Centre de Reproducció de Tortugues de l'Albera


This long-running little wildlife sanctuary is a haven for Hermann's tortoises, and a force for educating people about these threatened little armoured tanks of the Pyrenees. There's an introductory film (Catalan, Spanish, English, French or German) explaining menaces to the region's tortoises, but the biggest thrill is a stroll around the boardwalk outside, to peep at the 140 tortoises ambling among rocks and flower beds. The well-signposted sanctuary is just north of Garriguella, a teeny town 13km northeast of Figueres.

The Hermann's tortoise is a tragic victim of its own cuteness. Not only is it felled by forest fires and habitat reduction, its population has also dwindled due to people nabbing them as pets. Tortoises have been native to this part of the Pyrenees for thousands of years, and the Serra de l'Albera, jutting along the Spain–France border in northern Catalonia, is the last-standing stronghold for these threatened animals. The centre breeds them to reinforce the wild population's numbers, and also provides a home for other tortoise species rescued from human homes and illegal trading.

To see tortoises at peak activity (a pacy stumble), time your visit for a sunny morning.

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