Aaron Lloyd Barr
En español | See the best of Catalonia on foot.
"Bear left at the signpost onto the wide track." Sounds simple enough, right? We're trying to follow the Day 1 route of a self-guided walking tour in Catalonia, Spain, but instead of going uphill, we are descending into a town.
We retrace our steps to discover that we had turned left too sharply. Had we consulted our map, we'd have stayed on course. (This being my eighth independent walking vacation with my mate, Barry, it's possible we've become a bit arrogant.) No matter — it's the fun of finding your own way that keeps us returning to these trips.
This time, Barry and I have chosen the "Catalan Classic Walk" offered by Breakaway Adventures, a company that specializes in walking and cycling tours in Europe and beyond.
It's April in Spain, before tourist season, and the weather is pleasant. We've paid $1,613 each for six nights' lodging and five days of walking through cork forests and poppy-dotted meadows. Our tour company will transfer our bags as we travel, so, burdened only by day packs and directions, we expect to cover about nine miles a day. Breakfast and dinner are included, but we're on our own for lunches.
We spend our first night at the Castell d'Empordà Hotel, stunningly luxurious and the perfect reward for walking 12 miles in seven hours. Dinner is slow-roasted beef and sweet, creamy Catalan custard. We work it off the next day on a seven-mile ramble through villages along a nearby river.
The morning of Day 3 means a sad goodbye to the castle, but we're getting into the swing of things now. At lunchtime we climb stone steps into Pals, where we find a cafe, and for $13 each, we enjoy three courses and a bottle of wine. Ten miles later, we straggle into the town of Begur.
The next days take us along the Mediterranean, past multimillion-euro villas and serene coves. The final stretch is a killer: down steep steps and up again to gaze at the sea. We toil on, returning to our first hotel, crossing one more finish line together.
ALLTRAVEL / Alamy Stock Photo
Check individual packages for details:
- Independent: five-day Catalan walk, from $1,410 per person; breakaway-adventures.com; 800-567-6286
- Explorer: five days in Maine's Acadia National Park, from $835 per person; roadscholar.org; 800-454-5768
- Culture: nine-day Cuba excursion, from $3,490 per person; austinadventures.com; 800-575-1540
- Group: 12-day Costa Rica wildlife walk, from $3,438 per person; breakaway-adventures.com; 800-567-6286
- Cruise: eight-day Portugal cruise and walk-hike, from $6,198 per person; backroads.com; 800-462-2848