The Costa Brava: the essence of the Mediterranean
The province of Girona, located in the northeast corner of the Iberian Peninsula and home to the Costa Brava and Pirineu de Girona tourism brands, boasts over two thousand years of history, its own culture and a Mediterranean essence that have shaped both the character of the region and its people.
This historic tourist brand includes five of the eight districts of the province of Girona: Alt Empordа, Baix Empordа, Girona, Pla l'Estany and La Selva.
The Costa Brava has all the ingredients of a perfect tourist destination and is intensely experienced by all those visitors seeking a friendly travel destination, which welcomes tourism.
For many, the Costa Brava is characterized by wide beaches and small coves surrounded by vegetation and rocky cliffs which hug the coast from Portbou to Blanes, generously displaying a collection of natural heritage and cultural and culinary gems which beg to be experienced by all five senses.
Over two hundred kilometers of coastline, unbeatable weather, mild temperatures, excellent winds and richly diverse marine areas, like Cap de Creus and the Medes Islands, ensure that the Costa Brava has superb conditions for water sports, including diving, various types of windsurfing, sailing, boating and kayaking.
Small charming coastal towns like Cadaques, Begur, Calella de Palafrugell, Palamos, and Tossa de Mar, the tourism and leisure towns of Roses, Platja d’Aro, Lloret de Mar and Blanes, and numerous wellpreserved medieval towns provide a range of services and options to ensure that tourists have a memorable stay on the Costa Brava at any time of the year.
The fishing town of Cadaques, in the heart of Cap de Creus, deserves special mention. With its white walls and narrow cobbled streets adorned with flowers, the town is a perfect example of Mediterranean architecture. Home to many artists, a bohemian atmosphere permeates the town; Cadaques is closely linked to Salvador Dali, who had a home and workshop, now a museum, in Portlligat. The town has many art galleries and intimate restaurants offering seasonal seafood-based cuisine.
“In 1908, journalist Ferran Agulló published an article in La Veu de Catalunya (The Voice of Catalonia) entitled “On the Costa Brava”, thus becoming the first to coin the term. It is said that the name came to him as he was contemplating the coast’s rocky coves from the overlook at the Church of Sant Elm in Sant Feliu.”
“2016, year of anniversaries: 50th anniversary of the Habanera Festival in Calella de Palafrugell 30th anniversary of the Castell de Peralada Festival 25th anniversary of the Temporada Alta Festival 20th anniversary of the Marrecs de Salt.”
“The Costa Brava is home to 245 beaches and coves.”
“The Blue Flag, awarded by the FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education), currently flies at 31 beaches and 9 marinas on the Costa Brava.”
The medieval villages of Pals, Peratallada, Peralada Madremanya and Monells are known for their extremely well-preserved medieval buildings, with eye-catching architectural and sculptural elements found in windows, arches, wells and houses. Artisans and traditional crafts are also important attractions that characterized these villages.
Girona, the region’s capital, is a medium-sized city located halfway between the coast and the Pyrenees, one of the cities with the highest quality of life in Spain. Well-connected with an airport and AVE station, Girona is easily reached by plane, car or train and is a popular city break destination year-round thanks to its range of cultural, architectural and commercial attractions. The city has carefully conserved its heritage, with an old town or barri vell that is home to numerous can’t-miss sights. Girona is well worth visiting in May during the city’s Girona, temps de flors flower festival and in autumn for the Temporada Alta performing arts festival and the annual festivities honoring the city’s patron saint.
“The major holiday and family tourism destinations on the Girona coast (according to the Catalan Tourism Board): Roses, Torroella de Montgrí - l’Estartit, Calonge-Sant Antoni, Castell-Platja d’Aro, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Lloret de Mar and Blanes.”
The province of Girona, home to geniuses like Salvador Dali and Ferran Adriа, captivates visitors with its first-class artistic and culinary creations. Some of the most influential figures of the twentieth century –Marc Chagall, Truman Capote, Orson Wells– found what they needed to feed their creativity in this region and were the first to leave a tangible mark. Salvador Dali, preeminent surrealist artist, found a unending source of inspiration in the rugged landscape of the Costa Brava, particularly Cape Creus and its Paraje de Tudela.
Cultural tourism in the Costa Brava and Girona Pyrenees attracts millions of visitors with its rich and intense historical and artistic heritage. Iberians, Greeks and Romans discovered the wealth of this land centuries ago and their legacy is incalculable, as are the architectural treasures – such as the Sant Pere de Rodes Benedictine monastery– left by the Romanesque period. Castles and forts, along with medieval villages, the Jewish legacy, and outstanding works of modernism and surrealism characterize these regions and their people. These, along with crafts, industrial heritage, 24 museums covering a wide range of topics, contemporary art, music festivals and traditional and popular festivals declared of national interest, make the Costa Brava and Girona Pyrenees a one-of-a-kind destination
“Empúries (first century BC) is the gateway of Greek and Roman culture on the Iberian Peninsula.”
