When you finally reach Cadaques via the high road from Figueres it feels like you are out of breath. For one thing because the road is windy and narrow and furthermore because the view takes your breath away. Nestled between hills and kept in check by the never- ending tides of the Mediterranean Sea this little piece of paradise indeed transports you back to a time lost in space. Salvador Dali, the famous Spanish artist kept his home here. His father was born in Cadaques and Salvador himself moved back later and owned a house just outside this little jewel of a town.
It is mostly his doing that caused the preservation of the sleepy fishing village and barred it from developing into just another vacation town, which usually sport rows of high-rise hotels along the beachfront and have been irrevocably altered by tourist friendly infrastructure. Cadaques is highly frequented by Spanish and international visitors alike. They are the kind of tourists that predominantly seek out solace over disco visits and tranquility and culture over entertainment.
Cadaques invites you to go out and explore. It is perfect for fulfilling the desire for experiencing nature and culture and to relax a bit in the process. With its 40 restaurants, the Dali museum in the center of town and festivals going on year-round, it is a perfect destination.
The town is held together by the imposing small church towering in its midst, giving it a cohesive and spiritual air, whitewashed walls adding innocence and spirit. The houses are arranged around the building as if to seek shelter, protection and warmth. They contrast the barren hills around the settlement, which grow dwarfed plants and some coniferous trees. The landscape is barren and a sense of fertility comes almost solely from the fertile sea.
It is most advisable to explore Cadaques by foot. Resident strollers are ever present, going for a Sunday stroll along the beach, bundled up and with umbrellas at hand to cover every eventuality. Some of them might be shooing their offspring around, explaining things in Catalan, the local language, others have mere infants in carriages, pushing them against the wild forces of the wind.
Tourist season in Cadaques usually starts around “Semana Santa” or “Holy Week”, referring to the entire week revolving around Easter, a holiday season that demands much attention in predominantly Catholic Spain, including Catalunya. Until then some of the accommodations are closed. There is a path along the sea from the center to the “suburbs”, where vacation and all year round homes were built to overlook the water and to enjoy the little white sailboats and circling seagulls from closer up than in the main part of town. Some of these dwellings are very spacious and beautifully designed, giving the area a more affluent feeling. The center of town is small and intimate, and the restaurants are located around the waterfront.
Close to the water there is a boutique by the name of “Waiting for Richard”. The owner is named Richard and that the name of the store is modeled after the play by Eugene Ionesco: “Waiting for Godot”. Delicious smells from the adjacent restaurant usually waft into the store and make it impossible to concentrate on the designer gowns. It is easy to follow the inviting, heavenly odors and take a seat in a restaurant.
In most of the restaurants in town, daily menu options were plentiful and everything comes with olives, bread and wine or water, wonderfully arranged and presented on beautiful China. The first plate usually consists of a choice of soup, like fish, onion or carrot-squash soup and is preceded by delicious smells that make it hard to fuse patience into your anticipation. By the time the second plate rolls around you will feel satisfied and content. The fish dishes are wonderful, catch of the day rings true in all of them; there is usually a choice of several available.
Dessert can be a hard choice when everything is so tempting that it is difficult to make up one’s mind. “Crema Catalana”, flavorful custard with eggs and cream, topped with whipping cream is a delectable, local choice, as well as the heavenly flan or chocolate truffles, where available. A bottle of wine and water is included in a daily special for two.
Even though after such a great meal you might be tempted to take a nap, it is advisable to resist this temptation and to visit Salvador Dali’s former residence and now museum and tourist attraction. A short drive from the main town towards Cap de Creus North of Cadaques is the location of Dali’s house. It is open for visits after holy week, or whenever Easter has passed. The notorious egg, typical of Dali’s work is well situated on top of the roof, giving the whole dwelling the air of a Middle Eastern structure, paired with the colorful doors and windows and the great view of the seaside. It is easy to marvel at the gutsy self-expression of the famous artist Dali who together with the equally famous Gaudi, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso has made this area his home to let the unending inspirations that the inspiring landscape offered him during his fertile career years flow.
A path leads around the property up to the top of the hill where a locked tower building keeps vigil over the estate. From there the view of the sea is even more stunning, one can spot the few fishing boats that are allowed in the nature reserve and the marked borders of the fishing waters. A light breeze might blow from the sea and bring cool air with it, circling around the tower and making low howling noises. Paths overrun the area and from the interior a cacophony of sounds drifts your way, telling of dogs and children and babies and reprimanding parents without revealing the whereabouts of the strollers.
Aspiring hikers will be pleased to hear that Cadaques offers a Nature Preserve with views of the sea and barren rocks right at its side. Cap de Creus is its name, the Cape of the Crosses, with a lighthouse and a couple of small restaurants at its Eastern most point. Aside from some brave bushes, nothing grows here, it is too rocky and the wind might be a further deterrent, since it might howl at neck breaking speeds in this area, keeping the fishermen land bound and having a crazy making effect on the rest of the population which seems to consist of part time residents like writers and artists and young people, most of which come for a short stay that often turns into half an eternity. When exposed to the elements on a hike or short walk around this area, one cannot help but see time and again what drew the many famous and aspiring artists here to conceive of their most profound work and what made them come back over and over again to conceive of more ideas and to grow as an artist. A huge personal expansion seems possible when one is exposed to the ruggedness and bravado of this “Costa Brava”, rightfully named by someone who knew of the magical powers of this wild “brave”coastal stretch.
Visit Cap the Creus during sunset. Then, most likely, wild waves are sending off the departing light, with mists emerging from the hills and baby clouds providing just enough background to add depth to the picturesque scenario. Golden light is luxuriously strewn on barren rocks, illuminating the nooks and crannies and revealing cracks and caves until then hidden from the human eye. The mood turns blue after the last rays have departed and it is time to move on to avoid passing the narrow highway back to Figueres in the dark.
How to get there:
International airports: Gerona, Barcelona, Perpignan (France)
There are railway stations in Figueres and Llanca
From Barcelona to the Costa Brava by public bus which runs once a day each way
Or by rental car from Barcelona, Gerona or Montpellier, which is most advisable if you would like to see the wild coastline and go to Cap de Creus.
Where to stay: There are three 3-Star hotels, Hotel Llané Petit, Hotel Octavia, Hotel Rocamar, as well as Pensiones and a campground. You can rent a Villa by contacting
When to go: Tourist season starts after Holy Week (Semana Santa, Easter) and then all the hotels and restaurants are open, including Dali’s house which opens around mid March. However, for a more tranquil and special visit it is advisable to go earlier when there are mostly locals and visitors from the rest of Spain around.