Baix Empordà, part of the province of Girona in Catalonia, is one of those hidden gems, to use the cliché, that no one seems to know about.
Many tourists visit Girona, and many of them venture out to the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres. Most, though, don’t stay long enough to explore the lovely stone villages they might admire as they speed by on the highway.
Disclosure: I’d like to thank Pirineu Girona Costa Brava Tourist Board rather belatedly for introducing me to the Baix Empordà region as part of a familiarization tour. This time, though, I visited on my own dime. All opinions are my own, as always.
These villages – Pals, Ullastret, Peratallada, and many others – date from the Middle Ages and, while I’m sure the interiors have been modernized, as evidenced by the satellite dishes and power lines, they still look medieval outside.
A fam tour
I first visited a few of these villages on a whirlwind familiarization tour of Baix Empordà in 2015. A short snorkeling visit to the Medes island, a protected “maritime-terrestrial” zone, was an adventure in itself. Later, though, we mounted e-bikes for an exploration of the less-visited countryside inland.
That’s where I first set eyes on a few of these villages, but our visit wasn’t long enough for me to get the full effect of wandering these ancient streets and alleyways. I decided that I had to come back, and had to bring my husband, who I knew would love them as I did.
My return to Baix Empordà
We visited a few of the Baix Empordà villages in combination with our visit to the Dalí Theatre-Museum one day. With our three teenagers in tow whose patience with us old folks was limited, we only saw a few villages.
A couple of days later we went back, this time with just our foster daughter. The two boys were distinctly unenthusiastic at our suggestion that we visit the Gala Dalí Castle, especially after their assessment of Dalí’s artwork.
I had visited the Gala Dalí Castle on that same familiarization tour. I knew that my husband would enjoy it, and he did. For me the visit to the Dalí Theatre-Museum helped me to notice more details in the Gala Dalí Castle this time. I also knew that it would allow us to visit a few more of these little Baix Empordà villages.
Stone paving in some of them still shows the ruts from ancient steel-covered wagon tracks. Some of these villages boast archway-covered streets, perfect to keep cool in the heat of summer. At lunchtime, residents and the occasional visitors linger over local dishes at tables set outside in the shade of ancient stone roofs or grape vines.
We visited a total of seven little villages, and could have seen double that number. For my husband, this seven was enough. For our foster daughter, seven was too many. I, on the other hand, would have been happy to visit more of them. What I’d really like to do is check into a hotel in one of these villages and stay for a week. I’d enjoy walks in the village and the countryside around it. I’d eat tapas every evening in the small village restaurants, sitting outside in the twilight cool. And I’d have lots of peace and quiet to think and to write. Perhaps some day….
Have you visited this region of Spain? What would you recommend to visitors?