The picturesque villages of Peratallada, Pals, Madremanya, Vulpellac, Monells, and Cruilles are all worth a visit, as they have preserved something of their medieval essence and many fine medieval buildings, from little churches and towers to monasteries and castles. Today their narrow streets and arcaded squares have been supplemented by enticing restaurants and a sprinkling of informal boutiques. This is also a very scenic driving route and great hiking area.
Empuries was probably the first and one of the most important Greek colonies in the Iberian Peninsula. It was founded in 550BC by merchants who for centuries conducted a vigorous trade throughout the Mediterranean. The colony came to be called Emporion (‘market’) and remained an important trading center as well as a conduit of Greek culture to the Iberians.
Learn More about Empuriès Archeological Site Museum
The Dalinian Triangle is the geometrical figure that would appear on a map of Catalonia if we were to draw a line between the municipalities of Púbol, Portlligat and Figueres. The life and work of the extravagant surrealist painter Salvador Dali is focused in three places: the Teatre-Museu in the town of Figueres, the Portlligat Casa-Museu near Cadaques, and the Castell de Pubol in the village of La Pera.
The artist was born in 1904 in the small town of Figueres and although his career took him to Madrid, Barcelona, Paris and the USA, he remained true to his roots. In the 1960s and 70s Dali converted the old town theatre (ruined by a fire at the end of the Spanish Civil War) into the bizarre Teatre-Museu.
Girona is northern Catalunya’s largest city, full of historical and cultural interest. Its core is the old town built on a hill above the river Onyar, bounded by the ancient city wall on one side and the river on the other.
Founded as a Roman fortress on the strategic Via Augusta, the city was fought over countless times even up to the 19th century. Following the Moorish conquest it became an Arab town for 200 years, and there was also a continuous Jewish presence for 600 years. It’s no wonder that all these dramas have bequeathed an amazing mixture of architectural styles, from classic Roman through Moorish and medieval to art nouveau and modernism.
The Parc Natural de la Zona Volcanica de la Garrotxa, a volcanic park of some 12,000 hectares, is the largest such area in Europe. It has two different and contrasting areas: the Low Garrotxa, an idyllic area full of meadows, groves and streams, and the High Garrotxa, a protected area of 33,000 hectares of hard and harsh land, a delight for strong-legged hikers.
Santa Pau is the central village of the volcanic zone, and presents a beautifully preserved fortified medieval precinct. Inside, the old town surrounds a large and very attractive double plaza, popularly known as the Firal dels Bous, or cattle market. Primitive wooden balconies drip with flowers and huge potted plants line the pavement arcades. Cobbled alleys converge on the 13th century arcaded Plaça Major, with its dark Romanesque church of Santa María.