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.