Cycling downhill, overlooking the Mediterranean sea, feeling the wind on my face, the speed, the freedom. Sports in Catalunya, I could feel the adrenaline pumping in my veins while venturing myself from the Pyrenees to Costa Brava. An adventurous trip mixed with great wine, delicious food and a sparkle of history. An experience I won’t forget!
I’m a big fan of outdoor activities: being in contact with nature, freedom… It’s an incredible feeling. After enjoying Barcelona like a local and explore its surroundings, you can spare some time to appreciate nature and practice some sports in Catalunya. What about a cycling route from the Pyrenees to Costa Brava? Fancy hiking to a medieval castle? Or kayaking through a Natural Park? Catalunya is like a “Disneyland” for sports enthusiasts.
Let’s get our bikes and cycle in Catalunya!
On my last trip to Spain (5th time and I can’t get enough), I was introduced to a very cool idea. A group of hostels got together to launch several sports activities including an itinerary of 3 days cycling from the Pyrenees to Costa Brava. Oh boy, I was thrilled! Cycle through the Pyrenees mountains and reach the beautiful beaches of Costa Brava? With a support car driving along? Yes, I’m in! And that’s how I got hooked up on the idea of doing some extreme sports in Catalunya.
The 3 days itinerary started in San Joan de les Abadesses, the old town keeps its medieval buildings and a monastery that dates back to the IV century. An interesting fact, there are two bridges in the city a modern one and a gothic one. The Gothic Pont Vell (old bridge) from the XII century, is actually the newer bridge. During the Spanish Civil War, both bridges were destroyed and the modern bridge was rebuilt first. So technically, the new bridge is the old bridge. [sorry I got lost too :-p]
Insider’s tip: arrive one day before start cycling and head to a restaurant called La Teuleria, the food is absolutely gorgeous. Señor Alejandro runs the family restaurant for over 30 years, he is one of the most incredible characters I have ever met. The opportunity to enjoy a 100 years old wine on his private cellar while he shared some memories involving Salvador Dali was priceless. His cellar is a treasury, among the bottles from the best Spanish harvests, he also has wines that were specially made for the Pope, with the Vatican seal on it!
So, time to cycle, the first day was quite tough. There was a lot of climbing till reaching the highest point at Coll de Canes, 1120 meters above sea level. On the way we stopped in Ripoll to visit the Santa Maria Monastery, the gate is an impressive piece of gothic art. The good news is that after all the climbing comes the downhill part, about 10 km. Yeah, baby! You can go really, I mean really really fast, just take care on the turns.
The first day ended in Vall d’en Bas, where during a glorious lunch I was taught how to drink “Porró”, check this video to learn too. After lunch, with the batteries recharged, we went on a tour around the town and the Mallol medieval village. The old town looks like a set of Game of Thrones. Some alleys were quite spooky, I would not walk there alone during night time. If you fancy, there is a prison cell open for those who want to spend the night.
From Vall d’en Bas the journey headed to Banyoles. On the way, we passed by a lush green forest called “La Fageda d’en Jorda”. It’s incredible how the temperature dropped inside the forest, about 3-4 degrees! The forest is located in the La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park, but don’t worry, the last eruption happened 11.000 years ago.
Banyoles is famous as a summer destination, tourists love the beautiful lake and the number of different watersports available. If you are looking for sports in Catalunya, Banyoles is your place. I spot the Belgium Triathlon team training while we were sailing around the lake. After the boat ride we treated ourselves with a fancy lunch at La Carpa, a Michelin awarded restaurant. Delicious food and impeccable service. Try the arroz and for dessert the Crema Catalan, wash it down with Ratafia a local herb liquor.
Day three, means that our challenge was about to end, but not before hiking to Sant Salvador de Verdera Castle, uphill of course. With some pauses for pictures, we got to the top in 1 hour. The trail is not that hard, you just need to take care with some loose rocks. The reward is a 360 view, of mountains, sea, fields, beaches… Spare some time to visit the Benedictine Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes. Look up when you get inside the main church; the light passing through the windows creates a wonderful effect. I would love to see this place in season 6 of Game of Thrones! [They will shoot season 6 in Girona, so close… And yes, I’m a GOT addict!]. Click here to read about visiting Girona and Game of Thrones filming locations!
Back to the bikes for our final downhill, this time with a bonus: sea view. I found the road till Llançá a bit dangerous. Potholes, sharp curves plus speed are not a good combination. You want to practice sports in Catalunya, but a visit to the hospitals is not in your plans, right? So slow down on the curves 😉
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Llançá was our final stop, the city has a nice laidback atmosphere. You can enjoy a walk on the beach, check the day catch on the Fishmarket or enjoy other sports in Catalunya 🙂 Since we are on a beach town it makes sense that our next sport choice involves the sea.
We were supposed to do a sea kayaking tour around the beaches of Llançá. We received the safety instruction, boarded on our kayaks, paddled a bit and then our instructor Pau, said: “You gonna get wet”. I thought that was another joke since he could not stop making us laugh. However that time was serious, he explained that “Tramontana” started blowing.
Tramontana is a very strong wind that comes from the north and the consequences are not that good. Suddenly the sea changed, waves shaking our kayaks, and we could see the boats returning to the port. It’s was nature showing its power! Pau took us to a safe place near the beach where we had great fun playing games of trying to stand on the kayak or even changing positions.
What an adventure! Cycling, hiking, kayaking, not to mention the amazing and proud people we met in Catalunya. The 3 days itinerary is suitable for everybody, you can do it on your pace, no rush, you can be sure the support car will be ways there for you. Take time to enjoy the beautiful fields, landscapes, and ancient villages. Don’t forget to recharge the batteries with delicious Catalan food and wine!
