After exiting the humid tropics of Asia this March, I stepped into Europe’s spring time in full bloom…and it was love at first sight.
Welcome to Costa Brava, Spain!
Before this highly anticipated road trip, I have heard ravings from my avid European friends about the breathtaking and rugged wild beauty of Costa Brava coastal views and rock formations. From yacht trips to the crystal clear water to adventurous rocky activities, it seemed to be the perfect place for an outdoor lover like me. So when I arrived all the way from Singapore, it was definitely with great anticipation to get into the heart of the outdoor action.
But I didn’t expect to be blown away in delight by the fields of bloom as we drove from Barcelona towards the plains of Costa Brava.
Golden Crown of Spain – Catalonia Yellow
As we drove past the fields, my eyes couldn’t get use to the ravishing thick yellow gold colour of the fields, which I later found out are the flowers of rapeseed that is used to make the canola cooking oil we so commonly use in our dishes in Asia ( none of which in spanish cuisine seem to use much of, primarily a lot of olive oil instead)
We arrived at Girona in the late afternoon about 2 hours later and was greeted by the beautiful rows of spanish architecturally design houses along the Onyar River, each house painted in the iconic hules of orange, brown and beige with a little catalonia drapped over the grill/ window here and there. The memories of my last time in Spain all came flooding back and I could only smile in fondness.
Festivals: Pretty Little Girona Town on St Georges Day
We were lucky to experience a very interesting little festival/event in Catalonia call ‘Saint George’s Day”.
Every year on April 23rd, the streets and towns of cities are lined with shops selling books and roses. On this special day, where the men give the ladies in their lives (lover/ mum) a rose, and the women in return give the man back a book ( no issues getting books for women too, am all for reading more, but how can I say no to another rose;) ). This unique day is meant to celebrate a patron saint in Catalonia who perpetuated this tradition base on love and culture.
Cez and I walked the streets of Girona during sunset and checked out the bustling festive spirit and crowds. It was mad crowded and every soul in Girona seems to be on the street.
We obviously took the time to also see a bit of Girona town, its bustling street/ tapas life, romantic Onyar River and yummy ice-cream shops.
(For more information about this festival and what else to do when in Girona, check out more here)
List of other best Costa Brava Towns to swing by:
- Besalu – Pretty little medieval town with a super impressive castle bridge, biggest I have seen across Europe so far ( In my opinion, this town has quite a nice romantic vibe to it with its little alleys, souvenier shops and little train passing through)
- Camprodon – If you have some time to spare on the road, do swing by this little town and immerse in the rich history and culture of this place.
Okay, enough of sightseeing and towns for now, time to hit the outdoors….
Back on the road and onward to Banyoles Lake (23km away)
We kickstarted our series of outdoor adventures at Costa Brava with our 1st pitstop – Banyoles Lake. This pretty calm lake, is also the biggest natural lake in Catalunya, and is especially popular during summer periods as training grounds for rowing pratices, and attracts professional rowers from UK and around Europe to train here. While we were there this spring, we didn’t spot any rowers but there was a section for people to swim laps and sunbathe. We on the other hand, had a more interesting activity prepared for us – kayaking in the crystal clear lake !
Water Up – Warm up kayaking around Banyoles Lake
Try to spot the marine life beneath while you kayak along the edges of the lake, and don’t forget to also spot the little castles when you turn around the bends of the lake.
For those who are not as big a fan of water activities, the next activity we did was an equally fun option to see the lake – go around it on wheels.
Rent a Bicycle and go around the Banyoles lake & through the flower fields
This was really enjoyable, given it was such good weather and I wanted some good leg exercise while having a close up look of the flowers fields. We returned our kayaks and progressed to bikes, all rented to us from Caiac i Natura. Our awesome guide Atilio brought us around to all the best spots – to capture the best photos of the lake and surrounding yellow fields.
Highly recommended to go cycling after either in the morning or later part of the afternoon when it is not so hot and the sunset skies start to show, giving a nice reflection off the lake. We had a full day of workout and retired to our cosy Girorooms apartment back in Girona town.
From Water to Ice – Snowshoeing in Pyrenees
After enjoying the comfortable relaxing sport activities in Banyoles region, things can only get more exciting..and chilly…
Water is easy, but now we have transited to the icy slopes in the Pyrenees. After fastening blue plastic net-looking devices below our shoes..called snowshoes..we were off to do our 1st snow shoeing in Vall De Nuria, Pyrenees with Oxineu Sports and Recreation Centre.
And boy was it tiring….
It took us a bit of time to get the hang of walking in it, as you will feel like you are tripping over your own feet in the snow. But after much practice, it started getting easier to walk and enjoy the experience and stunning spectacular snowcapped view. A bit more effort is required when crossing certain parts where it is more icy and the snow has melted and harden into ice, but overall it is a real good workout with a backdrop that you can feast on all day. Damià our young and strong guide was really patient and nice as we trot along in our slow but steady speed…
This particular trail (Vall de Nuria to Puigmal at 2.913m) will take about 4.5 hours if you go on a slow but progressive pace. We stopped in between at a nice rocky patch to munch the sandwich lunch that was prepared for us, before continuing on our journey..good workout indeed and stunning mountain views all around.
Little note before the hike: Do not overlayer or underlayer ( find clothes that are insulated and protects you from the wind yet breathable. One should also put sunscreen in advance and a pair of shades, as the sun rays are strong and reflect off the ground.
For those who love animals, you will see some lovely mountain wildlife along the way, especially if it is after winter and they are all awake from hibernation. You can look out for animals like deer, large lizards and my all time favourite…the fluffy brown Marmot!
We saw one really adorable marmot from afar, which was calling out in a perculiar ‘parrot sounding’ voice while perched on a rock. Utterly adorable little animal which I wished allowed me to get upclose to it and pet it.
Concluding this little winter hiking adventure we had at the majestic Pyrenees for a day, known throughout Europe to be a great destination for skiing in winter, hiking, parasailing and more in the other seasons.
How to get there:
Train/ Rail: We came from Ribes Vila Station and arrived at Vall de Nuria in half an hour, with a scenic view of waterfalls, mountains, river rapids and more.
Last but not least, we keep the best for last.
After we conquered the Lake Banyoles (liquid), ice in the Pyrenees ( solid), we are only missing the final and last state of matter..
And that’s where we lose all sense and went SkyDiving at Empuriabrava!
Fly through the skies..and witness the beauty of Costa Brava from a bird’s eye view!
This once in a lifetime experience, is truly memorable for those who like me..love action packed activities.
This is my 2nd time skydiving, but I still had such a good time nonetheless ( one can never get enough of flying like a bird). Witness the sheer beauty of the snow-capped Pyrenees and iconic Costa Brava rocky coasts while you fly through the sky at high gravitational speed.
Concluding the water, land and sky experiences here in beautiful Costa Brava, ( in Spanish known asˈkosta ˈβɾaβa). This list of crazy outdoor adventures in this road trip are not conclusive but are in my opinion one of the best set of activities to embark on in Costa Brava. Stay tuned for more about our rocky misadventures and Via Ferrata action ( my personal highlight in my trip) here in sunny Costa Brava.
Are you convinced to come visit the wild coasts of Costa Brava?