Costa Brava, in the northern corner of Catalonia (Spain) is one of my favourite destinations in the world. Not many places combine sun, sea, nature, culture and gastronomy as effortlessly as Costa Brava. Every time I visit, there’s always something new to experience: another gastronomic highlight, an artistic wonder or a hidden panorama. A great way to get a stunning overview of Costa Brava is to, literally, see it from above. If you’re flying into Barcelona from the north, chances are you’ll fly right across Costa Brava, with the gorgeous blue Mediterranean on your left and the snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees on your right. You’ll see the rugged coast of the Cap de Creus, the broad sweep of the Bay of Roses and the patchwork of fields and little villages that make up the Emporda region. Once you’re in Costa Brava, there are various ways to get a bird’s eye view. Adrenaline junkies can go on a skydive in Costa Brava. Another more tranquil option is to go on a hot-air balloon flight.
Experiencing a hot-air balloon flight in Costa Brava
Hot-air balloon flights in Costa Brava are offered by, amongst others, Globus Emporda, a small but very experienced team who do hot-air balloon flights over the Emporda region bordering the Costa Brava coast. The Emporda is a predominantly agricultural region with endless fields of crops, interspersed by forests and quaint medieval villages.
The hot-air balloon flights leave at dawn which means an early rise. That gave me the opportunity to see the sun rise from the beach in front of our hotel, Hostal Empúries.
We drove a short distance to the village of Verges (on a side note, there’s a lovely restaurant there called Mas Pi that serves traditional Catalan fare) where we met the Globus Emporda team in a field ablaze with purple flowers.
They had the balloon up very quickly and before we knew it, we were clambering into the basket. Our pilot gave us some instructions and up we went!
The balloon rose quickly and I felt my knees quiver as I looked at the patchwork of fields below – erm…I have a thing with heights.
The views of the fields, the villages and towns and of the coast were absolutely breathtaking and that helped distract me from my fear of heights. I started to relax very quickly and noticed the soft breeze in my face and the wonderful silence. The silence was broken occasionally when the pilot fired up the burners or by a barking farm dog far below but my eyes were firmly glued to the magnificent panorama that unfolded below us. The green/brown patchwork of fields stretched to the foothills of the Pyrenees and the Cap de Creus in the distance, and to the beaches of the Bay of Roses.
The flight lasted a bit more than 1.5 hours and took us from Verges to L’Escala, a coastal town, and we floated to a maximum altitude of 1,200m (just under 4,000ft). We landed in a grassy field near the coast: a soft thud on the ground, a little bounce and another thud… the perfect landing! The map below shows our flight path:
As soon as we had our feet firmly planted on the ground, we were whisked away to a nearby village for a hearty breakfast (think freshly-made tortillas, bacon and sausages, fried chicken wings, tomatoes and fruits, all accompanied by a glass of cava!). At breakfast, we received a DVD of our flight and a certificate (proof that my quivering knees withstood the great heights!). If you’re visiting Costa Brava, I can highly recommend the hot-air balloon flight with Globus Emporda for a stunning bird’s eye view of this wonderful corner of Catalonia.
Note: a big thank you goes to the Costa Brava Tourism Board for hosting me and for their wonderful hospitality. All views expressed above are, as always, mine.