La Gola is where the river Ter flows into the Mediterranean Sea, having started in the Pyrenees mountains around the ski resort of Vallter 2000 some 220 kms away.
Both Celra and Bordils are not most people's idea of scenic villages as they pass through in their cars along the main road to the Costa Brava from Girona. However, get a little out of the town of Celra and a remarkable transformation takes place, with fertile land planted with different seasonal crops as well as a tree and shrub nursery which covers many hectares.
The Sant Feliu to Girona and on to Olot bike path or “carril bici” or just “carrilet” is an old railway line which has been converted into a great bike path. More suitable for mountain bikes or hybrids than road bikes because it is made mostly of compacted gravel and sand.
From Girona it is 58km but starting in Sant Feliu on the Costa Brava adds another 36kms to the trip. One crucial point to remember is that going from the coast toGirona only involves climbing about 50m from sea level but from Amer for the next 20kms it is a solid climb to nearly 700m before the descent to the valley of Olot.
So it is recommended to actually start from Olot as this way there is only some 5-7 kms of hard climbing before enjoying a long, steady downhill. The best way to get toOlot from Girona is by bus from the bus station (in front of the train station) and they take up to 5 bikes in the hold for a cost of 7.25? per person one way. Just as easy is to get a bus from Girona to Sant Feliu de Guixols or to catch one from there if you want to cycle to the coast and end up with a cool swim which is highly recommended in the hot summer months.
Bikes can be rented in Girona, ask at the tourist information offices or send me an email to arrange it: email@example.com
This guide will give you the main sights and places to visit along the way.
View Sant Feliu-Girona-Olot bike path in a larger map
The local Gironins are a fairly dour lot but the Tour de France brought out the crowds, waving, cheering and generally enjoying the festive spirit and the commercial circus of one of the greatest races on earth.
Banyoles is only 20kms from Girona and is surrounded by wooded hills and rolling countryside but the outstanding feature is the large spring fed lake. This is where the rowing events were held for the ’92 olympics and rowing is still important today with lanes and bouys a permanent feature.
Els Angels can be reached from many different sides as it is the highest point (484m) of the Gavarres protected area which straddles the counties of Girones and Baix Empordà. From Girona it is a hike of some 12 kms and is quite a climb considering you start at 40m altitude. Just like the Castell de Sant Miquel hike this is suitable for mountain bikes as well as hikers and each group has their favourite routes.
There has been a chapel at the top since 1420 and over the centuries gained importance as pilgrims sought protection from natural and political catastrophes. Floods, plagues and harvest failures as well as wars and bandits were the usual disasters people came with a small offering to ask “La Mare de Deu” for help with.
This became such a visited place that a large hostel or sanctuary was added next to the expanded chapel to cater for the steady flow of visitors. During the French wars (1809-14) it also served as a hospital before it was burned down by an angry French general because Girona was resisting his siege.
Today there are picnic grounds and terraces to enjoy the spectacular views and you can eat or sleep at the recently restored hostel, although it still retains its rustic charm. The chapel has some interesting tile murals depicting hikers and picnickers with an impressive statue of the Lady herself surrounded by angels which dominates the gallery.
We were lucky to still see snow on the ground from the storms of a few days before, a contrast which will seem unbelievable to most people making their annual pilgrimage here on the 2nd of august when finding some shade and a breeze is the main reason to seek Her protection.
Leaving Sant Daniel and Girona behind we pass the cemetery with the traditional cypress trees which denote everlasting rest and keep going until the asphalt ends and a well used track begins. After crossing a small bridge there are two options, one path for cyclists which follows the track and one for hikers which goes off to the right marked with white arrows. The hiking route is steeper and more direct where the cycling route winds around the mountain a bit more but both do converge during the initial stages.
After going under the bypass and past a hideous modern sculpture we start to have some good views behind us of Girona and the Cathedral.
Strong walkers should take about half an hour to arrive at the top where there are picnic tables scattered under the pine and oak trees. On sundays groups of people meet up here to have their “esmorzar” which consists of bread (toasted if possible) drizzled with olive oil and tomato pulp and then either cheese or sausage on top and a glass of wine to wash it all down.
At the very top is the partially restored castle with stairs in the keep up to a viewing deck where the views are fabulous. On a clear day we can see the Isles Medes and Torroella de Montgri on one side, the snow covered Pyrenees on the other and Girona, Salt and Sant Julia de Ramis spread out in the valley below. For those that have not had enough exercise there is the option of heading up to the Monastery of Els Angels some 8kms further on in the Les Gavarres mountains or dropping down to Celra on the other side of Sant Miquel.
A perfect walk, especially on a warm and sunny day, starts from the Devesa Park, the largest public park in Catalonia, which is close to the centre of Girona and bordered by the River Ter. Head for La Copa which is outside the smaller of the two Tourist Information offices and is a meeting place for taking tours of the city. From here walk across the pedestrian bridge with great views of both Sant Feliu church in the foreground and Girona Cathedral further back up the hill. Head to the left of Sant Feliu (the church with the top of it’s spire missing) and when you come to the Archeology Museum (in another converted Romanesque church) follow the road on the left which runs parallel to a stream.
Now we are in the Sant Daniel valley where you pass the Font del Bisbe a water fountain that come from underground sources discovered in Roman times, the water is highly mineralised but very refreshing in the hot summer months. Less than a kilometre along this valley we come to the Monastery of Sant Daniel which an ancient building and is still in use today.
From here be sure to find the sign that says Castell de Sant Miquel which is where the countryside begins and the going gets a bit tougher.