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Our surroundings

The El Vilà holiday centre 
stands in an area of unusual natural beauty, only a few metres from the shores of the lake of Bañolas, the largest natural lake in Catalonia, which is the symbol of our town. It is about 2150 m long and at its most northerly point it is 775 m wide and 725 m. wide at the southern end. The lake and its basin are considered as the largest area in Spain or Portugal for their characteristic limestone scenery, and their ecology is of exceptional value.


Standing at the western end of the Bañolas urban district, the area was declared by the Generalitat of Catalonia  as part of the Pla d´Espais d´Interès Natural (PEIN) (Areas of Special Interest). In 2003 it was listed in the Lista Ramsar for internationally important wetlands. The town council of Bañolas,with the support of all the citizens, is campaigning for it to be declared a Natural Park.

The lake of Bañolas  stands close to the  Ampurdán fault, which separates a block of  impermeable rock, which has now been raised above the present situation of the lake, from another block composed of permeable limestone, and which together make up the terrain where the lake was formed. This fracture, which occured some 250.000 years ago, caused a certain section of the land to be raised up, leaving the impermeable rocks bare, to form a barrier on the same level as the part which was not thrown upwards. The origin of the lake can be explained by water from the two small rivers, the  Llierca and the Borró (tributaries of the river Fluvià), filtering through a layer of limestone which is found just on top of the impermeable layer of the section which was not raised. Over the ages, water has dissolved the limestone, piercing through to the south, as far as the impermeable rocks where the fault is to be found. As it can no longer go on horizontally, it continues vertically, piercing through the permeable rocks (limestone and gypsum), until it rises to the surface to form a lake of roughly the shape of a figure 8 where two funnels joined.

The waters of the lake come from the area known as the Alta Garrotxa where they are believed to be filtered and flow through a network underground channels known as the aqüifer confinat (confined acquifer). The water comes to the surface from three different underground levels, forming what is known as the Lacustrine Basin.

On the Espolla-Usall plain.
By means of the lagunes at
Sant Miquel de Campmajor
By means of the lake and lagunes of Bañolas-Porqueres

The lake of Bañolas also receives water from some small streams which flow into it on the surface, although they only account for 10% of its content. There streams are the following:

Riera de les Estunes
Riera del Vilà o Riera de les Deus
Riera Marquès

Riera dels Tanyers
Riera Castellana
Riera de Can Morgat
Riera de Lió

The waters flow outof the lake mainly along irrigation channels which eventually join the river Terri. Early in the 1990´s the local authorities built two overflow channels to carry off water after heavy rainfall and thus to check water-levels.

When the monastery of Sant Esteve was founded in 812, one of the first things which the monks did was to build irrigation channels using the waters of the lake. These channels can still be seen, crisscrossing the whole town as far as the river Terri, on the outskirts. The main channels are:

Rec d'en Teixidor
Rec de Ca N'Hort
Rec de la Figuera d'en Xo
Rec Major
Rec de Guèmol

With the building of these channels it became possible to inhabit the Bañolas area, and so the town grew up between the lake shores and the Monastery. The channels carried off the water from the marshy ground, avoiding flooding as it was then naturally drained. Over the centuries, the channels have been used by the citizens for many different purposes, such as wash-houses, to water the fields and allotments and to power local industry (based on textiles, paper, hemp and tanning) with examples such as the  Llotja del Tint and the Farga d´Aram still standing.