real life

Planning to travel to Spain? Make this your itinerary...

Wendy – in Spain – in the rain.








As I set out on day one of my walking tour of Spain’s famed Catalan coast, I wondered if this was in fact my beautiful holiday ideal after all. The sparkling Mediterranean appeared to be teasing temptress-like, as I headed in its opposite direction, leaving behind its postcard pretty cliff top clinging villages and cosy character-filled bars serving tapas and sangria.

For a moment wondered why I wasn’t in a wafty Camilla caftan gliding from bar to beach with a chilled glass of local bubbles (cava) in hand, questioning my reality and my outfit. For I was not wandering cobblestone streets of ancient fishing villages but on a muddy track heading uphill wearing lycra and runners.  What’s worse, it was starting to rain and my breezy Indian blouse intended to keep the sun off my winter pale Australian skin was already saturated. And the rain was getting heavier. Much heaver. As in torrential. I was wet and cold and oh, look, another steep hill ahead…

It may appear I am not the sort who would put their hand up for an Adventure World hiking holiday, and to an extent, that’s right. But considering possibly my greatest travel experience – and I have been lucky enough to have many – was hiking the Inca trail in Peru years ago, I actually relish the sense of connection with nature, getting away from the tourist traps and sale signs that happens when you explore a country on foot.


And I wanted to challenge myself both physically and mentally. I know I can eat, drink, shop and sight-see my way around a European coastline but to get off the tourist track and test myself, my attitudes and my fitness, provided a real sense of achievement that I longed to replicate.

Funnily enough, I recall my first day on the Inca trail feeling much as I did about two hours in on my 20km trek from Mont-Ras to Vulpellac through the dense forest of the Les Gavarres mountain range.  The feeling was a mix of “what the hell am I doing here?” and “send for the chopper – now!” but I knew this would pass, and it did.

A beautiful castle where Wendy stayed.

Abundant with cork trees which kept the Palafrugell region prosperous for 250 years harvesting bark destined for wine and champagne bottles, the forest was a reward in itself, dotted with ancient dolmens and massive stone farmhouses (masias) dating back to Christopher Columbus’ departure on that epic journey that stand as grand and awe-inspiring today.

But the real reward of the day’s trek for me began upon winding down out of the forest to the 9th century dating village of Vulpellac, redolent with Gothic and Renaissance architecture. So quaint and pretty it appeared like a movie set amidst the surrounding straw-coloured wheat fields and swaying golden sunflower meadows. But adding to its allure was the knowledge that the day’s trek was about to wind up in the most decadent and delicious way – with a stay at the magnificent Castell d’Emporda.

A medieval castle dating back to the 14th century, the majority of this castle turned four star hotel and restaurant is Gothic, although there are still Romanesque sections. In the ‘70s, surrealist artist Salvador Dali tried to buy the castle as a present for his muse wife, Gala, but the owner refused to be paid in paintings and the castle lay abandoned for 18 years before being purchased by its current owners, Albert Diks and Margo Vereijken.


The charming Albert has housed his life long passion, Europe’s biggest scale model of the Battle of Waterloo, which took him nearly 20 years to create, in the castle’s tower. The 18 square metre representation includes 2000 toy soldiers and about 500 horses, all of which are hand-cast and painted and are so authentic, they will be used as the basis of a BBC documentary to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battle next year.

Headwater, who runs the Catalan Classic Walk for Adventure World, designed the trip as one day walking, one day relaxing/exploring/shopping/eating, and it is a great combination considering all that can be seen and experienced in the area.

While it is tempting to recline at the Castle’s pool overlooking the unforgettable rural vistas, the nearby historical cities of Girona and Figueres (which houses the famous Dali museum) are relatively close by, while the castle Dali did end up buying his wife is nearby in Pubol. Then there is the Costa Brava beaches a mere 20 minutes away and nine golf courses within an hour radius….

I decided to stay at the Castle and sample the incredible local Cava, Tempranillo and Rioja blends in between exploring the castle gardens and architecture (the cave room was a favourite), aware my every muscle was aching from the day before’s hike and in need of numbing.


The next day it was backpacks back on and a 16km walk across the Emporda plain, stopping at the perfectly preserved village of Peratallada then on through pristine countryside to the peach coloured hilltop village of Pals. It is almost impossible to resist this village’s many bars and restaurants, and the consumption of tapas and sangria delayed the final leg of the hike through thick fragrant pine forests to the charming town of Begure.

Look at the beach. LOOK AT IT.

The family run Hotel Rosa is the base for the next two days right in the heart of the village, and its restaurant, Fonda Caner, is phenomenal, offering perhaps the best meals of the trip – no easy feat. Do not, under any circumstances, decide that it is time to diet on this trip as the Catalan cream dessert must be eaten to be believed. What’s more, all the walking practically negates any calories consumed – or at least my fellow imbibers and I liked to believe so.

After another day of shopping, eating, castle exploring and pure bliss, it is time for the last hike – and, talk about saving the best for last! The Catalan coast is the Spanish equivalent of the French Riviera, and it is mind blowingly beautiful to behold. The day we set out the Mediterranean was showing off, its azure waters hemmed by pebbled beaches resplendent with sun baking topless locals and vibrant striped beach umbrellas.

It may have been a shorter hike – near on 14kms – than other days, but considering how many times we stopped to take in the majesty of the vistas, the day stretched. The first beach we reached on this coastline walk from Begur to Callela was Tamariu, and it only took minutes to shed our hiking boots and gear, don cossies and plunge in to the incandescent blue.


It was hard to move on, so heavenly was the scene, but there were other beaches ahead as we continued along the coastal path hugging the rocky headlands that drop to reveal expensive speed boats like white paper planes that glide on an emerald carpet below.

After reaching the Saint Sebastian lighthouse, it is downhill to the heavenly beach of Llafranc with its soft sand, lively crowd and incredible array of beachfront restaurants. After a spot of paella and celebratory cava. it is a mere 2kms until we once again reached our day one starting point of Callela de Palafrugell and its unforgettable seaside village.

The more intrepid of our group chose to continue on for anther 2kms to experience the local botanic gardens but for this little hiker, the lure of an afternoon in a bar where you can practically dangle your toes in the water while savouring local wines was too tempting to ignore.

And so, the hiking boots were once again removed, a wafty caftan donned and the day’s labours well rewarded with numerous toasts to personal achievement and the joys of venturing off the beaten track. Oh, and of course, doing our bit to keep local cork industry afloat.

Adventure World has a range of tailor made holidays throughout Spain and across Europe including the seven-day independent walking Catalan Classic Walk priced from $1,814* per person. Price includes three- and four-star accommodation in Callela de Palafrugell, Castell d’Emporda and Begur, sightseeing, internal flights and many meals. For more information, see or call 1300 363 055.