheap to reach from pretty much anywhere in Europe, as it is a hub for budget airlines. From there, you have various options to get to the city.

By car

From the airport, you can easily get to Girona by car. It’s just a 20 minutes drive. You can get a quote for car rental here.

By public bus

Sagalés operates buses from Girona airport to Girona city center. You can take bus n. 605 or 607. The ticket costs €2.75 and the journey lasts about 20 minutes. The bus timings follows the arrival and departure schedule of Ryanair flights.

By taxi or private transfer

A taxi from Girona airport to the center costs around €30. You can also book a private transfer for more or less the same price here or here.

From Barcelona

It takes about one hour to drive from Barcelona to Girona. Alternatively, you can opt for the train. The fast train takes a mere 35 minutes, but there also is a slower one that makes various stops and takes 90 minutes.

On a guided tour

Should you – despite all I have said – still decide to visit Girona for a day trip, you can opt to take a guided tour departing from Barcelona.

Here’s a selection of the best guided tours of Girona departing from Barcelona:

Where To Stay In Girona

For a small city, Girona has some good accommodation options. Hotels in Girona tend to be pricey in the peak season, and hostels only have dorms. Apartments may be a good compromise. With a bit of research you should be able to find the perfect place for you.

Below is a selection of places to stay in Girona, arranged by hotels, hostels and self catering apartments.

Best hotels in Girona

Best hostels in Girona

Best self catering apartments in Girona:

Things to do in Girona

A walk along the river is one of the things to do in Girona

Other Things To Know Before You Visit Girona

When to visit Girona

Any time is a good time to visit Girona, if you ask me. I went in July for the first time, and it was hot, though it rained quite a bit one day. I went again in October, and the temperatures were pleasant, but again it rained one day.

Spring and summer are generally good seasons to visit Girona, but keep in mind that the Temps de Flors festival in May, and the Sant Joan festival in June mean the city is incredibly busy and imply you’ll have to book well in advance.

How to move around Girona

Good news! One of the best things to do in Girona to fully discover it is walking around, and the city is truly pedestrian friendly. Besides, Girona is actually quite small so you can easily walk to all the main attractions and points of interest.

Business times

Don’t expect to shop or eat whenever you want in Girona. This is a city that still observes the working times of southern Europe for the most part, so shops and businesses close between 2:00 and 4:00 or 5:00 pm.

Dinner time won’t be before 8:00 pm. If you are hungry before then, do what the locals do: have a merienda, or a snack. Even better, have a gelato at Rocambolesc!

Language

The official languages in Girona are Catalan and Spanish, and what you’ll hear the locals speak is Catalan. Everyone does speak Spanish, and most people in the business and tourism industry speaks English, so you’ll be able to get by without any issue. Menus at restaurants are usually in Catalan, but most of them have an English copy as well.

Legal Disclaimer:  I was a guest of the Patronat de Turisme Costa Brava Girona during my second trip to Girona, 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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Discover what to do in Girona, Spain - via @clautavani

 

11 Fantastic Attractions In Besalu

11 Fantastic Attractions In Besalu

Besalú is a lovely, beautifully preserved small town in Garrotxa, part of Catalonia. It’s about half way between the Pyrenees and Costa Brava, and right at the edge of La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park. In medieval times it was the capital of an independent state.

Nowadays, Besalu has lost its status of independence but it remains a real gem. It is a maze of narrow, cobbled alleys and beautifully kept building, set against the background of two placid rivers (the Capellades to the north, and the Fluvià to the south) and the volcanic landscape of Garrotxa.

Of all the villages in Garrotxa, I find Besalú to be the prettiest. I have visited for a day when I traveled to Garrotxa. It marked the ending point of my one week hike, and it quite easily was the cherry on the cake. Needless to say, I fell in love with it.

Interested in hiking through Garrotxa? Check out my post “The Most Beautiful Hikes In Garrotxa: A One Week Itinerary.”

To do Besalu complete justice, you’d have to spend more than one day there, so that you’d get to enjoy its atmosphere and have dinner in one of the lovely restaurants. But if you are tight on time, you’ll be happy to know that Besalú can be easily visited on a day trip from Girona and even Barcelona.

Pressed with time? Visit Besalú on a guided tour of Garrotxa from either Barcelona or Girona. Here’s a selection of the best tours:

This post highlights the things to see and do in Besalú, either on a day trip or in a couple of days, and shares some tips to plan your trip there.

For more reasons to visit Garrotxa other than Besalu, read my post “The Most Beautiful Hikes In Garrotxa: A One Week Itinerary.” And if you are visiting Girona, make sure to read my post “The Best Guide To The Things To Do In Girona.”

Besalu, Spain

The iconic Pont Vell of Besalu

A Guide To The Nicest Attractions In Besalu, Spain

Besalú gorgeous medieval bridge

Besalú medieval village is the obvious starting point of a visit. It’s the trademark of this lovely small town, and allows you to cross the River Fluvia to get into town. Pont Vell, as it is called in Catalan, was first built in the 12th century in Romanesque style. There are seven arches on the bridge, and two towers, and from there you’ll get a splendid view of Besalu.

TIP: Before actually crossing Pont Vell, make sure to walk down the stairs to reach the bank of the river. The views of the bridge and of Besalu from there are splendid!

The church of Sant Vicente de Besalu

Besalu has a few nice churches. If you decide to visit just one, make it this! Much like many other churches in Garrotxa, this church was built in Romanesque style, though there are also Gothic features. It dates back to 977, when the parish was first created.

This church is what made Besalú a famous pilgrimage site: the remains of the True Cross of the Christian faith are allegedly held there.

Besalu Spain

The monastery of Sant Pere in the beautiful central square of Besalu

The Monastery of Sant Pere

One of the unmissable things to see in Besalú is the Monastery of Sant Pere. To be fair, most of the monastery is not visible anymore, but the church annexed to it still is. It used to be a Benedictine order monastery, founded in 977. The church that was annexed to it however dates from the 11th century. It’s a fairly big church, in a nice airy square with some other buildings you’ll want to visit (more about those soon) and a few nice places to stop by for a drink or a meal.

The Casa Cornellà (also known as Casa Llaudes)

In the same square as the Monastery of Sant Pere, Casa Cornellà is one of Besalu’s landmarks. It was built by the Cornellà family in the 12th century: at the time, they were one of the most important families in the area. This is thought to be one of the best preserved examples of Romanesque style civil buildings in Catalonia. Llaudes is the name of the family that acquired the building in the 15th century.

