Hiking and running come together in this majestic setting, with its unique Mediterranean landscape and imposing mountain terrain
Among the many ways of getting to know an area as extraordinary as the Costa Brava and Girona Pyrenees, walking is one of the most enjoyable. In today’s fast-moving and instantaneous world, setting out on a hike offers something truly priceless – an opportunity to appreciate the nuances of the changing scenery at a leisurely pace. Landscapes that range from the spectacular Mediterranean coast to the rugged peaks of the Pyrenees soaring to an altitude of almost 3,000 metres.
Hiking along the coast and in the mountains, at all elevations and for all levels, you will discover hugely diverse landscapes and a region with a long tradition of hiking all year round.
The region is also a favourite with runners, who appreciate the Costa Brava’s special terrain, as well as the challenges and steep slopes of the Pyrenees. Together these areas are perfect for running through a demanding landscape that turns effort and every stride into kilometres of satisfaction and high-level sporting activity.
Walking is life. It is communion with the landscape and a connection with the region’s people and with the natural environment that offers paths and trails for all tastes, ages and physical conditions. We have walks that range from a few minutes to long mountain treks, winding coastal paths that hug the Costa Brava and long-established mountain paths that connect mountain ranges with the great peaks.
Spain’s long-distance footpaths are identified by the abbreviation GR (for grande randonnée). They are the paradigm of sea and mountains, from the most Mediterranean Pyrenees and often tracing the age-old pathways that form an extensive network of tracks spread right across Europe. The paths are well-signposted and are a model of sustainability, perfect for discovering ancient heritage and reviving the spirit of the great explorers who forged the historical legends of the Girona Pyrenees. Here you will find all the descriptions and factsheets.
The GR 92, a low-medium difficulty trail, follows Girona’s coastline, offering stunning panoramic views of the Costa Brava and Mediterranean’s picturesque coves and towns. The trail takes in protected beauty spots such as the Cap de Creus, Aiguamolls de l’Empordà, and Montgrí, Illes Medes and Baix Ter Natural Parks. The total section of the trail that runs through Girona can be hiked in ten stages, or you can walk parts of it from any of the towns it passes through.
The GR 11 is the Pyrenees trail which spans the range from end to end, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean or vice versa along its southern slope, skirting the French border. It often gains a certain altitude, but leaves the peaks at hikers’ discretion. The route passes through exceptionally diverse scenery: alpine landscapes at an elevation of over 2,000 metres, such as Vall de Núria and the Ter and Freser Headwaters Natural Park; rugged zones with deep valleys covered with holm oaks and oak forests in Alta Garrotxa; transitional spaces, such as the Albera Natural Site of National Interest, and Cap de Creus Natural Park, where the Pyrenees meet the sea. The Girona section of this trail can be hiked in full in a dozen stages totalling some 250 kilometres, or partially from any of the many access points.
The GR4. A prolongation of a European GR, this trail begins at the border in Puigcerdà and continues south to Montserrat. The Girona stage passes entirely through the county of Cerdanya, from north to south, first crossing the plain to the town of Alp and then climbing towards the ski resort of La Molina and the Pal mountain pass, offering breathtaking views of the Pyrenees.
The GR 178 or Serrallonga Route, just over 50 kilometres in length, retraces the footsteps of this famous 17th-century bandit across the Guilleries and Collsacabra massifs. The route starts in Santa Coloma de Farners and ends at the Sau reservoir, with a variant that takes you over the Creu d’en Serrallonga pass, to finish in Sant Hilari Sacalm.
The GR 1, known as the Historic or Transversal Trail, begins at the archaeological site of Empúries, on the Costa Brava, with its Girona stage ending in the county of Ripollès. The trail runs parallel to the GR 11, but through the foothills of the Pyrenees.
The GR 2 begins in La Jonquera, on the French border, and continues along a fairly level path towards the south-west, passing picturesque medieval villages such as Besalú and Santa Pau. It then enters the Garrotxa Volcanic Area Natural Park before crossing La Vall d’en Bas and continuing on to the Collsacabra massif until reaching the Montseny Natural Park.
