The second stage starts from L'Escala, following the road to Bellcaire d'Empordà for 2 km. Once you leave the road, you ride along compacted gravel farm tracks, alongside an irrigation channel, the Rec del Molí, for almost their entire length.
Travelling through rice fields, you reach Bellcaire d'Empordà, seat of the earls of Empúries between the 13th and 14th centuries. The village castle was witness to the clashes between Earl Ponç V and King Jaume II, who built the neighbouring castles of Torroella and Albons to bring the earl to heel.
Leaving Bellcaire d'Empordà, you continue toward Torroella de Montgrí, riding along wide, well-maintained roads with little traffic. The first village you come to on this stage of the Eurovelo 8 is Ullà. Here, you can visit the neoclassical church of Santa Maria and see the polychrome Romanesque carving of the Virgin and Child, the Verge de la Fossa, originally kept at the former monastery of Santa Maria d'Ullà.
Rising up from the surrounding plain is the Montgrí massif, a natural area with a lot of history. The path becomes steeper and as you pedal, you may see one of the Palaeolithic caves, such as the Cau del Duc. It's worth climbing up to Montgrí Castle, built by Jaume II between 1294 and 1302, for one very good reason: the fantastic views of the Empordà coastline you can enjoy from the top of its towers.
Riding between apple orchards, you will reach the banks of the River Ter, which takes you to Torroella. Take a stroll through the old town, with its 14th-century Gothic Sant Genís' church. For many years, this church has been one of the venues for the popular Torroella de Montgrí Music Festival. The Museum of the Mediterranean, which houses El Montgrí, les Illes Medes i el Baix Ter Natural Park Interpretation Centre, explores the history of the Mediterranean.
If you would like to see the underwater marvels of the Medes Islands reserve close up, come to L'Estartit. You can go scuba diving to visit the protected sea floor, rich in marine flora and fauna. Or, if you don't fancy diving, you can view it from a glass bottom boat. Watch the skates gliding among the red coral and seagrass. A real underwater spectacle.
The route from Torroella de Montgrí continues along a paved farm track and then the GIV-6501 road, which you follow to the village of Fontanilles. The route through the Baix Ter plain is quiet, without much traffic. From time to time, low hills rise from the surrounding flatland, crowned by villages dating from medieval times.
From Fontanilles you head towards Fontclara, where you can stop to visit the Benedictine monastery of Sant Pau, with its 17th-century Baroque portal and 13th-century Romanesque paintings. Another 1.3 km to the west and you will reach Palau-Sator. This village stands out for its circular mediaeval structure that conserves part of the walls and the entrance tower to the enclosure.
Another 3 km and you will see the village of Peratallada. It seems that in this village time stopped in the Middle Ages. Once you are on the other side of the walls, you will see that the village preserves its medieval past: narrow alleys decorated with flowers, stone-vaulted porches, the castle-palace dating from 1065.... it's a place that invites you to explore. If you feel hungry, you can have lunch in one of the many restaurants in the village. Try the casserole with locally-grown rice from Pals.
If you continue south, you will see the village of Pals on top of a hill. A stroll around the old quarter, known as the Barri del Pedró, immerses you in the village's medieval past. Discover the Tower of the Hours, which is all that remains of the former Pals Castle, the steep streets and the houses with their yellow sandstone walls.
If you go to Pals in April or early May, you can enjoy the "Pals and its rice cuisine" gastronomic days. Have a break from cycling and take in the themed guided tours, courses, markets... And try a dish made with this typical product of the area.
If you continue toward Sant Feliu de Boada, you will leave the tarmacked road to follow a well-maintained unpaved road until you reach Torrent. From here, you leave the plain and travel around the edge of the Gavarres massif. This natural area is a great treasure to be discovered.
Here you will find Romanesque churches such as Santa Coloma de Fitor and medieval castles such as La Bisbal Castle. It is also full of megalithic monuments such as the Cova d'en Daina dolmen, one of the largest and best preserved in Catalonia.
All along the route, there are plenty of freshwater springs and places to have a picnic or simply to rest. If you feel like swapping your bike for a horse, there are riding stables here that organise excursions through dense cork oak, pine and eucalyptus forests.
The massif is mainly an area for cork production, which is extracted from its cork oak forests. In fact, cork making is the area's main economic activity and there is a museum devoted to it in Palafrugell, where you can learn how this material is obtained and processed, if you are interested.
Palafrugell is a coastal town where the writer Josep Pla was born. A number of routes are organised from his childhood home to visit the places that marked his life. For foodies, from January to March, the town hosts the "Cuina de la Garoina", where you can eat your fill of this sea urchin that is typical of the area. And to round off the stage, a climb up to the top of the modernista water tower within the grounds of the former Can Mario cork factory, with its panoramic views of Palafrugell from 35 metres up.
