The GR92 is a long-distance walking trail that runs from the French border at Portbou all the way along the eastern Spanish coast to Tarifa, where the Mediterranean ends and the Atlantic begins. It is part of a much longer European trail, the E10, that actually runs (or walks!) all the way to Finland.
By the way, G.R. stands for Gran Recorrido in Castellano, Grande Randonnée in French or Gran Recorregut in Catalan – so it’s pretty multilingual! The Costa Brava part is called the Camino de Ronda.
Camino de Ronda
The Spanish part of the trail was given the number 92 to commemorate the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, when, escorted by an armada of more than 300 sailboats and serenaded by no less than five choirs, the Olympic flame was transported from Olympia, Greece by the frigate Catalonia and was rowed ashore by an ancient fishing boat at Empúries, the first Greek colony on the Iberian Peninsula. Pretty cool, right?Empúries also just happens to be on the “Camino de Ronda”.
Generally speaking, the section of the GR92 along the Costa Brava is known as the Camino de Ronda, and although this more local trail does diverge from the main GR92 occasionally, they both pretty much follow the coast except in certain places where the topography of the land causes them to veer inland for a bit. There are also multiple local variant trails and detours but one could say that the GR92 is the trail of reference and if you want to stay on it then keep following the signs that look like Polish flags, a white stripe over a red one. Other trails will sometimes be marked with different colours, such as green + white for a local trail or yellow + white for a minor trail.
Before anyone gets too excited and starts writing letters of complaint, let’s just begin by explaining that we are fully aware that we have not covered the entire Costa Brava Camino de Ronda. We have yet to walk the section from the French border down to Cadaqués as well as the southernmost part between St Feliu de Guíxols and Blanes. What is included in this blog is the Costa Brava Camino de Ronda that we have walked ourselves and the photos are all our own. Rest assured, when we do get around to walking those last two stretches we’ll be sure to add the new information.
As the Costa Brava is long we’ve broken it down by section to make it easier for you to find the part you may be interested in. As you’re scrolling down keep an eye out for the ➡️ symbol as that means it’s the start of a new section. As the crow flies, the distance from Portbou to Blanes is 90km – but then we are not crows. With all its twists and turns and beautiful bays, beaches and coves, the full length of the Costa Brava is more like about 250km, “as the human walks”! As we said, it is a long coast!
We begin in what is often described as the “most romantic” town on La Costa Brava, Cadaqués, and start walking our way south. As wise old Treebeard said: “I always like going South; somehow, it feels like going downhill.”
The only problem with starting in Cadaqués is that you might not want to leave! Despite the huge volume of tourism, it experiences in the summer season, Cadaqués somehow still manages to retain its charm, with its characteristically Mediterranean whitewashed houses and its setting in the beautiful bay that bears its name. It has long been loved by artists for its special light, the most famous of whom being Salvador Dalí who used to spend summers here and eventually built himself a house – now a museum – in Port Lligat just outside the town.
Cadaqués ➡️ Roses
Cap de Creus is the easternmost point in Spain and during the 17th and 18th centuries just about this entire peninsula was cultivated, mainly with olives and vines, and as you begin your climb as you leave Cadaqués you’ll start seeing the remains of dry stone walls that are all that’s left after phylloxera led to the abandonment of the vineyards in the 19th century. And, yes, we said “climb”, because make no mistake about it, as you leave Cadaqués you start walking uphill almost immediately.
But, of course, what goes up must come down and after a while you’ll find yourself descending again until you arrive at Cala Jóncols. There’s a hotel with a bar here if you feel in need of refreshment (although we found it rather unfriendly and expensive). Leaving Jóncols cove involves ascending once again, although not as steeply as when leaving Cadaqués earlier. Once you’re “up” then you can opt to keep descending and ascending again if you want to check out the next two coves, Cala La Pelosa and Cala Calitjàs, or you can stay up on the “high road” and continue to Cala Montjoi where there is a holiday village with an altogether friendlier bar-restaurant. (There is also a spur out to Cap Norfeu which, we have to confess, we didn’t take.)
