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  • Writer's pictureJan Noordermeer

GR 92, Hiking along the Costa Brava

In January 2023, while a layer of snow is falling in the Netherlands, and forms the busiest morning rush hour in years, Jan walks the sunny part of the GR 92, which is also on our travel agenda. The route we are going to walk runs from Portbou, at the foot of the Pyrenees, to Begur, a total of about 130 km and we will then visit the bustling city of Barcelona on the Costa Brava.

At 'Costa Brava' you soon think of sun holidays, lazing on the beach, and partying young people. But did you know that you can also get to know a completely different side of this beautiful area on foot? Picturesque harbors, amazing nature, narrow mountain paths, we will encounter it all on this trip!

In this blog I will take you along about 130 kilometers under the sun, along the Mediterranean, so that you really want to come with us.

Stage 1 from Portbou to El Port de la Selva

We start our route in Portbou, a small municipality in Catalonia with an area of ​​only 9 km2. In Portbou you will find the monument of Walter Benjamin, a German-Jewish resistance fighter and cultural philosopher. This monument is built against the hill, and it looks like you are walking into the sea.

We start the route immediately with a very nice climb. At the top we are treated to a beautiful view over the extensive coast with its beautiful villages. It blows pretty hard. A fall wind forms through the Pyrenees, making it pleasant in the summers, and often a bit colder in the winters. Fortunately, good preparation is everything, and we put on a hat and the collar up. We continue on an easy and fairly flat path, which turns into a narrow beautiful mountain path. After a climb, there is (usually) always a descent, and we walk through the village of Colera, with its typical Mediterranean white houses.

Wow, it's almost as if you're walking straight into the sea!

We leave the village again, and soon we arrive at the first beach, which we follow for a while. This is a very nice picnic spot!

It is too cold to take a dip now, in January, but in April, if we have this trip on the agenda, the temperature can quickly rise to about 20 degrees.

After a while we leave the beach a bit further inland. The area changes into a pine forest, interspersed with secluded coves and views of high cliffs. We get another steep climb, but we are rewarded afterwards with the rest of today's walk, which is on easy walking trails.

Through the old fishing village of Llançà, where despite tourism in the summer, fishing still occupies a very important place in the local economy.

You will also find countless tasty and good (fish) restaurants along the promenade.

Slowly we also arrive at the end point of stage 1, at El Port de la Selva. A cozy little fishing village, situated in a bay. In April the tents will be ready for you here on a beautiful campsite, with a lot of trees, I think they are plane trees, right on the beach, and Kim is already enjoying dinner. Maybe she'll make paella? The first 16 kilometers are over, a nice distance to get into it!

Stage 2, quiet country roads, mountain paths and cows.

For now, however, I'll walk a bit further to Cadaquès, the end of stage 2. If all goes well, that's about 13 kilometers further. Some nice climbs if all goes well, that's why we split this stage for the trip in April. When you're on vacation, it's usually a little bit of income during the first few days to get your body used to walking, climbing and descending again.

Usually this doesn't take that long and after a day or 2/3 your body remembers what it entailed, that hiking.

For a few kilometers we walk in the middle of nowwhere, What a wonderful feeling of freedom!

It is a beautiful and easily walkable footpath to the heart of El port de la Salva, a fairly large seaside resort. It's pretty quiet there, and April won't be much different, after all, the high season has yet to start!

When we have left El Port De La Salva, the path seems to go inland. A completely different landscape stretches out. For a few kilometers we walk in the middle of nowwhere, what a wonderful feeling of freedom!

The only other walker I meet is a large cow who stares at me in surprise.

Most cows are generally very friendly, including this one. Cows are naturally very curious, especially if there are more of them. When you pass a group of cows, they will usually bump along with you. Do they find it cozy.

After a while, however, this one gives up, because there is a big climb. At the top of the hill I look back and really enjoy the spectacular view. Not too long, because we still have a bit to go!

A farm country road becomes increasingly narrow, and changes into another narrow beautiful mountain path.

The last part of stage two is mostly downhill. The last part we walk on narrow stone paths, straight through olive groves. At the bottom of the hill is the town of Cadaquès, where the tents will be ready again in April. For now, however, I have booked a hostel, which makes it a bit easier to cover a lot of kilometers in one day and carrying the tipi tents was not an option.

Stage 3: On to Roses

The next day I wake up early and I feel like going on the road again! The sun is already shining a bit, and I already had a nice cup of coffee, so that should be ok today!

