For a map of the Costa Brava area visit our Map for villas in Costa Brava page the link will open in a new window.
Lying between the French border to the north and Barcelona to the south, the Costa Brava (‘wild coast’, because of the craggy bays and headlands) is easily accessible by air (airports at Gerona and Barcelona) or car (motorway almost all the way through France and Spain, or there are ferries to Bilbao and Santander).
The best parts of the Costa Brava are still truly beautiful, with the northerly stretch dotted with perfect small beaches in rocky coves surrounded by pine-clad hills. Even the large resorts are appealing – Tossa de Mar is particularly pleasant, though not as lively as Lloret de Mar. Smaller resorts include Aiguablava, with beaches of perfect golden sand in small inlets, Tamariu and the two pretty bays of Calella de Palafrugell and Llafranc. But whether you stay on the coast or a few miles inland, you will never be far from warm, clear sea and a beach.
Strictly speaking the Costa Brava runs out at Blanes, a few miles north of Barcelona, but most people think of it as the entire coastline from the French border down to Barcelona. South of Barcelona is the Costa Dorada (‘golden coast’). Best known resort on this stretch is the old-established and very characterful Sitges, which is a weekend place for Barcelona rather as Brighton is for London. It has an excellent beach and thriving (though sometimes exotic) nightlife. Further south, Salou is big and modern but nevertheless quite pleasant, with an excellent beach. Nearby Cambrils is a likeable fishing port with lots of restaurants and a lively atmosphere.
A big attraction of a holiday in this area is an excursion to Barcelona, but Gerona in the north and Tarragona in the south are also well worth a visit. Also in the south is Port Aventura, a theme park to rival any in the world – its towering Dragon Khan ride can be seen from miles around. If you’re heading for the Costa Dorada, look out for flights to Reus airport at Tarragona.
Both these costas are in Catalunya, renowned for its excellent food (especially the fish) and wines. The vineyards of Penedes, producing red and white wines and Cava (Spain’s answer to champagne) are easy to reach and offer plenty of opportunities to tour and taste. There’s no shortage of culture, either: the hilltop monastery of Monserrat, just inland from Barcelona, and the extraordinary Dali museum at Figueres are unforgettable.
Inland lie the Pyrenees, offering wonderful scenery and walking: the Ordesa national park is particularly impressive, with an alpine ambience far removed from most people’s idea of Spain.
To the south of the Costa Dorada lies the relatively undeveloped Costa del Azahar, running down to Valencia and beyond to Gandia. It’s a mostly flat area dominated by groves of orange trees, but the beaches are superb and usually uncrowded. Most villa developments are in the Gandia area, just north of the Costa Blanca. Here the country inland becomes hilly, providing an ideal location for several small villa developments. There are a few flights to Valencia, but a much bigger choice to Alicante, about 120km south of Gandia.
If you think of Spain as hot, dry and dusty, then Green Spain – as the north is known – will come as a surprise. Its climate is a bit like Britain’s, but warmer. The north coast, or Costa Verde, has stylish traditional resorts like Santander, busy fishing villages and abundant Cornish-style beaches. Behind the coast lie mountains, including the dramatic Picos de Europa, while in the far north west is Galicia. Famous for the cathedral city of Santiago, Galicia is also renowned for its seafood, beautiful beaches and Rias (long sea inlets).
All in all, Green Spain is an ideal area for a peaceful holiday. And with ferries to Bilbao (P&O) and Santander (Brittany Ferries), as well as direct flights to airports like Vigo, Santiago, Oviedo, Santander, Bilbao and Gerona, it’s easy to reach from Britain.