The GR 83, known as the Northern Way, is a route filled with symbolism as it retraces the journey taken by thousands of Republican exiles from the Spanish Civil War escaping to France in early 1939. The route can be started in Arbúcies, in the Montseny Natural Park, heading north and crossing the Guilleries massif and Garrotxa Volcanic Area Natural Park, from where the path enters the Pyrenees continuing towards Beget, in the county of Ripollès, before crossing the border into France.
Themed routes for active leisure holidays
Getting away from it all is essential for recharging one’s batteries, reconnecting with oneself and coming home again fresh and ready to face anything. A great way to keep active while enjoying the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and pleasant walks in good company is to discover the wide range of local trails this region offers you. Here you can find linear and circular routes, some long and others short that everyone can adapt to suit their level of motivation and how far they want to walk. One thing that they all have in common is a guarantee that they will immerse you in a feeling of wellbeing and that you will experience first-hand all the benefits of the Mediterranean and Pyrenees kaleidoscope of spectacular year-round colours and fascinating changes of light, as well as the region’s outstanding cuisine. Why choose between sea and mountain? Why not enjoy both and live twice?
The historical legacy of the Greenways
The Greenways are attractive cycle and hiking dirt tracks, generally created by repurposing disused railway lines. The Costa Brava and Girona Pyrenees boast 125 kilometres of Greenways divided into four routes, which offer an easy, pleasant and safe walk from the Pyrenees to the sea, passing through municipalities and natural spaces with remnants of ancient civilizations and fascinating historical heritage. The routes can be enjoyed in many different ways, and adjusted to the time available and the distance you want to walk.
The Pirinexus cross-border route
The Pirinexus route incorporates the 125 kilometres of the Greenways, adding a further 226 km to make up a circular 351-km route that crosses practically all of Girona’s counties, linking them with France. This circular cross-border trail connects highly diverse natural areas, including the Pyrenees, inland and coastal zones, while inviting you to discover the Costa Brava’s quaint fishing towns and villages.
Itinerànnia’s historical paths
With more than 2,500 kilometres of signposted paths, the Itinerànnia network of trails has reclaimed the historical paths of Ripollès, Garrotxa and Alt Empordà counties, linking all the towns of the Pyrenees with the Mediterranean and vice versa, while showcasing their natural and cultural wealth. As always, you can organise the routes to suit you, choosing the itineraries, places you want to pass through, the number of stages, etc.
The Baix Empordà network of footpaths
In the heart of the Costa Brava, the county of Baix Empordà offers a network of footpaths covering 370 kilometres that are just perfect for hiking. Of course, you don’t have to complete the entire route, but the network allows you to discover the region from north to south and from east to west, and within a brief period of time you can find yourself passing from the most secluded coves to the most enchanting forests, or from the area’s main towns to the quietest little villages.
The Way of Saint James
The Girona section of the Camino de Santiago or Way of Saint James has two branches: the trail between the Panissars pass in La Jonquera, which is a continuation of the French Way; and the route from El Port de la Selva on the Mediterranean coast, where you will find the monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes, an important site of pilgrimage and fascinating place to visit. The two branches meet in Figueres and continue as a single route on to Girona and La Vall d’en Bas, among other points, crossing the whole of Catalonia and forming the main artery of the many historical pilgrimage routes leading to Santiago de Compostela from this region.
The Ter Route
This route follows the course of the river Ter from its source in Ulldeter in the Pyrenees, at an altitude of over 2,200 metres, to its mouth in Torroella de Montgrí-L’Estartit, in the heart of the Costa Brava. En route it crosses most of Girona’s province and takes in a wide variety of spectacular landscapes: from the upper course of the Ter, continuing as it meanders through the plains of the Empordà area, until it reaches the sea. Along the route hikers can stop and admire the cultural, historical and traditional features of the towns along the banks of the river Ter, the largest in the region, which has for centuries been the lifeblood of industry and agriculture in many towns and villages here.
The Main Waterways in La Selva are a series of well-signposted trails that invite hikers to discover the natural wealth hidden within the county.
