L'Ampolla is a pleasant fishing village that has never been assaulted by aggressive mass tourism. It's a traditional summer resort for families from Tortosa and the inland towns of the Baix Ebre region and still preserves the essence and familiar spirit of a town of slightly more than 3,000 inhabitants. In the fishing port, fishermen's nets spread out on the quayside to dry and houses with porches and white façades stand next to historical restaurants with terrace seating.
The coastline is dotted with tiny coves to the north and extensive fine sand beaches to the south. It's known as the gateway to the Ebro Delta and its municipal area protrudes into the sea, making up the right hand side of the delta. Although a lot of people don't know it, the name Ampolla ('bottle' in Catalan) comes from the shape given to it by the river and the sea, when, many year ago, it was the site of the mouth of the River Ebro.
Once you've reached l'Ampolla, you have to leave your car, suitcase, guidebooks, plans, anxieties and mobile phone at the hotel or campsite. You'll only need light clothing, comfortable shoes and have one direction in mind: head to the east, towards the sea. Not that we really need to tell you that, because whenever you get to a seaside town, the sea attracts you like a magnet.
If the weather is good and the sun is shining, have a swim first at Platja Baconé, a pebble beach with clear waters near the town. Then once you're feeling refreshed, take the GR-92 footpath and walk north, you'll be able to see the countryside around and enjoy a fine panoramic view of the town in the background when the sun begins to set.
Once you notice that you've gotten rid of your city stress it's time to make your way back towards the town, where we advise you take a walk along the promenade to choose a place for dinner. Once seated, order a glass of chilled white wine, preferably a local white grenache, which will provide the ideal accompaniment for seafood dishes such as steamed mussels, clams, or if you feel like digging a little deeper into your wallet, some good shrimps or Delta oysters. L'Ampolla is one of the towns that have invested most in the cultivation of oysters, which are farmed in ideal conditions in the bays of the Delta. And we must say that even though they may not be accessible for all budgets, the oysters in the delta are really quite affordable.
After a good breakfast, eaten facing the sea if possible, take your bike, or rent one in l'Ampolla, and get ready to explore a nature reserve. The route we'd like to propose this morning is a 14 kilometre ride that's suitable for all ages, even children, and will take you to a protected area of the Natural Park of the Ebro Delta.
The itinerary goes from l'Ampolla to Bassa de les Olles and then to El Goleró. From there you'll return to your departure point riding around the area's rice fields and along the border of the nature reserve. Bassa de les Olles is a lagoon surrounded by rice fields and with dunes on the ocean side beyond which lies Fangar Bay. You'll have the chance to see a large number of water birds and nature lovers are sure to have a great time since this is one of Europe's most important wetland sites and contains flora that is difficult to find elsewhere. El Goleró is the last stretch of an old branch of the Ebro that flows into Fangar Bay at Illa de Gràcia. It may have been the actual mouth of the river in the 11th century.
Before heading back to l'Ampolla, make sure you catch the views, and maybe take some photos, of the town as seen from the delta. A good option for lunch is to bring some sandwiches and stop off on the route for a picnic, but if you feel more like a proper sit-down meal, we recommend that you go back to l'Ampolla to partake of some vermouth, a tradition that is being revived and has become quite chic lately. It will be a good prelude to an excellent dish of rice served in one of the delicious local styles including black rice (with squid ink), arros a banda (a paella with just the rice), or a classic seafood paella.
Today we'll be seeing, a little more calmly, how the colours of the sea start to fade and how the sky turns red and then purple as twilight approaches. And we'll be doing it while taking a walk along the GR92 footpath. Having rested after lunch, we suggest that you set out towards l'Ametlla de Mar until you reach a cove named Cala de l'Àliga, within the municipal area of Perello. The route passes by the sea, tracing ancient paths, which, until recently, were used by customs officers to monitor the activities of the local smugglers, who took advantage of the darkness of night and the rough nature of the coast to carry out their activities. You'll pass along beautiful coves until you get to a beach named Platja de Cap-Roig. The rocky stretches are interspersed with small stone coves, with pebbles piled high by the floods. Take photographs to capture the diversity and colours of the landscape. From the ochre and gold tones of the shore and the reddish cliffs to the green of the pines and the deep blue of the sea, it's quite a treat for the senses. If the weather is good, take advantage to have a swim off one of the coves.
We recommend that you start to head back to town around 7pm, have a shower and then dress up a bit and take a stroll along the promenade to show off your tan. Even though l'Ampolla is basically a family-oriented resort, there are also groups of French and Belgian people who have apartments in the town or who come to spend a few days at one of the campsites in the area. Who knows whether Cupid will let his arrows fly during one of these seaside strolls? If techno and discos are your things, you can dance till dawn at Mediterrània, a summer discotheque located beside Platja de l'Arenal.
After our bicycle ride on Saturday, it's now time to take to the sea. The idea is to go on a boat trip to see the oyster and mussel beds in the delta from close up. Both Fangar Bay, which we'll be visiting today, and Alfacs Bay, which is located in front of La Ràpita, have calm waters and sea bottoms covered by extensive beds of seaweed, making for a fertile ecosystem that's ideal for cultivating shellfish.
nce you've reached the seafood beds, the guide will explain how the entire production process works, from breeding to harvesting. You can also visit a small museum of ancient and modern aquaculture tools and instruments. To complete your visit, you can take part in a tasting of local products such as oysters and mussels, accompanied by a glass of white wine.
Once you're back in l'Ampolla, if the weather is good you could head for Arenal beach and if not you could explore the town itself. Arenal is one of the longest beaches in the area which means that it never feels build up and you'll always be able to find a quiet spot for yourself. It also has a number of beach bars and restaurants where you can have an iced coffee while listening to some chill out music.
If you decide to stay in town, we suggest that you follow a route that takes in the fishing port and the historical centre, which basically consists of the streets lying around the Church of Sant Joan. This saint is honoured in the fiesta mayor of the town, one of the earliest in the year in the Ebro region, which are held around the 24th of June.