My favourite place in the Girona regions? Ask me an easier question, please.
Lake Banyoles is a vibrant space that lies a few kilometres away from the beaches of the Costa Brava and the Pyrenees mountains. It is a place of harmonious coexistence between local residents and visitors who come to appreciate this great natural treasure and we hope to see you enjoying it alongside them very soon.
Lake Banyoles is one of the Girona province’s most unique attractions. Unique because of its landscape, its ecology, its geology, its sporting and cultural value… In short, it’s a great place to add to your list of must-see destinations.
The lake in itself is an interesting natural phenomenon. It is an extensive karst lacustrine complex, the largest natural lake in Catalonia, which is fed by underground water sources from the neighbouring mountains of Alta Garrotxa, which make a slow journey lasting around eleven months before emerging from the ground at different points around the lake. It is a living geological wonder that has evolved through the interaction between water and the limestone-rich terrain.
There are a number of ways to enjoy this beautiful natural creation, here we list six potential options for exploring and getting to know the lake. You’ll find it hard to choose between them so why not try them all?
A walk around the lake is always a pleasure for Banyoles residents, no matter how many times they may have done it. Whether on foot, running, walking the dog or cycling, the circuit provides an idyllic setting and scenery that changes according to the shifting light of the day and with each season of the year. The lakeside trail is around seven kilometres long and runs in the shape of a figure of eight over completely flat terrain. You could easily walk it in about 2.5 hours if it weren’t for the many spots to be explored and photo opportunities to be had along the way.
On the hottest days of the year taking a dip in the waters of Lake Banyoles is a very tempting option. If you are looking to cool off, there are three spots you can swim from: the Caseta de Fusta (free public access), the Banys Vells (with a bar where you can enjoy some well-earned tapas after your dip) and the facilities of the Banyoles Swimming Club (paid entry for non-members).
You say you like swimming? Well, look no further; dive right in and sign up for the popular Travessia de l’Estany (lake crossing) in September to swim the full 2,115-metre length of the lake and enjoy the wonderful festive atmosphere.
The combination of tourism + nature + sport makes Banyoles and the entire Pla de l’Estany region a dream come true for many. The Government of Catalonia’s Sports Tourism Destination stamp of approval certifies the fact that this is a place where you can enjoy all kids of sports, such as swimming, cycling, triathlon training, rowing and canoeing.
Lake Banyoles and its surroundings is, in fact, a hub that attracts numerous athletes of all levels, as well as clubs and federations, who choose it as a place to train. Come and check out the sporting spirit of a city that was selected as one of the venues for the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.
One fine day more than 7,000 years ago, a group of people decided to set up home on the shores of Lake Banyoles. A visit to the Draga Neolithic Park is a chance to learn about who our ancestors were and how they lived. Activities on offer include touring the area where several huts have been reconstructed and discovering the archaeological site which holds the key to understanding what everyday life was like for the people who lived in the settlement, what tools they used, how they farmed their cereal and legume crops, how they decorated their homes, etc.
Lake Banyoles is also, of course, home to a great many animal and plant species. Keep your eyes peeled as you walk around the lake to try to spot some of the birds that live there, as well as the otters, turtles, water snakes and more than three hundred species of butterfly to name but a few.
The list of trees and plants that grow there is also quite extensive: alders, rushes, willows, poplars, weeping willows, water lilies, horsetails… The lake and its magnificent landscape are a delight to discover at any time of year.
And let’s not forget that Banyoles is much more than a lake! The beauty of the landscape shouldn’t distract you from the city’s two important Catalan cultural heritage treasures.
The first, the Church of Santa Maria de Porqueres, a very well-preserved twelfth century Romanesque temple that sits at the top of a small hill next to the lake, which has been declared a national heritage site.
The second, the medieval town of Banyoles itself. A visit to the historic centre offers the chance to discover the old wall and a variety of religious and civic buildings that were prominent during the Middle Ages. One of the town’s most emblematic spaces is the porticoed Plaça Major square that still remains at the heart of the Banyoles social scene today, so many centuries later.
Lake Banyoles is Catalonia’s largest natural lake. With a length of over 2 km and 7 km of shoreline to explore, it provides more than a hundred hectares of pure tranquillity and glorious nature.