North Zone - From Portbou to L’Escala


A wild and captivating coast

This part of the coastline is dominated by the mythical, rugged Cap de Creus although it evens out after Cap Norfeu and opens into the bay of Roses, where the water flowing out of the Muga and Fluvià rivers creates a vast, 15-kilometre beach of fine, golden sand, which has become an international meeting point for windsurfing and kitesurfing fans.

Here, of course, you can explore the dozens of hidden rocky creeks and coves with amazingly clear water in the Cap de Creus Natural Park, but also stroll through one of the most important wetlands in southern Europe, the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà Natural Park, and the ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Empúries

The gems between Colera and El Port de la Selva

Leaving Colera and sailing south, past Punta del Frare and Grossa Island, you’ll come to the broad cove of Garbet, with a beach of grey sand, shady pine trees and few buildings. It is one of the most popular anchorages with mariners due to its spaciousness and to being sheltered from all the winds except from levanter. You can anchor on 4 or 5 metres of sand, but be careful to give a wide berth to the shallows which emerge in the north part. 

To the south of Garbet, before Punta del Borró and with depths of 2-4 metres, lie the Borró, or Assutzenes, and Cap Ras coves, both typical places to anchor with southerly winds, since they are exposed to the tramuntana.

Once past Cap Ras, to the south lies the singular, isolated Cala Bramant, with its surprising cauldron shape and surrounded by rocky cliffs that enclose a small beach. Then, sheltered from the north winds, you’ll come to the 380-metre long, coarse sandy Canyelles beach, followed by Grifeu beach, the port beach, and Cau del Llop beach, to the south of Llançà.

Cala Garbet is a particularly popular cove to anchor in, thanks to its beach, its spaciousness and its superb views of the Pyrenees.

Cap de Creus Natural Park

Where the Pyrenees plunge into the sea 

Cap de Creus is the last of the Pyrenees foothills and the easternmost tip of the Iberian Peninsula. It is an area of great beauty, endowed with a singular geological setting, with rocky structures and outcrops that make up an absolutely unique landscape. The effect of the tramuntana has worn away the rocks to create stunning fanciful eroded shapes and transformed the landscape in a very special way, both inland and on the coast, where its deep rocky creeks and coves with crystalline waters make excellent havens and captivating scenery.

The Natural Park was created in 1998 and is Catalonia’s first marine-terrestrial natural park. It covers 13,886 hectares, of which 10,813 are on land and 3,073 in the sea. 

Cadaqués, Dalí and Portlligat

A singular triangle 

The Salvador Dalí House-Museum in Portlligat, with the characteristic concrete eggs adorning its rooftops, was bought by the surrealist painter in the thirties when he returned from New York. He lived there with his wife Gala until her death in 1982, making the pretty little bay famous throughout the world. It is well sheltered on all sides except from north-easterly winds, and access should be made with great care to avoid the shoals, keeping to the buoyed channel that leads to the little quay at the far end of the cove.

Salvador Dalí’s house in Portlligat can be visited with advance booking at the Dalí Foundation. Former guests to the house included Lorca and Picasso, along with numerous writers, poets, musicians, artists and well-known figures from the world of culture, theatre, art and politics.

It is surely one of the prettiest spots on the Costa Brava and it is well worth stopping off at. It is also the last cove where you can anchor before reaching the bay of Cadaqués, a superb setting which is perfectly sheltered from the swell created by the tramuntana and from the wind itself, although it is exposed to easterly winds and garbí.

Cadaqués was once an isolated fishing village but, with its dark sandy, pebble beach and whitewashed houses clinging to steep narrow streets leading up to the church of Santa Maria which presides over the village, it has now become one of the most attractive, picturesque places on the Costa Brava. Besides being a leading tourist attraction, its beauty and singularity have attracted numerous artists and writers, who have made it their home.

As you see, it is well worth anchoring in the village before continuing the route southwards, for a leisurely stroll along its seafront, even though the proliferation of small boats means that you can only anchor at some distance from the beach in depths of 15 to 20 metres. 

The coves south of Cadaqués

To the south of Cap de Creus the coastline slopes gently down to the sea creating wide coves with sandy and pebble beaches. 

