La Garrotxa Nature Park and Volcanic Zone Guide
If there’s truth in a name La Garrotxa (‘rough, uneven land’) certainly lives up, even if the craters crafted by 600,000 years of violent explosions are now greenly dormant.
That’s where we come in.
You see, the massive 700 km2 area famous for fresh air has 28 nature walks, a famous earthy ivory-coloured cheese, and some of the regions top quality rustic cuisine.
Looking for a day trip from Barcelona? Let’s do this.
How to Get to La Garrotxa
I don’t recommend trying to get there by coach or train. Sure, you’ll get there but it’ll be virtually impossible to see everything. The only solution is having a car.
You can rent one at either El Prat airport or Girona airport but for my money I prefer getting it all done on Rentalcars.com.
By car it takes about 1 ½ hours to get to La Garrotxa from Barcelona.
If you absolutely have to there are weekend buses run by the TEISA bus company that will get you from Barcelona to Olot. On weekdays you’ll have to first get a train to Vic from Sants Estacio and then grab a 45 minute local bus.
La Garrotxa Points of Interest
Check high expectations at the door: you won’t see anything remotely resembling Etna or Vesuvius.
The volcanoes are relatively small in size but fascinating in their own right. The three most famous volcanoes are Montsacopa, Croscat and Santa Margarida.
Let’s get into a little more detail:
Olot City and the Montsacopa Volcano
What’s unique about this urban volcano is that it’s located right in the middle of Olot, Garrotxa county’s biggest city. You’ll start your walk right at the tourist information centre and in 35 minutes you’ll be at crater altitude.
The Sant Francesc church and the two guard towers make for great viewpoints and you’ll see the entire city as well as nearby peaks from the Pyrenees.
Other highlights include Olot’s avenue lined with sleek modern homes, the Park Nou Botanical Gardens and Volcano Museum, and the oldest bullfighting ring in Catalonia.
Looking for a hike? Route #3 (‘Olot-La Fageda d’En Jorda‘) offers a low difficulty 8.2 km hike that’ll take you up to the Bisaroques de Olot volcano. It’s done in 2.5 hours. The panoramas at elevation are gorgeous.
My favourite thing to do though is snack at the Olot Market: local delicacies include aniseed cakes, a wine fortified with almond and peach called ratafia, and a tasty salami product called fuet d’Olot.
Croscat, Santa Margarida, and Santa Pau
The volcanoes of Santa Margarida and Croscat are very close together and as such can be visited on the same 11k long trail, Route #1: ‘Fageda d’en Jordà – Volcano Santa Margarida – Volcano Croscat‘.
You’ll be able to park your car in the Santa Margarida parking lot and get to either of them on foot. It’ll take about a half hour walk if you want to visit both.
What’s unique about Santa Margarida is that the crater itself is home to just one lonely building: an ermita (‘chapel’ in Spanish) and its surrounding meadow. This is a cool place for photographs and/or a daydreaming siesta.
Croscat has recently undergone excavations and you’ll be impressed by its bulldozer-eaten slopes revealing three different layers of volcanic surface. The colors are very striking. This is Spain’s tallest volcano cone at 160 m.
After all this Barcelona nature you may long for a bit of ‘civilization’: a few miles from the park you can’t miss the well-conserved medieval village of Santa Pau. The city’s castle and its uneven arches and arcaded main square are a real throwback.
Sant Joan les Fonts and Castellfollit de la Roca
People head to Sant Joan les Fonts (about 5 km from Olot) to take walks through the forest, see old lava flows, and check out the many streams typical of the pre-Pyrenees. It’s the area’s second largest town behind Olot.
The highlight is the Monestir de Sant Joan les Fonts, a 7th century Romanesque monastery. Also keep an eye out for the volcanic-stone made medieval bridge.
Castellfollit de la Roca is a village built at the edge of a 160 foot high basalt cliff, the result of two converging lava flows eroded by the confluence of two rivers. It almost tilts over the edge and looks out frighteningly into the void – you have to see it to believe it.
Architectural sights include the 13th century Sant Salvador Church and Pont Trecat (‘Broken Bridge’), two ominous town staples which have been destroyed and rebuilt.
Tourists also love the Sausage Museum (‘Museu de l’Embotit’): a retrospect of human hunting activities, animal slaughter practices, and meatpacking techniques. It’s also oddly home to a Vietnam War Museum.
La Garrotxa Food
In La Garrotxa it’s all about rustic cuisine stressing fresh ingredients and tradition.
Here you’ll find typical mountain restaurants made of wood or stone, the mandatory comfortable fireplace, and friendly small town service.
Try the patate d’Olot – these fried potatoes are stuffed with ground meat and calçot, a sort of barbecued spring onion. Another hit is Spain’s most popular goat cheese: Garrotxa cheese. This creamy, herbaceous semi-hard cheese goes great with crusty bread.
La Garrotxa Restaurants
On my retreat I found one of the area’s great restaurants serving typical Catalan dishes (grilled meat above all) called La Casilla. It’s in the bar located on the road between Olot and Les Planes d’Hostoles to the left of Can Bastans, a few kilometers after Santa Margarida in Olot.
The views of the surrounding nature from the terrace are spectacular.
For a great price-quality ratio head for the tapas wonderland Hostal del Sol. The handpicked cheese and cold cut platters are delicious. Throw in their amazing goat cheese salad and sausages and great cocktails and you’re set!
Hostal del Sol is just 15 minute walk to 2 minute drive from ‘downtown’ Olot.
If you’re looking for something modern head to the refurbished country lodging restaurant called Font Moixina. This is part of the ‘Cuina Volcanica’ fine local restaurant group. A fantastic paella here.
In any case I’m sure that you’ll eat well almost everywhere. I’ve always dropped between €10.00 and €20.00 per person for a full meal.
La Garrotxa Accommodation
I found Olot accommodation on Booking.com because they offer the best prices. That said, there are several options. I think the best thing is to look for rural housing, one of those houses or hotels surrounded by greenery, with gardens for a nice breakfast in the sun or under a shady tree.
I stayed at Can Garay, a really quaint rural hotel. The welcome is warm thanks to lively owner Lluis, a very nice host who cooks sublimely. The hotel is located at the end of Les Planes d’Hostels village and is surrounded by green spaces, a surefire place to relax.
Some sites specializing in La Garrotxa accommodation are Somrurals and Garrotxarural. If you’ve found a property but you’re not sure please leave a comment at the bottom of the article and I’ll chip in with my two cents.
Another option? Grab yourself a great value Airbnb homestay.
Other Catalonian Excursions
Excursion lovers might also consider trips to a place like Montserrat. Here you’ll get jagged, multi-peaked mountains with a 10th century benedictine monastery. The tallest point in the Catalan lowlands has gorgeous hikes – and it’s easily accessible by train.
There’s also Figueres, the city on Spain’s famous Costa Brava that became famous as it’s the birthplace of Salvador Dali. It’s home to the biggest Dali museum in the world and also gives you the opportunity to check out the coast, a great summer option.
Looking to Visit La Garrotxa from Barcelona?
If you’ve got any more questions about your La Garrotxa holiday or anything else related to Barcelona please make sure you get in touch in the comment section below. I’ll get back within 24 hours, I promise.
Also, since I’m not superman I’m hoping if you’ve got any constructive criticism that you’ll leave it for me – I’m always looking to improve this resource so we get things right the first time!
Happy travels 🙂
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