Camí de Ronda: hiking along Costa Brava from Palamós to Llafranc
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Today’s article could pretty much consist of just one long story short: we met Alba, a lovely girl from Barcelona, she told us about a thing called “Camí de Ronda”, which is a very scenic, walkable coastal path in Costa Brava (part of the GR92 trail), that she did with her boyfriend over a couple of days; we liked the idea and we went, end of story.
But you’re here for the full spicy details, aren’t you?
Well, pretty much our friend Alba is the guilty one for us doing this hiking trail, because we had no idea about it before she told us. Once she dropped us this info, we quickly looked up photos from this trail, fell in love instantly and stubbornly decided that whatever happens, we were going to do it. This was sometime at the end of August if I recall well.
Our initial plan was to do the Costa Brava walking tour from Begur all the way to Palamós, by camping one night somewhere along the way.
Problem was that “whatever happens” didn’t include often rains and thunderstorms, like the one that almost ruined our day in Cadaques.
Another issue we encountered was transportation: we found it almost impossible to get to Begur or Palamós from Barcelona without a car (or overly complicated bus routes).
Maybe we would have worked it out somehow in the end, had the weather been good enough, but it wasn’t. There were days when the weather app was showing me *sunny, no clouds* in Barcelona, while I was looking outside the window baffled at the pouring rain.
We decided it’s better not to force it (that’s what she said) and leave it for next spring.
Until sometime at the end of September opportunity arose to go to Girona for a few days – so why not try to combine them?
As Costa Brava tends to be rather expensive even after the official summer months are long gone, we decided to find affordable accommodation first and think our route afterwards (we didn’t have a tent with us this time).
We luckily found what turned out to be a fantastic location: Hostal L’Estrella in the little town of Palafrugell, easily accessible by a direct bus from Girona. A cute former inn, with clean and spacious rooms, friendly staff, delicious breakfast and their garden especially was such a pleasant place to have your morning coffee or to end the evening with good music and a drink (or two).
And no, I was not paid or received any incentive to say this, I genuinely had a great stay here and would repeat the experience in a heartbeat.
From Palafrugell to Palamós
Now, about Palafrugell itself there’s not much to say, really. It didn’t impress me in any way, otherwise than being a great starting point for doing day trips to and along the coast (having bikes would have been perfect here).
Therefore, one sunny autumn day we started our journey walking from the centre of Palafrugell to Palamós, more exactly to Platja del Castell, and it took us around 1 hour and a half.
This road is known as Via Verde or Ruta del Tren Petit, it’s very easy to do for any age or fitness shape and it’s bike and pedestrian friendly, there were plenty of people of all ages biking, walking, jogging or just out with their pets along this way, without worrying about cars.
To get to Platja del Castell you have to leave the main road at some point (it’s pretty well signalled, so there’s not much to worry about if you pay attention) and go through another small path through a forest. We followed this path for quite a while until suddenly a large, almost empty beach popped up from behind a bush and left us in complete awe.
We sat close by the water and enjoyed the pleasant breeze and the infinite sea in front of us for a short while as it soon became too chilly for our taste, so we resumed our journey to Llafranc.
From Palamós to Calella de Palafrugell
The path leaves the beach and goes up the rocky coastline. First pit stop we made was right on the castle’s hill, wandered randomly around the ruins and discovered Cala Foradada right behind us.
We stayed up there for a few minutes looking down and envying a group of people swimming in the deep turquoise, crystal clear water, then climbing back on their boat and probably moving on to the next magical cove.
From this place onwards, the route goes up and down the coastline following a man-made path. It is signalled to some level but unfortunately not enough in my opinion.
At some point, the main path seems to split in two, one heading right by the edge of the cliffs. Well, we thought this was the good one, as it seemed logical to us to be able to see the wonderful scenery of the never-ending sea embracing the sharp rocks at your feet.
The scenery was absolutely breathtaking and well worth it! Every exhausting session of continuous climbing was rewarded with amazing views and some adrenaline at the thought of being so high above the blue sea. And a bit of envy at all these boats freely roaming around the coast and stopping in whatever cove they felt like.
But around one hour later we realised we were on the wrong route! We stumbled into raw areas through the bushes and pine trees where the path couldn’t be recognised anymore and then bumped into the long fence of a private property, where we had to go around for ages until we found another way and eventually found the main route again.
Where we went wrong along the way, I have no idea. Was it worth it? Definitely. I’m not sure that following the supposedly good route would have offered such great views of the coast.
