Despite the multiple attractions – landscape, cuisine and its people – of La Garrotxa, there are some places in this comarca that have a truly unique air about them.
This is the case of the charming villages you will discover if you decide to follow this route through Besalú, Riudaura and Santa Pau.
Besalú has so many attractions that it is hard to know where to begin in what is one of the most singular medieval towns in Catalonia: nevertheless, you ought not to miss its unique Jewish quarter, the church/monastery of Sant Pere with its exceptional ambulatory, the church of Sant Vicenç with a lateral gothic chapel devoted to the True Cross, the façade of the old church/hostel of Sant Julià, the medieval house of Casa Cornella and the gothic hall in the Cúria Real. Other charming villages include Sant Esteve d’en Bas, the capital of the Bas Valley, graced by a Plaça Major with a 12th century Romanesque church with interesting capitols and the oldest Christ Majesty figure in Catalonia; Hostalets d’en Bas, beloved for the delightful balconies decorated by geraniums in summer that run along Carrer Teixeda; Joanetes, with its church devoted to Sant Romà set against a background of the mountains of Puigsacalm; Puigpardines, once an important medieval monastery; and Sant Privat d’en Bas, La Pinya and El Mallol, three further charming villages that add to the delights of this route.
The medieval layout of its streets and the attractive surrounding landscapes make Riudaura another ‘must-see’ village in La Garrotxa. Wandering through this village you will discover Plaça Gambeto, buildings such as Can Bago and the ancient chapel of Sant Marçal, today the town hall and doctor’s, and streets such as La Rutlla, d’Olot, La Terrica and Rompeculs that all go to make Riudaura one of the most charming villages in La Garrotxa. It lies in the valley of the Riera de Riudaura, enclosed by the mountain of Sant Miquel del Mont, Coll de Coubet with its abandoned hostel of La Cantina, Coll de Canes and the mountain of Santa Magdalena de Cambrils. The mountains of Puig de l’Ofrena, Puig de la Miranda and La Rauta separate Riudaura from La Vall d’en Bas.
Santa Pau, the final stop on this route through the villages with charm in La Garrotxa, was declared of Historical and Artistic Importance in 1971 and today the village exhibits a typical medieval street plan, with walls, irregular streets, evocative corners and buildings of great architectural interest. Situated at the foot of the Serra de Finestres, the village grew up around the Baron’s castle, documented from the mid-13th century. When the Barony of Santa Pau was created in 1278, this castle became the main residence of the lords of the area and from 1300 onwards became the walled centre of the growing village of Santa Pau. Past and present meet in Santa Pau and a visit to this beautiful village will leave nobody indifferent!
As elsewhere in La Garrotxa, local cuisine is important in Santa Pau and the star ingredient is the fesol, a small white haricot bean. Cultivated in the local volcanic soil, the fesols from Santa Pau are renowned for their quality and at the beginning of each year they are the main attraction of a fair that brings thousands of people to Santa Pau. The Fira del Fesol coincides with the festivities of Sant Antoni and over the years has become one of Santa Pau’s main tourist attractions.
Although its origins are lost in the mists of time, the dance of El Gambeto is still performed in Riudaura on Whitsunday. El Gambeto begins with eight mixed pairs dancing to the music of the Ball del Roser, the men wearing top hats and gambeto (a long black coat that reaches down to their feet) and the women long skirts and white hoods. After a while, the initial participants invite those watching to join in the dance with them.
Did you know … ?
A good reason to follow this route at the beginning of December is the relatively recent Sant Nicolau Fair in El Mallol, held every December 6th and today one of the most visited of all fairs in La Garrotxa.
·How? by car, by bike or on foot
·Duration: a whole day
·Tourist leaflets from Besalú, Santa Pau and La Vall d’en Bas
·La Garrotxa tourist map
·Itinerary suitable for people with children
·Itinerary in part suitable for people with reduced mobility