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The Corniche between Tossa and San Feliu

Once out of Tossa the coastal road (G682) climbs steeply and for the next 22 km runs high above the red cliffs, twisting and turning through luxuriant groves of pine and cork oak, with sudden views of jutting headlands and small calas, the water changing in color from emerald green to cobalt. Make a point of stopping at the miradors, the little parking lots from which you can take in the scenery. At intervals, the road swoops down to circle an inlet and you will see abrupt turn-offs that lead to little calas which you can drive or walk down to, some with restaurants or a chiringuito, (a makeshift snack-bar, sometimes with a busy barbecue). Tucked away in these little calas are beaches for all tastes. There's an expensive and highly rated camp-ground located on the beautiful Cala Pola. (Park outside the campgrounds and walk to the beach through the grounds.) Nearby Cala Bona is also beautiful. On the next cala, called Giverola, the Swiss have built an ugly high-tech resort of boxed bungalows. So as not to feel homesick, they also installed a typically Alpine yellow funicular to freight tennis-players to the astroturf courts on the beach below.

Seven km into the drive, just after passing the cala de Salions, there's a left turn to the Sanctuary of Sant Grau which twists 5km uphill, offering splendid views. To the right you have a splendid panorama of Tossa del Mar. Turn around and you have one of the most ruggedly beautiful stretches of the Costa Brava. In 1908 the journalist Ferrán Agulló, inspired from the view up here, was the first to name this coastline la Costa Brava, brava meaning rugged, savage, or wild. The existing Sanctuary is of the nineteenth century, although evidence of the ancient Romanesque building remains. It's a charming spot for a stroll, with numerous paths through the typical Mediterranean forest. On the way down, see if you can spot the curious rock formations at La Roca del Rei.

Back onto the corniche, a popular and pristine beach favored by nudists is the cala Valpresona, which lies a half-hour walk down from the road at km 16 -where you see the greatest concentration of parked cars. Perhaps the most pleasant beach is at Rosamar (at km 36 - turn in at the olive trees and drive down through the eucalyptus grove). This place is a little paradise, and you would do well to plan at least a few hours to stroll aroung here. A rocky promentory with a bronze Minerva separates a sandy beach backed by sheer red cliffs from another, this on rocky and ideal for snorkelling.

Upon descending into the natural port of San Feliu de Guíxols, the corniche ends abruptly just below the town's most famous monument, the horseshoe-shaped tenth-century door at Porta Ferrada. San Feliu lies encircled by hills and, despite being a resort, still feels like a real town, with only low-rise buildings, and a pedestrian Rambla surrounded by busy commercial streets. The narrow beach of golden sand is backed by a broad Passeig de Mar, laned with plane trees and a few modernist buildings. It is an agreeable stroll through the flower gardens and petanc courts to the yacht harbor- the fishing port lying just around the promontory crowned by a lovely modernist villa, now home to the local Red Cross. The old town, laid out on a fairly regular grid pattern, is commercial but pleasant, with plenty of decent cafés with outdoor terraces, and there's a large daily market in the central Plaça d´Espanya.

San Feliu owes its attractive buildings and air of prosperity to the nineteenth-century cork industry which was based here, but the origins of Sant Feliu go back to the tenth-century, when the town grew up around the Benedictine monastery whose ruins still stand in the Plaça Monestir. (Now the Museu de la Vila, with an interesting exposition about the cork industry. The collection includes of all manner of artifacts fashioned from cork, as well as some old Catalan glasswork, and a few paintings). The town cemetery ( first right turn uphill after Plaça del Monestir on road to Tossa, beyond the bullring and the football stadium) has a neoclassical wall dating from 1833, and houses numerous pantheons and tombs in different turn-of-the-century styles.

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