Natural Reserve of Illes Medes near L'Estartit, Spain.

© Dziorek Rafal/Shutterstock

Illes Medes

Top choice in Costa Brava

The allure of the Illes Medes, seven islets off L'Estartit beach, lies in their range of depths (down to 50m), kaleidoscopic marine life, and underwater cavities and tunnels. Since being gazetted as a reserva natural submarina in 1983, this archipelago has seen marine species thrive, making it Spain's most popular destination for snorkellers and divers. As of 2010, the islets form part of the protected 80-sq-km Parc Natural del Montgrí, les Illes Medes i el Baix Ter.

On and around rocks near the surface are colourful algae and sponges, as well as octopuses, crabs and various fish. Below 10m to 15m, cavities and caves harbour lobsters, scorpion fish and groupers. With luck, you’ll spot some huge wrasse. If you get down to the sea floor, you may see thornback rays or marbled electric rays. Bottlenose dolphins make appearances too.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Costa Brava attractions

1. Castell de Montgrí

4.66 MILES

The Castell de Montgrí was built between 1294 and 1301 for King Jaume II, during his efforts to bring to heel the disobedient counts of Empúries, to the…

2. Cala Illa Roja

4.81 MILES

Wander 1km north from Sa Riera to reach this ruby-tinged cove, used by some as a nudist beach and with spectacular rock formations gracing the sand.

3. Platja de Sa Riera

5.13 MILES

The fine beach fronting Sa Riera, 3km northeast of Begur, has russet sands and a couple of cafes. A 40-minute, 2.5km walking path leads here from Begur.

4. Cala d'Aiguafreda

5.67 MILES

Around 4.5km northeast of Begur you'll find this tiny, divine rocky cove, where trails fringed by pine trees stretch around a headland. It’s more a…

5. Cala de Sa Tuna

5.95 MILES

The finely pebbled beach of Sa Tuna sits in a small cove 3km east of Begur, fringed by now-remodelled fishers' houses. There are restaurants and parking,…

6. Castell de Begur

6.25 MILES

There is little to explore aside from the ragged ruins of this medieval castle, still in much the same state as when it was wrecked by Spanish troops to…

7. Casa Vicenç Ferrer Bataller

6.39 MILES

An especially fine example of Begur's Modernista mansions is the orange-coloured 19th-century Casa Vicenç Ferrer Bataller, built on tobacco-industry…

8. Església de Sant Pere


Begur's stocky sandstone church presides over lively Plaça de la Vila. Much of the building dates to the 17th century, though a church has stood on this…