/ Costa Blanca or Catalunya?
Can anyone help? I would appreciate some advice with deciding where to spend a week in late April/early May - Costa Blanca or Catalunya.
A little more background: we have one week where we're aiming to do mostly climbing, but would like to based near the coast (a beach within reach, if possible!) and also to have some interesting cultural/historical sight-seeing nearby!
After the first week we're planning another week which is a little more flexible, less climbing focussed and more about driving around to visit other areas. If starting near Costa Blanca then we'll head to the Valencia area and Albarracin, if in Catalunya we might head more to the Pyrenees or up to San Sebastian and around the north.
Both areas seem to have positives, I just can't decide. I have minor reservations about each area (which may or may not be unfounded):
Catalunya - we might be based in a more remote area with more driving required and less to see nearby when not climbing.
Costa Blanca - easy access, but the area seems horribly developed and lacking any cultural options nearby - but at least it will be cheap and there are beaches!
In terms of climbing, we'd be looking for a range of mostly single-pitch sport from 5+ to 7a (approx). I don't think this would be an issue in either area.
Does anyone have experience of either area? How do your experiences fit against my expectations/assumptions? Any suggestions on crags to visit, places to stay and other sights worth seeing nearby would be really welcome.
I think your expectations are about right. I have climbed a number of times in both areas. I think the Costa Dorada and Llieda areas feel more "like the real Spain" and are areas that I enjoy just feeling part of; whereas the Costa Blanca area is more about ease of access and the climbing. Having said that there are some lovely places which, although close to the coast, feel a long way from the Benidorm experience. You will have a good time whatever you decide!
I've been to both areas on climbing trips (Catalunya twice). As such, aside from rest day activities, wasn't actively looking for culture - but didn't see that much in either area.
In Catalunya I looked around a 13th century castle in Montsonis (although the tour was in Catalan so I didn't understand what was going on but you could sort of follow it anyway). Also I thought the monastery at Montserrat was worth a visit. Some friends did a rest day trip up to Andorra which sounded cool. All that did involve a lot of driving though. Generally the region is beautiful to look at but quite empty, and the towns mostly seemed pretty dire.
The climbing in Catalunya is fantastic - so many awesome crags. Although I didn't see all that much in the 6s. If you can climb 7a you'll have a great time though. Conversely, in Costa Blanca I wasn't as impressed by the climbing on offer (although the Penon, Gandia and Pena Roja crags were amazing). However, there's a lot more to go at in the 6s. Additionally, around Calpe at least seemed to be a maze of holiday villas in vast estates. I'm sure there was some culture on offer but it was far from evident.
Hope this helps a bit.
Thanks for your responses. It sounds very much like just picking one of the options and going for it!
One thing I have discovered is that from the Costa Blanca it's not too far to travel to Granada, if you have time for more than a day trip, and this was one of the areas I really wanted to visit (for non-climbing reasons).
But, still in too minds as I've never been to Barcelona and that's clearly an option if in Catalunya!
Well, once the trip is over I'll report back with my findings...
Hmm, must check spelling and grammar before hitting submit. No edit option??
My experience is mainly in Catalunya, so I'Il restrict my comments to this region.
For your first week you could stay next to the sea, somewhere on the Costa Daurada. You'd have beaches close at hand, as well as the cities of Barcelona and Tarragona (interesting Romanic remains in the latter) nearby — less than an hour's drive away.
As for the climbing, world-renowned zones such as Siurana, Margalef, Montsant, La Mussara, etc., are all within easy reach, offering literally thousands of single pitch sport climbs.
Lleida province is only a little further north, again offering enough climbing to keep you going for several lifetimes, let alone a two week trip. The scenery here is absolutely spectacular.
Don't make mistake of trying to do too much. You'll end up sitting behind the wheel half the time.
I live in Catalunya and have climbed in the Costa Blanca a bit. If you want to be near a beach then your two options are basically
i) Serra de Prades (near Costa Daurada) - think Siurana etc.
ii) Costa Blanca (Finestrat Region) - think Sella etc.
The reservations you mention are both valid. Catalunya is big and you will be driving very far to get from beaches to the Pyrennees (and San Sebastian is a looong drive!). That said there is plenty of interesting 'cultural' stuff around, Tarragona is an interesting old Roman town, and you can even drive/train to Barcelona for a day.
The Costa Blanca is, to my mind, unpleasantly overdeveloped and personally I am in no rush to go back. It is to many people's taste though, so each to their own.
Climbing wise you will be fine in either for a week. Bear in mind you will probably be hunting the shade by May.
I'm aware we may be cutting it a bit fine in terms of the weather getting too hot... from what I've seen it looks like we can hunt out the shade (as you say) maybe head up a bit more in altitude and also start early or finish late. I think it's going to be a fairly relaxed trip so getting perfect conditions isn't the highest priority.
Catalunya seems to be lots of people's preferred option, the only reason I keep coming back to Costa Blanca seems to be for convenience - so far I've seen lots of options for accommodation, short drive from the airport, range of sport, trad and multi-pitch all within a small area and beaches nearby for rest days.
Still, nice to have two options such as these. This is one of those good dilemas!
Can anyone recommend accommodation in the Costa Daurada area? Either near the coast or close to Sierra de Prades?
For a 1st trip I'd recommend the Blanca, - (but then I would, wouldn't I). As you say easy access, loads of accommodation and more than enough good climbing without too much driving - most of the Daurada crags are a good hour from the coast.
Sure it is busy and overdeveloped - so avoid Benidorm (like the plague) and the bigger coastal towns. A few miles back from the coast is a different world.
Calpe and Peñon: http://www.pbase.com/chris_craggs/image/56992360
Another vote for Costa Blanca, it is such a shame that it has the reputation of overdeveloped, yeh sure some part of the coast but you don;t have to drive very far to experience some culture.
Valencia is a fantastic city, Alicante is also great. The inland towns and villages certainly make you forget the high rise of Benidorm and Calpe.
End April will be warm in the sun but just seek out the shade and at least with the coast you can also chill on the beach.
Camping/Bungalows: the site at Siurana is the traditional hang-out and walking distance to many crags; though the site in Vilanova de Prades is nicer.
Refugios: Several around of varying quality (Cornudella, La Mussara, Margalef etc). The old refuge at Siurana is now reopened and redone all posh like, but it's quite pricey.
Hotels: there are several as you might expect.
Just a quick reply to everyone above - all your comments have been really useful.
I think we're getting there now and for this trip it's looking very much like we're going to Costa Blanca; however, with all this info and research I can also start planning the Catalunya trip for next time!
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