L’Escala and Sant Martí d’Empúries
L’Escala is a municipality of around 10.000 inhabitants which makes it the third largest in the district after Rosas and the capital Figueres. The town stretches 7 km along the coast and consists of four different areas. From north to south these are Empúries, the old town. Riells and Cala Montgó.
In the north lie the old town of Sant Martí d’Empúries and the Ruins of Empúries at only 3 km form Camping Las Dunas. Empúries is of great historical interest since it is here the ancient Greeks first settled on the Iberian Peninsula in 575 B.C. They called their settlement Emporion (from which Empúries derives) which means “market” in ancient Greek. In Emporion they traded with the local Iberians. In the year 100 B.C. the Romans reached Empúries, but they didn’t come to trade but to conquer. After having invaded the entire Iberian Peninsula in the course of the first century A.D. Empúries fell into decay, overshadowed by the regional capital Tarraco (Tarragona) and Barcino (Barcelona). Only the oldest part of Empúries existed until modern times and is now called Sant Martí d’Empúries, a great little town with a central square with some beautiful terraces and restaurants.
A nice and wide boulevard, free of motorised traffic and great for bicycles, connects Sant Martí d’Empúries with the town centre of l’Escala. The old town is located around the beach called La Platja (simply “the beach”). In the past the town’s fishermen moored their boats here. Recently the area around the beach has been completely reconstructed and closed to motorised traffic. It is a great area to enjoy the beach and all the bars, restaurants, terraces and shops of l’Escala’s city centre.
Following the coast further down south we reach the new part of l’Escala called Riells where we can find the beach of Riells, the largest in town, and the port. The boulevard is full of shops and bars with terraces. Even further, at the southern point of the municipality, we find the bay of Cala Montgó with a nice beach, crystal clear water and many great bars and restaurants with terraces with view of the sea.
L’Escala has some great restaurants and a rich traditional local cuisine based on products from mar i muntanya (sea and mountain). The town is renowned in Spain and worldwide for its Anxoves de l’Escala (anchovies)
Barcelona is Catalonia’s capital with 1.6 million inhabitants at 150km from Camping las Dunas. In the metropolitan area over 5 million people live which makes it the sixth largest one in Europe according to Wikipedia. Barcelona is a large cosmopolitan city well worth visiting. To visit Barcelona we recommend the daily coach excursions that we offer through our partner Viñolas which departs from Camping las Dunas. Even though you can get to Barcelona by public transport or car, navigating and driving in a large Mediterranean city can be unnecessarily stressful, especially the first time.
A number of areas in Barcelona are worth a visit. The neighbourhoods Raval, El Born, El Barri Gótic and La Barceloneta lay inside the Ciutat Vella (old town), the part of the city that used to be surrounded by the Roman city walls. Of special interest are the medieval cathedral, the church of Santa Maria del Mar (Holy Mary of the Sea) and the Ramblas. Just south of the old town is the Montjuïc (Jewish mountain) where the Jewish quarter used to be in medieval times. The Font de Montjuic or Fountain of Montjuic is an attraction that sees the Fountains choreographed to music in late evening. All in the open and are completely free.
A strong need for expansion of living space led the town to start works on the district named Eixample (Catalan for expansion) in the 19th century. This coincides with early Catalan Modernism. The modernist architects have left some great monuments in Barcelona like Casa Battló, Casa Milá, Parc Güell, Palau de la Música and la Sagrada Famíla. The Sagrada Famila or sometimes referred to as Gaudi’s Cathedral is a must on anyone’s list to visit. Started in 1882 and described by Salvador Dali as “terrifying with edible beauty” and due for completion in 2026. Barcelona is one of the leading European cities in town planning, characterised by innovation, design and sustainability.
And you can eat really well in Barcelona! There are 32 restaurants with a Michelin Star (two with three stars). But of course there are alternatives for all tastes and wallets. Worth mentioning is the Boqueria on the Ramblas a market with local products with stalls where you can eat as well. Barcelona nightlife is concentrated in the areas of La Barceloneta, El Born, el Barri Gótic and l’Eixample. Football fans will want to visit the famous Camp Nou stadium and the FC Barcelona museum.
If you decide to visit Barcelona by train, entering form the north there are three stations where you can exit. The most central one is Passeig de Gràcia at the heart of the Eixample district. Barcelona’s main railway station is Sants where lines from all over the country connect.
Girona is the capital of the province with the same name. The inner city itself has over 99,013 (2017) inhabitants and is 45 km from Camping Las Dunas. Girona airport is the nearest airport to Camping Las Dunas and is just south of the city. The old town of Girona is one of the most interesting ones in Catalonia and often overlooked but spans a history of over 2000 years.
