WALK THE REGION
With Christian Piquemal
VOLCANOS of OLOT
The Garrotxa Volcanic Zone became a Natural Parc in 1985. It consists of more forty volcanic cones, most of them hidden in deep forests.
Volcanic landscape, Romanesque churches, beautiful flora and fauna, medieval towns and villages with well signposted paths and trails to follow. There are forty volcanic cones and more than 20 lava flows in the park. Fortunately for walkers, and residents of the area, they are no longer active, the last eruption having taken place about 11,000 years ago. Twenty eight trails lead through beech forests, 28 walking routes, mostly signposted. Longer ones which can be followed easily with the help of the guide map for the Park, available from the visitor’s centre.
This popular itinerary gives the opportunity to visit two of the most outstanding ones and to cross the “Fageda d’en Jordà”, a magnificent forest of beech trees classified as Nature Reserve.
Like all around the Garrotxa region, historical heritage is also present in the medieval village of Santa Pau or the neoclassical or “modernista” (Art Nouveau) buildings in the city of Olot.
Take the motorway to Spain and leave it at Figueres Nord. On the main avenue of the town, turn right at the second traffic light direction Besalú-Olot. Ignore Besalú and continue direction Olot along the new motorway (free of charge). A few minutes after crossing a long tunnel don’t miss the way out to Olot centre. Now you have to carefully look for the direction Santa Pau. There is a ring road leading to a roundabout where you turn left. If you miss it and end up in town, you will find signposts in the centre when reaching a square with arched buildings.
After 4 kms on the road to Santa Pau, a signpost points out the parking place of “Can Serra” where you can ask for documentation at the information centre.
Count 1h40 drive from Perpignan.
Cross the road through a tunnel to the edge of the forest. A short detour on the right takes you to the memorial of famous Catalan poet Joan Maragall.
Retrace your steps to catch the signposted path to the left. Now you are crossing the “Fageda d’en Jordà”, a rare example of beech forest for its relatively low altitude (500 m).
When reaching a little road lined with an old stone-built wall, follow it on the right until a crossroads where the white/red signs of the GR2 appear (0h40 from the start).
Turn left. Carefully following the signs, reach a big farm producing organic yoghourt. Soon, at the corner of a beautiful traditional Catalan house, leave the road on foot path leading to picturesque hamlet of Sant Miquel Sacot, perfect place for a break near its Romanesque-Baroque church (1h30).
Turn right at a crossroads still following the white/red signs until you meet the signpost “Volcà Santa Margarida”. Leave the white/red signs. The track goes up onto the slopes of the volcano amidst forests of green oaks. You end up on the edge of the crater and can easily go down into it. A small chapel is standing there in the middle of a meadow (2h05).
To continue, find the footpath on the other side of the crater. It goes straight down to a large parking place. You can rest near an old fountain located under the trees a 100 m on the right (2h20).
To go to the next volcano, the “Croscat”, cross the car park and the main road to find yellow marks. Follow the signs until the very heart of the volcano and enjoy the spectacular view (2h45).
The information centre, “Can Passavent”, is not far away.
To go back to Can Serra and complete your circular walk, you have to get round the volcano on the right and follow a dirt track and a little road direction west (3h35).
*If you are not confident with your sense of orientation or are aiming for an easy ramble or are going with kids, drive 5 mn further on from Can Serra, stop on the large car park situated halfway between the two volcanoes and start from there.
*You can also decide not to walk at all! In that case, horse carriages leave from Can Serra for a pleasant excursion round the area.
You can also take the little tourist train to the Croscat volcano. Ask the information centre for starting time and reservations.
There are plenty of restaurants in the area. One of them, “Can Xel”, is just by the road halfway between the two car parks mentioned above.
A better option will be to drive to Santa Pau where you can combine gastronomic and cultural pleasures. The old town stands almost unchanged since the 18th century with its narrow streets, gothic church, county castle. You will love the arched market place and find there the most reputed restaurant in town: “Cal Sastre”.
Christian Piquemal is a professional walking guide and a specialist of Catalonia.
His programmes combine historical, natural and artistic discoveries. The itineraries are privileging ancient footpaths, often off the beaten track.
Thematic walks are available every week. Find details on www.enchemin.com
Contact : 0033 (0)621 664 215 /firstname.lastname@example.org