Continuing southwards, before leaving the bay of Cadaqués, just below the cliffs of Punta de Cala Nans, with its lighthouse which is the navigation mark and entrance alignment, lies the cove of the same name. Cala Nans is surrounded by high cliffs and is sheltered from garbí’s swell and wind. You can anchor there but should avoid doing so by northerly winds.

Once you pass the lighthouse, the only cove before Cap Norfeu, which is the northern end of the gulf of Roses, is Cala Jóncols. This is a magnificent place to shelter, except by easterly winds. It has no dangerous shallows and is very deep. This means that the areas around the two beaches at the far end of the cove are the best option for mooring on one of the buoys installed for this purpose.

Cap Norfeu is clearly visible due to its height, and it is followed by a string of singular coves with names like Pelosa, Calitjàs, Montjoi, Rostella and Murtra which are worth stopping in. However, Cala Montjoi —well-known as the former site of Ferran Adrià’s famous restaurant, El Bulli— is the biggest and most suitable for anchoring, despite being open to southerly winds. Cala Rostella and Cala Murtra have small 
beaches where you can anchor in the centre, but at a distance from the buoys belonging to the beaches and from those installed in the summer. 

From wild cliffs to beaches 

After Punta Falconera and as far as Punta de la Bateria, where the Roses lighthouse is, Canyelles Grosses beach, better known as L’Almadrava, and Canyelles Petites beach offer a sharp contrast with the wild coves to the north, in terms of both their soft sand and the services that they provide. This makes them another good alternative for a swim and the chance to do water sports for both those arriving from Cadaqués and the coves of Cap de Creus and for those coming from the nearby marina in Roses. The change is so notable that you could easily say that, once you pass Cap Norfeu, another Costa Brava begins, with very different scenery from the north, though it is equally attractive.

In summer you can anchor in the buoy fields in L’Almadrava and Canyelles Petites. You’ll only need to watch out for Els Brancs rocks in Canyelles Petites, which are clearly visible and there is a deep enough channel between them and the land to pass easily.

Although this part of the bay is well protected to the north, by levanter the waves break heavily because the sea bed drops away quickly on the beaches between Roses and L’Escala. This means that the Roses marina, located in the centre of the bay, sheltered by Punta de la Bateria and the breakwater to the north of Roses’ fishing and commercial port, is the ideal place to moor, rest and enjoy all the services available in the town. 

To the south of Cap Norfeu the coast becomes less hostile and makes way for the splendid beaches of northern Roses and, further south, the extensive sandbanks that the bay is so well-known for.

The bay of Roses

A paradise for boating 

The bay of Roses, endorsed by UNESCO as one of the most beautiful bays in the world in 
recognition of its tourist, scenic and cultural assets, is a unique setting, with fine sandy 
beaches stretching over 15 kilometres that are reputed for their shallow water, and ideal 
for families and for sailing sports. The bay borders to the north with the Cap de Creus 
Natural Park, to the south with the Montgrí, Medes Islands and Baix Ter Natural Park, and in the centre with the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà Natural Park. There are plenty of remote peaceful beaches with sand dunes, and perfectly equipped urban beaches with quality tourist services, flying the Blue Flag and certified as environmentally friendly. In addition to a wide range of leisure activities, particularly the first-class boating facilities, there are numerous nature-watching activities in the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà Natural Park, hiking and cycle tourism. Besides the marinas in Roses (to the north) and L’Escala (to the south) it also includes Marina Empuriabrava, considered to be the largest residential marina in Europe, and the river sports port in Sant Pere Pescador. The orography, climate and favourable wind regime also contribute to making it one of the best places for skydiving in the world. In this respect, the bay has the Empuriabrava aerodrome, where every year amateurs and professional skydivers alike from all over Europe make thousands of jumps in one of the most magical experiences that the Costa Brava has to offer.

The area also has many interesting cultural attractions, with historical, architectural and archaeological itineraries, particularly the Romanesque routes, with visits to religious and civil buildings, to small medieval villages or to the archaeological remains of the Greco-Roman city of Empúries. The northern end of the bay is formed by the Albera massif, where you can visit the most complete and impressive megalithic monuments in the Costa Brava region, bearing stony witness to the area’s early inhabitants. 

