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An incredible experience for all nature enthusiasts, Cap de Creus National Park is Spain's very first maritime/terrestrial park. This incredible natural park is located along the Costa Brava near Cadaques, which is a lovely village that has long been recognized as home to the world's most creative artists and writers as well as the spot where Salvador Dali built his home in paradise. The park provides a perfect day trip for those vacationing in Barcelona and the surrounding area, and visitors may expect to spend many wonderful hours exploring the natural and often rare offerings that are found along the more than 42 square miles of land and over 11 square miles of water.

A Bit of History

Thanks to a law that was passed in 1998, the entire Cap de Creus peninsula was placed under a protective status due to the many strange species of both plant and animal life that are found in the area and require both protection and specialized care to flourish. Local legend claims that these strange species exist because Cap de Creus was created by Hercules himself, but it's much more likely that they are a result of the area's unique geological configuration that is found nowhere else in the world. Because Mediterranean and continental elements converge together in this area, the conditions are prime for the creation of new forms of life. For example, the Seseli farrenyi is a species of plant that can only be found here, and it's considered the most endangered plant in the world. The Mastigophalus rangianus, a small flat-shelled snail, is an animal species that also can only be found in this area of the world.

About the Park

In addition to the unique plant and animal species that may be seen in this park, visitors will also enjoy scenes of stunning scenic beauty at every turn. Views are nothing short of spectacular, and visitors may expect to see many unusual islands, steep cliffs, dark rocks and secluded coves. Many of the natural sites have been altered by the tramontana winds, which are extreme north winds that are strong enough to have caused many naval disasters across the ages.

The protected marine area encompasses several marine nature reserves, which boast clear waters filled with an abundance of underwater inhabitants and many species of corals and seaweed meadows. It's also not unusual to spot dolphins, whales and many interesting species of fish. These areas include the Farallons, the Nofeu Cape and the Creus Cape, which is nestled between Cullero Island and Jugadora Cove. Just north of s'Encalladora Island is another protected area, and each of these areas may be explored by those who wish to scuba dive or enjoy a day of boating. Even traditional fishing is allowed in some areas, but visitors should be aware that all activities are subject to specific regulations, which must be observed at all times.

The park's protected land areas include a nature reserve that is nestled between Cap Gros and Cap de Creus, Falconera Point and the Rodes mountain range. The highest point in the park is found at over 2,000 feet up on Sant Salvador Peak, and hikers and bikers will want to take advantage of the many excellent trails. One of the most popular trails takes visitors to the lighthouse with its extraordinary views and wonderful restaurant, and another trail delivers visitors to the Sant Pere de Rodes Monastery and the ruins of a castle just above it.

Animal life is found throughout all areas of the park and include the Mediterranean tortoise, seagulls, terns, shags, Balearic shearwaters, lizards, toads, eagle owls, peregrine falcons and Bonelli's eagle. Birdwatchers will definitely want to be sure to bring their binoculars and a camera for some excellent finds. Plant life includes cork and holm oaks, aleppo pines, willows, hazel trees, alders, ash trees, elms, rock roses, heather, juniper bushes and mastic trees.

Ways to Explore

Visitors should be aware that not all areas of Cap de Creus National Park are handicap accessible, and many of the trails are considered to be of moderate difficulty. Visitors are free to explore the park on their own at any pace that they're comfortable with, and the park information office offers several virtual tours of the various areas of the park that include Cala Jugadora, Cala Tulip, Pas de Claveguera, La Vall de Santa, Creu-el Port de la Selva and Pau-La Creu Blanca. Several area tour companies offer special tours for those who would like to scuba dive in the park, and any arrangements should be made before arrival.