Why go?Because it’s one of the most romantic, gorgeous, unspoiltstretches of coast in Europe. Where else, less than twohours’ flight from Britain, can you drive or walk alongsiderugged pink rocks with the teal-coloured Mediterraneanglimmering below, framed by grand, arabesquing pines?You can, of course, on the Cote d’Azur. But essentially whatyou find on the Costa Brava is the same coastline, a littlefarther south, generally at a fraction of the price.Gloriously wild in parts and tastefully manicured in others,the Costa has some of the finest Blue Flag beaches inEurope, broad and sandy stretches to elegant horseshoebays and secluded smugglers’ coves.You’ll also find wonderful independent hotels andexceptional food. Any lingering associations there may bewith egg and chips are well past their sell-by date. Yes,English menus may still be a fixture in the larger resorts onthe southerly part of the coast, such as Lloret de Mar, butfurther north you won’t catch a glimpse of them.
In fact this stretch of the coast is a foodie’s paradise andCatalonia – where the Costa Brava lies – has one of thehighest concentrations of Michelin-starred chefs in Spain,not to mention superb, locally produced wines. Little wonderthat this has been the holiday spot of choice for well-heeledBarcelonesas and in-the-know French for years.The weather is another key factor, and one of the things Imost love about living here. Going for a walk along thebeach on Christmas day in short sleeves without feelingchilly was a blissful revelation after British winters.Beyond that there’s art, history and outdoor activitiesaplenty. This is Dalí country and three excellent museums –including the painter’s home at Cadaqués – are devoted tohim. The Costa is also home to some of the most scenicand important Greco/Roman and Iberian archaeologicalsites in Europe.Alternatively, if you just want to enjoy the spectacularsurroundings, there are exceptional coastal walks andworld-class golf courses, as well as extensive swimming,diving, snorkelling and sailing.When to goA decent dose of sunshine is reasonably guaranteed mostof the year round. If you’re not bound by school holidaysand can visit during May, June or September, these arebrilliant months to enjoy the joint benefits of warmtemperatures and lower hotel rates while avoiding thecrowds of July and August.Having said that, if you’ve set your heart on perfecting a tanin sizzling heat, high summer is the time to choose. If youdo come during those peak months, you’ll find the regionbusy but not over-run, and you can still enjoy relativelysecluded beaches without having to knock elbows with halfof Europe.
From February to April and October to November theweather is generally pleasant: you might catch springtimeelectric storms or autumn rains but these don’t usually lastfor many days.Getting thereRyanair (ryanair.com) flies from London Luton to Girona(flight time about two hours), which is the nearest airport tothe prettiest parts of the Costa Brava.Otherwise, the following airlines fly into Barcelona (abouttwo hours south of the Costa by car or bus): BA (ba.com),Iberia (iberia.com), easyJet (easyjet.com), Monarch(monarch.com.uk) and Air Europa (aireuropa.com).The bus operator Sarfa (grupsarbus.com) runs regular air-conditioned coaches from Barcelona Airport to most keydestinations along the Costa Brava, including Begur,Palafrugell and Pals.Getting aroundIf you want to explore, renting a car is the easiest way.You’ll get a real sense of the landscape and countryside aswell as being able to explore the hilltop villages and smallertowns.Hire an open-topped convertible and pretend you’re CaryGrant or Grace Kelly in To Catch A Thief, breezing alongwinding coastal roads with the Mediterranean shimmeringdown below. Cars can be hired from Girona and Barcelonaairports through companies such as Europcar(europcar.com) Hertz (hertz.com), Avis (avis.com), Atesa(atesa.es).If, on the other hand, you just want to chill out on a beachand do some gentle walking, there are good public buses
between many of the main towns and beaches. Several ofthe hotels I’ve recommended are also either on the beachor very close to it, so if you’re happy with staying put orcoastal walks, you’ll be absolutely fine without wheels.KnowbeforeyougoFlight time: Approximately two hours to Girona orBarcelonaCurrency: EuroFurther reading: en.costabrava.orgEmergency numbers/contacts: Medical, fire and police: 112.Local police: 092.British Consulate in Barcelona: Avenida Diagonal 477, 13aPlanta, 08036 Barcelona. Tel: 00 34 902 109356 or 00 34913 342194; ukinspain.fco.gov.uk/en/Local laws/etiquetteWhen it comes to tipping: about five per cent for taxis andrestaurants, €1 for hotel porters. Bars and cafes don’tnormally expect tips unless you’re sitting at an outdoorterrace, where it’s polite to leave €0.30-€0.50.Keep your passport with you as some shops quite often askto see it if you’re paying by credit card.If you don’t have one, apply for a European HealthInsurance Card so you’re eligible for state medicaltreatment, should you need it.Low season can be an especially good time to visit the CostaBrava as the weather is often still sunny and many hotelshave sea view rooms at outrageously low prices. But beaware that some restaurants close for the winter, particularlyin Cadaqués.
EddiFiegelDestination expertEddiFiegel is a travel and arts journalist and author specialisingin Spain. She has written on Spain and Spanish food andculture for numerous newspapers and magazines. Whilst livingin Barcelona for several years, she got to know the Costa Bravaextensively and still visits the region regularlyTelegraph Travel