On exploring some of the best Catalonia region rustic retreats in Spain…
One of my favourite quotes over the last few years is from my friend, prolific author and explorer, Andrew Evans.
“Silence, nature, time and solitude are the only few luxuries left in life”
And the older I become, the more I crave retreating from the daily struggles and musings of everyday life so I can reconnect with myself and recharge enough to hop back into the race with renewed vigor.
In essence, disconnect to reconnect.
I am currently working on a book which explores Wellbeing experiences in Costa Brava that help you rejuvenate in holistic ways. This rugged region of Catalonia, Spain, is known for its easy access to both the Pyrenees mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, lush forests, and lots of aquifers with mineral properties. It is also dotted with villages and rural retreats which offer another more sustainable style of exploring a destination. Beyond being tucked away in remote locations that offer respite, they also have interesting back stories and owners who are passionate about reducing their environmental impacts.
Here are four beautiful off-grid rustic retreats in Spain to experience wellbeing in Costa Brava.
(1) Mas Garganta
“We invite people to come here and connect”… Rut Vilella
Of all the rustic retreats in Spain I visited, this was the most pastoral on this list. The journey towards Mas Garganta alone takes you through off beaten roads, through the community of Olot, and deep within the foothills of the Pyrenees with stunning mountain views around you. Upon approach, the buildings look frozen in time and harks back to historic villas of old.
I arrived to a simple organic lunch of pasta and salad with sweeping views from its veranda. Run by Ines Puigdevall, who purchased the property in 1992, and her business partner Rut Vilella, Ines stopped working in Girona and decided to explore rural tourism as a way to slow down and truly savor life. The modest 12-room property uses locally sourced ingredients and they also raise rabbits, chickens and cats on the property. They often do banter exchanges with other locals – for example, instead of lawnmowers, a local shepherd brings his sheep to come eat and naturally mow the grass.
They have another property which is used mostly for group retreats – yoga groups and retreats , sculpting and art classes, co-working team building , to name a few activities. Their retreat property has 10 cows which they use for clearing grass. These Albera cows are a protected species of cattle indigenous to the region.
Meals are whatever Rosa and her team cook up that day, served communal style. And when I was visiting, it was a hearty beef and carrot stew for dinner.
Once night blankets this remote property, stargazers and astro-photographers are in for a treat as the inkjet blackness overhead becomes dotted with the most brilliant of stars.
(2) La Bruguera de Púbol
It’s been a long time since I woke up to only the sounds of birds… And I did that at La Bruguera de Púbol.
There are some places when, once you step in, you’re immediately overwhelmed by the love, care and passion that goes into running the place. This is a place that clearly fosters creativity by helping you relax and reconnect back to the source of your talent.
Run by sustainability architect Mike Duff and artist Michelle Wilson, the creative duo converted the luxury estate into a holistic wellbeing retreat. La Bruguera de Púbol is a six-bedroom country estate set amid a nine acre property of forests and gardens, and was formerly the home of celebrated Catalan artist Francesc D’Assis Casademont “Le Vieux” and his family
In addition to its large yoga studio, heated pool, and forest treatment room, La Bruguera de Púbol was redesigned with sustainability in mind. Electricity, heat and hot water is supplied through various solar panel systems. For example, heat comes from a biomass boiler and air-source heat pumps and they store solar energy overnight in lithium batteries. Water is sourced from on-site wells.
They cook home-grown vegetarian dishes using 100% renewable energy and actively do their part in fighting climate change. The night I was there, Mike whipped up risotto made from wild mushrooms and chanterelles handpicked from forests on the property itself.
La Bruguera de Púbol is everything you would want in an exclusive country home. From forest pavilions perfect for whiling away time reading a good book, to chickens, rabbits, and cats that own the property as much as Mike and Michelle.
NOTE – Watch this space for an upcoming interview with owners Mike and Michelle, which will take you deeper into their creative philosophies and how they’ve turned La Bruguera de Púbol into one of the best rustic retreats in Spain.
(3) Can Felicià Beuda
This is one of the cutest rural properties I have ever visited. Royal blue windows. Simple white furnishings against a backdrop of light oak wood. Small balconies that open up to lush greenery and birds chirping… Refurbished into an eight-room rural retreat in 1995, Can Felicià was originally built in 1864 by Monsignor Felicià as a school in Segueró for children from nearby villages and it was used for educational purposes up until the fifties.
Today, in addition to being a great getaway for authors who want to disconnect and finally finish that manuscript and travelers seeking solace, it is used for company and team retreats as a way of bonding over wellbeing experiences and nutritious food.
“Throughout these years, the project has been evolving hand in hand with our values. Our motivation goes beyond welcoming tourists, as we work to strengthen our bond with this place to give value to each stay and make it a complete experience, whilst keeping the essence of the old school.”
… Jordi and Clara Pallarès
While visiting the property, I tried some of its wellbeing experiences such as aerial yoga and massage which I am sharing in a separate article focusing on yoga experiences as part of wellbeing in Costa Brava.
One of the offerings that really stood out for me at Can Felicià Beuda was its creative, fresh and seasonal plant-based meals – from hand-made sweet potato noodles to handpicked tiny olives . Beyond being beautifully plated with rich vibrant colors, the combination of flavors hinted at creative expertise. Sure enough, Clara Pallarès was trained at the Hospitality School of Hofmann in Barcelona and she specializes in what she calls “conscious gastronomy”. According to Pallarès, “cooking, health and the environment are totally related concepts that we cannot ignore. Combined properly they can form an extraordinary tandem. ”
In short, Can Felicià Beuda caters to your mind, body, and soul holistically.
(4) Hotel Resguard dels Vents
Wrapping up my list of rustic retreats in Spain, this sprawling lodge tucked in the Pyrenees immediately sold me when I walked in to find a bathrub right in my room with stunning views out of my window. Its setting in the foothills of the Pyrenees, bearing down on the town of Ribes de Freser, offers stunning views of the Ribes valley, rolling meadows and grazing cows.
While all the other properties above left wonderful impressions in their own way on me, there was a different energy I felt at family-run Hotel Resguard. It felt like a place where I could go hide out for awhile and work on a novel undisturbed. It was the perfect marriage of contemporary and rustic, down to every single detail which incorporates elements of nature – wind, earth, water – using stone, pine wood, iron and other natural resources.
This elegant retreat has 17 very spacious rooms, all uniquely designed, with their own terrace or access to the garden.
Coming from a multi-generational lineage of farmers, the owners of Hotel Resguard are committed to sustainability and the environment. They use a biomass boiler for heating, collect rainwater for watering the garden, and source most of their food such as yogurt, cottage cheese, sausages, bread, and honey from local suppliers. As farmers themselves, they cultivate their own meat, vegetables, mushrooms and eggs.
Living in Sweden, I’ve come to love clean contemporary lines and sparsely decorated spaces with high quality materials sourced from nature. Essentially bringing the outdoors indoors. With Hotel Resguard, I found a physical manifestation of seamlessly weaving modern living into a rustic environment, giving it a comfortable home-away-from-home feeling, while helping you disconnect and relax.