It feels like it’s at the end of the world, but it’s only three hours drive from Barcelona. A “grandiose geological delirium” as Salvador Dalí described it, the area between Cadaqués and Cap de Creus is sprinkled with picturesque villages, pristine coves and, above all, an out of this world array of phantasmagorical rocks shaped by the gale force of the tramuntana wind and the swirling waters of the Mediterranean.
This is an easy one-day route with a 14 km trail that links the village of Cadaqués to the rugged area of Cap de Creus, now preserved as a national park.
Cadaqués, a landmark of Costa Brava
Cadaqués is one of those iconic villages of Costa Brava with narrow streets and white houses piling up on the hills embracing the large bay of Punta de Sa Costa. I’d like to say the best thing to do here is to get lost wandering but there are only a few streets in its historical core, so that is practically impossible. Nevertheless, I warmly recommend a walk from the church of Santa María up to the panoramic viewpoint.
A fishermen village, Cadaqués was built and rebuilt throughout the centuries because of wars and pirate attacks, including one from the famous Barbarossa who who set it on fire in 1543. By the 19th century Cadaqués was a known hub for wine making and olive oil production but, with deforestation and the vines’ plague (1880) these industries declined rapidly, forcing many locals to emigrate to the Americas. The most successful among them returned, though, and built luxurious Modernista style houses scattered along the bay. Cadaqués became a popular destination for tourists since the 1960’s and today, even in the low season, many are drawn here by the laid back charm, the natural beauty and the tasty food – and especially French people, since there are only 30 km til the border.
Portlligat and the house of Salvador Dalí
The first stop of the route is close to Cadaqués. It’s the village where Salvador Dalí chose to live for about 40 years, designing his home and studio out of a series of fishermen huts connected by stairways, arranged around an interior garden and filled with strange and eclectic objects. Portlligat is worth a visit not only for a glimpse into the artist’s life (tickets cost €14), but also for the beauty of the surroundings.
The trail alongside the sea
From Portlligat, a 14 km trail – Camí antic, or the old path, leads to the scenic Cap de Creus cape, passing by turquoise-waters coves, abandoned vines and fascinating rock formations. Particularly during winter, wind can be incredibly fierce all throughout the area. Blowing from the north, from the mountains, the tramuntana (meaning “from beyond the mountains”) has a tremendous force and can last for days. It is said that the ferocity of the wind can affect people’s behaviour, increasing melancholy or anger, or suddenly giving them a spark of creative inspiration. Catalunya has eight traditional winds, but only the people of this region, the Empordà, are said to be tocats per al vent – touched or mentally affected by the wind.
As well as shaping the peoples’ character, tramuntana also changes the light and the perception: the sky is clear and deep blue, and everything looks, even in the distance, crystal-clear and closer.
Cap de Creus, where the mountains meet the sea
This cape is where the Pyrenees mountains go lower to embrace the Mediterranean. It’s the easternmost point of the Iberian peninsula and also Catalunya’s first natural park, created in 1998. The coast is abrupt and jagged, with towering cliffs and small coves.
87 metres above the sea level, the lighthouse was built in 1853. Near it there’s a restaurant as well, created over 25 years ago out of a former barrack of Guardia Civíl. There are a few bedrooms to rent, and the place seems to be famous for its new year eve parties, and it’s also one of the main destinations for those who want to experience how strong the tramuntana wind can get.
Pla de Tudela, a surreal setting
For those passionate about nature, the place offers a unique theatre of oddly shaped rocks. For those passionate about art, it’s also a revelation, as some of the strangely shaped rocks in the nearby found way into the canvases of Salvador Dalí – The great masturbator or Napoleon’s Nose. Tudela was also the setting for several scenes of Luis Buñuel‘s surrealist satirical comedy L’Âge d’or, released in 1930.
Cap de Creus has no less than 17 different trails, and the area is enormous, covering over ten thousand hectares. I saved the route above on Google maps and you can check it here.
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