The thrill of trails in stages
The Girona Pyrenees are the birthplace of the Catalan hiking tradition, and their ancient footpaths have witnessed some authentic mountain feats over the years. The increasing popularity of hiking has meant that some of the Pyrenees long-standing trails, historically frequented by farmers and traders, have today become attractive routes that can be hiked over several days, usually spending the night in mountain refuges or in small villages along the way, with more than 25 peaks at an elevation of 2,500 metres awaiting you. The experience shared with your travelling companions and with others you meet along the way make these trips truly memorable. Watching night fall silently over the mountains from the cosy warmth of a refuge is an experience that must be enjoyed first-hand at least once in your life.
Monastery Mountain Trail (65 km)
The Monastery Mountain Trail invites you to discover the natural, historical and cultural heritage of Ripollès county. Starting and ending in the town of Ripoll, and with the Taga mountain (2,040 m) as the highest point, the route crosses the Cavallera mountain range. Optional visits to the monasteries of Santa Maria de Ripoll and Sant Joan de les Abadesses and delicious meals made with local produce make this trail a magnificent and well-rounded experience.
Refuges of the Torb (73 km)
To fully appreciate this circular high-mountain trail, which takes in the most emblematic spots in the Girona Pyrenees and eastern-most edge of the French Pyrenees, we recommend breaking it up into five stages. The route connects Puigmal (2,910 m) and the Núria valley with Canigou mountain (2,784 m) and the Merialles valley, offering a landscape that encourages intense enjoyment of the surroundings while climbing ridges, crossing valleys and scaling peaks renowned in hiking tradition, such as the Ulldeter circus, Núria and Coma de Vaca valleys, the Carançà lakes and the town of Mentet.
Bastions (105 km)
Bastions is a demanding mountain trail which, starting and ending in Ribes de Freser, unites several towns and villages in the Ribes valley with its highest and most emblematic peaks and with legends of the Girona Pyrenees, such as Puigmal (2,910 m), Bastiments (2,883 m), Balandrau (2,585 m) and Taga (2,038 m), and not forgetting, of course, its passage through the Núria valley. It is recommended to do this trail in five stages, some of them high-mountain routes, although it can be done in less time depending on you physical condition.
The Three Refuges (52 km)
The Three Refuges is a circular high-mountain route that connects the valleys of Freser, Bacivers, Carançà and Coma de Vaca, most of them in the Girona Pyrenees and some in France. The trail links the refuges of Coma de Vaca, Ulldeter and Ras de Carançà, and it is advisable to hike the route in this order, starting and ending in the town of Queralbs. More experienced hikers can also include peaks such as Bastiments, Gra de Fajol and Balandrau, among others.
Route of the Hidden Lakes (73 km)
This circular high-mountain hike crosses the massifs of Tossa Plana de Lles and Puigpedrós, Cerdanya’s valleys of Meranges, Llosa and Arànser, and the Madriu valley, in Andorra. Over the course of the five stages recommended when walking the Route of the Hidden Lakes you will discover, in addition to the rich biodiversity of the different alpine environments the trail passes through, some 40 glacial lakes that give this route its name. Accommodation is always in mountain refuges.
Collioure-Cadaqués (72 km)
This route is one that appears most often in hiking guides all over Europe because of the breathtaking beauty of the scenery and the relative easiness of the trail. The route has several stages with an ever-present landscape of vineyards, an inspiration to artists,and is characterised by the special light found in the Mediterranean along the border with France. The route is filled with cultural nuances and a handful of historic villages to be discovered among small coves and cliffs.
The Park Hike (35 km)
The Ter and Freser Headwaters Hike is a two-day guided trail organised by the Ter and Freser Headwaters Natural Park and the four mountain refuges the route passes (Corral Blanc, Coma de Vaca, Ulldeter and Els Estudis). Hikers are accompanied by specialised nature guides who explain the different points of interest along the trail and mountain guides who guarantee the safety of the group at all times.
The expertise of professional guides
All of the suggested hikes can be done on your own or accompanied by a professional guide from the many specialised companies operating in the region. Not only does a guide ensure your safety on high-mountain routes, they can also share their in-depth knowledge of the local flora and fauna and help you to enjoy unique experiences, with ideas for groups of all levels and ages, and with all the services you need in order to focus all your attention on just enjoying yourself.
