The Costa Brava is better known for its busy resort towns, packed with high-rise condos and crowded beaches. But if you want to explore the rugged coastline of northeast Spain, you can still find some colorful and more peaceful villages. One such spot is Cadaqués, located about ninety minutes north of Barcelona.
Although this quaint fishing village has been discovered, it can be quite low key if you avoid the summer season. In mid October, the prices of the hotels were more reasonable and the town had only a few visitors. Last fall, the weather was still warm enough for dining al fresco and hiking in a t-shirt.
The old town of Cadaqués is set on a protected bay with views of the rocky cliffs and blue-green sea. There’s a pleasant lungomare—a walkway along the water, with views of the protected harbor and fishing boats. On one side, there are plenty of restaurants and bars with indoor and outdoor seating. The main road into town is lined with the usual t-shirt and art shops, but it also has the practical stores one needs, such as a pharmacy, grocery store and gelato shop. If it’s a Saturday, the small bars will be filled with locals rooting for their favorite soccer team, which is probably Barça.
You can explore the narrow roads that wind up the hill into delightful neighborhoods with the town church, small stores, art galeries, more restaurants, little plazas and even a city museum. We enjoyed the south side of the town, where we found a small plaza and a friendly bar with excellent coffee. We could sit outside and watch the neighbors meet and greet as they started their day.
From the town of Cadaqués, there are several nice day hikes. The local Tourist Information usually has maps, or you may even get one from the hotel. We chose the trails that stayed close to the water, but there are even more that can climb up into the higher hills behind the town. A good website for trails in this area is listed at the end of this story.
For our first walk, we decided to visit the Dalí Museum, called Portlligat House Museum, and walk back along the coast trail. Salvador Dalí, who was born in nearby, Figueres, chose Cadaqués as his home and lived there for about 50 years with his wife Gala. Dalí, Miro, Picasso and other Spanish artists were all drawn to the beauty of this area. Dali picked an ideal location for his home and art studio, which overlooks a the small, protected Portlligat Bay, just north of Cadaqués.
If you take the walk that follows the coast, it can be a long walk due to the peninsula that juts out into the sea. However, if you travel through town, the museum is about a twenty minute walk.
You can take Carrer Ponent from the boardwalk, then, follow it uphill until you reach Avinguda Sant Baldiri. This road takes you past an old church with a beautiful cemetery. After the cemetery you should find Avinguda Salador Dalí that leads down to the picturesque Portlligat Bay.
To visit the museum, it’s best to make a reservation. Even in October, this a popular destination, especially on weekends. It’s not as much a museum, as a window into the life of Dalí and his wife Gala.
The home is still furnished just as it had been when they both lived and worked there. It’s as eccentric as you would imagine, with Dali’s amazing collections and Gala’s interesting taste in furniture. Besides painting in the surrealist style, Dalí designed sets for the movies and live theatre. I’m not a Dalí fan, but for me, the views from the house and the lovely garden were worth the ticket.
From the museum, you can walk back into town by following a coastal route, which is part of a longer series of trails along the Costa Brava. The trail is maintained, but it is very narrow at times, and it follows a rocky cliff. You are not very high up, so it’s not a challenging hike.
The views of the bay and coastline make this a very pleasant walk back into town. There is a point where you need to leave the coast and find the road back into Cadaqués. It’s pretty logical, but the part that winds through the neighborhood has no signage for the trail. However, there are usually other hikers, or you can look for the town of Cadaqués in the distance. As you return to town, it’s fun to admire the old homes along the water.
Cami de Ronda
Another day we took the hike that goes out to the Cala Nans lighthouse. To find this trail, start at the main beach and head south towards the Hotel Rocamar. Once you are past the hotel, you should see the coastal route and some signs for the trail.
Take the road up the hill, following the coast and you´ll pass some houses with perfect bay views and lovely gardens. Keep heading straight along the coast and you´ll enter the natural park with a scenic trail that leads to the lighthouse. This trail is well-marked and you can often see the lighthouse in the distance.
As you meander around the headlands you´ll see rocky coves and beaches below, and there are nice views of Cadaqués in the distance. You finally arrive at the lighhouse that sits out on a point with even more views of the area. This walk to the lighthouse and back into town is an easy, half-day hike. If you are up for a longer trail, it’s possible to walk all the way to the town of Roses.
Remember to take plenty of water and a snack, especially in the summer months. You can always take a break and cool yourself off in the crystal clear water along the way if you start to feel the heat. We took our hike in October and the temperatures were perfect for hiking.
We could even take a dip into the water without a problem.
Besides the variety of well-maintained hiking trails, this area has several good mountain bike trails, too. After a day of activity, the town offers many great choices for Spanish cuisine—especially fresh seafood.
It’s easy to see why Dalí and his friends decided to hang out here.
For more information about hiking around the Costa Brava, check out this helpful website: http://www.cadaques.co.uk/index.php?page=cadaques-walks