The Coastal Trail from Begur to San Feliu de Guixols
La Costa Brava translates as the Wild Coast in English, and although those of us from more northern climes and especially anyone familiar with the Atlantic Ocean might think the “wild“ moniker is a bit of an exaggeration, there is a lot of very rugged coast along here and it is really the physical nature of the coastline that earns it the name Costa Brava rather than anything to do with the weather. (Thankfully!) If you want to really experience the best of this coastline the best way to do so is by going for a walk along the caminos de ronda, which can loosely be translated as ‘coastline walks’, although there are caminos into the interior too.
We picked up some literature from the tourist office, but we found it to be quite incomplete with information only on certain sections connected by dotted lines on the map representing the bits in between and with no description. The tourism websites of each townland (i.e. Begur, Palafrugell, Palamós, Calonge, Platja d’Aro, San Feliu de Guixols) had a bit more on their respective segments but the information wasn’t co-ordinated. So, seeing as the information on the caminos is a little on the sketchy side we decided to take on the section from Begur to San Feliu de Guixols ourselves and put together a short guide, along with lots of photos, to help you know what to expect should you decide to tackle it (or part of it) yourselves. We did find one website that is fairly useful in that it gives you a map of the route that you can zoom in and out of and it gives an estimation of how long each section should take.
Part 1: Begur to Calella de Palafrugell
We decided to start in Begur and head south as walking south somehow felt like heading downhill. (Just kidding!). There are beautiful views up and down the coast from the castle atop the hill overlooking the town but today we had a lot of walking ahead of us without adding more to it so we skipped the castle. (If you’d like to know a bit more about the town have a read of our Begur blog or even our other one about castles of the Costa Brava).
As Begur is a little inland the first part of the walk is on the road but even, so it is very pleasant as it is beautifully wooded, offering plenty of shade on the way. After just over half an hour you come to a sign for the Camí Vell de Fornells which brings you down to the spectacular Hotel Aiguablava and Platja de Fornells. (Camí is Catalan for camino or path, and platja is the word for beach)
This is a beautiful place indeed and we decided that we’d come back sometime and treat ourselves to a weekend here. It was also here that we realised that the signposting on our walk wasn’t all it could be, and we lost a little time trying to figure out where the next stretch started. Eventually we discovered that it was through a narrow gap in a wall with a “private property” sign to discourage you from going through. The sign in fact belongs to a house to the right and the trail goes to your left, so through we went.
Here’s the gap in the wall and some of the not very helpful signposting shortly afterwards, but once you figure it all out the views more than make up for the confusion. Superb! The path continues to the left of the blank signposts – exactly where neither sign points towards – and once through there it was easy enough to follow. There are a couple of small coves along the way before you eventually come to the Platja de Cala Aiguablava.
Although the path isn’t particularly difficult there is a little bit of climbing involved and the day was warm, so a nice cold beer was called for.
Refreshed, we resumed on our way in the direction of Tamariu – or at least that was the plan. Once again, the signposts were not helping. When you walk up from the Aiguablava beach you walk through a car park. At the back of the car park is a sign pointing vaguely in the direction of the woods with no clear path. When we asked we were shown to where a small path began and so started off in that direction. After a while we came to a fork with no sign or markings and we decided to take the left one as we figured it made sense to keep the sea close to our left. Wrong!
After walking uphill for a bit, we came across three other walkers also heading for Tamariu but who were heading back in our direction as they told us they had run out of trail – and so back down we went to the fork and took the other path which eventually brought us out onto the road. If we’d known then what we know now we’d have ignored that sign for Tamariu back at the car park and instead taken a left at the exit of the car park, walked along the road, and ended up at the same place, only a lot sooner! And we nearly made another mistake that would have cost us at least another half hour…
As you are walking up the hill from the car park you come to a three-road junction with a white road sign for Tamariu telling you to continue up the hill. Don’t do it! There’s a trail off to your right with a camí de ronda sign but that’s way too easy to miss as it’s mostly hidden behind a tree – that’s the way you want to go! It starts up a short hill but once at the top it’s almost all downhill from there and a fairly easy walk through some lovely woodland.
The first photo is looking back down the hill that you will walk up from the Aiguablava car park with the almost hidden sign for Tamariu. The second is at the top of that short hill – and the rest is easy! After just over half an hour you will arrive at the charming little town of Tamariu. Another beer was had here! Thirsty work this camí de ronda!
After our short break in Tamariu we started on the next section to the lighthouse at Sant Sebastià. One hour and 15 minutes the signpost said.
We made it in 75 minutes alright, but this was the toughest part of the walk so far. Up to now it had been a little uphill, a little downhill, but at least the path was mostly fairly easy. Leaving Tamariu involves crossing a short section of beach and then clambering over a stretch of rocks – without any trail to be seen. In fact we were unsure we were even still on the right track at all until we eventually spotted a red and white marker painted onto one of the rocks (nearly worn away). So we pushed on over the rocks until we picked up the trail again. And up and up we went! We passed more beautiful coves along the way until we reached the lovely Cala Pedrosa.
At this stage we wondered if we could continue around the cove up high and admire it from above as it seemed such a shame, having climbed this high, to have to descend only to have to climb back up again! But no, there was nothing for it but to stay on the trail all the way down to Cala Pedrosa – but at least when we got there there was a beach shack bar and another quick beer! And so up we hiked again! This section was pretty tough, but the vegetation was lovely and provided plenty of shade. Reaching the top, we came to a meadow and a flat section followed by some more (but easier) climbing until we reached the lighthouse. You’d better believe we had a beer there!
From here it was all downhill to the lovely towns of Llafranc first and then Calella de Palafrugell. We had thought about trying to walk a bit more but we reckoned that with the time we’d lost looking for signposts plus a couple of wrong turns that we’d added an extra 45-60 minutes to the hike, so we called a halt to Day 1 – and had a couple of beers!
We hope that this will be helpful to you if you decide to tackle some or all of the camí de ronda. Don’t let the dodgy signposting or the level of difficulty deter you. We hadn’t done much hiking in recent times and hadn’t trained and even though a few stretches were a little tough at times, we enjoyed it immensely and would recommend it highly. To break down this first day of our trek, the most difficult part is definitely from Tamariu to the lighthouse at Sant Sebastià. The first part is hilly in places but not too difficult. Even the signposting, or lack thereof, has its upsides as we ended up chatting to other similarly confused hikers! All in all a fantastic day out.
Part 2: Calella de Palafrugell to San Feliu de Guixols – coming very soon!