Barcelona as tourist destination has become immensely popular over the last years. So much so that overcrowding has become a serious issue during peak season, especially over summer. If you’d like to avoid the crowds and enjoy an authentic Catalan experience nearby, then hiking and cycling in the (long inactive) volcano landscape of the Garrotxa region is an adventure not to be missed.
Hiking in and around the town of Olot
For our five day stay in Olot, we chose our Airbnb accommodation in the old part of this small city, next to the church. From there we had hiking trails depart into all directions, a large supermarket and the bus station with connections to Girona, Barcelona and Figueres at a mere 3 minutes by foot.
Montsacopa volcano is the easiest and closest to reach from the town center, and gets you a great view over the city and surroundings.
Especially popular in autumn, La Fageda near Olot has become a real tourist magnet. Essentially a forest with many walking trails and touristic attractions such as horse cart rides. Most visitors drive directly to the main parking of this nature park, but you can also hike there from Olot, which is what we did. A round trip will take you approx. 4 hours to complete.
Cycling in Vall d’en Bas
In Olot, rent your bicycle at Centre Logistic de Bicicletes, the pioneers of cyclotourism in the area. Josep and his team will give you all the equipment you may need and share valuable info on best routes to suit your fitness and available time. They are conveniently located right at the start of the Vías Verdes cycling trail, which goes all the way to the Costa Brava coast, with Girona half way, at around 50 kilometers. Of course you don’t have to go all the way, but if you do, then you might want to make use of the pick up and drop off services offered by the Centre Logistic and other tour operators in the area.
For our cycling adventure, we chose a round trip through Vall d’en Bas, which is among the nicest parts of the Carrilet (named after the train line which originally connected Olot with Girona and Sant Feliu de Guixols at the coast), which is part of the Vías Verdes network. The route – recommended to us by the Centre de Bicicletes, was overall a very easy ride, and the 30,5 kilometers took us half day to complete, including various stops and little adventures along the way:
- As we leave Olot, we marvel at some of the landscape architecture by RCR Arquitectes, 2017 Pritzker award winners and thus considered the “best architects in the world” – yes, they are in Olot!
- Visit La Xiquella in Sant Esteve d’En Bas to try artisan cheese and regional wines, where we learn that prior appointment might have been smart (we visited on a Saturday after lunch/during siesta time – bad idea);
- Eat our sandwiches at Hostalets d’en Bas;
- Experience a milk farm close-up at Mas la Coromina in Joanetes (appointment for the 1 hour tour recommended).
How to get there and other travel tips:
Olot Tourism website has a list of essential things to do in and around Olot, in addition to information on how to get there.
For those with some more time on their hands, Camping Natura in Les Preses offers family-oriented accommodation in a natural setting, close to the main cycling trails. The camping ground is run by same folks who also own the Cycling Center in Olot, which is convenient because you can rent your bicycles right there, and at a discount.
We took Teisa bus from Girona to Olot and back. The journey takes between 1 – 1.5 hours, depending on the day and route. Those buses also allow you to bring your bicycle, are (generally) on time, modern and air-conditioned. Best to buy your ticket before boarding the bus, at the bus station (in Girona it is at the train station, underground).
“Volcanic cuisine”: Olot restaurants and shops have in recent years developed a reputation for earthy, authentic (and very meaty) food, with a special focus on KM ZERO, locally produced ingredients. More about the volcanic cuisine of Olot here.
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