The lake represents the origin and main symbolic identity of the town of Banyoles.
The lake and its associated lacustrine basin are regarded as the largest karstic stretch on the Iberian Peninsula, and make up an environmental system of enormous value.
Located to the West of the town itself, it was declared part of the Plan for Spaces of National Interest (Pla d’Espais d’Interès Nacional, PEIN) by the Catalonia Generalitat. In 2003, it was included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, and has been put forward for inclusion in the Natura 2000 Network for the Mediterranean region.
In addition, the Banyoles Town Council, as well as the local population, are petitioning for it to be declared a Nature Reserve.
how the lake was formed
The Estany de Banyoles is of tectonic and karstic origin, and was formed during the Quaternary Period (250,000 years ago).
Tectonic movements which took place during the formation of the Pyrenees created a fault in the Empordà region, which coincides with the main axis of the Banyoles area. The lake was formed through a series of subsequent karstic phenomena in this region, specifically pluvial and fluvial erosion processes, which led to subsequent flooding.
The first lake formed in Banyoles covered a much greater area than the current expanse, flooding the entire western zone by between six and eight metres above today’s level.
the front of the lake
The front of the lake is the town’s most important tourist arrival and gathering point. Located on the east bank of the lake, it features a pleasant plane-tree lined promenade, which allows visitors to peacefully admire the surrounding landscapes while enjoying a leisurely walk.
The Fishing Houses (pesqueres) can be found alongside the promenade, and are peculiar buildings which are characteristic of this area.
the fishing houses
On the shore of the lake, between the weeping willows and the woodhouse (Caseta de Fusta), a series of emblematic buildings can be found standing in the water. These are the fishing houses (pesqueres).
The pesqueres of the Estany de Banyoles are small buildings erected on the East bank of the lake, on the side which leads to the town. Each of them, 20 in total, has its own individual name. The construction of the pesqueres began in the mid-19th century and continued until 1931, when the Town Council prohibited any new construction of this type. In any case, these buildings have been altered and refurbished over the years, following different styles, until the 1960’s.
In theory, these small buildings played a purely functional role; they were used for fishing purposes. Later, however, they were modified by increasing in size, in order to be able to store a boat (a symbol of wealth and social class). Finally, with the arrival of water sports and the rise of the Banyoles bourgeoisie, some of these basic buildings were expanded even further in order to store one or two boats, to be used for swimming and even for accommodation purposes.
Cultural Property of National Interest The pesqueres are for private use only (according to an administrative concession) and only the outside parts can be seen. Together with the lake’s promenades, the pesqueres were declared Cultural Property of National Interest in the Historic Gardens category by the Catalonia Generalitat in 1996.
the weeping willows
The weeping willows, and their associated site close to l'Estanyol del Vilar, represent one of the lake’s most romantic and unique places.
The bucolic trees, with their long twisted branches reaching down to the water (as if “sapless”), lend the area a poetic, dionysiac mood, as described by the illustrious Constans.
In this garden-like environment we can find two fountains, Font de la Filosa and Font del Ferro, which provide visitors who pass by with refreshing water.