The Costa Brava, with its plunging ochre cliffs, verdant pine forest and turquoise coves, is easily the most beautiful stretch of coastline on the Spanish Mediterranean. It attracts hundreds of thousands of holiday-makers every year, and its biggest resorts offer gorgeous beaches and non-stop action. But, if you want to experience this stunning destination without the crowds, you can escape to medieval villages set just inland or hike along remote cliff paths. These are some of our favourite hidden places in the Costa Brava.
Traditional seaside towns: Llafranc and Calella de Palafrugell
Whitewashed and winsome, Llafranc is a picture-postcard seaside resort which is full of chic boutiques and galleries. Equally lovely is nearby Calella de Palafrugell, where colourfully painted fishing boats are still pulled up on the beach. This enchanting town is famous for its habaneros, or sea shanties, which sailors brought back from their travels to the New World.
Medieval villages: Begur, Pals, Palau-Sator and Peratallada
Piled up on a hilltop just inland from the coast, Begur is perfect little time-capsule, with stone streets winding around a ruined castle. There are dozens of other lesser-known medieval villages in the area, where time seems to have stood still and you may even, if your time it right, have the cool, stone streets to yourself. Among them are Pals, Palau-Sator and Peratallada, all miniature medieval gems.
Art and culture: Dalí’s castle in Púbol and the Thyssen art collection in Sant Feliu de Guíxols
One of the cultural highlights of a visit to the Costa Brava is the chance to see Dalí’s house and studio in Cadaqués and his amazing ‘theatre-museum’ in Figueres. But there’s a third point to the so-called ‘Dalí Triangle’ which comparatively few visitors ever see. In Púbol, you can visit the medieval castle which Dalí bought for his wife and muse Gala and to which he was only invited by written request. Check out her golden throne and drool over her fabulous frock collection, as well as see some of Dalí’s own works. One of the Costa Brava’s biggest cultural attractions is also one of its newest: the harbour town of Sant Feliu de Guixols is home to the Espai Carmen Thyssen, which shows some of the enormous, world-class art collection belonging to the former Miss Spain in a series of changing exhibits.
Camins de Ronda walking paths
The famous ‘Camins de Ronda’ are dramatic walking paths that hug the coast along much of the Costa Brava. One of the most beautiful routes runs between Llafranc and Calella de Palafrugell, but you’ll find these stunning walks even in the busiest resorts, such as Lloret de Mar and Roses. Generally speaking the walks are easy and well signposted, with just a few wilder sections that might require a bit of scrambling.
Secret beaches: Cadaqués, Cala S’Alguer, Aigua-Xelida, Sa Tuna and Aiguablava
During July and August, the chances of finding a remote, empty beach anywhere on the Costa Brava are practically zero. But there are certainly some quieter coves where you can sit back and soak up the sun far from the hordes on the main beaches. There are some wonderful, rugged (although pebbly coves) in the Cap de Cadaqués, a magnificent cape and nature reserve that spreads around the town of Cadaqués itself. Cala S’Alguer, a tiny little cove near Palamos is a favourite, with its colourfully painted old fishermen’s huts. There are more impossibly picturesque coves and bays on the Cap Begur, including Aigua-Xelida, Sa Tuna and Aiguablava, which are linked by the fabulous Camī de Ronda walking path.