“Costa Brava Girona Festivals is the digital platform that brings together an entire range of festivals –theatre, music, art, cinema, circus, humor, magic, comedy– in the province of Girona.”
Visitors can’t miss the Dali Triangle, which includes the Theatre-Museum in Figueres, home to numerous works by the artist as well as surrealist buildings and a permanent jewelry exhibition, the Salvador Dali House-Museum in Portlligat, near Cadaques, and the Gala Dali Castle in Pubol. With 1,389,019 visitors in 2015, it ranks as the province’s most visited museum complex and the third most visited in Catalonia.
Girona’s exquisite gastronomy makes sitting down at the table and tasting dishes prepared with fresh local ingredients a true pleasure: chicken with prawns, rice with rabbit and clams, stuffed squid, and beef with sea cucumbers are just a few examples.
The destination’s outstanding cuisine is based on excellent local products, centuries-old recipes rooted in the past but updated for the present, and the expertise of the chefs and restaurants serving cuisine that ranges from traditional Catalan to market-fresh to gourmet. The diversity, richness and quality of the region’s products is nothing short of remarkable. A number of seals and labels like Girona Excel·lent certify products like L’Escala and Roses anchovies, Pals black rice and Empordа olive oil, differentiating these products from those from other regions. Pride in local products can be seen at festivals and food fairs, which are often associated with themed culinary events guaranteed to delight food lovers and fine-dining enthusiasts.
Ferran Adriа, the Catalan icon of twenty-first century avant-garde cuisine famous for heading the kitchen of what was the world's best restaurant, El Bulli, located in the town of Roses, has his roots in the folklore and tradition of food prepared from ingredients from the region’s mountains and sea. Adriа still has ties to the Costa Brava through his deep involvement in the El Bulli Foundation project, future incubator for creativity and culinary research open to the world via the internet, which is scheduled for launch in 2017.
The province of Girona is well-known for its 13 restaurants and 17 Michelin stars between them, including El Celler de Can Roca in Girona (created by the Roca brothers, the restaurant was named the second best restaurant in the world in 2014 by the prestigious Restaurant Magazine), Paco Perez’s restaurant Miramar de Llançа, and Fina Puigdevall’s Les Cols in Olot.
DO Empordа wines are deserving of their own chapter; they promote wine tourism in the region and enhance the quality of local products.
This offer took shape in 2012 with the creation of the DO Empordа Wine Route, member of ACEVIN, the Spanish Association of Wine Cities, which provide wine-related tourism services for visitors with the participation of 100 organizations and businesses including wineries, museums, tourism companies, hotels and restaurants.
List of Michelin star awarded Restaurants 2015
• El Celler de Can Roca ***
• Miramar **
• Les Cols **
• Els Brancs *
• Les Magnòlies *
• Bo.tic *
• Ca l’Enric *
• Casamar *
• Els Tinars *
• La Cuina de Can Simon *
• Fonda Xesc *
• Massana *
• Emporium *
“The province of Girona commemorates the Year of Food and Wine in 2016, while Catalonia was declared European Region of Gastronomy 2016 by the European Regions of Gastronomy platform”
Wine tourism activities vary with each season, changing according to the grapevines’ annual growth cycle. Visitors can enjoy an extensive range of activities throughout the year, including the Vivid Wine Festival in April; a month-long program of activities related to the DO Empordа Wine Route created to show visitors everything the route has to offer.
Protected natural areas, open to visitors, are the most visible and wellknown spaces in Girona’s network of living nature, a network that runs from the mountains to the sea, from the forested wetlands to the Mediterranean coast.
The region boasts four natural parks. Montseny was the first to be declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO and has been awarded the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism. The Aiguamolls del Empordа Natural Park and the more recent Montgrн, Medes Islands and Baix Ter Natural Parks preserve marine and bird life, especially migratory breeds. Likewise, the Albera Natural Site of National Interest is an outstanding example of the transition between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean landscapes.
Three natural jewels are tucked away in the Pyrenees: the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone and Moixerу Natural Parks and, since September 2015, the Headwaters of the Ter and Freser Rivers Natural Park. Sustainable tourism has been developed in these protected areas to recover native fauna and flora.
These protected spaces are exceptional attractions, which offer a wide range of services as well as the opportunity to participate in an ample selection of guided and unguided activities. The second edition of the Ennatura't festival of outdoor activities will be celebrated in May 2016. The festival was created to raise awareness among both locals and visitors about the territory’s resources and natural assets from the standpoint of tourism and sustainability. The program includes an entire range of activities related to natural spaces and parks in the Costa Brava and Girona Pyrenees, from water activities, cycling, hiking, and sports in general to experiencing nature first-hand.