Continue along the Tren Petit greenway, which used to link Palamós with Girona, via La Bisbal. The trail follows the Aubi stream to where it flows into the sea, at the Platja del Castell, in Palamós.
Following the route, you can take a detour to Mont-ras. Here you will discover how the farmhouses in the area defended themselves against attacks by the pirates that roamed along the Costa Brava. The best solution they found was to fortify the houses with defence towers from which they could see the sea.
On the way, you also have the option of visiting Calella de Palafrugell. If you go there in summer, you can enjoy good music from national and international artists at the Cap Roig Gardens Festival. And you can also try the coastal path that connects the town with Palamós.
Once you get to the Platja del Castell, you can cool off in this protected area of natural interest. This beach in the municipality of Palamós has not fallen prey to the tourism development that has affected other parts of the Costa Brava; it is an unspoilt spot that is ideal to stretch your legs and enjoy the saltpetre-laden air. North of the beach, a short climb takes you to the Iberian settlement of Castell, an Indigete settlement from the 6th century BC that forms part of the Archaeological Museum of Catalonia's Iberian Route. Built on a hill next to the sea, this settlement benefited from the site's optimal location for control and defence.
If you continue south, along the coastal path, you will reach La Fosca beach, famous for the fishermen's houses of Cala s'Alguer, built on the beach itself.
Palamós, a traditional fishing village, is internationally renowned for the quality of its red shrimp. Round off your trip with a shrimp-based set menu, which also includes a tapa of anchovies and toasted noodles, that is served in many of the town's restaurants. Bear in mind that at the beginning of the year, the fishermen close the fishery for two months to regenerate the shoals and allow this crustacean to grow. So, during this part of the year, you won't find it in the restaurants.
The greenway along which you have come to Palamós links up directly with a cycle lane that takes you to the town's port area. This is always a bustling area with lots to see. So why not leave your bike for a while and immerse yourself in the seafaring atmosphere.
Palamós is a traditional fishing town and you can see how the fishermen live and work on the quayside. One of the most eagerly awaited moments is when the fishing boats come into the harbour and unload the catches that will later be auctioned.
There you will also find the Fishing Museum, where you can learn the what, where and how of the town's fishing tradition through practical activities such as outings and educational workshops. In Espai Peix, the museum's gastronomic classroom, you can take part in tasting workshops, cooking demos and guided tours of the fish auction, where you will learn how the fish is sold.
Continuing around the bay of Palamós, you will come to Sant Antoni de Calonge, a typical family beach tourism resort. Inland, in the town of Calonge, a medieval market is held at Easter, where everyone dresses up in period costumes. There are workshops devoted to medieval trades, music, exhibitions, wrestling shows... all very authentic. You can also walk round the parade ground and gardens of its 8th century castle and feel what it's like to be a knight in armour.
Every November, Calonge also celebrates the New Wine Festival to welcome the first wine from the year's harvest, from DO Empordà. If you come at this time, don't miss the chance to taste the young wine.
From Calonge-Sant Antoni, you can go to Sant Feliu de Guíxols along the coastal path, through Platja d'Aro. If you want to do it on foot, it will take 5 to 6 hours along a trail full of charming surprises. If you do it by bicycle, there are companies that have space to store them.
From Calonge-Sant Antoni, cycle along the main road C-253 to Platja d'Aro. While you're there, go down to the beach by turning off at the Rotunda dels Vents, or take a tour around the Parc dels Estanys. This original green space is home to large numbers of birds and also large open-air sculptures.
If you want to enjoy views of the sea and the coast, take a stroll along the S'Agaró coastal path that goes from the Sa Conca cove to the beach of Sant Pol de S'Agaró. Places such as the Punta de Pau and Cala Pedrosa viewpoints offer magnificent bird's-eye views of the Costa Brava. A rugged coastline full of pink cliffs, crowned by green pine trees that blend with the blue of the sea.
Along the way you can see the magnificent mansions owned by the 20th century Catalan middle classes in S'Agaró, designed by the Noucentista architect Rafael Masó as a garden city. The coastal path along Sant Pol beach meets the GR-92 long distance trail, which crosses the Costa Brava.
Following the route along the seashore, you come to Sant Feliu de Guíxols. A fishing town that has grown thanks to the cork industry. Don't forget to visit its Benedictine monastery, famous for its 10th-century gateway, which houses the town's History Museum and the Espai Carmen Thyssen gallery, where you can admire contemporary art from her personal collection from June to October. And if you go during the summer, you can enjoy dance, music and theatre at the Porta Ferrada International Festival, the oldest in Catalonia.
A curious fact: it is said that the politician Ferran Agulló first used the term Costa Brava in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, when he saw the views of the Empordà coastline from the small church of Sant Telm, which stands on top of a cliff.
EuroVelo 8 Route. Section 2: L’Escala-Sant Feliu de Guíxols
EuroVelo 8 Route. Section 2: L’Escala-Sant Feliu de Guíxols