The Costa Brava is a 160-kilometre stretch of beautiful, rugged coastline in the region of Catalonia in the north east corner of Spain. Its natural beauty, endless miles of sandy beaches and summer sunshine made it an obvious target for the tour operators when the package holiday industry took off in the 1960s. Now you'll find modern, international tourist resorts with high-rise hotels alongside unspoilt fishing villages, sheltered rocky coves and medieval towns with ancient castles. The Costa stretches from Blanes, north of Barcelona, to Roses near the French border.
Besides the obvious attractions of its many wonderful beaches, the Costa Brava (meaning Wild Coast) is also an ideal base from which to explore the countless treasures of Catalonia. The regional capital of Barcelona must surely rank as one of the most fascinating cities on the planet with its mind-blowing Gaudi architecture, Pablo Picasso museum, Olympic village and world-famous La Rambla boulevard. The Salvador Dali museum at Figueres is one of the region's most popular tourist spots along with the Benedictine Monastery at Montserrat, perched high amid some extraordinary rock formations in the mountains to the north west of Barcelona. Europe's biggest water park is located just outside Lloret de Mar and the Marineland complex near Blanes is another hugely popular family day out with its dolphin, sea lion and parrot shows, water slides, reptile house and children's zoo.
Roses is the biggest resort on the northern stretch of the Costa, located just 30 kilometres from the French border. This centuries old fishing port, at the north eastern end of the wide, sweeping Bay of Roses, is now a popular international holiday destination which has managed to retain much of its original charm. All modern tourist facilities can be found here but the resort has escaped the over-development and brashness which now characterise some of the better known Spanish coastal towns. Cadaques, a short drive north of Roses, is one of the most unspoilt spots on the whole of this coastal stretch.
To the south of Roses is the resort of Estartit where a traditional Spanish fishing harbour rubs shoulders with a modern yacht marina. This is a fairly quiet and relaxed resort which appeals to families with young children. One of its greatest assets is the fact that it overlooks the archipelago of seven Medes Islands - one of the most important nature and marine reserves in the western Mediterranean.
The next major resort to the south - and arguably the most attractive of all resorts on the Costa - is Tossa de Mar. Hollywood arrived here in the early 1950s, shortly before mass tourism, putting Tossa on the map with the shooting of "The Flying Dutchman" starring screen idols Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra. A statue of the actress was erected in the old town in honour of her stay here. This part of the coastline has 14 kilometres of tourist beaches and small coves but the most attractive part of the resort is its historic old quarter, the Villa Vella, with its ancient defence walls and towers still in tact.
The popular beach resort of Blanes is strictly speaking the southernmost point of the Costa. The resorts of Santa Susanna and Calella, to the south of Blanes, are actually part of the Costa Maresme but are commonly referred to by tour operators as being on the Costa Brava.