4 days in Spain: Cataques and conquering a Via Ferrata

spain travel

Yep, there’s definitely seafood in there. Photo: Johnie Gall

After two days of climbing and hiking in Spain’s interior northeast (catch up on days one and two), the coast is calling. We’ve eaten more baguettes and cured ham than we can handle -- it’s time for some seafood.

Meandering down from the French boarder is Costa Brava, a wind battered and disarmingly dangerous looking coastline that’s very quiet this time of year. But while the off-season means fewer restaurants to pick from, it also means the trails are empty, the waves are huge and you won’t have to battle as many scooters for a place to park. Here are the highlights for day three of a low-cost, adventure-motivated trip through Spain’s Catalonia region.

Cadaques to the Cap de Creus Lighthouse

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The drive from Cadaques to Cap de Creus warrants a few side trips. Photo: Johnie Gall

spain travel

Wind, sun and water--and plenty of hills to hike in. Photo: Courtesy of Brandon Scherzberg

Costa Brava Way stretches out over 255 kilometers of razor-sharp cliffs and wave-beaten coves -- no wonder there’s so much hiking here. If you want to do the whole thing, you’ll need more than a morning, but pick and choose from shorter hour-long scrambles and you’ll see everything you need to see. An easy amble is the two-and-a-half-hour trek from Cadaques up to the Cap de Creus Lighthouse, which deposits you on a few pristine beaches and eventually to one of the coolest coastal outlooks we’ve seen. Bring a bouldering pad if you have one -- the rock is grippy but sharp.

Via Ferrata

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Iron rungs and cable help climbers navigate a via ferrata, or “iron trail.” Photo: Courtesy of Brandon Scherzberg

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Iron chains offer more stability for inexperienced rock climbers. Photo: Johnie Gall

One of Spain’s best-kept secrets may be its system of via ferratas, or “iron trails,” challenging traverses that use wooden planks, Tibetan bridges, cables and iron rungs and handles to create trails across inlets, mountains and spires. If you are experienced with rock climbing, you can attempt a via ferrata on your own with a helmet, harness and set-up of lanyards and locking carabiners (sometimes called a Via Ferrata Set). If not, opt to join a guided trek.

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A steep climb on a via ferrata. Photo: Johnie Gall

The Catalonia region has three incredible via ferratas: the beginner-friendly Gorge de Salenys, the long and tiring Aguelles Rodones, and (our favorite) the Cala del Moli, a new via ferrata that circles cliffs jutting out into the sea. It’ll take you anywhere from two to four hours to complete and there’s a slightly overhung section that will give biceps a workout, but there’s an option to walk out early at the halfway point.

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