My home town (Edinburgh) has one city-centre volcano, but Olot has four! All happily dormant at the time of writing....
In fact it’s the volcanoes of the Olot Garrotxa that really give the region its character; lots of woodland, wildflowers and fertile farmland, a richer version, in microcosm, of the scenery that starts north of Barcelona and seems to run all the way to the Pyrenees.
Olot itself is located about 50 kilometres north-west of Girona within the “Parc Natural de la Zona Volcanica de la Garrotxa”. While the road is currently the way to get there the line of the old railway from Girona still exists as a cycleway and may provide a pleasanter travelling alternative for the cycling community.
Walks and wildlife:
Within the town itself the Volca Del Montsacopa proved best for Butterflies, with numbers of Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius) holding territory around the Ermita de Sant Francesc. Nonetheless, the Municipal Park at the south of the town is also worth a look, with its nice old Oak Trees, Iberian Wall Lizard (Podarcis hispanica) and a good spot for a refreshing drink on a rest day.
Olot to Les Preses and the Volca del Raco. This proved a good area for Speckled Wood butterflies (Pararge aegeria) and we were also lucky enough to see an Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis longissimus). Of all the areas we walked in while at Olot, I’d have to say that the path here was the most difficult to find and sometimes to follow, which is probably how we ended up seeing the snake!
Olot to Can Xel via the Fageda d’en Jorda. This walk is particularly notable for its Hoopoes and the fabulous woodland of the Fageda. Like so much walking in the area a great deal of it, after the initial open farmland, is shaded by trees. That plus the gentle gradients and good signage make this one of the best.
Olot to Sant Julia del Mont. This walk follows a ridge running east from Olot and provides spectacular views of the northern hill country all the way to the Pyrenees. The view is so good that someone has built a restaurant there to take advantage of it! The more open sections of the later stages of the walk provided good habitats for Swallowtail butterflies (Papilio machaon) and some unidentified “blues”. While we returned the same way it would be possible to walk down to Santa Pau and return to Olot via Can Xel.
Olot – La Pinya Circuit. For this walk we followed the cycleway south out of town before joining the back road that runs north to La Pinya. From there we followed the minor track up to the top of Sant Valenti, then back along the east ridge of the Serra de Sant Valenti to Olot via Volca Montolivet. The top of Sant Valenti was a memorable spot for Swallowtail butterflies, one of which co-operated with my camera!
The Olot Tourist information office provided the very useful town map “Olot – Planol de la Ciutat” and the “Parc Natural de la Zona Volcanica de la Garrotxa”. These, plus a copy of the “Garrotxa Zona Volcanica Park Natural 1:25000” map from the bookshop by the Cathedral, formed an ideal combination for navigating the walks described above.
For accommodation we stayed at the Pension La Vila. They provided us with a cheerful and inexpensive room overlooking the town square, but you need some Spanish in order to be able to deal with the owner. The town square also hosts an after dinner Brandy stop called the Crocodile, which stayed open quite late but was always good natured.