The area was inhabited by Iberians, a people that lived on the Iberian Peninsula before the Greeks and Romans arrived. The Romans founded Gerunda in 77 B.C. with a mighty citadel, known as the Força Vella of which parts can still be seen in the old city wall. Later, in the seventh century A.D. work was started on the Esglesia de Sant Feliu in honour of the local martyr Saint Felix.
The Visigoths ruled in Girona until it was conquered by the moors in 715 who held it until 785 when it fell into the hands of the Franks. Under Frankish rule Girona became the capital of the county Girona which formed part of the Marca Hispánica (Spanish March). In this period the city expanded and new fortifications were built for protection. Girona has undergone twenty-five sieges and has been captured seven times.
The first Jewish community arrived in the city in the 9th Century. Their knowledge in Medicine and Financial skills were widely recognised. The 12th Century was the time of maximum prosperity for the Jewish community, but this came to an end in 1492 when the Catholic Monarchs outlawed Judaism throughout Spain. Nowadays the Call Jueu (Jewish quarter) is one of the best preserved areas in Europe.
Also In the ninth century construction started on the monastery of Sant Pere de Galligants where the Catalan archaeological museum is located since 1857. Two centuries later work starts on the new cathedral dedicated to the Holy Mary which will substitute the church of San Feliu as the main temple of the city. Three architectonic currents can be recognised in this building, Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque. The gothic nave in Santa Maria is the second widest in the world at 72ft after Saint Peter’s in Rome. An impressive wide staircase of 90 steps from the 17th century, leads to the entrance of the cathedral. From the Cathedral you can access the Ramparts via Passeig de la Muralla and well worth the climb. The Cathedral has been the setting of several films including episode 10 of season 6 “Game of Thrones”.
Banys Àrabs (arab baths) complete the list of monuments of Girona. Even though its name might suggest otherwise it is a Christian construction based on Roman baths.
Also the Rambla with its uneven arches and the bridges over the Onyar River with views of the “hanging houses” along the river, deserve a visit before you can stop for a delicious meal. We cannot talk about Girona without talking about the local gastronomy. Girona province counts no less than 14 restaurants with a Michelin-Star and in the city we find the restaurant El Celler de Can Roca, considered the world’s best for many years. Local gastronomy is characterised by products of Mar i Muntanya (sea and mountain) as well as a mix of contemporary and traditional cuisine.
Cadaqués is the easternmost town of the Iberian Peninsula and lies at the heart of the Cap de Creus peninsula and nature park, at 35 km from Camping Las Dunas. The town is located in a natural port and was virtually disconnected by land until late nineteenth century. Traditionally its inhabitants lived off fishing, salting fish and olive growing. However, the isolation of Cadaqués started to have an irresistible attraction on tourists and artists from the early 20th century, which changed the town.
In the middle ages Cadaqués suffered a lot from invading pirates and corsairs which led to the construction of a city wall of which only one bulwark remains nowadays. The steep narrow streets with their special cobbled pavement called rastell characterise the old town. On the highest point rises the church of the Holy Mary of Cadaqués, built in the 16th century after the famous Turkish pirate Barbarossa raided and destroyed the town in 1543.
The modern history of Cadaqués is strongly related to many different famous international artists that found inspiration in its narrow streets and breathtaking beauty of the surrounding area. Picasso lived here in the summer of 1910, Marcel Duchamp established his summer residence here in 1954 and many more artists came to work here, including Magritte and Matisse. However, the artist to which Cadaqués is most tightly connected is Salvador Dalí who settled here permanently after returning from New York in 1948. His house in Portlligat (a part of Cadaqués) opened its doors to the public as a museum in 1997. Tickets have to be bought in advance online.
Sant Pere de Rodes
On the top of the Serra de Rodes (Rodes mountain range) that is part of the eastern foothills of the Pyrenees and forms the Cap de Creus Peninsula, lies the mighty monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes. As a matter of fact, right at the top lie the ruins of the Verdera Castle that was built to protect the monastery, whereas the monastery lies just under the top on the northern flank of the mountain.
The origin of this former Benedictine monastery is shrouded in mystery and legend, closely connected to Apostle Saint Peter. Some say relics of the saint were kept here…The monastery was first documented in 878 A.D and had its heydays in the 11th and 12th century during which period it was an important pilgrim’s destination. From the 17th century the monastery deteriorates and is finally abandoned. In 1930 the Catalan government declares Sant Pere de Rodes a national monument and in 1935 work was started on its restoration.