These professionals can inform you about the various options for enjoying interpretive nature trails with experienced guides.
Run to infinity between sea and mountains
When runners from all over the world say that they would train here all year round, it must be for a good reason. And if some of them spend long periods in the Girona Pyrenees and Costa Brava preparing for the mountain racing season, it’s because the natural setting is truly compelling. Here you will find the perfect environment for running, with steep Pyrenean mountain ranges and a mild coastal climate.
Stunning coastal and mountain landscapes bursting with identity and authenticity, where you can travel back in time thanks to the legacy of Romanesque art and traditions steeped in the origins of this rich land, while at the same time enjoying modernity in its purest state. Combined, these features make this the perfect spot for mountain runners.
Both the Costa Brava and Girona Pyrenees are highly prized locations for training and enjoying trail running. And the key is the scenery: a beautiful, wild and at times challenging landscape that turns every stride taken into high-quality kilometres.
Run the Costa Brava
The paths and trails of the Costa Brava’s coastline are simply breathtaking. You can run for kilometres and kilometres with views of turquoise coves, savouring the contrast of rocky terrain covered in lush vegetation against the constant backdrop of the Mediterranean. Even though the trails are just a few metres above sea-level, the changes in elevation are constant, guaranteeing a comprehensive workout.
The area around Girona and Banyoles is ideal for training. Just a stone’s throw from the towns, you will find mid-mountain terrain with leafy tracks and trails that scale small hills with constant changes in elevation, ideal for interval training.
High-mountain running in the Girona Pyrenees
When the snow melts in the Girona Pyrenees, the high-mountain peaks of Ripollès and Cerdanya counties become a paradise for mountain runners.
You can train along trails that culminate in alpine ascents that caress the sky at an altitude of almost 3,000 meters, or choose training routines beside the sea or in kinder valleys such as Cerdanya, Camprodon and Núria.
The Garrotxa Volcanic Area Natural Park, with almost 40 volcanos shrouded in lush vegetation, and the stunning Fageda d’en Jordà beech forest are also fantastic options for runners.
The perfect formula for improving performance
The Costa Brava and Girona Pyrenees hold the formula for improving sporting performance: train well and recover even better. To guarantee this, the region boasts state-of-the-art sports facilities and a natural setting with the perfect topography and climate for preparing yourself physically and practising outdoor sports. And to perform at your maximum capacity, it is important to recover fully. Here you will find accommodation, incoming travel agencies and businesses offering specialised services designed to help your training take full effect. There are also trail running clubs and centres promoting the sector, offering their know-how and organising group sessions, such as Club Trail Running Girona, Centre Trail Palamós and Domini d’Isards, among others.
Mountain races for all levels
The Girona Pyrenees and the 220 kilometres of the Costa Brava have a long tradition of hiking and mountaineering, and are the birthplace of internationally acclaimed mountain athletes such as Kilian Jornet, Marc Pinsach, Oriol and Nil Cardona, Tina and Toti Bes, Mònica Fàbrega, Jordi Gamito, Jonathan Romeo, and Arnau Julià. The region has also welcomed foreign athletes who have made it their training base, such as Caitlin Fielder and Jess Andrews.
The region’s mountain races have become an increasingly popular sporting event in recent years. For lovers of this sport, the Costa Brava and Girona Pyrenees provide the venue for a multitude of trials, some of them internationally renowned, such as the Trail del Cap de Creus, the Trail d’Ulldeter, the Olla de Núria, the Trail Costa Brava, the Cursa de Muntanya de Girona, the Trail Rocacorba, the Lloret Trail, the Costa Brava Stage Run, the Pyrenees Stage Run, the Greenways Marathon and the Molló Trail, among others. It is also the region chosen by Oxfam Intermón to hold one of the leading charity races for teams, the Oxfam Intermón Trailwalker.
Pictures: Oriol Batista, Honza Zak, Guillem Casanova, Albert Duch, Olga Ferrés, Artic Outdoor, Vall de Núria and Arxiu d’imatges PTCBG