Coastal Freedom Trail – Walter Benjamin Escape Route I 6 days I MAR I APR I MAY I JUN I OCTfrom
Join us on a popular coastal freedom trail, following the escape route taken by Jewishphilosopher Walter Benjamin during WWII. You will hike from Collioure, France to Cap de Creus, Spain along the Vermillion coast of the Costa Brava. Unsurprisingly, the coast (in French the Côte Vermeille, in Spanish the Costa Brava) and its fishing villages have long attracted many artists, among them Dalí, Picasso and Matisse, who were drawn by the bright Mediterranean light. This trip includes four or five days of trekking and a six day trip in total. Options are to stop in Llanca, walking to the Saint Pere de Rodes monastery or continuing straight to Port de la Selva. You will be accommodated in stylish 2-3* hotels during your journey and a 1* hotel in Portbou. Bags are transferred each day so you only need to walk with a day sack. You can arrive into Barcelona airport or Perpignan airport or train station. Many flights in and out of Barcelona are available and it is possible to reach Perpignan or Collioure easily by train to join.
Click ‘reserve’ below to see available dates.
If your preferred dates are not available, please contact us to enquire about alternative dates.
“Fantastic coastal walk; Anne was a knowledgeable and extremely competent guide and leader.
Her interest in the history of the Freedom Trail shone through and she shared this with us as we walked”
– Susannah Hacon
Day 1 We pick you up from Perpignan airport or train station and make the transfer to Collioure, close to where Walter Benjamin started his journey to Spain. Alternatively you can arrive into Barcelona and catch the train to Collioure. Perpignan was in touching distance of freedom and was one of the final stepping stones leading to Spain and ultimately the free world beyond. Perpignan was one of the final stepping stones to Spain and ultimately Gibraltar and beyond and strategically important to the PAT and Francoise lines after visiting memorial camp de riversaltes which housed many prisoners and refugees from 1939. In the evening you will have the opportunity to look around Collioure and see the Chateau de Collioure. You can also fly into Barcelona and meet us in Perpignan which is a short train ride away. 2 or 3* Hotel
Day 2 Walk Collioure to Banyuls sur la Mer via Cap de Bear via Port Vendres (17.5km + 231m or +700m) 5+hrs
We begin walking to Port-Vendres where Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin began his escape journey after arriving by train from Marseille. Lisa and Hans Fittko helped hundreds of refugees over the Pyrenees to Spain) and onto Barcelona, Madrid, Badajoz and Lisbon. We start taking in the Fort Sant Elme and head out past the Batterie Mally ruins to the Cap de Bear. We continue around the coast to Banyuls sur la mer. Alternatively it is possible to climb up from Port -Vendres to visit the Tour de Madaloc (656m) en route. We will take lunch in a café en route. 3* Hotel (B,L)
Day 3 Walk Banyuls sur la mer – Puig Mas – Col de Rumplissa – Portbou (13km + 700m) 6hrs
Walter Benjamin escaped crossing the Col de Rumplissa assisted by Lisa Fittko on the F route or Lister route with three other German Jews. On leaving Puig Mas we climb up through wine groves to reach the col. A memorial route is marked and we have the opportunity to visit the castle of Querroig before descending, at times steeply to Portbou to make the escape into Spain. The refugees route runs below the road and is concealed by the mountain overhang, so that it couldn’t be seen by the French border sentries who patrolled above. At some places the road and the path get very near each other, and there the refugees had to be attentive. Many escapees boarded the night train to Barcelona and others walked on. Evening visit to Walter Benjamin Memorial. (13km +500m) 1* hotel or hostel (B,L)
Day 4 Walk Port Bou to to Port de la Selva
Walk Portbou – Port de la Selva making an early start via some remote beaches on the Cap de Ras. Opportunity to swim in the afternoon or take a tougher route by the monastery St Pere de Rodes. It was clear the refugees were meant to be keep moving through Spain; in the words of the foreign minister of the time “they were passing through Spain as light passes through glass, leaving no trace”. The Lister line first headed to Barcelona and then Madrid and Lisbon to Havanna. 2 or 3* hotel (B,L,D)
We drive up from Llanca to the fabulous monestir Sant Pere de Rodes, a former benadictine monastery before dropping down to Port de la Selva. Often the coastal routes were closed off due to Nazi check points such as at Cebre and it was necessary for escapees to take to the mountains… 2 or 3* hotel (B,L,D) Long day 18km +600m
Day 5 Walk Port de la Selva – Cap de Creus lighthouse, early start. (7hrs) (16.2km +437m)