The Hospital of Sant Julià

The Hospital of Sant Julià dates back to the 12th century and actually used to be a pilgrims’ hostel built by the counts of Besalu. The only original bit is the facade, which is truly impressive.

The Jewish mikveh baths

Girona and Garrotxa used to have a large Jewish community, which inevitably left its mark: the same is found in Besalú. Jewish people arrived in the area as early as the 9th century, and as a result there are a few buildings that testimony the Jewish history of this beautiful small town. The most important one is the mikveh, or the Jewish baths used in religious ceremonies, that were built in the 12th century.

The Jewish quarter

Though the Jewish community in Besalú mixed up with the Christians, there are traces of a small Jewish quarter near the mikveh. This is also where the synagogue used to be.

Besalu Spain

A gorgeous view of Besalu

The Museum of Miniatures and Microminiatures

One of the quirkiest places to visit in Besalu is the Museum of Miniatures. There is a full collection of miniatures on display, that you’ll have to observe with a magnifying lens. This will show you the level of detail that was put into these works!

Sagrat Cor Chapel

A bit outside Besalu there is the lovely chapel of Sagrat Cor. It’s on a hill from where there are lovely views of the village, and the hike there is pleasant one.

Besalu Spain

The Humble Chair on the bank of the river Fluvia, in Besalu

Go on a walk along the Fluvia river

I have already suggested to head down the bank of the Fluvia to get a nice view of Pont Vell and of Besalú. After exploring the village, I also recommend walking along the other bank. The views of the bridge are impressive from that side, and it is a nice, pleasant place to walk away from the crowds that at times get into town.

On this side of the river, you’ll also get to see “the humble chair,” a piece of artwork that comes from a collaboration between people living in Besalu and local artists.

Shop for souvenirs

The presence of so many souvenir shops in Besalú, as opposed to other medieval villages in Garrotxa, only goes to show how it became a popular tourist destination in recent years. The good news is that most shops sell locally produced stuff, so it’s a good place to get some small presents to bring home with you.

Besalu Spain

The lovely souvenirs shop in Besalu

Practical Information To Plan Your Visit To Besalu

How to get to Besalú

Besalu is easy to reach from both Barcelona and Girona. It takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes to drive there from Barcelona, and little over half hour to drive there from Girona. You can rent a car here.

If you plan to drive to Besalu, you’ll be happy to know that there’s plenty of free parking on the south side of the village, with a parking lot located near the Pont Vell. That’s also where the Information Office is located – so you can stop there for information and maps before you actually head to explore.

Should you prefer to use public transportation, Teisa has regular buses from Barcelona and Girona to Besalu.

Another option is to visit Besalú on a guided tour, departing from either Barcelona or Girona.

Guided tours to Besalu

Most tours to Besalu are part of day trips departing from either Barcelona or Girona, and that include visits to also other places in Garrotxa.

These are the best tours departing from Barcelona:

And these are the best tours departing from Girona

Besalu, Spain

A different perspective of Pont Vell, the symbol of Besalu

Where to eat and sleep in Besalú

If you plan to sleep in Besalú, you’ll be happy to know that there are some excellent accommodation and dining options.

Here’s a selection of best places to sleep in Besalú:

Castell de Besalú is one of the best restaurants in Besalu. Pont Vell is a stylish, cozy place that serves dishes prepared with local ingredients. Finally, Can Quei is another excellent restaurant serving local food.

Further information

More information on Besalu can be found on the website of the tourism board of Garrotxa.

Have you ever been to Besalu, Spain? What did you like the most about it?

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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Discover the things to see and do in Besalu

The Most Beautiful Hikes In Garrotxa: A One Week Itinerary

The Most Beautiful Hikes In Garrotxa: A One Week Itinerary

There are some incredible hikes in Garrotxa – it’d be silly to miss them!

Hiking in Garrotxa is a fantastic way to discover this beautiful region. Come to think of it, hiking is a great way of discovering any place. That’s why I regularly go on long distance hikes, and end up walking for a week at times. I find it to be the best way to get close to nature; learn more about the history of a place; meet the local communities and have an overall good time.

Set between the Pyrenees and Costa Brava, located in the province of Girona and part of the Girona Pyrenees region, Garrotxa is completely landlocked, and for the most part lies under 600 meters above sea level, though there are peaks that go well over 1500 meters. It is one of the pretties regions of Catalonia. For as pretty as it is, Garrotxa has yet to be discovered by mass international tourism.

With its volcanic landscape (there are more than 40 volcanoes in Garrotxa) and lava flows, the gorgeous forests and being right on the Pyrenees, Garrotxa is the perfect place for hiking. Adding to this already great scenario, there are the beautiful small medieval villages and the hidden Romanesque churches, some at the very top of mountains or at the center of the craters of extinguished volcanoes, and only visible to those who make the effort to hike there.

I visited a bunch of those hidden churches, explored several of those villages, and walked through many of those forests. Indeed – you guessed it right – I spent 9 days in Garrotxa, 7 of which hiking my way around, following the trails of Itinerannia. I truly enjoyed my time there – though I admit it was hardly enough to fully appreciate all that it has to offer.

In case you are still wondering, let me clarify this: if you like nature, hiking and quaint medieval villages as much as I do, you have to visit Garrotxa. For you, I have put together this post, so that you will you have a better idea of what to expect and how to organize your trip around this incredible part of Catalonia, and how to make the most of the hikes in Garrotxa.

If you are looking for more things to do and more reasons to visit Garrotxa, read my post “17 Reasons To Visit The Volcanic Region of Catalonia, La Garrotxa.”

Before I go on to describe my hiking itinerary, however, I’ll share a bit of background information on Itinerannia, the network of hiking trails in Garrotxa.

hiking in Garrotxa

Hikes in Garrotxa afford beautiful views

The Coolest Hikes In Garrotxa: Walking The Itinerannia Trails

During my trip to Garrotxa, I mostly followed the hikes in Garrotxa in the Itinerannia network of trails. The network consists of more than 2500 km of paths. The trails recover the old trails found in Garrotxa, L’Alt Empordà and El Ripollès, and connect the towns of the Pyrenees to those of the Mediterranean. The idea with all the trails of Itinerannia is that the hiker can pick and choose whichever ones he wants to walk so as to design its route to move around the region and visit the places he is interested in.

For more hikes in the Pyrenees, read my post “The Most Amazing Hiking In The Pyrenees” and if you want to find out what the best hikes in Spain are, check out my post “Where To Find The Most Amazing Hikes In Spain.”

Itinerannia trails are marked in yellow, by way of vertical signs at crossroads, which indicate the nearest villages and the walking distance to them (yellow sign with red tip), or the thematic itinerary (yellow sign with green tip); or horizontal signs by way of yellow marks painted on tree trunks or rocks.