Stage 3 runs to Roses. Roses is a large seaside resort, with a 4 kilometer long sandy beach. Currently the town has 18,000 permanent residents, but in the summer months during the high season, this can rise to 90,000. What a difference!

We walk down the promenade, and slowly we ascend a bit at a time. After about 3 kilometers the road becomes flatter again and the landscape also changes. The route is again on a farm country road. This time I walk alone and do not meet anyone, not even a curious cow.

The route runs from one beautiful bay to the next. They are all small bays, and I have a beautiful view of them from the cliffs I walk over. Clear blue water, beautiful beaches and in the distance some fishing boats on the water. I'm looking for a nice spot to have lunch and enjoy the sun

Because I'm walking in a bay, it looks like I've turned around and am walking north. Before me rise the snowy peaks of the Pyrenees. Beautiful!

When I continue walking along a perfectly laid out walking path, the boulevard of Roses slowly comes into view. The last part runs on wide paths and it is actually a bit busier. A wonderfully relaxed Mediterranean atmosphere is in the air.

Here too, the tents are ready in the spring, and the most delicious smells come from the outdoor kitchen. Maybe we'll eat tapas sometime?

I can't wait for the next stages, including through Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de l'Empordà, a swamp area with a huge variety of birds. Including flamingos! But will they show up now?

Stage 4: From Roses to Sant Pere Pescador

The start of the fourth stage runs along the pleasant boulevard of Roses. When we leave Roses behind us, we soon walk through a lot of apple orchards. In April they should be in beautiful blossom, and it is a completely different sight than now in January.

Past the countless apple trees we arrive at Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de l'Empordà, a wetland with more than 150 species of birds!. I take a look at the visitor center where we pass. All texts at the information boards are in Spanish, but certainly nice to take a look there. There would also be otters, deer and wild boar here.

I continue my way through the swamp area, where fortunately they have made many well-maintained decking paths, which saves wet feet. There are several bird hides, but wherever I look, no flamingo to be seen. But maybe I did hear him. Compared to the parts close to the coast, where the wind sometimes blows around your ears, it is so very quiet here that if you stop to listen to the surroundings, you will hear many different bird whistles. I begin to wonder what sound the flamingo makes, and continue walking over the decking.

A couple of fallow deer do show up, and a white heron. In the distance also large black and white birds. Maybe cranes?

The route winds back towards the Costa, and not much later the vast sandy beaches come into view again. There are also a few very large campsites here, so it is a lot busier in the middle of summer! I walk further along a river to Sant Pere Pescador. Now the narrow cozy streets of Sant Pere Pescador (which means something like 'the holy fisherman') are quite empty, and in April it will be a little busier, but no crowds yet.

Stage four also stops here, and is the start of the fifth stage. Almost half way already!

Stage 5, Sant Pere Pescador to l'Estartit

We follow the white-red marking a bit inland again. This marking is international for all Grand Route paths in Europe. You will also find many of these markings in the Netherlands, such as along the Marskramerpad or the Pieterpad. However, it is advisable to always take a map or route booklet with you when you set off, in case it turns out that the marking has not been properly maintained, for example, or is hidden behind a branch.

We continue our way through the tiny villages of l`Armentera and Cinc Claus. Again past many apple orchards, and white painted Mediterranean houses. The beautiful views over the Costas don't stop there and you can enjoy yourself to the fullest. Stage 5 ends in l`Estartit, and the walking day also ends for me today. Stage four and five were relatively flat, and the following stages should be a bit more challenging according to my information.

Fortunately, the body is already used to the long days of walking, and I look forward to the interesting paths to come.

Stage 6 l'Estartit to Pals

Nothing has been lied about the challenge yet, because as soon as I leave l'Estartit, a small climb immediately starts, followed by a somewhat larger climb. I love this very much! On some pieces it is even useful to use your hands here and there.

For myself, I have a good number of kilometers on it today, which means that I started before dawn. Which also means that I am treated to a beautiful sunrise. Wow, what a pleasure, at 8:00 in the morning, on top of a hill on the Costa Brava, and the sun slowly appearing above the mountains! It is Sunday today, but when I left this morning, several bakeries were already open, so I brought some nice fresh bread.

The path continues through a pine forest interspersed with forest paths and country roads. There are lots of fresh wild herbs here, such as rosemary and thyme. We will pick these in April, so that Kim can use them in the kitchen.

Leaving the forest there is a challenging stretch to an old ruin, the remains of Castell del Montgrí, which was built between 1294 and 1302.

