1. Beauty – Sure, most people know that the Costa Brava region is pretty, but it’s more than just nice beaches. My first exposure to the region was in Barcelona; a giant metroplex but one that manages to retain its traditional character and beauty. Much of the city’s quirky architectural style comes from the famed architect Gaudi, whose mark is seen and felt in every corner of Barcelona. Leaving the big city, the many towns and villages each have their own character and style, making the travel experience more interesting and dynamic than in many other parts of the world. Sure, the beaches are amazing and the views across the water are stunning, but the interior is just as captivating as the ocean views. No matter which corner of the region you explore though, you’ll never be disappointed in just how photogenic the Costa Brava is.
2. Food – I was on a culinary tour of the region, so food was an important part of the experience for me personally. Even if this isn’t your primary focus, the style and substance of the food on offer will always be an important part of the trip. Thanks to its location on the coast, seafood is the most common option found in the region. Fish, shrimp and lobster are on almost every menu, in every town and village. But there are plenty of other options if you’re like me and you don’t particularly care for seafood. There are a variety of rustic, traditional dishes made without even the hint of a fish that while hearty aren’t overdone. Finally, for the foodies out there, this area in Spain is well known for being the home of progressive cuisine. First with Ferran Adria’s restaurant El Bulli (#1 in the world before it closed) and now the torch is being carried by the Roca brothers at El Celler de Can Roca, which just happens to be the #2 restaurant in the world. Not too shabby for a region that just a couple of decades ago was better known for cheap prawns and lazy beach food.
3. History – Many visitors to the Costa Brava are there for the views and opportunity to relax, but the history of the region is complex and interesting for those of us who love to learn about the history of new destinations. One of my favorite activities was a visit to an old medieval town Peratallada, located inland not far fro Girona. This lesser known village elevates the term sleepy to new heights. As I wandered around I noticed the little details that mark true age, etchings on top of 400-year old doorframes and the ivy climbing around the walls. The only sounds were those of birds and a cat or two wandering around town. In just the right light it was possible to close my eyes and be transported to a different place and time. Until my phone rang that is.
4. Quirky towns – I’m always amazed at how different all the cities and towns in Europe are from each other and nowhere is this diversity better seen than in Costa Brava. You can start out your morning enjoying a coffee on Las Ramblas in Barcelona, have lunch in the little seaside retreat of Llfranc and finish the day out in the vibrant but manageable Girona. All three are incredibly different from one another and yet all call the Costa Brava region home. This is also why it’s such a popular vacation retreat, it’s easy to see and do a lot without traveling very far. I know I could spend months in the area and still not have enjoyed everything it has to offer.
5. People – As I was leaving Girona, I began to think about my experiences in the Costa Brava and the one thing that I kept coming back to was the pride. Everywhere we went, the one quality that was pervasive was the intense pride everyone there felt about their idyllic corner of Spain. Meals tasted better, drinks were more fun and conversations more lively all thanks to this palpable sense that you’re in one of the best places on the planet. It’s hard to spend any time in Costa Brava and not believe, just as the locals do, that God did indeed smile on the region when he created it. If you do anything while visiting, make sure to get to know some locals so that you too can experience what it really means to love life in Costa Brava.