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Where to go swimming in Girona

Eight places that are ideal for cooling down in the summer, away from the crowds on the beaches

© Ramon Roura
Gorgues de Sadernes

Ah, the beach. In the Girona area, it's a major topic of conversation and opinion. Locals tend to either love it with their very being to the extent that it makes up part of their DNA, or they run screaming from it in the opposite direction. Among those in the former camp, there are two factions that are completely opposed to each other, to the extent that it can cause disharmony among friends, family and lovers: on the one hand are those people who love going to the beach in the summer, while on the other are those who will only go during those mild days of anti-cyclone weather during the winter months, when the view isn't blighted by bodies with second-degree burns or kids armed with dangerous weapons like inflatable crocodiles. If you, your partner or mates are part of Team Beach in Winter, we've got good news for you: you don't have to miss out on a refreshing dip in the area during the hot summer months. 

Girona is full of places for inland swimming, spots where the picnic and breaststroke don't have that 'we can only do this for a week a year' air of desperation, which drives so many visitors to lie out in the sun far beyond any recommended limit. But making sure that these places remain tranquil also depends on our approach: leave the speakers for your smartphone in the car, please. And don't tell anybody else about them...

'River beach' on the Ter

To start, we should probably say that this isn't a place actually designated for swimming... but it's perfect for a bucolic dip of the feet, a spot of sunbathing or enjoying a picnic. This 'river beach' ('platja fluvial') opened in the spring of 2016 with the aim of expanding the leisure spaces in a part of Girona, Sant Ponç, that suffers from a lack of such places and a matching excess of asphalt, despite being close to the river Ter. The long-term plan is for a pathway to connect this space with the Hospital Trueta, so that patients can go for walks there. In a city used to polemic (there are few things more conservative than lifelong Girona inhabitants), surprisingly the decision to clear a section of the Ter's riverside to create a recreational area didn't result in any complaints, but instead a certain amount of enthusiasm; indeed, the beach is always full. Enjoy what is perhaps one of the most charming natural spaces in the city. And if you do decide to go swimming, take care (but we would do it as well).

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Estany de Banyoles

We couldn't possibly have ignored the inland swimming-spot in the Girona par excellence. In summer the lake ('estany') of Banyoles becomes a must-visit destination for anybody who doesn't like the beach and wants to enjoy a more sedate and civilised refreshing break. The place can't help bringing to mind a Central European spa at the foot of a mountain, and the craziness of popular beaches at the height of summer couldn't seem further away. From June to September, there are three places for swimming there. One is completely free, at la Caseta de Fusta. Another is via the bar of Banys Vells, where you have to order something. The third is the space reserved for the Club Natació Banyoles (Banyoles Swimming Club), and there you have to pay. It's forbidden to swim outside of these three places, but at Banyoles lake there are a lot more activities to enjoy. The most typical, but still highly recommended, is to cycle all the way around it. It's a bike path of 8km that, first thing in the morning or during the evening, has spectacular colours.

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Salt del Timbarro

The Xuncla stream creates hidden corners that are a real treat to discover, and this is just one of them. At the foot of a mill with many centuries of history behind it – please behave when you visit: people still live there and we're sure they'd prefer it if you don't hold a rave – this small waterfall ('salt') lies just a few kilometres from the Girona neighbourhoods of Taialà and Sarrià de Dalt, from where you can get to the watery area by walking along the Cartellà road; there's a strip of sand that is wide enough for a picnic or a comfortable siesta. If you go by car, once you've left the Girona neighbourhood behind and crossed the bridge over the motorway, you need to go to the end of the asphalt road, C/ de Sant Medir. Once there, you'll have to walk about 20 minutes along paths through the woods. But don't worry: signs will guide you. It's the perfect fresh, shady spot for a sunny spring day; in the summer, however, the stream tends to dry up so you won't be able to enjoy the waterfall.