At times, Itinerannia trails coincide with those of the GR – an abbreviation of Gran Recorregut, which indicates long distance trails usually longer than 50 km and which is an extensive network of trails across Europe. GR trails are usually marked in red and white.

Itinerannia has hiking trails of any difficulty level. Some are perfect for family with children looking to spend a day out in the nature; while others are significantly more challenging and for more experienced hikers.

What I like the most about Itinerannia trails is that each of them combines a walk in the nature with incredible views and a visit to a place of historical or cultural significance. In other words, they all combine the things I enjoy the most when traveling.

hikes in Garrotxa

Views of the mountains along one of the hikes in Garrotxa

Walking The Top Hikes In Garrotxa: A 7 Days Itinerary

Day 0 – Sant Feliu de Pallerols

Sant Feliu de Pallerols, and more precisely the rectory of Sant Miquel de Pineda, was my starting point to enjoy all the hikes in Garrotxa. The village is at around 45 minutes drive from Girona and Girona airport, and it’s another 10 minutes drive (or a 45 minutes walk) to reach Sant Miquel de Pineda.

The sights

Sant Feliu is one of the nicest medieval villages in Garrotxa, with beautifully kept bridges on the river Brugent, antique homes, a mill and even Art Nouveau buildings. From there, it’s possible to see the laval flows from the eruption of volcano El Traiter along the Brugent river, and to reach Volcano Sant Marc, which is at just 20 minutes walk from the center. Several itineraries, departing from the center of Sant Feliu, cover the most interesting places to visit in the village and its municipality.

San Miquel de Pineda is a lovely Romanesque church, now part of the architectural heritage of Catalonia. Right by it, there is the rector’s house, which has recently been completely restored and turned into a beautiful boutique hotel.

Where to sleep and eat in Sant Feliu de Pallerols and Sant Miquel de Pineda

Sant Feliu is one of the smallest villages in Garrotxa, with very few restaurants. If you stay there, your best bet for food is to either cook yourself or go to Olot, at about 20 minutes drive. There are a few good accommodation options, most of them allowing self catering and a few with meals included. Here is a selection of them:

How to get to Sant Feliu de Pallerols and Sant Miquel de Pineda

Teisa has buses to Sant Feliu de Pallerols from Barcelona (3 times a day) and Girona (6 times a day). If you take the bus from Barcelona, you have to pick the service to Olot via Amer. The bus from Girona leaves at Carrer de Pierre Vilar.

Sant Miquel de Pineda is on the Olot – Girona Via Verda route. It can be reached from Sant Feliu on foot or by bike. Another option is to take the Teisa bus from Barcelona or Girona. You have to get off at Sant Miquel de Pineda and from there it is a 10 minutes walk to La Rectoria.

hikes in Garrotxa

One of the villages visited when hiking in Garrotxa is Sant Esteve d’en Bas

Day 1 from to Sant Miquel de Pineda to Joanetes

The first day on this hiking itinerary in Garrotxa is spent walking from Sant Miquel de Pineda to Joanetes. The trail starts right outside La Rectoria in Sant Miquel de Pineda, and goes through the forest following the Via Verda to Sant’Esteve d’en Bas and Hostalets.

The walking time between La Rectoria and Hostalets is about 2 hours.

Once in Hostalets, you have to walk through the pretty, tiny village on the main road until you reach the church and have the option of going left or right. Go right, and follow the signs to the old cemetery. From there, follow the G63 trail to Sant Miquel de Falgars until reaching a sign that points to Sant Miquel de Castelló.

When you get to Sant Miquel de Castelló, you should follow the red and white signs (the GR2 trail) towards Joanetes. It takes about one hour to get back down from the mountain, and then another half hour to get to the village, depending on where you will be staying for the night.

Practical information

Download the track on Wikiloc here.

Overall walking distance: 16.4 km

Overall walking time: depending on your walking speed, around 5.5 hours, without breaks.

Highest point: 942 meters above sea level

Lunch break: You will find some restaurants along the way, so there is no need to pack lunch. However, make sure to carry enough water. Hostalets is the perfect spot for a lunch break as it’s right in the middle. The best place to eat there is Ca l’Esteve. It’s a very popular post with the locals, that serves a set menu for a mere €12 euro – you can pick an appetizer, a main course and a desert, and have a drink and coffee included in your meal. The food is very good and the portions are huge!

The sights

Much like throughout Garrotxa, on the way from Sant Miquel to Joanetes, the sights are nothing short of amazing. The first part of the trail is through the forest, and you will be walking next to some pastural land and by some old country houses that are actually quite impressive to see.

You will walk through Sant Esteve d’en Bas, one of the many medieval villages of Garrotxa. The view of the village from a distance is beautiful (and even more so from a hot air balloon!).

For as tiny as it is, Els Hostalets d’en Bas is lovely – so much so that it’s been declared a National Historic-Artistic Monument. The nicest sights in the village are the wooden balconies full of colorful flowers on the main street, and the church.

The Hermitage of Sant Miquel de Castelló is impressive. The church, which used to be the chapel of the castle of the Viscount of Bas and of which the first mention dates back to the 14th century, is usually closed, so chances are you will only be able to see it from outside. Yet it’s quite a sight, especially because of the incredible location. The view of the Vall d’en Bas from there is simply breathtaking.

hikes in Garrotxa

The one to Sant Miquel de Castello is one of the most rewarding hikes in Garrotxa

What to expect

This is one of the nicest hikes in Garrotxa. The first part of the walk, from Sant Miquel de Pineda to Hostalets, is fairly easy. You will be waking along a well kept and well marked trail, like it usually is in Garrotxa, and by some fields. You will occasionally meet locals walking their dogs, or biking (I even met a whole primary school class that was out for a day trip!). Locals are always available and happy to help with directions and other information.

The second part is more challenging, and you will have to pay attention to where you go, especially as chances are you won’t meet anybody along the way. The terrain is not as good as during the first part of the walk, as it can be slippery and muddy. It’s completely uphill on the way to the Hermitage, and downhill on the way to Joanetes.

TIP: Make sure to have an early start during the fall and winter months, so that you can reach Sant Miquel de Castelló in full daylight and get a fantastic view of the valley, and still have plenty of time to walk to the village.

TIP: On this day, you’ll have to carry your backpack with you, or arrange to have it taken to your hotel in Joanetes.

