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Not far from the azure blue Mediterranean sea, lies the pretty medieval town of Pals. It has been declared to be a Historic Artistic site – you’ll understand why, when you see its beautiful old quarter and wander around its cobbled streets. It’s best explored at your own pace, so that you can lose yourself in the medieval architecture and be transported back to times gone by. It’s located in the wonderful region of the Baix-Emporda, in Catalonia.
Although the town itself is not on the coast, the municipality does embrace a lovely, coastal area. In fact the main beach, Platja Gran de Pals (Big Beach of Pals) is over 2400 metres long. For golfers and their partners who want to be in a location where there’s more than golf to do, there’s a 4-star golf and beach resort which is only a stones throw away from the main beach, which is called La Costa Golf & Beach Resort.
Pals may be best known for its historical old quarter, however the gastronomy is a wonderful combination of products from the sea and the mountains, plus it is a rice producing area. So just like the Delta de l’Ebre, there are deep-rooted traditions related to rice production, which can be witnessed at sowing and harvesting periods. Along with this, the Wine, Cava and Cheese Tasting Fair of Catalonia is held in August of each year in Pals.
The incredibly rich culture and history, the magical landscape of the Paddy fields, the seascape and the countryside, the delicious locally sourced food, and the varied activities that are perfect for families and couples alike, make Pals a very special place indeed.
Some of its attractions are gifts from Mother Nature, whereas others have been handed down through history. However what helps Pals to be as special as it is today, is the local passion to preserve its wonderful heritage. In fact Pals was declared a Cultural Asset of National Importance back in 1949. A few decades later in 1973, it was awarded the National Arts Award, then in 1980 it won the National Arts and Tourism Award. In 1986 Pals was awarded the Medal of Honour for Tourism by the Regional Government. In the countryside surrounding the town there are also some interesting farmhouses to be seen.
For those of you who appreciate a little bit of historical background, although Roman ruins have not been found in the area, the name Pals does originate from the Latin word – Palus – which means swampy place.
The Castle was documented back as far as 889 AD, and by the end of the 10th century it was owned by a noble family by the name of Gausfred Vidal. In 1065 it was returned to the Counts of Barcelona, Ramon Berneguer i Almodis. Later between 1380 in 1482 the peasants were rebelling, which culminated in a Catalan Civil War against Joan II. During this conflict, sadly the Castle was badly damaged. Stones were taken in order to rebuild the church of St Peter, and also the town walls. What remained was the Torre de les Hores.
As you approach Pals, you’ll be welcomed by the medieval wall that embraces the town. When you explore the pretty cobbled streets, take time to watch how the light seems to play on the sandstone buildings, just as the changing light of the rice fields mirrors and enhances the surrounding nature, as seasons melt, one into another.
Pals medieval town is a highlight within itself, but so also is the view from the Josep Pla Viewpoint, over the Emporda Plains. The Medes Isles can be seen in the background, of this beautiful scene, which is watched over by the Montgrí Massif. The famous Catalan writer, after which the viewpoint was named, Josep Pla said:
“Pals is worth not just one visit, it’s worth hundreds of visits because its location offers the chance to see the most beautiful, unforgettable scenery of the country”.
However long you decide to take, and whatever way your wanderings take you, for sure you will get a feeling of the Middle Ages as you walk under stone arches, and see details around you in the town. Obvious highlights that you don’t want to miss are the Town Square, the Church, the Torre de les Hores, and the Visigoth tombs.
Featured in the Telegraph Newspaper, as one of the best beaches of the Costa Brava, the name of the beach says it all, this is a huge beach, which is more than 2400 metres in length. Explore the sandy beach and its dunes, on foot or on bike. There are plenty of facilities, and it’s ideal for just relaxing and taking in the beautiful landscape, or practising watersports. The entry into the sea can be a little steep, so be aware of this. Around the beach there are wetlands of ecological value, reeds and large pine forests.
If you are with younger or older family members, and would prefer more shallow water, then head to Platja del Grau, which is a quieter beach, at the south of the main beach.
Watersports practised here and at the bigger beach include kitesurf, snorkelling, surfing, kayaking, paddlesurf and bodyboarding. There are two sailing schools between the two beaches.
Les Basses d’en Coll is a protected area, with a range of ecosystems. Discover marshes, dooms, rice fields and plenty of different wildlife communities.
Did you know rice growing began in this area in 1452, or even before? Documentation proves that rice was growing in this locality in 1452, however the Arabs introduced rice in the 9th century into the Iberian Peninsula. Of course as well as the food, much of the landscape of Pals is influenced by the colours during the changing seasons of the rice fields. Les Basses d’en Coll is part of the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà Natural Park, which you can read more about here.
Although I recommend wandering through the town for the first time by yourself, if you’re travelling during July and August, you can do this one hour tour. For English speakers this is at 8 PM on Thursdays, and for French and Spanish speakers at 7 PM. It costs €5.00 per person and under 12’s go free. It can be booked in the tourist office.
During the tour of the medieval town you will gain insight as to why it was built on top of the hill, and you will learn about the different architectural genres, and understand far more about the way of life and the history of Pals.
There are other interesting tours organised by the tourist office, such as the Superstitions and Legends of Pals, Rice Tours and the Josep Pla Tour. Although at the time of writing these tours were only available in Catalan and Spanish, do check when you visit, as this may have changed.
February – Carnival
January – Pastorets, Living Nativity, Kings’ Oarada
June – Rice sowing, Pals music concert
July – Havaneres singing, Sardanas dancing
August – Sardanas dancing, Main Festivals in the town and the beach, Wine, Cava & Cheese Tasting Fair of Catalonia
October– Rice harvesting
December – Living nativity
Plaça Major 7, Pals 17256, Girona
Phone – +34-972 637 380
Top feature photo – Javier Alvarez
Countryside landscape – Freebird
Street with flowers – Dynamosquito
Beach – Jose Kiells