What to see in Empordà in two days – a road trip to Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Roses, Cadaques and Cap de Creus
Living in Barcelona is a real blast because of many different reasons, but one of the things that I enjoy the most is how close we are to Costa Brava. A summer without traveling to Costa Brava wouldn’t be a summer for me. After 7 years of living here I’ve had a chance to explore a lot of beautiful places and I never get enough of the charming coastline towns nearby.
Last year we started summer season with a road trip to Blanes and Lloret del Mar. We also visited Llafranch and Jardins de Cap Roig for my Birthday and you can read more about this here. If you are a big fan of botanic gardens, you will definitely love these posts! Two weeks ago we finally did our first Costa Brava trip of 2021 and we were literally counting days! This time we decided to explore more of the Empordà region, which is the easternmost part of Catalonia, located very close to the French border.
Sant Feliu de Guíxols and Cala Sa Caleta
It was the first time we traveled so far by moto and doing some stops was a must. We booked our hotel in Roses which is about 3 hours away from Barcelona by secondary roads and 1,5 by highway, so our first destination was Arenys del Mar where we stopped by for a breakfast. Then we continued our drive to Sant Feliu de Guíxols and this is where we decided to stay for longer to enjoy its beautiful coves. I’ve been reading a lot about the best calas nearby and it was really hard to choose one, but finally our winner was Cala Sa Caleta and I think it was a very good decision.
Sa Caleta is a rock cove located on the west of Sant Pol beach, just at the beginning of the Camino de Ronda from Sant Pol to Sant Feliu. It’s easy to access by through a wooden walkway that marks the beginning of the coastal path. This cove is considered ideal for snorkeling and Edwin can confirm because he spent most of the time in the water. I loved the fact that there was barely no people there and we had a lot of space only for us.
When it comes to the town itself, we didn’t explore it a lot because we wanted to get to Roses before sunset, but Sant Feliu de Guíxols is one of the main tourist destinations on the Costa Brava today, with a rich leisure and cultural offer for the entire family. It’s an old fishing village located in the heart of the Costa Brava, with a very well marked historical legacy. If you’re planning to stay in the town, we suggest you to start with places of general architectural or landscape interest, such as the Hermitage of Sant Elm, Sant Pol beach, Camino de Ronda and Casino de la Constancia. For those who are looking for more adrenaline, the port of Sant Feliu provides a lot of options with centers for sailing, kayaking, diving and many more activities. On our way to Roses we also stopped for a delicious fideuà in Platja d’Aro, another destination that we have to come back and explore!
The reason why we decided to book our hotel in Roses was because of its perfect location between all the places we wanted to visit. I didn’t know what to expect from this town but I have to admit it surprised me a lot. We loved its vibes, especially in late afternoon while walking along the beach and watching street dancers show. We also had a chance to see one of the most beautiful sunsets and our hotel was located only 5 minutes walking from the beach.
Roses is also known for its beautiful old town with tiny streets full of delicious flavors. This is where you will find the main shops and restaurants in town and the best atmosphere, especially in summer. The old town is also very well connected with the main promenade. If you like sports, it’s similar to Sant Feliu and the port area is perfect for the large number of activities. From here you have diving centers, windsurfing, hiking trails, bike and scooter rentals and much more.
The best known and most visited monument in Roses is, without a doubt, the massive fortified enclosure of La Ciudadela, a pentagonal and military fortress, inside which archaeological sites of Greek, Romanesque and Visigoth settlements have been found. Another interesting site to visit is Trinidad Castle, which was almost entirely destroyed during the War of Independence. The best part of the visit are, without a doubt, the views of the entire bay. Therefore, to visit the castle at sunset must be insanely beautiful!
After an early breakfast in Roses we headed directly to our next and most awaited destination – Cadaques. The approximately 15 kilometers of zigzagging road from one town to another is simply stunning. It’s full of curves and incredible landscapes with the sea emerging from above the hills every now and then.
Considered one of the most charming towns on the Costa Brava, Cadaques has always been one of my favorite coastal destinations. Cadaqués is a very reserved place and in fact, when the tourist boom on the Spanish coast exploded, this small town continued to hide in the mountains and was able to resist the massive construction. Everything changed with tourism, except for the lonely spirit of Cadaqués which today, in some way, still maintains its essence as best as it can.
The first thing I suggest you to do if you have arrived by car, is to find a parking slot, something that is not usually easy, because there is not much space for without paying. At this point we really appreciated the fact that we traveled by moto because we could easily park it in the city center.
The good thing about spending a day in Cadaqués is that everything is relatively close. From the promenade to the center of town there is a short walk. Its old town is really nice, with narrow and steep alleys built with stones collected on the seashore, the squares, chairs in the portals, windows and doors painted in bright colors, the hanging lilac bougainvilleas on the stone facade… everything in this town is incredibly beautiful.
The heart of Cadaqués has its origin in the Middle Ages. We recommend you to go up to the parish church of Santa María constructed in 16th century and, from the top, contemplate the splendid view of the bay and the islet of Es Cucurucuc. If you are looking for a perfect spot to take a picture of the entire town, the views from the small eastern island are amazing. On your way back, you should definitely stop for some tapas and drinks in one of the charming bars in the promenade.
Cap de Creus National Park
It’s not an easy mission to choose a place to take a batch in Cadaques, because the possibilities are endless. Some smaller beaches, some bigger, some with sand, some with stones, some further away, others closer .. But if you have to choose just one, you definitely should go directly to Cap de Creus National Park. This is what we did in late afternoon after enjoying Cadaques to the fullest.
Cap de Creus Natural Park is located in the easternmost part of the Iberian Peninsula. And it’s the first maritime-terrestrial park in the country. It was created thanks to a 1998 law, which protects the peninsula of Cap de Creus (about 11,000 hectares) and its marine environment (about 3,000 hectares).
In addition, Cap de Creus is a natural park with a sensational magic: the unstoppable wind, the abandoned vineyards and barracks, old olive trees, the rocks with a thousand different shapes, the Mediterranean in the background… this is where the Pyrenees surrender to the sea and it makes you feel like if you were literally entering another world.
Apart from its incredible biodiversity with many unique and endemic species, Cap de Creus offers crystal clean and turquoise waters, and the wealth of underwater life is exceptional, with species such as corals and seaweed beds. Once you get to the lighthouse where you can park your car or moto, you can choose one of the trails and go down to take a bath in Cala Jugadora, Cala Fredosa or any other beautiful cove. It took us around 40 minutes to get to the cove and I have to admit that the trail was quiet difficult and not very well marked, but it was totally worth it! The water was still very cold but we took the bath and enjoyed every single minute of this magical place. I am not sure what was the name of the cove we chose but it didn’t really matter because all of them are simply exceptional.
When we get back to the parking I could barely feel my legs but when you are surrounded by such a beauty you don’t really care about the pain. The winding roads that lead you through the park are out of this world – wild, varied and cliffy, which reminded me a lot Canary Islands and Galapagos. I will never forget this experience and we will definitely come back to Cap de Creus because we have still some spots on our list.
We hope you enjoyed our two days itinerary from Sant Feliu to Cap de Creus! Empordà has much more to offer and you could spend even weeks there with days fulfilled with a lot of activities, but it’s also completely possible to see the best of it in one weekend. And if you love Salvador Dali’s art, don’t forget to visit Portlligat, the famous place where Salvador Dalí lived most of his life. It is impossible to talk about Cadaqués and that the great Catalan artist does not appear in some corner. This is where he lived and painted his most significant artworks. How well do you know this region of Catalonia? And for those who are craving for more, we invite you to read this post with the best places in Costa Brava. Enjoy!