 

Activities for everybody

Activities for everybody

BY LAND, SEA AND AIR 

There are plenty of sports and leisure activities available in the bay of Roses. Besides skydiving and the wind tunnel, the region’s wind regime, dominated by the tramuntana and garbí winds, makes it a great place for water sports, particularly windsurfing and kitesurfing, for which the bay’s long beaches are one of the favourite sites in southern Europe and the venue for international championships, including the Catalonia-Costa Brava Windsurfing Grand Prix since 1999, which scores for the worldwide professional circuit.

Hiking, cycling and wildlife watching in the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà Natural Park complete the leisure and tourism options suitable for all tastes and ages. 

The bay of Roses opens its arms to the sea with 15 kilometres of fine sandy beaches and dunes.

Bay of Roses. The extensive plain of the Empordà region  breaks up the rugged silhouette of Cap de  Creus and the Albera massif.
Bay of Roses. The extensive plain of the Empordà region breaks up the rugged silhouette of Cap de Creus and the Albera massif.

Aiguamolls de l’Empordà Natural Park

Birds, the big protagonists

The wetlands are on the northern Costa Brava, between the villages of Castelló d’Empúries, Empuriabrava and Sant Pere Pescador, and once covered almost the entire plain of the bay of Roses. This extensive area decreased in size particularly owing to agricultural expansion, in the form of rice fields, and to livestock farming, with enclosures for cattle. 
Aiguamolls de l’Empordà Natural Park is an area of great biological 
interest, but it also has an enormous scenic, cultural and economic 
value. It offers various services including the information centre, 
the documentation centre and a wetlands natural history museum. 
The area is mainly characterised by the presence of alluvial materials that become marine after passing through a transition area. 
It is an extensive area of interesting plants and wildlife which attracts numerous migratory birds that feed there as it is a resting 
place on the migratory path of a large number of species from Central Europe and the African continent in search of better environmental conditions during the periods of harsh weather and scarce 
food. 

Empúries

The group of archaeological sites  in Empúries is one of the most  important in Europe and enables  visitors to gain an insight into Greek  and Roman urban development.
The group of archaeological sites in Empúries is one of the most important in Europe and enables visitors to gain an insight into Greek and Roman urban development.

Remains of Greece and Rome

The bay of Roses was once the entrance to the Iberian Peninsula for the Greek and Roman civilisations, and contains first-class archaeological sites, once known as Emporion. Empúries is the only archaeological site in the Iberian Peninsula with remains of both the Greek city of Emporion and of a Roman city (called Emporiae), founded at the beginning of the first century BC, on the site of a Roman military camp built a century earlier. Emporion, which means “market”, was founded by Greek merchants from Focea and later colonised by Romans, and is situated in the centre of the bay. It was also the gateway to Catalonia for classical culture, a commercial, political and cultural phenomenon that transformed the old Iberian peoples that lived there. The Catalonia Archaeology Museum-Empúries plays an important part in disseminating and maintaining this archaeological site’s constant restoration.

All in all, it is a privileged place for tracing the evolution of Greek town planning in the western part of the Mediterranean, and also for gaining an insight into urban development in the last period of the Roman Republic. 

Empúries is the only  archaeological site in the  Iberian Peninsula where  remains of both a Greek and a  Roman city can be found.
Empúries is the only archaeological site in the Iberian Peninsula where remains of both a Greek and a Roman city can be found.
The ruins of the Roman  Emporiae, dating back  to the first century BC,  reveal what the city was  like, how people lived and what the houses,  streets, squares, markets  and temples were like.
The ruins of the Roman Emporiae, dating back to the first century BC, reveal what the city was like, how people lived and what the houses, streets, squares, markets and temples were like.
Useful information
Useful information

A VISIT TO THE MUSEUM

The monographic museum of the excavations of Empúries conserves some of the objects discovered during the excavations and houses the room dedicated to the Empúries statue of Asclepius.

The most important elements are marked on an itinerary. 

Booking is essential: reservesempuries@gencat.cat