Up next on our fun walking tour of Spain is the Volcanic region of Garrotxa (pronounced Garrocha.) We stayed right in the middle of the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park and it was a gorgeous area to walk.
The volcanoes in Garrotxa are part of a. This means there are lots of small volcanoes (40 spread around this area) but each one only erupts once (creating a new crater or hill for each eruption.) There is only low volume of magma for each eruption, which is why each volcano is teeny. We created a hike that would allow us to see the two most famous; The Santa Margarida Volcano and the Croscat Volcano.
Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Hike Map
We wandered about creating our own route. If you zoom in on the map below, you’ll see there are plenty of paths, so this is a fun way to explore.
Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Hike – the basics
Distance: 14 km
Elevation gain: 560m
Highest Point: 786m (Top of Croscat Volcano. The Santa Margarida Volcano is 769m.)
Time: 3-4 hours
What to bring:
Walking boots. Hiking poles. Plenty of water and food. The 10 essentials.
We didn’t see many facilities.
Dogs: Okay on a leash
How hard is it?
Not technical, but there are some very steep sections on the volcanoes.
Read more about the Volcanoes: If you’d like to geek-out and learn more about the volcanoes of Garrotxa, take a look at this fantastic post.
Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Hike – getting started
We fancied taking it easy while we explored these old volcanoes. We decided to leave the car at our apartment and just wander out to make our own route around the various lava flows. This worked really well as there is a whole maze of pathways through the Fageda d’en Jordà, beech tree forest.
Once you are close to a volcano, there are plenty of maps and sign posts to point you in the right direction, so you can make up a walk as you go. Just be careful not to be swallowed into the forest like this sign…
Gorgeous rural architecture
We loved seeing the old Catalan farm buildings and rural churches as we explored the area. The ground undulates with all the small volcanoes and ancient lava flows, so you can always see forest-covered volcanic hills in all directions.
I thought the sign-posts were pretty good out in the Pyrenees, but in Garrotxa they were even better! There are around thirty well signposted routes, so it is easy to combine the paths to create your own walk.
Large lava bomb
Just before we climbed up Volcà de Santa Margarida, we found this lava bomb that has been turned into a decoration next to the road. That’s the Croscat Volcano popping up in the background.
Santa Margarida Volcano (769m)
We started by hiking towards the Santa Margarida Volcano, which is famous for having a chapel built into the middle of its circular crater.
Once you’ve climbed up, there is a pathway all around the top of Santa Margarida’s volcanic cone. The path is mostly hidden within the trees, but sometimes you’re treated to views down into the crater.
Santa Margarida de Sacot
This is the Romanesque-style Catholic chapel in the center of the volcano. After our time learning about the Catalan Romanesque Churches in the Vall de Boí, I can say this has a single nave, a steeple bell and an apse. It was built in 1865, after the original building was destroyed by an earthquake in 1428.
This is the most-visited volcano in the area. When we arrived there were a few other walkers milling around, but the volcano was filled with the excited voices of hundreds of children who were on a school trip. The kids were all hidden by the dense forest. They started to arrive just as we left. The volcano certainly seemed cheerful with so many kid’s voices!
However cheerful they sounded, we were not keen to be in the middle of several large groups of kids. So we escaped back up and around the crater rim to continue with our walk.
There are some lovely views of the surrounding countryside as you walk on towards the next volcano.
Croscat volcano (786m)
This is the tallest (and youngest) of the volcanoes in Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park. This one erupted 11,000 years ago, giving plenty of time for it to be covered in forest.
The cool thing about the Croscat Volcano (other than a name that makes it sound like an angry kitty) is that up until the 1970s it was mined. This means you can see what it looks like inside the volcano. Most people walk around the bottom, to look up at the sliced up section. However we always love seeing things from above, so we found a path up it.
There is a viewpoint near the top where you can see the slices into the interior of the volcano! Volcanologists have used this to study internal structures and associated volcanic processes in situ.
Croscat volcano Peak
There is another building, (possibly a lookout?) right at the top of the Croscat Volcano peak. You can also peek out to the surrounding countryside through gaps in the trees.
Fageda d’en Jordà
Once we’d descended from the volcano we explored the beautiful beech tree-filled forest areas of Garrotxa. The forest floor is covered in old lava flows and it’s a relaxing place to walk if you enjoy bathing in dappled forest light.
We finished our walk by hiking through the forest back to the apartment where we were staying. This was October, but you can see the leaves had not yet started to turn. It was warm, very humid and we were happy to be in the shade!
So, that was our introduction to the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone as well as the Santa Margarida and Croscat volcanoes. I really enjoyed our hike here, although I have to admit, after seeing more active volcanoes in Japan, Iceland and New Zealand, it didn’t seem that volcanic to me. Obviously you can still see the ancient lava flows and the shapes of the volcanic cones. However I really liked the way the area has been taken over by forests and farms. Don’t expect to see a desolate, rocky landscape in Garrotxa. It’s more like a lush, volcano-inspired paradise.