If you feel like doing a bike trip in Spain, don’t forget to read our cycling in Spain holiday guide.
Now a summary to help you to organize your adventure trip full of sports in Catalunya:
How to get there to Catalunya
Flights: Girona or Barcelona airports operate flights everywhere, including low-cost options. To find the best deal check Skyscanner or Kiwi.com. From both cities, you can take a bus to San Joan de les Abadesses.
Train: Girona and Barcelona are again the hub. Consider a Eurail Pass, we wrote a great guide about the pros & cons of using a Eurail Pass. After the train, you can take a bus ride to San Joan de les Abadesses.
Bus: Teisa operates a bus line San Joan de les Abadesses.
Where to stay in Catalunya
Barcelona: Guesthouse Barcelona Gotic
Girona: Equity Point Girona
San Joan de les Abadesses: Hostel Ruta de Ferro
Vall D’en Bas: Hotel Vall d’en Bas
Banyoles: Hostel Banyoles
Llançá: Hostel Costa Brava
Where to eat in Catalunya
Barcelona: Focacceria Toscana
Girona: Can Roca
San Joan de les Abadesses: La Teuleria
Vall D’en Bas: Cal L’Esteve
Banyoles: La Carpa & Can Xabanet
Llançá: El Vaixell
Sports in Catalunya – Tours and info
Bikes rental & car support: Centre Logistic de Bicicletes
Kayaking: SK Kayak
Tour in San Joan de les Abadesses
Albergs Costa Brava Pirineu de Girona
My friend Scott Tisson from intrepidescape.com was with me on this trip and he wrote great tips on what to do in Catalunya. Check him out!
Now you have all the info to enjoy the outdoors and practice sports in Catalunya. Are you ready for this trip?
PS: A big thanks to Albergs Costa Brava Pirineu de Girona, Costa Brava Tourism Board & all the companies involved for putting this trip together. It doesn’t matter who paid the bill, you always get our sincere opinion.
34 thoughts on “Sports in Catalunya » adrenaline from Pyrenees to Costa Brava”
We went on a cycling holiday last year, which we absolutely loved. There’s something so fantastic about being outdoors and feeling the wind on you as you zip along! The scenery here looks amazing too – not to mention the food you ate when you stopped off!
Being outdoors during the day and feed like a king during the night, can`t complain 🙂
That looks like quite the adventurous trip! Costa Brava would be a great region to cycle… all that sunshine!
Yes, and early in the morning not that warm 🙂
Amazing!! I’ve loved seeing all the content coming out of Costa Brava post-TBEX, I didn’t know much about the region but would definitely consider adding it into our European itinerary when we head over, thanks for sharing!
It`s incredible the diversity of activities they have in Costa Brava!
This is a great itinerary! I was in Spain earlier this year and did some hiking, cycling and kayaking, but nothing on this level. Am very tempted now to go back…
I need to come back for the proper kayaking ! The strong winds ruined our plans 🙁
Genius! This is a really amazing way to discover a place. You have got everything wrapped in one package. Catalunya looks like a wonderful place, lots of history and wonderful views, activities and good food of course.
It`s true, Catalunya offers the full package!
Wow you got some amazing pictures. I haven’t done a cycling trip and now I’m thinking I should give it a try. Thanks for the great suggestions. Spain has many surprises and wonderful areas to explore for sure.
Tks! And a lot more pictures that weren`t posted 😉
This looks absolutely amazing!! We’re trying to get to Spain as soon as possible and this looks like the best way to discover that part of Spain! We’ll definitely be looking to do this route and even if we decide not to cycle it, we’ll definitely be stopping at those restaurants along the way!
Please don`t miss the food!!!!
Everydady when back to the hostels we look to each other and said: This was the best food I`ve ever had!
day after day 🙂
What a great experience, looks like you had a lot of fun! Your photos are amazing. It’s so great that the hostels got together and put this trip together for you.
And the hostels were amazing, very comfy and people there are great fun!
Wow this itinerary is detailed! You deserve another glass of wine for putting it together. Who would of thought Catalunya is so much more than Barcelona. Your photos sell it well. Padded shorts?
Hi Gemma, tks! The landscape helps on the pics 😉
Padded shorts are strongly recommended! I didn`t have it and suffered a bit.
I couldn’t agree more. This itinerary is awesome. You gave it a whole new life. It makes your reader want to experience it for themselves. Keep it up!
Tks Karla, hope that more and more people go there and cycle too 🙂
Wow – this is a serious itinerary! Fab effort. I second Gemma, grab that extra glass of wine, put your feet up and give your bum a much needed rest from the saddle! What a great idea for hostels to arrange adventurous trips like this… i’ll definitely be suggesting it on my travels. Catalunya looks amazing and as always your photos are brilliant. 🙂
Well, 2 votes for the wine, I will not complain 😉
This is a trip that I will deffo do it again!
Never had a cycling vacation, but we don’t see why we shouldn’t! This looks awesome. We are sure the destination made it even more delightful!
There is always time!!!!
Gorgeous pictures! If only I could bike…or drive. It’s a good thing my husband does!
He drives and you enjoy the wine 😉
I love the medieval-esque sceneries along the way. You captured them well. Reading this very detailed itinerary, it seems you had a blast cycling in Catalunya! Where are you off cycling next? 🙂
For sure it was a blast!
I’m cycling in the Bulgarian Mountains now 🙂
I usually stay at the French side of the border, it is great there too.
We drove on the French side back in 2008. Wanna return to cycle now!
Wow, what an adventure!!
Having that support car would have me imagining I was in Le Tour!
Then throw in the food, the scenery…
Man, what a ride!
That`s exactly what we thought : We are in Le Tour 🙂
It`s a great trip!
I love Catalunya.
Congratulations for this web!!
Tks! Catalunya is really awesome!