Pals is a town set on a hill some 6 kms from the Costa Brava and has been well restored in all its medieval splendour. The steep narrow streets winding up to the church and tower are full of interesting balconies, doors, courtyards with many colourful plants like hibiscus and bougainvillea growing everywhere.
Like all medieval towns the important characteristics are here, the hill and walls for extra fortification, the church and lords house and the tower which was a lookout as well as providing water storage in some cases. Pals was on the coast 500 years ago before the surrounding land silted up and watching for pirates was important as this was a wealthy town from trading agricultural commodities.
Rice from Pals is famous for its quality and flavour and they built an irrigation system to sustain the industry which dates back a thousand years.
Now the town mainly lives off tourism with many art galleries, shops selling local produce (chocolates and rice) and ceramics from the nearby La Bisbal pottery centre. There are many terraces to sit and eat and drink in the shade before admiring the views from the top of the village over the Islas Medes and the Mediterranean Sea.
Besalú is worth a trip just for the bridge but add in the narrow cobbled streets, the two churches and a rare Jewish micvah and you have the perfect day trip destination.There are cafes and restaurants where you can sit outside watching life passing by or wandering around the shops full of local specialities like cured sausages or chocolate pastries.
This was an important trading centre in the Middle Ages and has retained much of its charm by virtue of being perfectly preserved in a mountain setting with a river and the massive fortified bridge dominating everything. If you are coming to Girona to visit a trip to Besalú is a must.
Coming from Girona or Barcelona it is an easy and fun drive to Rupit and will take about an hour. The main approach is via Santa Coloma de Farners or Anglès heading to Olot in the comarca of La Selva. At Val d’en Bas you turn towards Vic and a few kms along the main road there is a sign for Rupit. After climbing out of the valley at the top of the escarpment are signs to El Far which means lighthouse and gets it’s name from the white limestone cliffs which were visible to fishermen from the distant Costa Brava. There are some nice walks along the cliffs and a restaurant serving typical local fare and busy on weekends.
Continuing into Rupit itself and parking in the free car park just outside of town since the streets are too narrow for traffic there are various signs with tourist information such as walks, bike rides, hotels and restaurants in the area. Taking a walk into town across a wobbly pedestrian bridge over a river gorge is fun and sets one up for exploring the restored medieval streets. Other than restaurants and hotels it’s fun to look in the various shops selling local cured sausages and several types of cheese made from cows, sheep or goat and aged for different periods. You can always ask for a sample before buying if you are not sure whether the stronger flavours of the older cheeses are for your palate. Another option is to buy some bread and cheese, ham and tomatoes and head down to the river where there are several picnic tables set up under overhanging rocks and it is always cool and shady here even in the hot summer months. There is lots of good exploring to do in the surrounding countryside with old churches, country restaurants and of course El Far which is a couple hours walk away. The vistas of wooded hills and small villages and farms below in the valleys are one of peace and tranquility and take you back in time.