The Costa Dorada in Spain runs from Barcelona to Vinaroz and is one of the most-visited tourist spots of the Mediterranean. The wide sand beaches seem to be made specifically for the true sun worshipper.
The deep turquoise of the calm sea, the golden-yellow beach, the terra cotta of the monuments, the brown of the olive trees, the green of the mountains and golf courses, the deep red of the wine orchards; the Costa Dorada truly treats you to a wide array of colours.
The reflection of the bright sunlight on the fine sand gives the beaches a golden glow, which makes it obvious where the Costa Dorada, the Gold Coast, has earned her name from.
Along the more than 200 km-long coastline, many things worth seeing invite you to get more acquainted with the Catalan culture. Endless options to enjoy and relax are available to you. Discover the charm, the tastes and aromas of this historic place. Discover the Costa Dorada.
History of the Costa Dorada
The Costa Dorada—or better put, Catalonia—has been the backdrop of many historic events. Simple Iberian settlements in natural shelters such as caves and grottoes tell us about the first human societies. After that followed the Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors. In virtually every place along the Costa Dorada are monumental buildings and ruins to marvel that point to mixed times.
The Catalan culture began in the Middle Ages during the reign of the kingdom of Aragon. Catalonia became an important maritime holding and bustling harbours along the Costa Dorada became the stage for trade and conflict. Most places were built on hills in order to defend themselves better against pirates.
During the regime of Franco, everything that was Catalan—better yet: everything that was “not Spanish”—became strictly forbidden. After Franco’s death in 1975 and with the New Constitution of 1977 came an end to the suppression and isolation, and all the traditions of the Catalan language and culture were restored to their rightful place.
The area also has produced artistic and culturally significant people: the Reus-born painter Mariano Fortuny (1838-1874) and architect Antonio Gaudí (1852-1926), and the Figueras-born artist Salvador Dalí (1904-1989).
Nature of the Costa Dorada
The pastoral inland of the Costa Dorada with stately forests, majestic mountains, and surprising wine orchards, is quite interesting to nature and history aficionados. The many trails that can be followed on foot, on horseback, or on mountain bike lead you past undisturbed peaks and valleys.
Sierra de Prades
A day trip to the Sierra de Prades treats you to a wide view of the valley of Brugent, the red mountains, and the rippling water, the backdrop being the unpolluted horizon line. From here you can visit the Roca Forada—a strange, bow-shaped rock formation—and many mystical water sources, such as La Fuente Blanca and la Fuente de Rau. The town Prades is also not to be missed.
Montsant mountain range
A nature preserve of 10’000 ha harbours rare flora and fauna, including wild cats, ferrets, and falcons. For an unforgettable night beneath the stars, all you have to do is make use of one of the many outstanding camping grounds.
Parque Nacional Ebro Delta
Where Spain’s largest river, the Ebro, meets the Mediterranean lies this 32 km2 natural park planted with rice paddies. One of the largest fowl preserves in the world. This beautiful area can be marvelled in more than one way: on foot, on horseback, and via car, boat, or bike.
La Cova de la Font Mayor
Near the town of L’Espluga de Francoli you will find La Cova de la Font Mayor, a network of caves, accidentally discovered in 1853, with a length of 3’590 metres. Traces of human existence dating back to 4’600 BC have been found here, as well as 300’000 year-old fauna.
Beaches of the Costa Dorada
The Costa Dorada is known for its wide beaches with fine, soft sand, impressive cliffs, glowing dunes, but also idyllic, hidden bays.
It is not just the shallow water that allows you to walk a ways into the sea that makes the Costa Dorada so loved by families with children. Many bathing places have playgrounds on the beach and organise fun activities, such as building sand castles and boat tours especially for (young) children. On top of that, the Costa Dorada has many beaches that have earned the Blue Flag as ecological trademark. This Blue Flag is only awarded to those beaches that meet 29 stringent criteria.
In the north, from Cunit to Mont-roig, we find the longest and widest beaches, with quiet, shallow water. Followed by Vandellos, L’Ametlla de Mar and L’Ampolla with narrower and deeper beaches. However, in the Ebro delta area we once again encounter wide beaches with very fine sand, typical for newly created land. Finally, from the delta to Les Cases d’Alcanar you will find long beaches with beautiful, heavy sand.
We will name a few for you.
Large, long beach equipped with many facilities aimed at sport and relaxation.
A long and uninterrupted wide beach with fine sand and a pleasant dune landscape alternating with cliffs. This is what the entire coastline of the Costa Dorada must have once looked like.
El Miracle and Playa Llarga (Tarragona)
The two popular beaches near the capital of the province. El Miracle is also called the balcony of the Mediterranean, and Playa Llarga is counted among the best of the Costa Dorada.
Still the most well-known beach of the Costa Dorada. The beach has a boulevard and equipped with all the necessary modern facilities to make getting a tan quite easy. Bustling in the evening, too.
