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Alt Empordà

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Beyond Torroella de Montgrí, the scenery changes quite abruptly as you move into the fertile plains and wetlands of the southern part of the Alt Empordà, dominated by the broad swathe of the Golf de Roses. Coves give way to long stretches of sand as far north as Roses, which nestles in its own closed-in bay. The gulf is backed for the most part by flat, rural land, well watered by the Muga and Fluvià rivers. Having been left to its own quiet devices for centuries, this section of coast is distinct from the otherwise touristy Costa Brava, and has really only suffered the attentions of the developers in towns at either end of the bay, most notably in the few kilometres between Roses and the giant marina-cum-resort of Empuriabrava.

At the southern end of the gulf is the pleasant old fishing port of L’Escala, made more remarkable by the presence of Empúries, a ruined Greek and Roman settlement and one of Spain’s most important archeological sites. Beyond Roses, the familiar crashing rocks and deeply indented coves return with a vengeance in the wild Cap de Creus headland. The jewel in the crown here is Cadaqués, eternally linked to Salvador Dalí, who lived for years in the neighbouring fishermen’s village of Portlligat, now home to an absorbing museum in his bizarre former residence. For the final run to the French border, the road swoops along the coast through quieter villages such as whitewashed El Port de la Selva.

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