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Away from the coast

The words Costa Brava may conjure up images of sea, sun and sand, but there is more to it than that. Wander a bit more inland and completely different delights are awaiting you. From Sant Pere de Rodes in the east, high in the foothills of the Pyrenees with fantastic views over the Bay of Port de la Selva to the skiing resort of La Molina further west, from the pre-Roman city of la Seu d’Urgell, the gateway to Andorra, in the north east, to Girona, the ancient settlement of Gerunda, with its magnificent cathedral, old fortifications and Arab Baths, the Costa Brava is the coast that keeps on giving.

Although the true origin of the monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes is not known, the first documentation of its existence dates from 878. The buildings were sacked in the 17th century and abandoned at the end of the 18th century, left to ruin until 1935, when the first restoration work was initiated. After decades of restoration and archaeological projects, this great national monument remains fascinating, even after repeated visits. The monastery is easy to reach from the village of Vilajuïga, which itself is home to a group of megalithic dolmens.

At an altitude of 1700 m, La Molina has ski lifts going up to 2445 m and boasts 46 pistes with a combined skiing area of 53 km. The resort is a mere 130 km due west from Empuriabrava and takes just over 2 hours to reach. Outside the winter season, the resort offers great hiking opportunities.

The route to La Molina leads through many interesting places such as the TorreMirona Golf complex in Navata; the mediaeval town of Besalú with its majestic Romanesque bridge over the river Fluvià; the imposing little town of Castellfollit de la Roca, situated on a basalt crag of more than 50 m high and a km long; Sant Joan de les Abadesses, a typical mountain town from mediaeval times; the town of Ripoll with habitation dating back to the Bronze Age.

Olot too lies on the route to La Molina, but deserves a separate mention because of the Parc Natural Zona Volcànica de la Garrotxa. The distance from the coast is less than 70 km and can be reached in just over an hour. This volcanic natural park is one of outstanding beauty. The mountainous region, the visible lava flows, the lavishness of the vegetation provide a very special experience.

Andorra is often on the itinerary of the coast dweller, mainly because of duty free shopping. Should your trip take you there, stopping in La Seu d’Urgell is highly recommended. The town and indeed the area are steeped in history and pre-history. The rugged landscape makes it an ideal terrain for all kinds of activities, from extreme sports to gentle hiking and golf.

The interior of the Costa Brava is waiting to delight and excite each and every visitor.

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