The point at which the Pyrenees roll down to the Balearic Sea, lies a magnificent Spanish wilderness. Vertiginous cliffs provide captivating views across the deep blue sea, before giving way to crystal turquoise bays rich in marine life. Inland, the rugged, shrubby, surprisingly beautiful hills, sculpted by ferocious northern winds, provide a sanctuary for wildlife.
The little known area of Cap de Creus is a stunning part of the Costa Brava. A few miles south of the French border and a little north of Girona, the area is a national park that stretches from the interior to the coastline and sea. The consequent restrictions on fishing combined with the fierce northerly winds,”tramontana”, that roll off the mountains mean the area has very little maritime traffic. The result is a divers’ paradise of near pristine waters.
Inland, the winds tear through the rocks to create a shrubby landscape strewn with bizarre rock formations and home to a number of endangered birds of prey. Bonelli’s eagles, peregrine falcons and eagle owls can be seen soaring into the vast blue sky, while the coastal cliffs harbour terns, shags and shearwaters. Hiking trails, cycling routes and roads criss-cross the reserve ensuring there is an option for everyone.
For provisions and information, it is best to start your visit at the idyllic village of Cadaques. Perfectly whitewashed buildings line the pretty harbour which is filled with bobbing yachts, fishing boats and skiffs. Toddlers paddle at the edges of the water, while teenagers perform Olympic worthy dives from the edge of the harbour walls. Diving tours and boat trips are available from kiosks, maps and information from the tourist office. Alternatively, enjoy a mooch around the cobbled streets and a leisurely lunch at one of the bay-front restaurants.
The most popular drive out of Cadaques is up to the Cap de Creus lighthouse. The meandering road takes travellers past Port Ligat, once home to the surrealist painter Salvador Dali. A tiny fishing village with a shingle beach, it is now host to inquisitive tourists hoping to understand the obtuse painter.
Attracted by the purity of the light and the life, Dali bought a fisherman’s cottage and set up home with his muse and love, Gala. In the decades that followed, he acquired neighbouring cottages and tore down walls to create a labyrinthine home. Today, his home is a museum and his boat, the Gala, is available for hire.
Continuing past Port Ligat, the road climbs to Cap de Creus light house. From this vantage point, the ethereal beauty of the landscape becomes self-evident. The mist shrouded hills fade endlessly out to the horizon. Along the coast, you can spy on secret coves where children float on inflatables as their parents perch on tiny rocky outcrops catching the sun. For the hardy hiker there are rough paths down to these isolated marine jewels.
Sitting at the light house restaurant, cold beer in hand, vast blue sea below, vast blue sky above, it is easy to feel you are at the edge of the world.
Pizzeria La Gritta – good spot on the harbour front for a pizza and glass of sangria. It’s always busy!