Recently we shared with you a couple of blogs about the beautiful coastline walk between the towns of Begur and Sant Feliu de Guíxols – and it truly is beautiful! But of course, the coast isn’t the only place where one can find beautiful scenery. In this blog we are going to cover two of the vias verdes, the cycle greenways that have been adapted from former railway lines.
The greenways are in fact part of a larger designated cycling route called the Pirinexus that runs from Sant Feliu de Guíxols north through the Baix and Alt Empordà and continues across the border into France before “taking a left” into some gorgeous Pyrenean countryside and crossing back into Spain, taking in the towns of Ripoll, Olot and Girona and eventually finishing back in Sant Feliu again to close the circuit. The total length of the Pirinexus is 353km but only certain sections are “greenway” so in this blog we’ll just focus on the greenway segments that are closest to us here on the Costa Brava.
Le Petit Train – Palafrugell to Sant Antoni de Calonge
Palafrugell sits at 42m above sea level and Sant Antoni is, well, at sea level, so this is a very easy route with almost no hills and suitable for people of all levels of fitness. The first part of this greenway from Palafrugell to Sant Joan de Palamós follows part of what used to be the old train track that ran between Palamós and Girona and for that reason it is known as the Petit Tren, or “Little Train”. If you’re interested in reading more about the old railway lines that once operated in Girona province you can click on another of our blogs from a little while ago.
Starting at the edge of Palafrugell town and heading south you immediately get off the main road and start cycling through the countryside following the Aubí river and without being bothered by any traffic. Before long you’ll come to the Hotel Malcontenta and the Benelux Camping where you can either continue on the main greenway route or take the branch that brings you down to the beaches of Platja de Castell or La Fosca – also a beautiful cycle! There are also a number of offshoots to Calella de Palafrugell – all well signposted. These are not part of the greenway but you shouldn’t encounter too much traffic.
If you don’t take any detours you’ll come to the gas station at Sant Joan de Palamós at the end of the via verde, if you go around the roundabout and join the cycle track which will eventually bring you to the seaside town of Sant Antoni de Calonge and you’ll have covered a whopping 10km since Palafrugell (unless you took the detour to the beach). Honestly though, this stretch isn’t the most interesting and you ́ll have to join the main road towards the end. The other option at the gas station is to take the road towards La Fosca and Palamós and then on to Sant Antoni de Calonge. This is a much nicer ride although it is longer and there are a few hills. The next section that takes you further south from Sant Antoni is part of the Pirinexus route but here it’s just a case of following the road, so we’ll skip ahead to Sant Feliu de Guixols.
Sant Feliu de Guíxols to Girona
This next greenway section of the Pirinexus is an almost 40km stretch that has a few ups and downs but with the “highest” point being Cassà de la Selva at 136m its difficulty is also rated as “minimum”. This route follows the old narrow-gauge railway line that used to run here, thus giving it its very imaginative name: “Narrow-Gauge Railway Route II”! (Route I runs from Girona to the town of Olot). Following, as it does, an old railway line this section of greenway is characterised by gentle curves and slopes. The route is mostly paved with a grainy granite sand, but you will have to pass through a few towns on the main road on your way.
Starting from Sant Feliu de Guíxols you cycle through the Baix Empordà region, more or less following the Ridaura river, whose valley runs between the Gavarres massif to the north and the Cadiretes massif to the south until you arrive at the town of Llagostera. Leaving the river and continuing on the greenway you next come to Cassà de la Selva and you are now in the Gironés region. Here you will find a 15km offshoot called the Thermal Greenway that takes you to the spa town of Caldes de Malavella, taking in more lovely farmland and forest scenery en route. It’s well worth doing if you have the time and energy.
Back at Cassà de la Selva we continue through more lovely countryside and if the day is clear enough you can also enjoy some lovely views of the mountains in the distance. This section of the via verde finishes when you arrive into the beautiful city of Girona.
If you feel like cycling even more when you’ve done the via verde there are plenty of other routes in the region that are worth considering. You can pick up a map in your local tourist office with its colour coded cycling network showing you which parts are rural paths and which parts are road. You may have to share the road with cars in some parts, but a lot of these routes typically see very little traffic and the cycling route is well signposted. You can read up on each of the routes in a bit more detail on this website.
But we recommend getting the map too! Happy cycling!