De baai of Els Alfacs
This bay is the largest natural bay harbour in all of Europe. In its more chique atmosphere you can practice virtually every watersport in existence.
Les Cases d’Alcanar
The 12 km long coastline running along the town of Alcanar is located in the southern part of the Costa Dorada. This area is less visited by tourists, and the many small beaches, such as Marjal, are ideal places for a quiet, relaxing vacation.
Culinary Costa Dorada
In terms of culinary quality, in this area you are in good hands. The great variety of especially good fish recipes and hearty rice dishes are a pure delight for the taste buds. Carefully selected products and artisan preparation are the base ingredients for the success story of the Catalan kitchen. Many towns hold annual culinary festivals where they present their characteristic products and specialties.
Pa amb Tomàquet (Pan Catalan) is a lightly toasted piece of bread with a sauce made of chopped tomato, garlic, and olive oil. Due to a lack of a breakfast culture, this is what one eats to stay his hunger until lunch, around 2 PM, or dinner, after 9:30 PM.
Escalivada is a dish made of Mediterranean vegetables such as bell peppers, aubergine, and courgette, all grilled for hours; then, a healthy dash of olive oil and a bit of vinegar.
Fideuà is the Catalan version of the Valencian paella. Instead of rice, they use a thin sort of vermicelli and many shellfish.
A delicious winter stew is Escudella, made from green peas, white beans, garlic, spinach, and different kinds of sausage.
A specialty from the Alt Camp region are the famous Calçots: open-fire-grilled baby onions with traditional romescu sauce.
And as dessert the Crema Catalana, the Catalan version of the Crème Brûlée with a burnt layer of sugar on top.
Wine, too, plays an important part in the kitchen of the Costa Dorada. The Baix Penedès, the Terra Alta, Priorat, and Montsant are all known for their production of quality wines. A large proportion of the terrain also lies in the official sparkling white wine-producing area.
Many bodegas can be visited without appointment; some also organise tours.
D.O. Prioriat is known for its strong red wines.
D.O. Penedes is known for its fresh white wines, the most well-known of which is de Torres.
The well-known sparkling white wines Freixenet and Cordoniu are also produced in this area.
Interesting places on the Costa Dorada
Besides sun and beach, the Costa Dorada has much to offer. The rich tradition, history, gastronomy, art, monuments, and nature come together to form a unique whole.
90 km south of Barcelona lies Tarragona, a UNESCO Heritage Site. Founded by Publius Cornelius Scipio during the second Phoenician war (218 BC), it was once the capital of the Roman province of Hispania Criterior and Julius Caesar’s second home. According to an old Roman legend, Jupiter fell deeply in love with Tarragona and left his wife for her.
The old defence walls, the dug-up Roman Circus and Amphitheatre are but two examples of the cultural heritage that this beautiful city has to offer. To get a good picture of the rest, all you have to do is follow the Paseo Arqueologico.
A fascinating city for anybody interested in modern architecture. Well-known architects from the late 19th through early 20th centuries, such as Pere Caselles and Lluís Domènech i Muntaner, have to a great extent determined the façade of the streets in this city. In the first quarter of 2007 Capsa Gaudí opened its doors here, a museum dealing with the modern cultural history of the city and the work of Antonio Gaudí.
In the past a fishing town, now a favourite vacation spot for families. Fun place with a strong fisherman’s atmosphere, where diverse restaurants will spoil you with the best of the Catalan kitchen. The arrival and public sale of fish Mondays through Fridays at 5 o’clock in the morning is an authentic experience. Cambrils is also known for its many annual holidays, including the International Music Festival in the summer.
An international tourist hub that attracts many younger tourists especially. A wide beach has a magnificent boulevard with palms, diverse fountains, and a small fair. In the evening people thoroughly enjoy the average, bustling nightlife.
Ruta del Cister
An ideal weekend trip would be to follow the route along 3 Cistercian monasteries (once one of the most important orders of the Middle Ages) where monks still live and work, in the hinterland of the Tarragon province. Poblet, Santes Creus, and Vallbona are all three of priceless architectural worth and can be visited via well-marked walking trails.
This town is an example of perfectly preserved medieval architecture, where you can pay a visit to, among others, the Museo Comercal, la Casa Josa, and the Plaza Mayor with the truly spectacular 17th century church of Santa Maria la Mayor.
During a week of celebration in April, during which the medieval heritage of the city is celebrated, you will be completely transported into the past. People walk around in medieval clothing, medieval food is prepared, there is a medieval market, and the legend of Sant Jordi and the dragon is re-enacted in the city square.
L’Ametlla de Mar
L'Amatlla de Mar Fishing town and harbour with a great reputation in the area for fish specialties. Here you will find caves and bays with white sand, surrounded by beautiful rock formations and Mediterranean vegetation. Also visit the Museo de Ceramico Popular.
