Costa Brava, the so-called "Wild Coast," is a 153km (95-mile) stretch of coastline -- the northernmost Mediterranean seafront in Spain -- beginning north of Barcelona at Blanes and stretching toward the French border. Visit this area in May, June, September, or October, and avoid July and August, when tour groups from northern Europe book virtually all the hotel rooms.

Undiscovered little fishing villages along the coast long ago bloomed into resort towns. Tossa de Mar is the most delightful of them. Lloret de Mar is immensely popular but too commercial and overdeveloped for many tastes. The most unspoiled spot is remote CadaquƩs. Some of the smaller villages make excellent stops.

If you want to visit the Costa Brava but simply can't secure a room in high season, consider taking a day trip by car from Barcelona or booking one of the daily organized tours that leave from that city. Allow plenty of time for the drive. In summer, traffic jams can be fierce and the roads between towns difficult and winding.

If you visit the coast in summer without a hotel reservation, you'll stand a fair chance of getting a room in Girona, the capital of the province and one of the most interesting medieval cities in Spain.