The section we propose is part of section XXIV of the trail in Catalonia, the last before crossing into France. The route is relatively flat, rising in the last part to reach the Coll de Panissars
pass, the most interesting point in the section. There you can see the remains of the ancient Roman way bearing the wheel-marks of carts that used the way in days gone by.
N-II highway or A-7 motorway to La Jonquera. Enter the town centre, where you can leave your car in the free car park located along the river and behind the town hall, in the Plaça Nova.
From the car park, look for Carrer Major on the side of the nursery school, which leads directly to Can Laporta, the Information Centre for the Albera mountain range located at no. 2 Carrer Major.
Follow the yellow and blue signs from Can Laporta down Carrer Major to Carrer Miquel Mateu i Pla, where you turn left to cross the motorway and N-II highway via the underpass. On the other side, a dirt track, which can be used by cars, leads off to the right between olive groves and the motorway.
Following the Route:
After seven minutes you will come to a large crossing. Turn right and go 25 metres, where you will find another intersection to the left, with the sign “Veïnat de Sant Julià” and the blue and yellow markings. The route continues with the motorway to your right until you reach another crossing, where the wider path makes a sharp right and another path continues straight on. You have to take the middle path, between the two paths described, which leads down to the river, under the motorway. You are now 3.3 km from the starting point. When you cross the river under the motorway, you will find a yellow painted sign indicating “Via Augusta”. Follow the path with the motorway on your right until you reach another crossing with a paved road, which you must follow. You will finally come across a vertical sign that reads “Panissars” next to the markings that you are following. The path starts to rise thereafter, leading to a site with a plaque commemorating the Napoleonic Wars, and the ruins of the Summum Pyrenaeum a little farther up the path. Continue a little beyond the ruins to reach the Coll de Panissars, which provides a magnificent view of the valley below, the French side, and the motorway. Retrace your steps back to the starting point.
We have just described part of the last section in Catalonia of the Via Augusta path. The section itself begins farther south, at Pont de Molins, 23.8 km from the Coll de Panissars. You can also follow the path on the French side, where its name changes to the Via Domitia.
The Romans reached the Iberian Peninsula at the port of Empúries, around the year 218 BC. The Emperor Augustus was responsible for restoring the old roads, joining them together and creating the Via Augusta, the main roadway of the Mediterranean arc, which ran 2,725 km from Cadiz to Rome. The Roman engineers had always sought relatively flat land to build their roadways, and wherever mountains had to be crossed, they sought the lowest-lying crossings. This is the case of the Coll de Panissars, which has an elevation of only 568 metres above sea level. The highways and motorways that were built in later centuries have followed the itineraries first laid out by the Romans. For this reason, the path runs parallel to the highways. There is a major EU project underway, under the INTERREG III B programme, to recover this way. In Catalonia, the Department of the Environment is involved in the program, where it plans to work on a total of 24 sections that cross the territory from north to south and pass by such interesting locations as ancient Tarraco (modern-day Tarragona).
Observations and Recommendations:
The Coll de Panissars is a site that offers great historic interest. Within a radius of 500 metres one finds the remains of a number of monuments like Gneus Pompeus Magnus’ trophies and the altar to Caesar. The archaeological remains that can be seen there are likely from the mansion of the Summum Pyrenaeum. The remains of the medieval Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Panissars can also be found, as well as the Fort de Bellaguarda, a 17th-century French fort, and a French military cemetery. The castle is a worthwhile visit, as it provides a splendid view of Canigó mountain, the Roussillon plain and the Llobregat valley.
In La Jonquera, the oil mill in the Albera Information Centre (Can Laporta, tel. ), at the start of the itinerary, is an interesting visit. There you can also find information about the different hikes you can take in this protected area.
The nearby Requesens castle, a huge structure with many defensive elements, makes for another interesting visit.