Picking up the trail again from Montjoi, we pass some more spectacular viewing points and more gorgeous coves until we eventually arrive first at Platja De l’Almadrava and then, shortly afterwards, Platja de Canyelles Petites, two lovely sandy beaches in pleasantly compact resort villages, just before arriving into the larger town of Roses.
Roses was originally founded by ancient Greeks and today excavated ruins can be seen not only of the original Greek settlement but also those of the Romans and even Visigoths in the pretty impressive Ciutadella de Roses and its museum. Roses was later attacked by Mediterranean Pirates under Barbarossa in 1543 (as was Cadaqués) and later again it came under French rule for a time. Today’s “invaders” though are mostly tourists who increase the population about fivefold in the summertime. The seafront promenade continues for 3km from the port of Roses to the Marina de Sta. Margarita where, unless you can walk on water, it comes to a stop. We couldn’t walk on water so we came to a stop too.
If you’re a real hardcore purist and want to be able to say that you walked every single centimetre of the Costa Brava, then – because of the various canals and waterways – you’ll have to head inland from here and walk up to the main road for a while before being able to get back to the coast. In fact, if you’re strictly following the GR92 then you’ll be heading further inland to the town of Castelló d’Empúries. We decided not to walk quite that far but rather take the shortest route back to the coast and the town of Empuriabrava. Having done it, we’d recommend skipping this part and picking up your camino again in Empuriabrava to begin your next day’s walk as there is nothing much to see en route other than rather ordinary streets and not especially attractive buildings.
Built on what was originally a swamp, Empuriabrava has a much shorter history than the likes of Cadaqués or Roses, only being built in a number of phases between the late 1960s and the 1980s. It is essentially a large residential marina with a network of canals of over 40km in total and claims to be the largest such in Europe (or even the world, according to some). It is worth seeing for that reason alone.
Empuriabrava ➡️ L’Escala
Leaving Empuriabrava you can just walk along the beach pretty much all the way to Sant Martí d’Empúries and shorten your journey considerably as the crow flies – remember the crow? – however, as you’ll be walking in sand almost all the way it may not save you any time at all in the end. You will also have to get your feet wet paddling across the Gola del Fluvià (mouth of the Fluvià river) and, depending on the time of the year, tides, recent rainfall etc, that paddle may end up being more of a wade. If it’s the beach you want though, that’s the way to go.
The other option for leaving Empuriabrava is to walk along the northern bank of the River Muga until you come to a wooden bridge. Crossing this you enter the Parc Natural Aiguamolls de L’Empordà, a 4,729-hectare wetland nature reserve with numerous species of birds and other fauna. At certain times each year it is also a resting stop for birds on their migratory flights between Africa and northern Europe. At the Estany del Cortalet the trail meets up again with the GR92 as it returns to the coast from Castelló and meets up with the beach route at the Gola del Fluvià.
The GR92 heads inland once again and follows the Fluvià river to the towns of Sant Pere Pescador and L’Armentera (which we did), but, doing it again, we would probably walk this stretch along the beach to Sant Martí d’Empúries instead.
Empúries + L’Escala
At Sant Martí d’Empúries all trails come together once again, and understandably so as this is a place not to be missed. It’s extremely historic and as the site of the first ancient Greek settlement it could be described as the “gateway of civilisation”. Empúries is also the first place the Romans landed on the Iberian Peninsula and the only site on said peninsula where Greek and Roman ruins can be found together in the same location. It’s well worth visiting. Alternatively, you could just hang out at the beach and check out some of the best xiringuitos on the Costa Brava for some well-earned refreshment after your hike. To finish off, walk the last couple of kilometers along the easy, well-maintained camino into the very pleasant fishing town of L’Escala, famous for its anchovies in particular.
L’Escala ➡️ Torroella de Montgrí
Leaving L’Escala south on the Camino de Ronda just follow along the coast keeping the sea to your left until the signs for L’Estartit take you away from the coast slightly. The trail climbs through some lovely pine forest but it never really gets too steep. Both leaving L’Escala and entering L’Estartit the camino is asphalted but in between it’s more sendero (trail).