A good way to discover the spectacular scenery of the Costa Brava for more adventurous and active visitors is by getting back to nature with activities such as hiking, road or mountain biking, sailing, skydiving –at Skydive Empuriabrava, one of the world’s three biggest and best skydiving centres– horseback riding, rock climbing, golf, etc.
Another good way to get to know the area is by hiking along the extensive network of former coastal paths –now a specific tourist route called the Cami de Ronda® – converted into footpaths along the Girona coast which provide breath-taking views of the Mediterranean and coincide in places with the GR-92 hiking trail. Hikers can explore the interior on the 2,500 km of marked trails of the trail network. Biking through the Vies Verdes, a greenway linking the Pyrenees and the coast with 125 km of signposted routes, is another great way to get in touch with nature and to get to know the local population, as is the circular Pirinexus route, which features 350 km of marked bicycle touring paths that join the districts of Girona with southern France.
“These spaces cover 31% of the region.”
“Three botanical gardens and one dating to the Renaissance period are an oasis of nature and breath-taking views of the Mediterranean.”
“Top Sports Tourism Destinations according to the Catalan Tourism Board): Banyoles, Castelló d’Empúries – Empuriabrava, Lloret de Mar and Blanes”
A groundbreaking tourism product, the first of its kind in the world, was created in 2014: Vies Braves or sea swimming lanes. This is a public network of marine itineraries for swimming and snorkeling. These routes, which run parallel to the footpaths that skirt the coast, are marked with buoys that provide a safe way of enjoying and exploring the coast.
Visitors can choose from a variety of options for discovering the uniqueness of this region from the sea: kayaking routes, sailboat and catamaran trips and scuba diving for exploring this diverse and unique space from an entirely different perspective, another dimension.
The Medes Islands are considered the top scuba diving destination in the western Mediterranean.
And for golf lovers, the Costa Brava’s nine courses and a Par 3 covering unique geography make the region a virtual paradise for golfers and the ideal destination for practicing this sport.
The region also features the PGA Catalonia Resort, Golf Platja de Pals and Empordа Golf Resort, whose five 18-hole courses have been included among Europe’s top 50, according to Britain’s Top One Hundred Golf Courses professional ranking.
The destination boasts two legendary golf courses: Club de Golf Costa Brava and Golf Platja de Pals, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2016.
Visitors can leave their day-to-day worries behind and regain a sense of peace at the Costa Brava’s health and wellness centers, where first-rate spas and facilities and extremely qualified staff –heirs to a long tradition of the region’s thermal treatments– provide customized therapy and treatments. Twelve of the region’s leading centers joined forces in 2014 to create the unique and exclusive Gerunda Fuga, a signature treatment.
Far from crowded big cities and an hour from Barcelona, the Costa Brava has managed to position itself as the most charming destination for business, conventions and incentive travel in the country. Beyond the cities of Girona and Lloret de Mar, which have a number of large convention centers, the region is home to a host of ideal locations for smaller meetings and conventions. The Costa Brava offers unique and exclusive spaces for events and professional meetings in natural and historical surroundings including beaches, castles, country houses, monasteries, wineries, gardens, museums, etc.
“Much of the 220 km of the GR-92 hiking trail, which clings to the Costa Brava, corresponds to the coastal paths.”
“The Vías Bravas are 19 km of marked sea routes open from June to October.”
“The Costa Brava’s Association of Diving Centers boasts 34 diving centers.”
“2016 is the Year of Golf on the Costa Brava and more than forty companies will participate in the celebration by promoting golf-related services for tourism and leisure.”
“PGA Catalunya Resort is currently the Best European Golf Resort 2016, according to IAGTO.”
Accommodation options are practically endless on the Costa Brava, from conventional hotels, which feature small and charming family-run hotels, holiday hotels and those located along the coast, to rural tourism, holiday apartments and campsites. The region has beds for 600,000 visitors, ensuring year-round availability.
Since 2016, Girona’s specific offer of high-end and exclusive tourism products, activities and services is covered and promoted internationally under the Costa Brava and Pirineo de Girona’s Unique Premium brand.
Not far from the coast are the Girona Pyrenees, with snows that usually arrive in December and ski resorts at full capacity in winter. Once the ski season is over, most turn into mountain resorts, which cater to the nature lovers who visit the area. Towns with deep historical roots, like Besalu, Ripoll, Camprodon and Lluvia, give this corner of the eastern Catalan Pyrenees a unique charm.
Undoubtedly, the Costa Brava offers a broad range of possibilities for visitors drawn to the region because of its climate, nature, culture, cuisine, recreational activities and the hospitality of its people. An almost endless variety of tourism products –complete with modern infrastructure and high-quality services– make year-round enjoyment of the destination possible.
“Beyond activities to foster team spirit, companies will find additional services and activities for conventions, training courses and product presentations...”
Interesting figures in 2015
(Excluding holiday apartments):
• 4.645.560 tourists
• 18.888.280 overnight stays