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Basses del Borró

The four stepped ponds ('basses') created by the river Borró mark the points where this waterway, which is largely subterranean, comes to the surface. The inhabitants of Sales and other nearby towns have long visited it during the hot summers experienced in the Alta Garrotxa area, and naturism is pretty much par for the course. To get there, at least to the lower ponds, it's easy from Sales by following the road signs. To get to the highest, and deepest, pond (known as Gorg Blau), it's worth investing in a specialised hiking map or asking local hunters. You could also talk to the villagers, but be aware that they're not all happy with outsiders enoying this magical, quiet setting.

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Gorgues de Font de la Torre

The gorges of Font de la Torre a long time ago became a kind of theme park for inland swimming. Just a few kilometres from Girona – so few that it's almost obligatory to go there by bike, as you whistle your favourite tune – the council of the small town of Canet d’Adri has done a good job of guaranteeing comfort and security there, and the gorges are beautiful. From Girona, take the road of Planes d'Hostoles and head to Canet; in the town, turn left just before the La Sala bar. If what you're looking for is peace and tranquility, it's best to avoid this spot at the weekends during the summer, but a morning outing on a weekday can be a really marvellous experience. There are many walking and cycling routes marked out that let you discover the foothills of the old Rocacorba volcano. Please make sure that you keep the paths clean by taking your rubbish with you (the council of Canet already does sterling work with a daily cleaning service, but still), and take note that dogs are welcome.

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Gorgues de Sadernes

This natural zone in Alta Garrotxa was at risk of being hoist by its own petard: the influx of street vendors and mass arrival of vehicles threatened to convert it into nothing more than a vulgar rest area. However, for the past few summers, cars have had to park a couple of hours walk from the gorges that are found in the middle of the river's course, close to the hermitage of Sant Aniol d'Aguja, and this has had a notable effect. The local tourism services warn that during the hot months it's a difficult route to follow, with little shade and only suitable for seasoned walkers. You can get there from Llierca, Sant Aniol d'Aguja or Montagut, following the signposts. On sunny days, the water is like a mirror and the abundance of Romanesque culture in the surrounding area will make you want the outing to last for a few days, spending the night in rural hotels or, if your budget is more modest, in the various campsites around. Bear in mind, however, that in August, the invasion of hikers is similar to what happens to La Rambla in Barcelona, and you should avoid the dry riverbeds because if it suddenly rains, they can become a dangerous trap in a question of minutes.

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Pantà de Darnius-Boadella

This is a brilliant option if you actually do like the beach but you've not been a fan of open waters ever since you watched 'Jaws'. The reservoir ('pantà') of Darnius-Boadella (the official name now following years of campaigning by the town of Darnius; in actual fact, the reservoir doesn't occupy a single square metre of the municipality of Boadella, which is more to the south) could well be known as the beach on the border with France. On the grounds of Mas Corbet, you'll find the Club Nàutic Darnius, which has various amenities suitable to a freshwater beach. As well as a large car park, bar and restaurant, you'll find facilities for various activities such as waterskiing, canoeing and sailing. It's all a timid attempt to take advantage of an installation that is unjustly unknown to most, and where the majority of visitors are foreigners.

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Gorges de Salenys

There's a bit of a word game going on here: in Santa Cristina d'Aro, there aren't any 'gorgues' but there are 'gorges', which are perfect when the Costa Brava is suffering from overbooking. The difference between the two is: a 'gorga' ('gorgues' in plural) is a section of a river where the water dams up and allows for swimming; a 'gorja' ('gorges' in plural) is a narrow opening beween cliffs where water runs. If you're lucky and the weather allows, a small gorja exists there where you can't actually swim, but can definitely cool down: el Pou de les Goges. No, we're not having you on: the 'goges' are nothing to do with geology but water nymphs that legend describes as having ultra-natural and eternal beauty. Doubtless to avoid any confusion, the spot is also known as el Pas de la Mosca (the Passage of the Fly), because the cliffs are so close that even such an agile creature would have problems getting through! 

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