Did you know that the province of Girona, where the Costa Brava is located, has 8 natural parks of incredible beauty? The Spanish coast is one of the most biodiverse areas in Europe, making it a perfect destination for nature lovers, birdwatchers and fans of diving and snorkelling. So, if you’re thinking of spending your holidays on the Costa Brava, don’t forget to take a trip to these nature reserves:
- Aiguamolls de l'Empordà
- La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone
- The Cadí-Moixeró
- Cap de Creus
- Baix Ter, Montgrí and the Medes Islands
1. Aiguamolls de l'Empordà
Located in the bay of Roses, the Aiguamolls de l'Empordà Natural Parc is the second most important wetland in Catalonia. It is the perfect place to observe waterfowl and sea birds, as well as migrant birds that stop to rest in this marsh. The park is perfectly outfitted with wooden walkways so you don't miss one part of it. If you’re lucky, you will be able to observe some of the otters that were reintroduced to the area years ago.
2. La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone
If you want to feel the energy of walking on what was once a volcano and looking directly at one of its craters, the La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone natural park is for you. Characterised by forests of holm oaks, oaks and beeches, it has 28 hiking trails of varying difficulties where you can escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and the coast. Absolutely unmissable is a walk through the Fageda d'en Jordà, an incredible beech forest that looks like something out of a fairy tale.
3. The Cadí-Moixeró
About two and a half hours from the Costa Brava, the maritime landscape completely changes and we find ourselves in the middle of the Pyrenees, in a natural park high in the mountains. The Cadí and Moixeró mountain ranges are two of the most impressive in the Pyrenees, with steep slopes and valleys full of meadows and forests. This park is home to emblematic species such as wolves, chamois goat-antelopes, bearded vultures and wood grouse, although you will have to be especially lucky to find them.
4. Cap de Creus
In the northern part of the Costa Brava, occupying the municipalities of Llançà, Cadaqués and Roses, among others, is the Cap de Creus park that includes sea and land. It is an unparalleled place for diving, with well-lit ocean bottoms where you can find meadows of Posidonia oceanica seagrass and red coral, which house a great variety of fish and marine invertebrates. If you don't fancy getting wet, though, you can always enjoy the many cliffs and coves.
5. Baix Ter, Montgrí and the Medes Islands
The park of the Medes Islands mixes coastal mountainous areas, cliffs, coves and marine landscape. It is one of the areas of Spain where it is easy to observe bottlenose dolphins and where you can find large coral communities (especially red coral and violescent sea-whip) full of all types of fish. To warm up after your dive, we recommend a walk through the bushes of its grassy hilltops, letting yourself be captivated by the smell of rosemary and thyme which are native plants of the area.
If you still want more, you can also visit the other natural parks in the area:
- The Montseny: It is the most visited natural park in Catalonia and has countless routes. Declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978, thanks to its biodiversity and well preserved Mediterranean forests.
- L'Albera: In the northern part of Girona, this park is known as the only area of the Iberian Peninsula where there are still natural populations of Hermann's tortoises.
- The Capçaleres del Ter & del Freser: One of the newest parks in the area, declared in 2015, characterised by Pyrenean landscapes of high mountains. For an unforgettable excursion, take the "zip" train that goes up to the Vall de Núria and enjoy the activities offered according to the season.