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A review of our villa rental in Costa Brava to help you decide and book the perfect holiday!
Just two weeks ago, we took a break from work and had a relaxing vacation in Costa Brava (i.e. no laptop, no concrete plans and no work). We wanted to get some unplugged time and also take the opportunity to visit our dear friends Dan and Esme who had moved to Barcelona recently; Costa Brava is just an hour or so away from Barcelona by car and we thought a road trip here would be the best way to catch up.
Having been to Costa Brava three or four times prior, I love this part of Spain (it’s my second favorite part of Spain next to Granada where we live). In fact, I think it’s the best place in Spain to spend summer: its rugged, wild coast makes for some fun hiking and discovery and the beaches here aren’t quite as crowded as those elsewhere in the country.
Costa Brava is also studded with historical houses known as masias (a type of rural stone house common to Catalonia) that have been converted to rural villas and rented out as holiday accommodation. A friend of mine, Richard, runs the villa rental company called Charming Villas and he kindly invited us to come stay at a couple of luxury villas that he manages. I’ve been meaning to take up his offer for a long time and this trip seemed to be the perfect opportunity.
The first villa we stayed at was Mas Grevol, an old farmhouse perched high above the rolling hills of the Emporda. The gorgeous property sprawls across 28 hectares of forest, with vast plains and winelands beneath our feet. There are no other houses in view and no traffic noise in the distance — it almost feels that we’re in deep in the hinterland of Costa Brava, and yet the coast is just a thirty-minute drive away.
When the owners first chanced upon Mas Grevol, it was simply an abandoned masia that has been reduced to ruins after years of negligence. Within two years, the retired British couple restored it to its original glory, adding a very tasteful and stylish touch to its decor. Behind its traditional Tuscan-style stone exterior is a warm and welcoming interior featuring Mediterranean terracotta tiles, wooden furnishing and arched vaulted ceilings reminiscent of a wine cellar.
The ground floor of the villa is a spacious open-plan room divided up into the living, dining and kitchen areas. French doors and ample windows bring in plenty of natural light to the living area, and open up to the outdoor patio of the house. As foodies who love to cook, the owners created an amazingly well-equipped kitchen with three ovens and more amenities than we know how to handle. The second floor of the villa is divided into four en-suite rooms, two of which are enormous and open up to stunning views of the surrounding greenery. While the house is decked out in rustic design, the owners definitely did not forget to include a few modern gadgets like iPod speakers to cater to new-age travelers like us.
Every morning, we awoke to a stunning view of the verdant green forests in the distance and beautiful lemon trees at our doorstep. Under the sunshine, we had breakfast out on the outdoor patio. It’s one of my favorite spots in the villa , I love watching the birds chirping away above my head, with the smell of red roses and wild basil surrounding us.
In the afternoon, we would head out to explore the nearby towns of Besalu and Figueres (both are around a 15-minute drive away) — there are lots to do in the area, such as hot air ballooning in La Garrotxa volcanic area and canyoning in the Girona region. When we didn’t feel like driving/exploring, we spent our time lounging by the gorgeous pool (that has an even more spectacular view), playing silly water games. Every evening, we cooked up a storm and feasted on home-made food whipped up in the well-equipped kitchen.
The second half of our trip brought us closer to the coast, where we stayed at the elegant Mas Canyelles. This villa is even bigger than the previous, spreading across more than 14 hectares of gardens, pastures, oak and pine forests. It definitely feels very secluded and tucked away from civilization even though the closest town Mont Ras is just a ten-minute drive away (but the drive is not signposted and it brings you through forests, which can be difficult to navigate).
What we like most about this villa is that it’s only a 20-minute walk from the nearest beach, El Crit. The walk is quite a scenic hike that leads you through the thick pine forests and eventually onto the wild and craggy coastline. Besides El Crit, there are several other secret coves and quiet beaches nearby that are accessible only by foot and absolutely pristine. The popular Platja des Castell is also just 30 minutes away by foot and it’s great for families with children. Hikers would love wandering around Mas Canyelles and exploring the many hiking trails in the area.
The villa itself is just as spectacular with its designer decor and stylish furnishing: antique teak furniture and off-white sofas create a luxurious yet rustic feel that are brightened up with Moroccan kilim rugs, knitted cushion and upholstery. The feature of the ground floor is the spacious sunken living room that centers on a fireplace and is separated from the outdoor space by ceiling-to-floor windows.
The kitchen is also outstanding in design, featuring rustic wine-cellar-style ceiling and lots of cooking and area (although the oven wasn’t working while we were there), making for lots of fun dining opportunities. Considering every single detail gives off an old-world atmosphere, it comes as quite a surprise that the house itself is newly built (the original masia was too badly damaged and beyond repair). With five rooms in the huge villa, there’s more than enough room for 10 people and makes for an excellent family getaway.
Conclusion: Would we rent a villa again?
Of course! As budget travelers, we don’t usually choose to stay in villas when we travel on our own; but these villas definitely opened our eyes to new possibilities. Charming Villas usually rent out the villas for €3500-6500 a week; but if there are 10 people sharing the cost, it’s actually not that expensive to stay in one. If we were traveling with a bigger group of friends, then yes we would definitely go for these villas in future.
The only shortcoming we see in both villas is that you’ll need a car to get to them and that you must be used to navigating and driving off-road. We got lost several times and it was rather stressful trying to find our ways to these secluded spots. For both villas, it took at least 10 minutes of driving to get to the nearest supermarket or grocery store. We would have preferred to stay closer to a town or village but we definitely appreciated the rural location as well. That said, these villas are perfect for those looking for an exclusive, private setting to get away from it all.
All in all, this new form of accommodation was an excellent experience and we would definitely do it again. Being able to stay in a private, luxurious place with all the amenities you’d find at home (and even more) definitely made our vacation very comfortable and relaxing. The villas also gave us lots of space and freedom to hang out with our friends, cook, play games and just spend time together.
For Mas Grevol, the weekly rental rate is €4500 (US$6000). As the owners live in this property all year round, it’s only available for rent in summer when they’re on vacation. You can check the availability here. The villa is a two-hour drive from Barcelona and it is located just 15 minutes away from the towns of Figueres and Besalu.
For Mas Canyelles, the weekly rental rate ranges from €3500 (US$4700) from Nov to April, to €6500 (US$8700) in high season (July and August). It is available for rent all year round. The villa is a two-hour drive from Barcelona and it’s ten minutes away from Mont Ras and Palafrugell. Some of Costa Brava’s best beaches are located in the vicinity.
Disclosure: Our stay at both villas were kindly provided complimentary by Charming Villas and the respective villa owners. As always, all opinions expressed above are our own.