Cap de Creus park is a stunning terrestrial and marine park, the first to be created in Spain. We walk through fascinating scrubland with a huge array of plant life, reptiles and marine birds. Common toad, Ocellated lizard, Mediterranean turtle, eagle, peregrine falcon, owls, gulls, terns, shearwaters and shag can be seen. Spectacular and unusual rocky scenery don’t disappoint as we make our way to the fascinating coastline and a lighthouse. We have the chance to make an optional visit to the Dali house museum where Dali lived for a long period. Drive to Barcelona for our celebratory dinner. (B,L)
Day 6 Departures from Barcelona airport
Time to relax in the morning before departing. We stay in the heart of Barcelona close to the Placa Catalunya
Catch a mid-morning airport bus from at Plaça Catalunya for the airport with Aerobus https://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/airport/transport/barcelona-airport-bus-aerobus.html
Reviews 4 Reviews5/5
Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Challenging - Trip grade 2
Group Size Medium Group
Coastal Freedom Trail Walter Benjamin – Pyrenees and Costa Brava
Duration: 5 or 6 days – including 4 or 5 days trekking depending on your choice
Accommodation: 5 or 6 nights accommodation in 1-3* hotels depending on location.
About: A journey along a popular Freedom Trail escape route taken by Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin and many others during WW2. This is a stunning voyage along the Vermillion coast of the Costa Brava where escapees fled to Barcelona and beyond.
Perpignan, where we land, was in touching distance of freedom and was one of the final stepping stones leading to Spain and ultimately the free world. One of the largest successful shipments of escapees and evaders of the ‘PAT’ line took place in the autumn of 1941 in ‘Operation Rosalind’.
In 1940, Jewish writer and philosopher Walter Benjamin tried to escape the Nazi officers by climbing over the Pyrenees to Spain, from Banyuls Sur la Mer to Portbou, after the outbreak of World War II with the help of passeur Lisa Fittko.
We will make this memorial journey along the coast through wine country before crossing the Col de Rumplissa to Portbou. We have the chance to visit the Camp de Riversauts memorial museum near Perpignan before starting the walk and Salvador Dali’s House museum in port Lligat at the end of the trip. Airport pick up and drop off included. If you would prefer to meet us in Collioure this is also an option. A stunning cocktail of history, art and freedom.
This trip includes four days of trekking. It is available as a five or six day trip, with the extra day spent in Port de la Selva, where you can visit St Pere de Rodes monastery and Sant de Verdera castle ruins.
All our departures begin in Perpignan and an airport pick up is possible with transfer to Collioure. However you can also arrive into Girona (1hr 13), Barcelona (2hrs 10) or Carcassonne airports (1hr 35), transfers can be arranged as an extra.
This is a guided trip, please enquire about self guided options.
Single person supplement is 230€
Dates & Availability: Trips available April, May, June, October & November 2022 & 2023
- Accommodation and food as specified in the programme
- Transport to and from Perpignan on a single timed transfer per group.
- Local transport as per the itinerary and moving of luggage
- Barcelona transfer from Cap de Creus
- Guiding by an International Mountain Leader
- Maximum ration of one guide to 10 clients
What’s not included:
- Mountain snacks
- Any additional transport or accommodation needed if you have to leave the group for a medical or fitness reason.
- Alcoholic drinks
- Transport to the airport from Barcelona on Aerobus or by taxi
- Extra airport transfers from Girona, Carcassonne or Barcelona
This trek is in hotels from start to finish with the majority being comfortable 2 or 3* hotels with character and a sea view. We relish this accommodation and have individually tested all of the hotels for quality. Example hotel: Collioure Le Fregate *** or Triton **
- Comfortable and stylish hotel accommodation
- Baggage transfer so you only travel with a day pack
- Meals according to the programme
- Qualified leader
- Personal Insurance
- Meals and transport not specified in the programme
Yes by staying in camping or bungalow accommodation
While this trek only has up to around 700m height gain on some days it has alot of undulating terrain and trekking up to 22 km in a day. Some short lived rocky steps will be encountered.
It crosses at the col de rumplissa 583m at it’s narrest end before heading down a steep valley to Portbou.
You just need to carry a day sack and we eat in restaurants. If you are a Jewish group there are some limited options for self catering, but wild barbecue’s are forbidden in most areas unless designated.