For many tourists who come through Spain, Barcelona is the be-all and end-all of the quintessential Catalonia region. If you take the time to venture beyond Barcelona’s city limits though, there is an incredibly diverse stretch of coastline that will unfold before you. Unlike the rest of the Spanish Mediterranean, this corner of the coast offers a culturally different experience.

Instead of Castilian Spanish, locals speak Catalan and instead of Spain flags waving in the wind, you’ll see hundreds of Catalan flags fluttering around. When you head to the coast, invariably you are there for one thing: to lay a towel on a beach, unwind and enjoy the beach. Catalonia has 580km of coastline ranging from rocky northern beaches down to flat, pristine sandy beaches in the south of the region. Here’s your guide for some of the best beaches to hit while you’re travelling through Catalonia in Spain.

Platja del Portitxol

Platja del Portitxol is unusual in more than one way. Located between Escala and Sant Marti d’Empuries, this beach is surrounded by a pine forest that reaches almost all the way to waves. Where the trees thin out, you’ll find golden sand comes in to connect to the calm waters. Rocky formations frame this inlet and create a natural buffer from outside noise and crowds. As such, Portitxol Beach has calm, shallow waters that feel almost like you are swimming in a pool instead of the ocean. It’s perfect for families because kids can take a dip without having to go under the waves and can play in the comfort of the low waves.

Platja Illa Roja

One of the more popular beaches on this list with international tourists, Platja Illa Roja has a few specific draws. Like Portitxol, pine trees and rocks are abundant at this beach, but the waters are clearer, the sand is coarser and more sloped and the water is clear as day. Plus, Illa Roja (translates to Red Island) is a nudist beach with plenty of international acclaim. The only way to access this lovely little secluded beach is along a small path that takes you along the coast. As you trek through the wilds and ravines on your way to Illa Roja you won’t believe the beach that will appear seemingly out of nowhere. The unique entrance contributes to the beach’s feeling of being a hidden oasis tucked away from it all.

Platja del Castell

Castell Beach is one of the last unspoiled stretches of sand on the Costa Brava and it hasn’t stayed that way without a lot of effort by the locals. In the early 90s, residents of Palamos began demonstrating to prevent the area from being developed. From these demonstrations a referendum was passed to protect it and to this day, the crescent moon beach remains much as it was hundreds of years ago. The only real change is the addition of some “chiringuitos” or snack bars, which open up in the summer. If you don’t want to expose yourself to nudist traditions, stick to the left side of the beach and away from the rocky right side of the beach where nudism is more the norm.

Cala Fonda

Cala Fonda is an isolated beach along the Tarragona coast and is located just a few kilometres outside the city of Tarragona. It hasn’t been changed for centuries and if you are planning to spend the day at Cala Fonda be sure to pack your own food and drink and other conveniences, because you won’t find any vendors there to help when you get to the beach. The beach itself is a 200m stretch of perfectly fine, golden sand sitting at the edge of warm, calm, shallow waters. The beach is sheltered by cliffs and backed by the Marquesa woods which completes the feeling of seclusion.

Platja del Fangar

The Platja del Fangar stands out from the rest of the places in Catalonia because of the strange geography that created it. The beach itself is a long strip of sand that is closed off to the north by the Ebre Delta. The Fangar peninsula curves and stretches as it goes along, to the point of creating a large enclosure of salt water, also known as the Port of Fangar. The beach that accompanies it is pristine—ultra fine sand that stretches out for 7km and perfect waves. If you start to see things, you probably aren’t the only one as this beach is famous for mirages that are caused by the effects of the water and heat. Travel along the beach on bike or car and when you find the red and white lighthouse (the only landmark here), set up camp and head for the water. The swimming area around the lighthouse is spectacular.

Venture outside of Barcelona and see another aspect of Catalan life when you visit their beaches and small coastal towns. You won’t be disappointed you did. Protect your travels from unexpected mayhem and chaos by purchasing a truly comprehensive travel insurance plan from Cover-More Australia and rest easy knowing your belongings and your health are in good hands.

Image courtesy of Flickr user oyseoyse