The monastery is open to public now, more information and prices can be found on their website. Sant Pere de Rodes lies about 35 km from Camping Las Dunas and can be reached by car. The ruins of the Verdera Castle at the top can only be reached by foot.
Figueres and the Dalí Museum
Figueres is the capital of the comarca (county) Empordà and has 45.000 inhabitants. Located at 25km from Camping Las Dunas, Figueres is also the nearest hospital and train station. Its location makes it an important traffic junction and the entrance to Spain. The origin of Figueres was a Roman settlement along the Via Augusta, the longest and busiest Roman road on the Iberian Peninsula. Unfortunately Figueres found itself at the heart of various armed conflicts during its history and not many monuments remain. Worth a visit are the San Ferran Castle just north of the city, which is among the largest in Europe, and the church of Sant Pere (Saint Peter) in the city centre.
However, Figueres’ main attraction is without a doubt the Teatre-Museu Salvador Dalí (Dali Museum), entirely dedicated to the works of Figueres’ most famous citizen, Salvador Dalí, born in 1904. It is the third museum with most visitors in the whole of Spain. The museum opened in 1974 and is built on the remains of the old city theatre that was burnt at the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939. Salvador Dalí himself oversaw the restoration project and turned it into much more than an exposition centre for his paintings. Some say it was the last master piece of this surrealist artist. Dalí died in 1989 and is buried in the crypt under the museum.
Pals and Peratallada
Pals and Peratallada can easily be visited in one day, since they only lie 10 km apart. A trip to these two villages is like a journey in time. The middle ages are an important time in the development of the region and Girona’s history is made of small, sovereign counties and monasteries. And Pals and Peratallada are two of the most well conserved medieval towns in the whole of Catalonia. Narrow cobbled streets, churches, towers and city walls will take you to the middle ages on the Costa Brava.
The village of Pals was first declared a site of historical interest in 1973. The Circular Romanesque tower Torre de les Hores (Tower of the hours) was built in the 11th – 13th century. The tower is all that remains of the Castle which was destroyed during the Catalan Civil War in the 15th Century. At the highest point you will find the mirador Josep Pla named after a writer from nearby Palafugell. From this point you have a fabulous panoramic view of the Medes Islands, Montgri Massif, Canigó and Serra de L’Albera. The Church of Sant Pere (Saint Peter) has existed for over 1000 years, and the fortified Museu-casa de cultura ca La Pruna dates back to the 15th and 16th century. Pals castle was first documented in the 9th century and there are indications of an important sea port here in medieval times. Nowadays Pals is famous in Spain for its rice fields. The Arròs de Pals (rice from Pals) is among the best to prepare typical Spanish rice dishes like Paella.
Peratallada was first documented in the 10th century. The old city walls were among the strongest in medieval times in Catalonia. Nowadays both villages are considered amongst the most beautiful in Spain. The villages are located at 30km from Camping Las Dunas.
Sant Pere Pescador
Camping Las Dunas is located amongst orchards and meadows within the municipality Sant Pere Pescador at five km from the town direction l’Escala. Sant Pere Pescador has 2134 (2016) inhabitants and a surface of 18.4 km2 that stretches along the coast of the Bay of Rosas. The town lies 2 km inland on the banks of the river Fluvià. More than 7 km of wide sandy beach, coastal marshlands and the part of the river that runs through the town are part of the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà Nature Park (Empordà wetlands). The local economy is based mainly on tourism and fruit cultivation (mainly apples). The beach of Sant Pere Pescador is a favourite windsurf and kitesurf spot. Also, the surrounding nature and forests are ideal for cycling and walking. The town was first documented in 974 A.D. and parts of the old city wall can still be seen in the centre next to the church.
Empuriabrava is the largest inhabited marina in Europe with 30 km of canals and 1.5 km of beach. It is located in the municipality of Castelló d’Empúries, which used to be the seat of the counts of Empúries and capital of the region in the middle ages. Empuriabrava lies in an area that was previously swampland. The reclamation of this land and the development of a luxurious marina that was based on similar developments in Florida USA, aiming for the romantic ideal of medieval Venice, started in the sixties. But the project caused controversy from day one. The many protests by ecologists and activists led to the creation of the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà Nature Park in 1983 and the protection of the unique landscape of the Empordà plains. Nowadays Empuriabrava’s canals, villas, yachts, bars and restaurants attract many tourists in summer. Located at the airstrip is one of the largest skydiving operations in the world, Skydive Empuriabrava.