From Besalú take the N-260 towards Figueres and stop off at Navata. Here in this Empordà town you will find the former 12th century church known as Can Miró, called after a nearby farmhouse. From Navata take the GIP-5239 road, which will take you to Lladó. There you will find the monastery of Santa Maria de Lladó (twelfth century), once an Augustinian canonry and nowadays still lived in by nuns. If you ask for the key first at the Town Council, you can also visit the church of Sant Feliu.
A track leads out from Lladó and takes you to Cistella, which can also be reached by turning off onto the GIP-5101 a little bit further along the N-260. Santa Maria de Cistella is a little rebuilt church still featuring its Romanesque façade and appearing in the records as far back as 978.
From Cistella carry on up the GIP-5101 until it meets the GI-510. Take that road, heading towards Albanyà, where the neo-Romanesque Mare de Déu del Mont sanctuary stands at an altitude of 1,150 metres. Go back along the same road to Figueres. Then take the C-252 to go to Vilabertran, which lies one kilometre away.
When you get there, visit the abbey of Santa Maria de Vilabertran – a group of monumental buildings originally intended as an Augustinian canonry and containing features of great interest: the church (11th century), the Lombard belfry (12th century) and the cloister (12th-13th century). A 14th century cross, considered one of the jewels of Catalan silverwork, can be seen in one of the chapels. That same church was the venue back in 1295 for the royal wedding of King Jaume II and Blanca d’Anjou, and now houses the well-known Schubertian concerts.
Carry on down the road to Peralada, an old county town with a rich history and a fine medieval complex. Romanesque art is represented by the former 12th-13th century convent of Sant Domènec de Peralada, a place of great beauty with outstanding columns and capitals.
Carry on along the C-252 as far as Garriguella, and there take the GIV-6032 bound for Vilamaniscle. Halfway between Vilamaniscle and Rabós d’Empordà you will see a track that will take you to the monastery of Sant Quirze de Colera. This former Benedictine complex, now lying in ruins, still shows remains dating back to various periods, such as the church (10th-11th century) and the cloister. Two hundred metres away is the church of Santa Maria de Colera (12th-13th century).
Take the GI-603 until it crosses the N-260, and go along it to Llançà: from there you can go along the coast, heading for Colera and Portbou. When you get to Portbou, visit the Passagen Memorial, created to commemorate the German philosopher Walter Benjamin, who died here when fleeing from the Nazis. This is a good opportunity to reflect on history, taking a closer look at a key point on the road to exile, both for other Europeans fleeing the Second World War and for the Republicans from the Spanish Civil War.
Go back as far as Llançà and turn off along the GI-612 towards El Port de la Selva. A short way before you get there you will find a turn-off leading to the monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes.
Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes.
Sited on the Verdera mountains, this medieval complex dominates the sea from its privileged vantage point. The origins of Sant Pere de Rodes
are uncertain, though it is known to have taken on its present layout in the period between the tenth and the twelfth centuries, the heyday of the Romanesque style. The church is of a unique kind within the Catalan Romanesque. The monastery, the church of Santa Helena
and the remains of the town and castle of Sant Salvador de Verdera
together make up an outstanding complex of monuments – a must-see for rounding off this transverse route around Romanesque sites. The monastery also houses one of the information offices of the Cap de Creus Natural Park
, an area of incomparable beauty that is not to be missed.
As it goes around the Empordà, this route takes us by the classified Albera Natural Area. That mountain area has great value in megalithic terms, with over 130 features such as menhirs and dolmens, and it is well worth seeing. You can find out more from the local tourist offices or the information points in the Natural Area itself.