This town close to the Ebre Delta is not to be missed on your visit to the Costa Dorada. All cultures that passed through during the area’s rich history have left traces of themselves here. In the old quarter you will find the impressive buildings for yourself: the palace of Oliver de Boteller, Oriol Palace, Episcopal Palace, the monastery ‘de la Purísima Concepció,’ the Gothic monastery of Santa Clara, and finally the castle of San Juan and the imposing cathedral of Tortosa.
Where poplar trees and hazel bushes lie against each other up to the banks of the river Gaià, there where the valley opens in the midst of wine orchards and almond gardens, lies the monastery of Santa Creus. You will be astounded by the architectural beauty of this building and its unique play of light. The old auxiliary buildings were over time renovated into private residences and now make up the village of Santa Creus.
Activities on the Costa Dorada
The climate makes the region ideal for different kinds of outdoor activities. Watersport, without a doubt, is the most practiced of these activities. In almost every bathing location you can find opportunities for windsurfing, jet skiing, waterskiing, diving, and snorkelling.
Mountain bike enthusiasts should not miss a visit to the Mont-roig del Camp, with a circuit of 143km, 10 routes, and 4 different difficulty levels.
The mountain area, further inland, lends itself well to mountain climbing. In Siurana you can find a special climbing school, regarded as being among Europe’s best. They can take you on many different challenging routes, which reward you with spectacular views of the rough landscape.
Next to bowling and karting, families can find something in almost every location, including at the popular attractions parks:
Rioleon Safari (Albinyana)
Port Adventura (Salou) has the largest roller coaster in all of Europe, ‘Dragon Kahn,’ which reaches a speed of up to 110km per hour. The park is divided into international harbours, including China, Polynesia, and a Mediterranean harbour. www.portaventura.es
Waterpark Costa Caribe in Salou
The golf clubs on the Costa Dorada enjoy exceeding fame. Thanks to their notion of quality service you are assured an intimate and hospitable golf vacation.
Costa Dorada Golfclub - Tarragona
This 18-hole golf course was built in 1983 and was one of the first golf courses in the area of Tarragona. Beautifully landscaped with pine trees, olive trees, willows, and palms. The 13th hole is the longest in all of Spain. The club house is a renovated old Masia (farm), still furnished in the Catalan style.
Service: restaurant, bar, changing room, pro shop, club hire, cars, and buggies.
Aigueverds Golfclub - Reus
Five minutes from Salou and Cambrills, this olive and almond tree-decorated golf course has 18 holes. Easy to walk due to the flat, but quite long, courses. The challenging hole on this one is the short Par 3: it lies on a green island completely surrounded by water. The club house, and renovated farm, is breathtakingly beautiful and has a magnificent outdoor swimming pool.
Service: restaurant, bar, changing rooms, pro shop, club hire, cars, and buggies.
Bonmont Golfclub – L’Hospitalet de l’Infant
This 18-hole golf course was designed by Robert Trent Jones in 1990 and blends harmoniously with the natural environment: one side offers a view of the Mediterranean, while the other an impressive mountain range.
Service: restaurant, changing rooms, bar, pro shop, club hire, cars, and buggies.
Panoramica Golfclub – Vinaros
A well thought-out and strategically designed 18-hole golf course designed by Bernhard Langer. Built on a rather flat old olive orchard with a fantastic club house. It is the southern-most of all 4 and is officially outside Catalonia, but the Catalonians call it their own.
Service: restaurant, bar, changing rooms, pro shop, club hire, cars, and buggies.
Holidays on the Costa Dorada
Should you want to see the true culture of the Costa Dorada, you should visit the area during one of the many
fiestas. It is then that the character and identity of the local population is demonstrated best. The traditions that have over the ages rooted themselves in the very DNA of the Catalonians these days bring the tourists and locals together. Parades, games, music, fireworks, the traditional kitchen and fascinating Catalan customs, which includes the Sardana dance and the famous castells (human towers), are the result of the proud cultural zeal of this special populace.
January 1st Año Nuevo (New Year’s Day)
January 6th Epifanía del Señor (Three Kings)
May 1st Dia del Trabajo (Labour Day)
August 15th Asunción de la Virgen (Assumption of Mary)
October 12th Fiesta nacional de España (National Celebration Day)
November 1st Todos los Santos (All Saints)
December 6th Día de la Constitución (Constitution Day)
December 8th Inmaculada Concepción (Immaculate Conception)
December 25th Navidad (Christmas)
April Semana Santa (Holy Week)
March/April Jueves Santo (White Thursday) and Viernes Santo (Good Friday)
March/April Dia de Pascua (Easter)
June Pentecostés (Pentecost)
Climate of the Costa Dorada
The Costa Dorada has a Mediterranean climate that is mild, sunny, and constant. The low amount of annual precipitation and high number of clear, sunny days (regardless of season) make this area so loved.