L’Estartit is a pleasant seaside town situated at the southern end of the Bay of Roses and belonging to the municipality of Torroella de Montgrí. It is backed by some not especially high but nonetheless impressive cliffs at the Cap de la Barra, and 1km offshore are the Illes Medes (Medes Islands). Popular with scuba divers, these islands are uninhabited nowadays but, in times gone by, used to be used by Pirates of the Mediterranean as a base from which to raid up and down the Catalan coast and on the third weekend of every September the town holds a Fira de Pirates i Corsaris in their “honour”.
From L’Estartit our camino de ronda parts company with the GR92 for a while and we decided to stay on the coast. The camino to Torroella de Montgrí is very much in two very different parts. The first part couldn’t be easier as it simply involves simply walking the Passeig Maritím, or seafront promenade, for about 20 minutes all the way to the end where it becomes beach. Then continue walking about another 30 minutes along the beach itself until you reach the Ter river. You might be tempted to try wading or swimming across but this river is deeper than it looks and depending on recent weather the Gola de Ter (mouth of the River Ter) can be wider or narrower at different times.
It’s definitely a better idea to pick up the trail that runs inland alongside the river and walk towards Torroella de Montgrí until you come to a bridge, the Pont Riu Ter, cross, and then walk back down to the coast along the trail on the other bank of the same River Ter.
Torroella de Montgrí ➡️ Begur
Once you’ve walked back down the river to the coast, just follow the beach again until you come to a small creek that’s easily crossed as it’s only about knee-deep. At this point, seeing as you’ve already gotten your feet wet anyway, it might be a good time to jump in the sea for a swim! Once across the creek, it’s another easy walk along the length of Platja de Pals, all the way to the end, when it becomes Platja del Racó. You’ve now crossed the “border” into the townland of Begur – and here the walk changes! At the end of the beach, pick up the camino de ronda again and immediately start climbing.
The trail is very well maintained so there is no difficulty from that point of view, but there is quite a bit of ascending and descending. Fortunately, there are numerous spectacular vistas giving you plenty of excuses to stop for a few photos (and to catch your breath!). Some of the most impressive views are of Platja de l’Illa Roja – or the Beach of the Red Rock – so named for the reddish coloured islet that sits just offshore in front of this beach that is especially popular with naturists.
After about 45 minutes you’ll come to the absolutely gorgeous fishing hamlet of Sa Riera, a perfect place to maybe stop for more liquid refreshment and take in the beauty of your surroundings. Sa Riera gets its name from the stream that runs down the middle of the beach, even if sometimes underground and not always visible.
Leaving Sa Riera the camino de ronda takes you back upwards again, offering more stunning views of the coastline along the way until you eventually arrive at a steep set of steps that take you up to a paved road. The good news is that once you’re at the top there’s a nice easy stretch of walking without too much descending and ascending until it gradually brings you back to sea level where you emerge at Cala d’Aiguafreda.
The next bit of the trail is probably the easiest part within Begur and after about half an hour the next stop is Sa Tuna, another charming former fishing village squeezed into a small cove. We’d recommend taking on more refreshment here as the last part of the camino involves a fair bit of climbing again and in a few spots, you’ll be walking over rocks. Needless to say, the views along the way are gorgeous, especially when you reach the top of the climb after leaving Sa Tuna at the Mirador de Sant Josep. It’s definitely worth every bit of the effort!
The camino de ronda from here involves more ups and downs but the trail never takes you all the way back down to sea level so the worst of the climbing is behind you at this stage.
The next part of the camino is a mix of trail and paved road and after some time you’ll eventually come to El Semàfor de Begur with even more great views of the beautiful coast.
From there we began the uphill walk inland to the town of Begur itself. Once you reach the centre of the town the walk up to the castle looks much harder than it actually is – in fact it’s pretty easy and worth that last little bit of effort – because from up there with beautiful panoramic views we can now look back at the entire coast we’ve just walked; all the way from the Cap de Creus peninsula!
Begur is a delightful village with a permanent population of just over 4000, although in the summer months one can add another zero to that figure. Begur is not only all about summer tourism though and there is plenty of history attached to the region too, with the ruins of its medieval castle perched on a hill overlooking the town. It is also known for its “Indiano” mansions, so called in reference to the West “Indies” after Catalan emigrants to Cuba returned in the late 19th century having made their fortunes on the sugar cane plantations there and built themselves extravagant neoclassical colonial-style homes.