Where to sleep and eat in Joanetes

For as small as it is, Joanetes has some good accommodation options. Both the ones I mention below also offer meals.

hikes in Garrotxa

The area of Puigsacalm has some of the best hikes in Garrotxa

Day 2 from Joanetes to Joanetes, via Santa Magdalena (Camí dels Ganxos)

Of all the hikes in Garrotxa that I walked, this is by far the hardest. The hike is meant to be a circular one, starting in Joanetes, going all the way up to the Hermitage of Santa Magdalena on Les Agulles mountain, and then walking back down to the village via a different route, through the forest. I was unable to follow the route back and had to take an alternative path to Joanetes, so my instructions will be based on my experience.

The trail starts just outside Joanetes and goes all the way up to the Hermitage of Santa Magdalena, one of the nicest in Garrotxa, via the Camí dels Ganxos, via the Puig del Soi (Puig means Mountain in Catalan) and El Barret. Past that, it reaches a footbridge with a railing and the “ganxos” (hooks) that allow you to go up the vertical wall and eventually take you to the Canal Fosca (Dark Channel) from where you can reach a viewpoint of the Vall d’en Bas and, past a wooden fence, the Hermitage of Santa Magdalena del Mont.

The overall climbing is no more than 100 meters it is quite challenging, especially if going alone (which I don’t recommend).

The way back to Joanetes is via a steep path that follows the G61 trail to Sant Privat d’en Bas. I didn’t take this route, but followed the Puigsacalm Pas dels Burros trail, for what is one of the nicest hikes in Garrotxa, making stops at Puig dels Llops for beautiful views of Garrotxa, and then heading down via the Pas dels Burros, which actually goes around the Puigsacalm and takes to more hooks which however are easier to climb down thanks to the presence of an iron rail.

Past the hooks, the trail goes to El Barret and the Puig del Soi again, from where it’s an easy (if only a bit steep) way back down to Joanetes.

Practical information

Download the track on Wikiloc here.

Overall walking distance: 14.4 km if following the official circular route; 15.5 km on the alternative route I followed.

Overall walking time: depending on your walking speed, around 7 to 8 hours, for either routes.

Highest point: 1514 meters above sea level

Lunch break: There are no coffee shops, restaurants and kiosks along the way to buy food or water, so you will have to pack whatever food and drink you think you’ll need for the day. Make sure to carry at least 2 liters of water.

The sights

The views of Garrotxa on the Santa Magdalena / Camí dels Ganxos are breathtaking. A big part of the hike goes through a thick forest, and if you walk it in the fall, you’ll have a chance to see the beautiful foliage.

The views of the valley from the various panoramic points are stunning, and provide an excellent reward for all the challenging moments, which you’ll have no shortage of.

The cherry on the cake is the lovely Hermitage of Santa Magdalena del Mont, which was founded by the monks of Sant Mary of Besalú between 977 and 988. This is one of the nicest hermitages of Garrotxa. At the moment, the church is administered by the municipality of Sant Privat d’en Bas.

hiking in Garrotxa

The hermita of Santa Magdalena is reached via one of the most strenuous hikes in Garrotxa

What to expect

Officially a medium difficulty hike, this actually is one of the most challenging hikes in Garrotxa, with difficult terrain – uneven, incredibly muddy and slippery after the rain; very steep. The trail isn’t always easy to follow, and it is often necessary to stop and look for the yellow marks which at times are not easily visible. There are parts, like the hooks, that you won’t easily go through without the help of others. I wholeheartedly recommend joining a group and hiring the services of a guide to follow this trail for safety reasons.

Read why I think hiking alone is a bad idea.

Keep in mind that the timings given by the vertical signs and even on the website of the local tourism boards are significantly underestimated. They suggest an overall walking time of 5 and a half hours, whichever combination of trails you decide to follow, but the actual walking distance is more in the range of 7 to 8 hours, even if you are fit. A local guide I have met told me he regularly walks it and he never takes less than 7 and a half hours.

TIP: Give yourself plenty of time to complete the hike, and start walking as early as possible to make sure that you complete it in daylight.

TIP: If, despite my recommendations against it, you decide to walk this hike alone, make sure to properly research the hike and the terrain before you go – provided you find information in English other than this post – and to be fully equipped in terms of gear (make sure you take a torch and a power-bank, in case you get stuck in the dark) and of food and drinks.

hikes in Garrotxa

The view of Olot from the top of Montsacopa, makes this one of the most rewarding hiking trails in Garrotxa

Day 3 from Les Preses to Olot City Center, via Montsacopa and Montolivet

This is one of the most pleasant hikes in Garrotxa. The starting point of the walk on the third day of this hiking itinerary through Garrotxa is the Church of Sant Pere de les Preses, from where, in about an hour and a half, you will reach Olot to hike the two volcanoes (Montsacopa and Montolivet) and where you will be spending the night.

The trail to Olot is actually quite easy, on easy terrain. You have to follow the signs to Olot Pocafarina that go behind the municipal pool, and soon you’ll find yourself on the crater of El Racó volcano. Going down from that you’ll reach Pocafarina, and continue walking along the nicest lava flows of Garrotxa and the dry-stone walls made of volcanic rocks, in an area known as El Bosc de Tosca.

You’ll enter Olot via the Parc Nou, one of the nicest parks in Garrotxa, and from the city center you’ll easily reach the trail to Volcan Montsacopa. There are two routes that both reach the crater, and you can walk one up and the other back down. I suggest taking the trail that goes through the old city to the crater (it takes around 20 minutes) and back down by the cemetery (another 20 minutes).

From there, it is an easy walk to the church of Sant Pere Martir, which you’ll recognize thanks to the saint’s head carved into the façade. Behind the church, there is a nice square and the trail to Volcan Montolivet begins.

From Montolivet, you’ll come back down and end up walking by the river, through an area known as El Tossols and to the Font de la Gruta. From there, you can easily reach the city center.

Practical information

Download the tracks on Wikiloc: Les Preses to Olot and Montsacopa Montolivet Circular Route.

Overall walking distance: 15 km

Overall walking time: around 4 hours if you walk at a leisurely pace

Highest point: 527 meters above sea level

Lunch break: The good news is that this trail goes right through Olot, where there are some of the best restaurants in Garrotxa. Depending on what time you leave in the morning, you’ll get in Olot right by lunch time and you can have lunch in one of the local restaurants, and try the famous “cuina volcanica.”

The sights

The beautiful views along the way make this one of the nicest hikes in Garrotxa. Walking through the shadowy forest that now covers the crater of El Racó is incredibly pleasant. You’ll get to visit Parc Nou, one of the nicest parks in Garrotxa, and walk through the center of Olot, where I recommend spending at least a full day to explore its museums and admire the lovely buildings.

