I have only been to mainland Spain once before, and that was over 25 years ago, so I really didn’t know what to expect from the coastline here. I came with the usual stereotypical ideas of what places like Benidorm would be like: all high rise hotels, English breakfasts and over-development, but I didn’t know whether they would turn out to be true and had no idea what delights or horrors the rest of the country would hold. Our first few weeks here on the Costa Brava had been spent staying in or near the big resorts of Roses and L’Estartit with their long swathes of soft sand backed by hotels and apartment blocks. The resorts were quiet because the peak season was over and the beaches were clean and all but deserted. Nice as these were though, I hoped to find a less developed Spain, somewhere a little less built up and a little more natural: something that lived up to its name of Costa Brava or ‘rugged coast’ I was beginning to think that this sort of area just didn’t exist anymore, but I was wrong.
Cami de Ronda
The Cami de Ronda is a path that runs all along the Costa Brava coast. It was originally built to allow the coves and bays of this area to be patrolled and to make it easier to spot and stop smugglers. It links up with other coastal paths to make up the GR92 that runs pretty much the length of Spain.
Researching the Cami de Ronda online, I wanted to find a short-ish section of walk that we could do as a family. However, I struggled to find the information I needed. I particularly wanted to know the state of the path itself: one of our group isn’t good with heights and doesn’t do well with paths that are too close to the cliff edge, especially if they have uneven footing or don’t have a good handrail. I found lots of information saying how beautiful and stunning the scenery was and telling me there was a great walk between point a and point b, but nothing more detailed. So, my blog post is partly written to show you that the more natural coastline of Spain does exist in some places, but also to provide detailed information and photographs for anyone else who might be in the same position as us and want to know more about the state of the path.
We did two short walks: the first from Platja Fonda to Aiguablava (just south of Begur) and back; and the second along the string of coves near to Callela de Pallafrugel – Canadell, Port Bo and El Port Pelegri.
Platja Fonda to Aiguablava
Our first problem for this walk was working out where to park since many of the roads in this area are steep, narrow and winding and it is not the sort of area you can just park at the side of the road. We managed to find a free car park at the top of Carrer Plaja Fonda in Fornells, just south of Begur, which at this time of year (early November) was empty.
From the car park we passed through a narrow opening onto a path alongside some houses and then had the choice to turn left towards Fonda beach or right towards Aiguablava. Initially we headed for Fonda beach, where a long narrow flight of steps leads down to a dramatic cove with dark grey cliffs on each side, highlighted with some bright orange streaks. It was beautiful and we had the atmospheric dark grey beach to ourselves.
We climbed back up from the beach and retraced our steps to the original path and followed the signs for Aiguablava, our ultimate destination.
This whole section of the Cami de Ronda was extremely well maintained and signposted. As well as the actual signposts, you follow the parallel red and white stripes which are painted on walls at the side of the path all along the route. If you take a wrong turn, you will see the red and white stripes in the form of a cross to tell you that you have strayed from the path.
We passed a seawater swimming pool and a series of tiny coves and inlets before reaching Port ses Orats. The path then takes you down to divine Cala Malaret, with its pretty beach and crystal clear water.
The Cami de Ronda winds its way along the coast, sometimes getting closer, sometimes further away from the shoreline. At times we felt like we were walking through someone’s back yard as the narrow steps wound up and down between the houses. After Cala Malaret, the path descended through a dark tunnel that then opened out into a lovely covered section with big ‘windows’ cut in the side.
Shortly after this you descend to Port d’Esclanya, with its pebbly beach, following which the path climbs steeply again. This section was the trickiest of the whole walk: tree roots and stones made it quite uneven under foot and in places it passed quite close to the edge with only a small, low handrail between you and a sheer drop. You are rewarded though with yet more breathtaking views and then finally the delights of Aiguablava with its cluster of small restaurants framing the edge of the beach. It must get busy in the summer as it would be a perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely meal and take a dip, but today the sea was emerald green and the beach deserted.
It took us about 2 hrs to walk from Fonda beach to Aiguablava beach and back again, but we did stop to explore and descend to virtually every unspoiled cove along the way. The path was paved and very well maintained for virtually all of the section that we walked, with handrails and/or walls between you and the cliffs. The only bit that was a bit more rugged was the last section between Port d’Esclanya and Aiguablava beaches, where the path was a little more uneven (but in no way dangerous!)
We skimmed stones, were mesmerised by the patterns the light made on the water and enjoyed the shade from the pine trees clinging to the rocky outcrops. As we rounded each headland, there was yet another spectacular view and I really did feel that I had found what I had been looking for.
Calella de Palafrugell and around
The second walk we did was much shorter and was more of a stroll. It was not as dramatic, but was just as picturesque. We parked on the Passeig de la Torre next to Canadell beach near the centre of Calella de Palafrugel. Once again, at this time of year we had no trouble finding a parking space.
This part of the coastline is made up of a string of small, pretty beaches, separated by rocky points. Unlike the bigger resorts up and down the coast, it is all very low key. These were once fishing communities and they have maintained some of the simplicity and charm of days gone by. We walked along lovely Canadell beach first and then on towards picture-postcard Port Bo, which used to be a fishing and coastal trade harbour. During the 18th and 19th centuries, they used to ship local products like coral, wheat, wine and cork from here to other ports in Spain, or to France or Italy.
Give yourself plenty of time here – you will want to stop a while as it is just so perfect. There are fishing boats hauled up on the sand and a delightful whitewashed arcade along the front, with little restaurants nestled under the arches, overlooking the beach.
After Port Bo, the path climbs up slightly, passing above the tiny shaded cove of Platgeta d’en Cosme and out onto a rocky promontory before reaching El Port Pelegri beach, with its dive centre, both overlooked by the delightful-looking Hotel Mediterrani The views back towards Port Bo from here are breathtaking!
You could go on walking for mile after mile on this stretch of coast, discovering more and more sublime coves and amazing vistas. But we decided that we wanted to stop and enjoy the peace and solitude of these beautiful bays. We sat out on one of the rocky outcrops, taking in the views and contemplating life and what we are all here for. It was a magical afternoon where the sun was shining, the children played happily, no-one was rushed and we all spent time quietly with our own thoughts. Pure heaven!