The Montgrí, Medes Islands and Baix Ter Natural Park was created in 2010 with the objective of unifying the regulations that separately governed these three areas, three areas which give the landscape of the Catalan coastline an incomparable uniqueness.
The Montgrí, Medes Islands and Baix Ter Natural Parkencompasses the Mongrí massif, the Illes Medes chain of islands - with its ecologically significant seabed -, and the wetlands of the river Ter leading into the Pals bay.
The Montgrí massif is a large limestone formation creating a natural border between Baix and Alt Empordà. With a surface area of 5,683 acres , it is comprised of three mountains, all of which reach heights of slightly above 980 feet: the mountain of Ullà (or 'monte Anill'), the mountain of Montgrí and Montplà, as well as several other smaller hills creating a total length of some 5 miles stretching to the l'Estartit coast, where the particular highlights include Roca Maura and the Moratxa Tower.
Traces of human life in the Montgrí massif stretch back as far as the Palaeolithic age, as displayed by the relics still visible in certain cavities. The most notable of which is la guarida del Duc- 'the refuge of Duc'-, on the southern slope of the massif, which, at over 650 feet above sea level, watches over the town of Torroella. Formed as a result of water leakages dissolving the lime stone, it was inhabited 300,000 years ago due to having a position conducive to seeking shelter from northern winds.
Aside from said cave, there are also another fifty or so discovered cavities spread throughout the rest of the massif, such as la guarida de los Ossos - 'the refuge of los Ossos' (including Neolithic remains), la sima Hostench - 'the Hostench chasm' and el sistema de la Carnisseria - 'the Butcher's system'. Subsequently, shepherds from all ages have left their mark in the form of dry stone shelters, enclosures and cabins; you will encounter these relics from periods up until the Middle Ages, an era which provided some of the most significant.
Firstly, the Romanesque chapel of Santa Maria de Palau (13th century), located on the slope of Sobrestany and currently in a dilapidated condition. And secondly, the impressive castle of Montgrí, whose construction was ordered by James II in 1924. However, it remained unfinished in the year 1301 as a result of a conflict with the County of Empúries. A robust square fortress with circular towers in every corner, it was built to serve as a watchtower and became the defining symbol of Torroella de Montgrí.
Furthermore, the chapel of Santa Caterina was established in the 18th century, and en route to the castle you will also come across three stone chapels with ruins of domed ceilings.
The Illes Medeschain of islands, located approximately a kilometre from the coast of l'Estartit, is the country's only marine reserve and comprises 53 acres of land and 1,262 acres of sea. The land portion of the reserve is made up of seven small islands: la Meda Gran, la Meda Xica, el Carall Bernat, los Tascons Grossos, los Tascons Petits, el Medellot and las Ferrenelles. As a whole, they form the final spurs of the Montgrí massif as it makes its way to the sea bead.
And it is that seabed specifically which makes the Medes such a treasured and unique place within the Mediterranean, a place revered by scuba divers from all over the globe. The seabed is noted for its seaweed formations, posidonia beds, choral, numerous species of fish, crabs, starfish etc.
Historically, the Medes has been a place that has captivated human beings and drawn us closer to it; a truth demonstrated through the shipwrecks uncovered in the surrounding waters. In fact, there have even been sunken Greek ships uncovered and the islands have hidden centuries-old relics suggesting they were used as a necropolis.
Beginning in the 15th century, the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre constructed a fortification on la Meda Grande; it was abandoned some decades later. Pirates from the era would seize the opportunity and use the islands as their base to launch raids on the coast. During the 18th century the building's remains were used as a prison; a military garrison also used it as lodgings until 1890.
Since 1934, the islands have been uninhabited following abandonment at the hands of their most recent residents. And since 1983, they receive special environmental protection from the Government of Catalonia. This initiative has contributed greatly in terms of recovering the wealth of its treasured seabed.
There are some fantastic options at your disposal if you feel like enjoying the underwater wonders preserved at the Illes Medes, you can try out some scuba diving, or even take part in a boat trip and see the bed through the crystal-clear waters. The local scuba diving is regulated, however, you can still take part from your own boat or one of the authorised operators, which also provided guided marine routes , light diving (flippers, goggles and pipe) and the underwater route (in groups, with a theoretical class beforehand).
- the Illes Medes by boat
- Meda Gran
- Montgrí Castle