From the rugged coastline of Costa Brava, we head inland towards the volcanic area of Garrotxa. Contrary to most people’s beliefs, this part of Spain is not just all beaches and resorts – there’s a whole world of nature and medieval towns to explore. A good place to start is La Garrotxa Volcanic Natural Park. It’s less than an hour from the coastal highway but seemingly both an age and a continent away.
The Garrotxa’s Volcanic Zone is the most well-preserved volcanic terrain on the Iberian Peninsula, with over 40 volcanic cones and 20 lava flows. The landscape here is a complete contrast to the coast – featuring red-rose rock faces, black sand and a myriad of vegetation ranging from oaks to beech trees. Sprawling across 120 km² of surface area, the natural park is mapped with 28 walking routes, among which some of them are historic paths known as Itinerànnia.
As we enter the volcanic area, fields of yellow magnolia fields flank our path – landscapes reminiscent of the Tuscany countryside. But soon enough, the greenery is replaced by brown earth, black sand and an arid terrain. Within 15 minutes of walking, we reach the tallest volcano in the natural park, Volcan Croscat.
“Although standing at a humble height of 160m, Volcan Croscat is the tallest volcano on the Iberian Peninsula. This volcanic cone is one of the most well-preserved one in Spain, spotting important flows of basaltic lava. It’s relatively young, around 12,000 to 15,000 years old.” Our guide, Mike Lockwood, shares enthusiastically.
Originally from the UK, Mike has been a resident in the area for the past 27 years. He shares his expertise with visitors, leading them on educational hikes as well as historic walks in La Garrotxa. As a volcano buff and outdoors expert, he says that this is the perfect place for him, “We’re just one hour from the beach, one hour from the ski resorts and a hop away from nature. What more can I ask for?”
98% of the Natural Park territory is private property. The capturing of animals and the collecting of plants, rocks and minerals are not allowed in the area of the Natural Park. The majority are of the walking paths in La Garrotxa are signposted, except some of the long ones, which can be followed easily with the help of the guide map for the Natural Park.