I also think this one was more difficult and dangerous to do, so it’s definitely not recommend for everyone: there were moments when I really missed having good hiking boots, as my sneakers kept slipping, or when I had to help myself by holding the trees and their roots when the slope became too steep.
Once we found the main path again it was an easy walk to the chic seaside village Calella de Palafrugell. This part of the route is closer to the sea, up and down narrow winding staircases and often passes through beautiful tiny beaches, each different from the other. Some are sandy, others have pebbles, others large slippery rocks.
Along this particular part of the route is where we also met a lot of other people of all ages hiking and a group of women finishing a paddle boarding session.
In Calella we had our lunch on the beach (and by lunch I mean the sandwiches we prepared ourselves in the morning), our faces admiring the sea and our backs turned at the charming colourful architecture.
The breeze was quite cold but despite it there were people still hanging on to the beach life.
A courageous couple in their 40s even dared to take a quick swim – I smiled at them while grinding my freezing teeth.
From Calella de Palafrugell to Llafranc and back to Palafrugell
Llafranc is another cute, picturesque village by the sea, right next to Calella de Palafrugell.
Once we passed it and entered the last leg of our trip, the experience became less spectacular.
We went uphill following the main roadway, until we reached the Sant Sebastià lighthouse.
Our initial plan was to finish our trip in Tamariu, but we were very tired and the sun was already preparing to set, which is why we decided to head back to the hostel.
We took the shorter route, which was by the main roadway (Carrer Colon and then GIV-6542). Except the nice view of the villages from up top, the rest of the trip was boring as hell.
For this part it would have been fantastic to have bikes, but we didn’t so we had to keep on walking for around one hour and about a half until we finally reached the lovely garden of the hostel and rested our exhausted feet.
I added a small map at the bottom of this post with our complete route sketched approximately. To give you an overall idea, the whole activity took us around 8 or 9 hours, with a few pit stops (from 15 minutes to almost an hour) and keeping a normal pace throughout.
Who is this route for?
Well, hiking Costa Brava is for anyone who loves nature and spending their holidays actively. It’s also an activity free to do so if you’re looking for a way to spend a cheap holiday while enjoying Costa Brava, this would be a great idea.
Age or fitness level shouldn’t be an excuse to do at least a part of this coastal walk. Except the part where we got lost from the man-made path and randomly stumbled through the bushes, the rest was pretty much easy-peasy.
Don’t get me wrong, you will get tired and, depending on how trained you are and how good your shoes are for long walks, it will happen sooner or later.
Plan a little bit in advance, consider how much you want to cover from this area and try not to overestimate your energy. And you MUST have some food and water with you, even if you plan to eat at one of the villages’ restaurants. Sandwiches were amazing to have and I’m happy we took a few, even though we were reluctant at first; a chocolate would have been Heaven-sent as well, had we thought about it in advance…
What else can you do or see in the area?
Unfortunately, due to the weather being too moody and gloomy, we didn’t get the chance to explore more of the area this time.
That being said, Sant Feliu de Guíxols is another seaside village that was recommended by various sources as a beautiful location and also a good starting point for the coastal walk. Near this village there is also a via ferrata, in Cala del Moli, with sections suspended between rocks right above the sea (the photos look incredible so I’m definitely looking forward to trying this next time!).
Another idea I wish we’ve done was rent either bikes or a car and explore the villages around Palafrugell, like Peratallada or Pals – they look wonderful in photos and many people recommend them if you’re doing a tour of the area.
You can also camp along the route, there seem to be plenty of options and, as I already mentioned at the beginning, this was actually our initial idea: do a longer part of this route over 2 or 3 days and camp along the way.
Snorkelling is another favourite past time activity of mine. This time the water was too cold for my liking, but doesn’t hurt to have the basic equipment with you, just in case.
Which brings me to another point…
When is the best time to hike the Camí de Ronda?
Many people say that spring and autumn would make the best time for a walking holiday in Costa Brava because it’s not unbearably hot.
However, late September – beginning of October flaunted unstable weather this year (2017). The temperature was perfect, but the specific day of our hike was literally the only day we could do it, as all the others were rainy. I really wouldn’t have fancied being caught by a storm somewhere lost among the pine trees above the sea!
Which makes me suggest that perhaps late August or early June would have been a better bet. Or just make sure you have your raincoat with you.
Have you ever done the Camí de Ronda? Curious to hear about your experience and what other recommendations you have for things to do and see around it!