Entering Olot after walking on Montolivet, you’ll enjoy the pleasant sound of the river flowing and the sight of old buildings right by it, including a beautiful bridge.

Yet, the highlight of the day is the lovely views of Olot you’ll get from Volcan Montsacopa crater, as well as those you’ll get from the viewpoint of Plaça de Sant Pere Martir. These qualify as some of the best views of Garrotxa.

hikes in Garrotxa

The view of the river on the way back to Olot from Montolivet

What to expect

The combination of various trails make this one of the longest hikes in Garrotxa on the Itinerannia network, but it’s actually easy, especially compared to the previous day’s walk to Santa Magdalena hermitage, which on the other hand is one of the most challenging hikes in Garrotxa. The only minor challenge will be walking up the craters of the volcanoes, but it’s completely doable.

The trail is mostly easy to follow, with clear vertical signs. The only place where the directions get a bit confusing and you may want to use your GPS or consult Wikiloc or other walking apps is on top of Volcan Montolivet – the way to get back to town isn’t marked as well as the rest.

Much like in the rest of Garrotxa, the terrain is generally good, though it can get quite muddy in the forest after the rain.

TIP: As the starting point is at quite a distance from Joanetes, you need to arrange transportation to get to Sant Pere de les Preses. Ask your hotel to do this for you.

TIP: Unless you arrange to have your backpack taken to your hotel in Olot, you’ll have to walk with it. Once you get to Olot, however, you can make a quick stop at your hotel to drop the backpack before hiking Montsacopa and Montolivet.

Where to sleep and eat in Olot

Olot has a really good selection of hotels and some of the best restaurants in Garrotxa.

These are the best hotels in Olot:

And these are some incredible restaurants where you can try local dishes of Garrotxa:

La Quinta Justa, in a gorgeous building in the center of Olot, adheres to the Volcanic Cuisine movement. Food is delicious, with a regular menu, daily specials and even daily menus. It’s better to make reservations at weekends.

La Deu is actually a bit outside Olot. The food is local – make sure to try olot potatoes, one of the most famous dishes of Garrotxa. The portions are huge.

La Cuina del Mercat is a lovely small restaurant in the center of Olot, next to the covered market. Food is good, service friendly. It’s a popular place with the locals.

hikes in Garrotxa

One of the many surprises of the hikes in Garrotxa is the lovely Romanesque churches

Day 4 La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park

Among the nicest hikes in Garrotxa, there are those in La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park. The park has 40 volcanic cones and more than 20 lava flows. I visited on my way from Olot to Santa Pau, one of the nicest medieval villages of Garrotxa.

The park, which is actually mostly private land, has a good number of walking routes, many of them joining those of Itinerannia. Most of them are of medium difficulty and some quite easy and suitable for families with children. You can mix and match several trails in just one visit, and get to see a good portion of the park this way.

I followed a circular route that started at Can Serra, one of the two parking lots that allow access to the park, and took me to the Fageda d’en Jorda, Santa Margarida Volcano and Croscat Volcano, and afforded me views of Puig de la Costa Volcano too. You can even start in the Santa Margarida area.

Practical information

Download the track on Wikiloc here.

Overall walking distance: 13 km; 19 km if you decide to walk all the way to Santa Pau

Overall walking time: around 4 hours and 30 minutes at a leisurely pace

Highest point: 439 meters above sea level

Lunch break: There are a couple of restaurants in La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park where you can eat lunch. They are called Restaurant de Santa Margarida and Restaurant Masnou. My advice, however, is to pack some lunch – sandwiches, fruits, snacks – and plenty of water to make the most of the park. There’s a couple of rest areas with bathrooms, fountains and tables and benches that are ideal for lunch.

The sights

The sights in La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park are splendid throughout. Among the places visited on this hike, there is the Fageda d’en Jorda, which sits on the lava flows of the Volcano Croscat. This is a beautiful beech forest with several volcanic hummocks (tossols) that originate from the volcano. It’s a gorgeous forest to walk through, especially in the fall months with the beautiful foliage colors.

At the center of the Fageda d’en Jorda there is a nice dairy factory where you can stop by for a quick visit and to buy some organic yogurt and other dairies. It’s a favorite stop for families with children.

The trail also takes to Santa Margarida volcano, a volcano which had several eruptive phases of both the strombolian and the freatomagmatic kind. The highlight of Santa Margarida volcano was walking all the way down to the crater, at the center of which there is a lovely Romanesque church – Santa Margarida de Sacot. The church, which to me is the most special of Garrotxa, was destroyed during the earthquakes of 1427-1428 and finally rebuilt in 1865. It’s only open for special functions.

Another lovely church in La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park is that of Sant Miquel de Sacot, a well preserved Romanesque Church that was enlarged in the 18th century in a more neoclassical style.

One of the most interesting sights is that of Croscat volcano, a strombolian volcano that reaches an elevation of 160 meters above sea level and that, according to researches, is the youngest one of La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park. For a long time, one of the sides of Croscat has been used as a quarry to extract volcanic material. Extractions have stopped now, and the massive cut on its side can be seen clearly.

hikes in Garrotxa

Sant Miquel de Sacot can be seen when hiking in La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park

What to expect

This is a pleasant walking day, with easy to follow trails (trails in La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park are signaled by way of vertical signs, which are cream colored with a purple tip) and good hiking terrain. You will mostly be walking through the forest and in the shade.

TIP: You will need to arrange transportation to one of the car parks that mark the entrance to the park. Teisa has buses that go from the center of Olot to both Can Serra and Santa Margarida parking lots, and from there to Santa Pau.

TIP: You can download hiking itineraries for La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park on the website of the tourism board of Garrotxa, though keep in mind that information is only available in Catalan. This is the one I followed.

All the trails around the park are suitable for mountain bikes too – but keep in mind that you won’t be able to bike through certain areas.

You can also visit La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park via guided day tours that depart from Barcelona or Girona.

This is a selection of the best tours:

Where to sleep and eat in Santa Pau

Santa Pau is one of the smallest medieval villages of Garrotxa, and the accommodation and restaurant options are actually quite limited.

This is a selection of places to stay:

With regards to restaurants, keep in mind that most are closed on Sunday or Monday night, so unless you have a car and can go to Olot or other villages nearby, you may be better off grabbing some food from the local supermarket (which closes at 8:00 pm).

Cal Fesol is a nice restaurants that serves local specialties such as the famous white beans of Santa Pau.