It is quite a climb, but we are again rewarded with beautiful views. Just a painting. The road runs along the ridge of the Montgrí Massif, the highest point of which is 311 meters. A huge mountain by Dutch standards, but in Spain the highest mountain is the Pico del Teide, on Tenerife of 3718 meters. Almost three and a half kilometers (!!) higher than where we are walking now.

On top of the ridge the wind is quite strong, but luckily the sun is shining brightly. Too bad I forgot my kite, because the weather is fantastic for that!

I also meet a hunter, with a number of hunting dogs. He was probably hunting pigeons or partridges. In the mountains in Spain, the Iberian ibex is also hunted, but we will not encounter it here.

Another big hill, and the last stretch along the coast, brings me to the end of stage 6. It's over for me for this day too. For now I'm looking for the hotel, but here too we have found a nice place for the outdoor kitchen and the tents.

I'm really looking forward to freshly made Sangria, with a snack board with Serrano ham, olives, calamaris and fries Bravas.

Stage 7, Pals to Palafrugell

The next morning my plan is to walk the last stages, catch the bus to Barcelona, and do the city walk there.

Early in the morning I leave the town of Begur, where I spent the night. The path starts along the road, but runs along a beautifully landscaped walking path. Great to come in, with a nice view over the Pyrenees on the right, and the Costas on my left. After a few kilometers I leave the road and dive into a beautiful pine forest again. Also here in this forest again beautiful beautiful paths, and now and then a small climb.

The kilometers go away quite easily, my legs are now quite used to it, and the easy-to-walk paths also help.

But then.

However, it is high tide, so without getting wet feet, this is impossible

In the meantime the path takes me along the rocky coast again, and I enjoy the blue sky, the blue water, and the sun that is climbing to its highest point. Until the route sends me past a rock, along the sea. However, it is high tide, so without wet feet (and wet legs actually) this is not entirely possible. Or I have to take a sprint between two waves that hit the rock. But that doesn't seem like such a good idea about the slippery rocks, so I decide to climb over the rock. Fortunately, the rock is otherwise dry, and I emerge unscathed on the other side of the block of stone. The walking route on the Spanish coast also has some 'interesting bits'.

Fortunately, the rest of the route is easy to follow, and the beautiful bays alternate with forest paths. I do take a wrong turn, because the markings leave something to be desired here and there, and I check my GPS too late. Soon I realize that luckily and I turn around again.

When I'm almost in Palafrugell I pass another archaeological site. The remains of what was once a village in the year 8 BC. So this has been there for about 2031 years. That is very old!

People have been walking the route for so long. Hard to imagine though.

In the town of Palafrugell I quickly found the right bus. I buy a ticket from the friendly bus driver, who should take me to Barcelona in about 2.5 hours.

During the ride I am already thinking of some adjustments to the trip as we now have it on the website. It is quite a tough route, so I think a rest day at the cozy town of Sant Pere Pescador is quite a good idea. Very nice to view the harbor there, and to look for shells on the beach! (or relax for a day of course!)

I also make the last stage a bit shorter, because the bus trip to Barcelona takes longer than I initially thought. And that also gives us time to go into the city in the evening and, for example, view the beautiful Gaudi Park, and perhaps have a picnic there.

This is also exactly the reason that we always investigate the routes ourselves at Pippin Hikes. To see and experience what the trails are like, what we encounter along the way, what the distances really are like, and things like that.

Barcelona the vibrant cultural capital of Catalonia

At the end of the afternoon I arrive in the center of Barcelona. I drop my bag at the hotel and start looking for the Sagrada Familia, which is one of the most famous buildings. They started building it in 1882, after a design by Antoni Gaudi. And when it's finished?

They now think 'somewhere in the first third of the twenty-first century'

I also stroll through the old district 'El Call' with its many winding streets, medieval houses and many eateries.

These pieces are of course also reflected in the city walk that is planned on the last day of the trip.

By the way, I notice that everyone is extremely warmly dressed tonight. Thick hats, a scarf pulled up over the nose, and thick down jackets I see passing by. It's about 8 to 10 degrees, so I love it, such a January evening! But it is clear that they prefer the sun here.

The average temperature in April here is about 18 degrees. Great weather to go for a walk! Before I look for my hotel again, tomorrow I fly back to the Netherlands.

Enough to do back home, I am already looking forward to adjusting the website, fine-tuning the gpx routes, and making an inventory of all sleeping places and contacts.

What a nice job we have! And if you do what you like, you never have to work!

Would you like to join this fun trip?

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