Begur ➡️ Calella de Palafrugell
Leaving Begur 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 – and it’s nearly all downhill. After about half an hour you come to a sign for the Camí Vell de Fornells which sends you down to the sumptuous Hotel Aiguablava and Platja de Fornells.
It has to be said that the signposting on this part of the 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” discouraging 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.
Above is 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 it. Superb! The path continues to the left of the blank signposts – exactly where neither sign points – but once through there it was easy enough to follow. There are a couple of small coves along the way before you come to Platja de Cala Aiguablava.
At the back of Aiguablava beach there is a car park, and at the back of the car park is a sign pointing vaguely in the direction of a path into the woods. Don’t take it! it goes nowhere – as we discovered! Although you would instinctively feel as though you should keep the sea to your left, instead, as you leave the car park, turn left and walk along the road for a short stretch until you see a sign for Tamariu pointing off the road to the right. The road itself veers to the left, but if you continue that way you’ll end up walking on a very long and winding road to Tamariu with little or no footpath and with cars passing (as you can see on the map below). Again, turning left away from the coast feels counter-intuitive as it feels like the wrong way. In fact, if you are down at the coast at Aiguablava you are already on a variant of the GR92 and this camino will bring you back up to the main trail which leads into Tamariu. Although it takes you away from the coast for a little bit, this walk is very pleasant – and considerably shorter.
You are now in the municipality of Palafrugell, and Tamariu is the northernmost of its three seaside towns. Formerly nothing more than a cove where a few fishermen kept huts, it is now especially popular for family-oriented tourism. We recommend stopping for a drink here as the next part is a bit harder.
After our short break in Tamariu we started on the next section to the Far de 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 not really difficult.
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 “Polish flag” 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, passing more beautiful coves along the way until arriving back down at sea level again at the lovely Cala Pedrosa with its stony beach (hence the name). There is a beach shack bar here in summertime providing welcome liquid refreshment before the next climb. The following section was pretty tough, but the lush vegetation provided plenty of shade. At the top is a meadow and a flat section followed by some more (easier) climbing that brings you to 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. Both of these former fishing villages, now touristic towns, are characterised by their iconic whitewashed houses, not unlike those of Cadaqués, and the camino de ronda between them is pretty short and easy. You could do worse than stop here and spend some time as you’d do well to find a more beautiful spot.
Calella de Palafrugell ➡️ Palamós
Picking up the camino de ronda again heading south out of Calella de Palafrugell the first section as far as Cala el Golfet is well kept and quite flat. Almost as soon as you leave El Golfet though there is a somewhat tougher section up to Cap Roig. (Yes, there is more than one Cap Roig!) It involves quite a bit of climbing through some lovely woodland and it’s somewhat challenging for a little while. It goes without saying, however, that the views from up top do not disappoint.
From Cap Roig we opted to take the coastal camino de ronda rather than staying on the GR92 which took an inland path and so we began descending from Cap Roig until we came to a set of steps leading down to a small beach in Cala el Crit. At first we thought we had taken a wrong turn as it seemed the only way off the beach is back up those same steps again, but looking more closely we spotted a gap in the rock at the end of the beach which led through to Cala Cap de Planes.
Continuing on our camino we walk along the beach of Cala Roca Bona and arrive to Cala Estreta. What’s lovely about the coast between Cap Roig and Cala Estreta is that its relative inaccessibility to folks in cars means that these coves are rarely packed with bathers. This also makes all of them popular as naturist coves in which you can strip down to your birthday suit if you so wish. (We had to be careful taking our close-up photos here!)
After Cala Estreta there’s a bit more coastal trail before you find yourself climbing back up to higher ground through some lovely woods with spectacular views between the trees of the sea below. Just off the trail to the right en route to Platja Castell (heading south) is the Barraca d’en Dalí, a rustic shack built for the artist Salvador Dalí for him to work in by his millionaire friend, Alberto Puig Palau. Dalí gave it his own characteristic touch by adding a lopsided door.