Cal Sastre serves dishes of the culinary tradition of Garrotxa in a gorgeous setting. It’s in the main square.

hikes in Garrotxa

Santa Pau is one of the prettiest medieval villages in Garrotxa

Day 5 from Santa Pau to Santa Pau (Ruta dels Gorgs)

Santa Pau is the starting point for some of the nicest hikes in Garrotxa. The Ruta dels Gorgs and Ruta de les Fonts leave right from the center of the village, and take to some lovely natural pools which provide a refreshing break from the heat in the summer months.

Both trails are circular routes that start and end in Santa Pau.

Ruta dels Gorgs, which is the one I followed, goes to some of the nicest and most scenic spots in Garrotxa. Not many people follow this trail during the week (I literally met only two!) so it’s perfect if you need some peace and quiet.

Practical information

Download the track on Wikiloc here.

Overall walking distance: 8 km

Overall walking time: no more than 3 hours, including various stops.

Highest point: 491 meters above sea level

Lunch break: This is a rather short hike, but you may want to spend a little extra time relaxing at the natural pools. If that’s the case, make sure to bring water and some food with you. You’ll find a basic coffee shop at a camping site in Cal Paxtet (no more than a few houses!). Alternatively, you can walk back to the village and have lunch in one of the restaurants there.

The sights

Despite being short, this hike offers some of the nicest views of Garrotxa. The name of the trail (Rutas dels Gorgs) should be an indication of what you can expect along the trail. Indeed, gorgs in Catalan means “pool.”

Among the natural pools you’ll be able to enjoy there are the Gorg de Caga Rates and the Gorg Blau. Gorg de Can Cutilla is right by the camping site of Cal Patxet.

On the way back to Santa Pau, the Santuari dels Arcs is a lovely sight. This small countryside church, whose origins are still uncertain (some sources date it to 496 AC, others to the 9th century), is actually one of the prettiest of Garrotxa.

Santa Pau remains the highlight of the day. One of the nicest medieval villages of Garrotxa, it was built around a Baron’s castle from the 13th century. Unfortunately the castle can’t be visited, but a walk around the medieval center at the end of the hike will show all the prettiest buildings, and lead to the porticoed square where the gothic church of Santa Maria is located.

TIP: If you want a great view of the old center of Santa Pau, head to the terrace right next to a coffee shop called Can Pauet.

La Garrotxa

The views of La Garrotxa from a hot air balloon are breathtaking

What to expect

The trail is easy to follow for the most part, and the walk is pleasant. The terrain is mostly good, but keep in mind that you have to cross the river in a few places and the stones can get slippery.

Beware that the trail does get confusing once you get close to the camping site of Cal Patxet – that’s where the signs stops and you’ll need a good GPS and a bit of patience to make your way to the last pool.

TIP: As this is a short hike that you can easily do in a couple of hours, you may want to add some other activities to your day. I wholeheartedly recommend going on a sunrise hot air balloon tour with Vol del Coloms for incredible views of the Volcanic Region of Garrotxa. It’s pricey, but worth every penny, and you’ll enjoy a scrumptious brunch at the end of the flight which will keep you energized until dinner time.

There are the best hot air balloon rides in Garrotxa:

hikes in Garrotxa

The beautiful hermitage of Santa Margarida de Bianya is one of the nicest in Garrotxa

Day 6 Santa Margarida de Bianya – Sant Pere Despuig circular route

The starting point of this trail, one of the shortest hikes in Garrotxa, is the church of Santa Margarida de Bianya. It is a lovely short walk that goes through a beautiful forest, and around some of the prettiest countryside in Garrotxa.

The trail starts right behind the church, and soon enters an ancient oak forest to then reach a lovely manor house and soon another. It doesn’t take long to reach the main road again, and after a turn walk along more farms to reach the church of Santa Margarida de Bianya again.

Practical information

Download the track on Wikiloc here.

Overall walking distance: 2.5 km

Overall walking time: 1 hour

Highest point: 480 meters above sea level

Lunch break: For this short hike, all you’ll need is enough water.

The sights

For as short as it is, this is one of the prettiest hikes in Garrotxa. The views of the Pyrenees from the hermitage of Santa Margarida are gorgeous.

The walk goes through one of the oldest forests of Garrotxa, to then reach a working manor house that is blissfully isolated, and where the in house very sweet dogs and cats welcome (and occasionally follow!) any passersby.

The church of Sant Pere Despuig comes as a pleasant surprise. Dating to the 10th century, this is a beautiful Romanesque church, one of the many that can be found in Garrotxa. It has a beautiful bell tower

The church of Santa Margarida, where the trail starts, looks even better from a distance. You’ll get to fully appreciate this once you make your way back up the hill where it is located. It dates back to the 10th century, though it was first documented in the 12th. The rectory next to it has been turned into a beautiful boutique hotel, which is the perfect place to spend the night.

hikes in Garrotxa

Hiking in Garrotxa, you come across some nice farms where the in house cats and dogs will welcome you!

What to expect

This is a nice, short and easy trail on beautiful terrain and for the most part in the pleasant shade of the forest. There aren’t many signs along the way, but you can ask the hotel for a map, which is fairly easy to follow, or download the track on Wikiloc.

TIP: As this trail and that of the Ruta dels Gorgs are quite short, you may want to combine them and do them in just one day (including the balloon ride, if you want). Alternatively, once you are done with the hike you can either head to Hostalnou, which is one of the many lovely villages in Garrotxa, and is only 15 minutes walk from Santa Margarida de Bianya, and to Vall de Bianya.

TIP: There is no direct connecting Santa Pau with Hostalnou de la Vall de Bianya. You will have to take a bus to Olot, and then another one to Vall de Bianya, making sure to ask the driver to drop you off at Hostalnou. You can find the bus timetable on the website of Teisa. Alternatively, you can ask your hotel to arrange a pick up.

Where to sleep and eat in l’Hostalnou de la Vall de Bianya

Much like in the other small villages of Garrotxa, the accommodation options in Hostalnou are limited but there are some incredible places to stay. I have selected a couple:

hikes in Garrotxa

The lovely church of Sant Andreu del Torn can be seen when hiking in Garrotxa

Day 7 from El Torn to Besalú 

On the final day of this hiking itinerary through Garrotxa, you’ll be walking from El Torn, a small village of houses built around the church of Sant Andreu del Torn, to Besalú, the most famous village in Garrotxa.

On this day, the Itinerannia trail you’ll be following coincides with that of the GR2, so you’ll be seeing both the yellow marks of Itinerannia that you can find throughout Garrotxa, and the white and red ones of the GR trails.

For little more than 2 km the trail goes along the river El Ser. It then reaches the 10th century church of Sant Fruitós d’Ossinyà. From there, the trail follows a dirt road through the forest and then reaches the Urbanització Comtal – nothing more than a few houses and goes all the way down to Besalú.

