Lake Banyoles, Girona
Just 12 km from Girona town, Banyoles is Catalonia’s largest freshwater lake, fed naturally by subterranean channels.
It’s a very inviting destination for a day out, especially in summer when walks shaded by the branches of waterside trees can be combined with boat trips, canoeing or swims.
Banyoles has its very own legendary monster, which presumably lurks in the depths at 190 feet.
The same water is channeled through the town of the same name, watering the market gardens of Sant Esteve monastery.
The woods around the lake are a crucial scene for the film “Soldiers of Salamina” by David Trueba (Soldados de Salamina), based on a true story from the Spanish Civil War.
The Tourist Office: a great source of information
Easily found on the south side of the lake, the local tourist office is a good place to start your day out.
They have a good supply of information about the area, including maps, and they can point you in the right direction based on how you prefer to spend your time (walking, activities, relaxing, etc).
On our visits, we have also found English speakers willing to help.
Opens every day from 10:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Normally closed between 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Banyoles Tourist Office GPS coordinates: 42°07'04.4"N 2°45'22.9"E
Swimming in the Lake
Swimming in the lake is allowed during summer months and only in certain areas.
Search for a designated zone for swimmers called La Casita de Madera (“La Caseta de Fusta” in Catalan). It is found towards the north of the lake and it benefits from a lifeguard. This option is open to the public and free of charge.
Another spot is at the restaurant/bar called Els Banys Vells. You must first order something to eat or drink, and thereafter you are allowed to use their designated area for swims.
Walking near the Lake
While you can simply walk around the lake and enjoy its viewpoints from different angles, we also recommend a short trek route in the so called “magical” woods of Les Estunes, where the trees grow among travertine, a form of limestone deposited by hot springs.
Walk with care as the rock has formed a series of crevices into which the unwary might fall!
The local tourist office has maps in English for this easy trail (it takes only about 1 hour roundtrip to complete); ask for "The Puda and Estunes" route…
On a Boat
Right next to the local tourist office, there is a place where you can rent a boat or join a group on a cruise-like boat trip around the lake.
Both activities are relaxing and a rewarding way of taking in some fresh air.
On a Bike
For those who prefer to move around freely and at their own pace, there are bikes for rent available near the lake.
Prices start at 7€ an hour to 15€ (as of 2018), depending on the type of bike you hire. It is a great way to combine a bit of exercise with some gorgeous sightseeing.
Bikes are available next to the campsite on the southeast part of the lake (Centre BTT).
A Drink or Meal on the Lakeside
There are a few bars and restaurants next to the lake, great for a meal or drink while enjoying some relaxing views.
An attractive option is Els Banys Vells which has a swimming area designated for customers; place your order and relax while your kids jump in the water for a swim!
This place benefits from a privileged spot, and although we didn´t have the chance to try it ourselves, comments are varied on TripAdvisor.
Beyond the Lake
Walk to the Old Town
From the lake, and only a short stroll away, you will find the old quarters of Banyoles Town, built around St. Stephen´s monastery (monasterio Sant Esteve).
A walk through its cobbled streets and squares while appreciating the flow of water through the canals that originate at the lake, is a good way to complement your day out.
This historic centre is not very large, so it won´t take you more than an hour to see it all.
Again, maps available at the tourist office.
A climb up to the mountain
Another great alternative is to take the road that climbs up to Rocacorba; at 992 metres above sea level, it is the highest point in the Girona province on the Puigsou Mountain.
If you’ve ever wondered what a rocky outcrop looks like, here’s a splendid example.
The view is the reward of many a cyclist or runner for whom this is a well-known fitness challenge.
Rocacorba GPS coordinates: 42°4′20.93″N,2°41′10″E
Remember Banyoles is a gate to the fascinating region of La Garrotxa region.