North from Barcelona towards the Pyrenées Mountains and inland from the rocky Mediterranean coast, discover Catalonia – a corner of Spain with its own unique culture, language, history and wonderful gastronomic traditions. Escape the beaches and crowds of the Costa Brava and let Hosted Villas introduce you to the unspoiled charm of Catalonia’s beautiful countryside and historic villages -- where the true Catalan spirit lives on.
At the center of the region is historic Girona, famous for its medieval quarter, ancient university and museums – plus some great boutique shopping! Further north, Figueres hosts the fantastical museum of surrealist painter Salvador Dali. To the east is the remote coastal village of Cadaques, ringed by steep slopes plunging into the aquamarine waters of the Mediterranean. It’s a setting that inspired not only Dali but other 20thC artists including Miro, Picasso, Marcel Duchamps and André Breton.
Visit the well-preserved medieval villages of Besalu, Pals and Peralada, wander the shops of La Bisbal, famous for its ceramics and antiques, or take in the history of the Greek and Roman settlement of Empuries. The region also boasts fine local wines and outstanding dining – from much sought-after Michelin-starred establishments (reserve early!) to simple country restaurants. An hour or so north along the spectacular coast road takes you into France, to the picturesque ports of Collioure and Bandol, while for the more energetic types, there is good golfing, sailing, and great hiking and cycling in the foothills of the Pyrénées and along the coast.
At the top of the must-do list is a day trip into Barcelona, less than an hour away by car or train. It is one of Europe’s truly great cities – an amazing hub of art, design, business, soccer, superb food, fashion and excitement.
Best gateway airport: Barcelona (direct from the US) or Girona (via London).
From Barcelona, you can reach Girona in just over 1 hour by train or autovia (freeway).