Practical information

Download the track on Wikiloc here.

Overall walking distance: 11 km

Overall walking time: 3.5 hours

Highest point: 368 meters above sea level

Lunch break: There are plenty of lovely restaurants where you can have lunch in Besalú. Castell de Besalù is a great one. For the purpose of the hike, make sure to take plenty of water and some snacks.

The sights 

This is one of the prettiest hikes in Garrotxa, thanks to the sights. The prettiest throughout the hike is the church of Sant Fruitós d’Ossinyà – yet another Romanesque style church of Garrotxa. This dates back to the 10th century, and like most of the Romanesque church remains completely isolated in the countryside. In this specific case, there is a farm at the back, so chances are you may meet someone who’s working in the farm and his animals – I saw the pretty donkeys and was accompanied by their friendly dog for a while, until I summoned her to walk back home.

The highlight is quite obviously Besalú, considered the prettiest medieval village in Garrotxa. You’ll enter the village from the parking lot right outside the visitors’ center, from where you can cross the beautiful bridge that made the village famous. I also recommend walking down the stairs to get a view of the bridge from below, and one of the village from the bank of the river.

For more information about Besalu, check out my post “11 Fantastic Attractions In Besalu, Spain.”

hikes in Garrotxa

One of the nicest hikes in Garrotxa goes all the way to Besalu

What to expect

This is a pleasant, relaxing hike whereby you’ll be walking through the forest pretty much until you can see Besalú from a distance. The terrain is good, with no major difficulties, and the trail well signaled and easy to follow.

TIP: There is no public transportation between Hostalnou and El Torn, so you’ll have to arrange a private transfer to the starting point of the hike. It takes about 30 minutes by car. 

Where to eat and sleep in Besalú

As one of the most visited villages of Garrotxa, Besalú has some excellent accommodation and dining options.

Here’s a selection of places to sleep in Besalú:

If you are looking for a real treat, Castell de Besalú is the best dining option in the village. Pont Vell serves dishes prepared with local ingredients in a beautiful environment. Finally, Can Quei is another lovely restaurant serving traditional dishes of Garrotxa.

How to get from Besalú to Girona or Barcelona

Getting from Besalú to Girona or Barcelona by public transportation is actually quite easy. Direct buses from Besalú to Girona leave roughly every 45 minutes. There are 4 direct buses per day to Barcelona.

hikes in Garrotxa

Hiking in Garrotxa, you’ll come across some lovely natural pools

General tips to enjoy the hikes in Garrotxa

The best piece of advice I can give you if you plan to spend some time hiking in Garrotxa is to give yourself enough time in the region. In order to complete all the hikes mentioned in this post, I actually spent 10 days in Garrotxa – I often had to reschedule the hike I had planned to do due to bad weather.

Chances are that, if you are super lucky with the weather, you can then use the extra time available to see and do other things around Garrotxa, or even go to Girona.

Check out my post The Best Guide To The Things To Do In Girona.”

I suggest you join a group for the most challenging hikes – specifically, the Camí dels Ganxos. It’s a long, challenging trail and you’ll be better off with the company of others, who’ll encourage you (as well as help you) to overcome the most difficult parts. A guide will also help making sure you stay on the path.

Make sure you always wear good hiking boots with ankle support – some parts will be rocky, others muddy, and you’ll thank your shoes for supporting you! Other gear you will need is: a water bottle, a headlamp or torch, a power-bank.

Read my guide on what to pack for long distance hikes. 

Last, but definitely not least, do get a good map of all the trails you want to follow – local tourism offices should be able to provide them, and sometimes even hotels have them available. Even better try to download the tracks and upload them on ViewRanger or Wikiloc. This app literally saved me a bunch of times when I thought I was lost; it works offline which is perfect if you are in a place where there is no reception; and it’s very easy to use.

Getting To Garrotxa

Garrotxa is well connected to Europe and the rest of the world thanks to two airports. While Barcelona El Prat is the second biggest airport in the country, connected by way of regular and budget airlines, Girona is mainly served by budget airlines.

From Barcelona or Girona, you can make your way to Garrotxa by car (either a rental or a private transfer) or public transportation. Teisa has buses that go from either Barcelona and Girona to Olot and other villages in Garrotxa.

There are no trains to any of the villages and small cities of Garrotxa.

When to go hiking in Garrotxa

Autumn and spring are the best seasons for hiking in Garrotxa, especially as the days are longer (so you’ll have more light and time to spend walking) and there is less people around.

I went hiking in Garrotxa in mid October, and had alternate weather conditions, with beautiful sunny and mild days and others when it literally poured.

TIP: Regardless of when you decide to go hiking in Garrotxa, make sure to carry some rain gear and water proof hiking boots, and this part of the country gets quite a bit of rain throughout the year.

Guided multi-day tours of Garrotxa

I have scouted the web for hiking tours of Garrotxa but very few companies offer them. This guide should provide enough information to organize your trip, but should you still prefer to join a guided tour, you may have to opt for a cycling one. Here’s a selection of what’s available.

A good local company you can contact to help you plan your trip is Trescàlia, which is based in Olot.

Final remarks

I always recommend getting a good travel insurance, even more so if you are planning to go hiking! You can get a reliable travel insurance here.

Read why I never travel without travel insurance.

You can find more information on Garrotxa on the website of the local tourism board. Cities and villages usually have their website, but the information is often not up to date and at times it is only available in Catalan and Spanish.

Have you been on any of the hikes in Garrotxa, or do you plan to? 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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17 Reasons To Visit The Volcanic Region of Catalonia, La Garrotxa

17 Reasons To Visit The Volcanic Region of Catalonia, La Garrotxa

La Garrotxa, the Volcanic Region of Catalonia, is one of the most beautiful, unique yet undiscovered regions of Catalonia. This region is set between the Pyrenees and Costa Brava and it is part of the Girona Pyrenees region, in the province of Girona. It borders with France on the northern parts, and it’s about 120 km from Barcelona, and 45 km from Girona.

Not many people know where La Garrotxa is, but visiting is 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.

Planning to go to Girona? Read my post “The Best Guide To The Things To Do In Girona.”

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

Sant Esteve, one of the nicest villages in La Garrotxa. Not many people outside of Spain know where it is – yet!

17 Excellent Reasons To Visit La Garrotxa

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.

La Garrotxa

Besalu is one of the nicest villages in La Garrotxa

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 charming. Once the commercial center of La Garrotxa, it’s quite simply a pleasant place to explore.

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.

