Dormant volcanoes amidst country houses and castles



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    Ecotourism. ECST (European Charter for Sustainable Tourism) accreditation for certain natural areas.

Between the peaks of the Pyrenees and the magnificent beaches of the Costa Brava there is an enormous area of volcanoes and lava, craters, ash and basalt that form landscapes of infinite beauty. Such is the Volcanic area of Garrotxa, a European Nature Reserve, packed with castles, ancient stone and age-old country houses that invite both rest and adventure.

Little more than 50 kilometres from the city of Girona thirty conical volcanoes rise up, with craters, beech forests over lava rivers and spectacular gorges with basalt walls, the product of prehistoric explosions. Exploring the volcanoes in the la Garrotxa Nature Reserve is like travelling to a world of fire and ash, where amazing mountains and landscapes have been sculpted, with a multitude of towns and villages nestling harmoniously in their rugged environment.

This volcanic region is unique in Europe and was finally formed 11,000 years ago when the last eruption took place. Since that time the volcanoes have remained dormant, although not all are extinguished. All this geological heritage is covered with tracks and trails, viewpoints, castles, monuments and churches, all of surprising beauty.

The contrasting colours are spectacular. Ochre earth, dark ash and petrified lava mix together with intense green forests and meadows in spring and summer. All the while you can hear the sound of water flowing down crystalline springs and streams. A route along the park's trails is highly recommended to all, whether on foot, by bike or on horseback.

A visit to the Croscat volcano is a must. It is the Iberian peninsula's youngest, with an impressive opening that leaves its inner folds and strata open to see. You should also visit the streets of Batet, a small village set between walls of volcanic rock, or discover the spectacular Fajeda d'en Jordà, a huge beech forest set on petrified lava, whose halo of mystery seduces all who enter it. There are many other places to visit in the Garrotxa area, such as the Montsacopa volcano, located right in the middle of the town of Olot topped by the shrine to Sant Francesc, or the picturesque village of Santa Pau, with its maze of medieval streets. Not forgetting, of course, the stark silhouette of the small village of Castellfollit de la Roca built over an immense basalt gorge more than 50 metres high. Lose yourself in its winding streets that open out onto the abyss.

All these sensations are multiplied when seen from the air. The chance to look out over one of Spain's unique protected landscapes from the dizzy heights of a hot air balloon is a real adventure for children and adults alike. Nature and tradition, fiestas and gastronomy, excursions and art. All these are possible in La Garrotxa, an area packed with hidden treasures in the heart of Catalonia. More information: Costa Brava Tourism Department Catalonia Regional Environment Agency Olot Town Hall

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