Shortly after Dalí’s barraca the camino comes to one end of the beautiful and popular Platja de Castell beach and the ruins of Poblat Ibèric de Castell. The ruins are of an indigenous Iberian settlement that dates back to between the 6th century B.C.E. and the 1st century A.D. Thanks to efforts by locals to prevent development this beach remains in its natural state with the seasonal beach bar being the only concession to tourism. You can revert to your natural state too as it’s another of the “clothing optional” beaches, although only a minority of sunbathers tend to do so on this beach.
The camino de ronda links up with the GR92 again at the opposite end of Platja de Castell and from there sticks strictly to the coast all the way to Palamós, passing the lovely Cala S’Alguer with its old fisherman’s huts along the way. Before coming into Palamós proper we pass Castell de Sant Esteve and the gorgeous Platja de la Fosca.
At the other end of La Fosca beach the camino continues around the headland of Cap Gros, crosses Cala Margarida with more of those distinctive fishing huts, and brings you into the port of Palamós.
Palamós is a fishing town on the central section of the Costa Brava with a permanent population of around 18,000 people. The port town was officially established in December 1279 but humans have been living here for around 6,000 years and it is steeped in history. It is also home to a fine variety of restaurants and bars, making it another ideal place to stop for a while on your camino de ronda walk.
Palamós ➡️ Sant Feliu de Guíxols
For the rest of our walk the camino de ronda and the GR92 are one and the same. From Palamós the next section is an easy stroll along the seafront promenade to Torre Valentina where it becomes a trail again that takes you towards Platja d’Aro. This stretch involves crossing more beaches than any other part of the camino de ronda and if you decide to do this during the height of the summer season, especially on a weekend, you’ll find yourself stepping over lots of pale blue northern bodies sunning themselves to a bright pink! Apart from when you have to walk across sandy beaches, the next few kilometres are easy enough as the path is in good condition, although narrow in some places.
When you arrive at Cala del Forn it looks like you will have to wade through the waves to get around the rocks, but, as with Cala el Crit earlier, look for a tunnel in the rocks through which you can walk through to Platja de les Torretes on the other side without getting your feet wet. Next up is the cove of Cala Cap Roig (we told you there were more than one of those!), Platja de Belladona and, finally, Platja Rovira before you arrive at the long beach of Platja d’Aro itself.
At the end of the beach is Port d’Aro and to get around this you’ll need to briefly walk up to the main road in order to link up with the camino trail once again. Once around the port the first beach you’ll come to will be the lovely Platja Sa Conca, and at the other end of this beach starts probably the best maintained segment of the whole camino de ronda. There are some spectacular houses with beautiful gardens along this very easy section and if you happened to have a spare few million euro (or roubles!) in your pocket you would be tempted to knock on one of the doors and ask how much they want and how long they need to move out! At the end of this stage you emerge onto the Platja de Sant Pol.
From Sant Pol to Sant Feliu de Guíxols, as with most of the camino de ronda, the trail itself is in good shape but it’s very up and down – and up & down, and up & down… you get the picture, right? It’s not that long though and is worth putting in a final effort though as there is more lovely scenery to behold.
There are a couple of short segments that are actually up on the street but at the end of the camino you’ll come out at the edge of the important town of Sant Feliu de Guíxols. We’d suggest continuing to the end of the promenade and walking the last few metres inland to finish up at the very impressive Monestir de Sant Feliu de Guíxols. A fitting end – for now at least…
El Camino de Ronda: conclusion
The beauty of the camino de ronda is that you can dip in and dip out of it anywhere along the way and do it in segments. Most of the trail is well looked after and in good condition and there are sections for people of all levels of fitness and ability. There are even parts that can be cycled. The hardest segments in terms of the trail, as well as the gradient, are, firstly, the hike from Cadaqués to Roses and, secondly the climb between Tamariu and El Far de Sant Sebastià but they are also very beautiful. Apart from the various promenades, the easiest part would be from Platja Sa Conca to Platja Sant Pol – which is also very beautiful! Whatever part you decide to do there are beautiful beaches and coves all along the way and some very interesting towns and villages, so we’re sure you’ll enjoy it.
We certainly did!
“These boots are made for walkin’,
And that’s just what they’ll do..”