Read my post “11 Fantastic Attractions In Besalu, Spain.”

La Garrotxa

Olot is the main city in La Garrotxa – and it’s lovely

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 and the Renaissance Claustre del Carme. Adding to this, there are a bunch of beautiful Art Nouveau buildings scattered around town, and the small but lively Mercat d’Olot, an indoor market where it is possible to buy the best meat, fish, vegetables and fruits produced locally, as well as bread, spices and nuts. The city also hosts a couple of weekly markets where locals go to buy foods, crafts and even clothes.

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! 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.

La Garrotxa

The Museu del Sants in Olot is one of the most unique of La Garrotxa

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 a fun place to visit if you are in town, a good place to spend an hour or so.

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 with 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 – it’s a great place to learn more about the Volcanic Region 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.

La Garrotxa

One of the best examples of Art Nouveau in La Garrotxa is this beautiful building, in the historical center of Olot

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.

La Garrotxa

Santa Margarida is one of the many Romanesque churches of La Garrotxa

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 they all have in common the thick walls, the curved ceiling, the tiny windows and the layout that follows that of the Latin cross. Romanesque churches are often in the countryside, or in what appears to be the middle of nowhere.

I am a massive fan of Romanesque 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 you will usually find them locked as they are only used for special occasions and celebrations.

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. The good news is that, even if you don’t want to follow the dedicated 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, contrary to the other ones I have mentioned, easy to reach, are those of Santa Margarida de Bianya and Sant Miquel de Pineda. In the first case,right next to the church there is a beautiful boutique hotel from whose rooms there are splendid views of the Pyrenees.In Sant Miquel de Pineda the former rectory (the house where the priest used to live) has been restored and is now a cozy bed and breakfast.

La Garrotxa

Volcano Croscat is one of the many of La Garrotxa – it was once used as a quarry

It is packed with volcanoes

Volcanoes are what drew my attention to La Garrotxa to begin with. La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park is an incredible example of volcanic landscape. The region is packed with lava flows there are 40 inactive volcanoes. The park has a multitude 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.

The most accessible volcanoes in La Garrotxa are those in Olot. You can easily walk to the top of Montsacopa from the center of Olot. This is a short hike that takes between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on the trail you pick (there is one that starts behind the center of the city, and another that starts next to the cemetery). At the top of the volcano there is the beautiful Sant Francesc church as well as a 19th century watch tower at the top: the views from there are incredible. Montolivet, also in Olot, 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 in 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.

Garrotxa

Thanks to the Pyrenees, there are some incredible hikes in La Garrotxa

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 short and medium distance trails of various levels of difficulty, though there also are the longer distance trails that go right in the Pyrenees.

All trails in La Garrotxa are marked. The Vìas Verdes once were railway lines throughout Spain. Nowadays, they are a famous network of 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 trails (some of the toughest hiking trails that can be found across Europe), 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.

Read my post on why I don’t recommend hiking alone.

TIP: Most trails in the Pyrenees of La Garrotxa are well marked, with either vertical signs or marks painted on rocks and tree trunks. Keep in mind that at times the mud and the leaves cover the signs, and the heavy rain deletes the paint, so you really have to stay alert not to get lost!

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. Stay tuned as I will be writing a detailed packing list for those who plan to hike in La Garrotxa.

If you plan to do some hiking in La Garrotxa, make sure to read my post “The Most Beautiful Hikes In Garrotxa: A One Week Itinerary”. You may also want read my post about the best hikes in the Pyrenees.

The Camino de Santiago goes right through it

One of my biggest dreams, as a hiker and a lover of nature, mountains and anything cultural, is to walk the Camino de Santiago. This is one of the most famous walks in the world. I have walked bits and pieces of it in the North of Spain, starting in the Basque Country and going all the way to Galicia.

One of the things I didn’t know about La Garrotxa and was quite happy to discover is that the Camino Catalan route of the Camino de Santiago goes right through it, starting in Les Planes d’Hostoles and continuing through Sant Feliu de Pallerols and Sant Esteve d’en Bas.

La Garrotxa

There are many beautiful waterfalls in La Garrotxa

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.

La Garrotxa

The views of La Garrotxa from a hot air balloon are breathtaking

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.

These are the best hot air balloon rides in La Garrotxa:

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!

La Garrotxa

Food in La Garrotxa is delicious

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. 

Especially chocolate 

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.

La Garrotxa

A lovely elderly man I met in Olot, La Garrotxa: every day he goes on a walk with his beloved cat.

It suits any kind of traveler

Whether you are a keen hiker looking to spend your days walking your way up volcanoes and mountains, or you are more into history and culture and like visiting historical sites, churches and museums, La Garrotxa has anything you may want and you will find plenty of things to keep you entertained for days.

La Garrotxa is perfect for any kind of traveler, too. Solo travelers like myself will find it safe and welcoming, and families with children will find that there are plenty of fun activities to keep even the youngest entertained.

Locals are welcoming

One of the things that I enjoyed the most 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 La Garrotxa speak Catalan, but 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. Train travel is not one of them.

By Plane

You can either fly to Barcelona El Prat, which is the second largest airport in Spain, 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 make your way to La Garrotxa by either public transportation or car. Various companies offer competitive rates for car rental. You can check prices here.

By Car

It takes less than two hours to drive from Barcelona to Olot, the main city in La Garrotxa. Driving time from Girona is even shorter – 45 to 50 minutes to Olot. If you are thinking of renting a car, you can check the rates here.

By Bus

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 smaller villages and attractions in the area. Unless you want to call a taxi any time you need to go somewhere far, I recommend that you rent a car – find out the prices of car rental here. Teisa Bus website has updated information on the bus routes, times and fares.

La Garrotxa

Guided tours go to all the nicest places to visit in La Garrotxa, such as Santa Pau

On A Guided Tour

Keep in mind that I recommend spending at least one week in La Garrotxa. If you are tight on time and would still like to explore La Garrotxa on a day trip when visiting Barcelona or Costa Brava, a guided tour is probably your best bet as you will be taken to all the nicest places to visit, and you won’t have to worry about transportation. There are guided tours of La Garrotxa departing from Barcelona and Girona.

These are some of the best guided tours of La Garrotxa departing from Barcelona:

There even is an Alta Garrotxa half day hike from Girona.

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.

When to visit La Garrotxa

All in all, the time you visit La Garrotxa really depends on what you want to do there and what your interests are. If you like hiking, the best time to go is either spring or fall. 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.

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 the chances of rain are high throughout the year.

La Garrotxa

La Rectoria is among the nicest places to stay in La Garrotxa

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:

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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