If you’re planning a cycling trip in Europe, exploring the bicycle paths of Spain is a great choice. By choosing Europe and cycling in Spain, the chances are you’re basing your destination on good weather, cultural interest and, of course, how much time you can take off without interrupting life back home.
Europe’s extensive cycling route network, known as Eurovelo, is one of the best resources to use when on the hunt for an established, scenic touring route. You can use Eurovelo routes to traverse the entire continent, plan a loop across multiple countries or really zoom in on one region.
For a touring getaway that promises sun, historic sites and manageable length, consider taking a ride across Spain. Three Eurovelo routes run through the country, meaning you can mix and match to plan your itinerary based on regions you’re interested in. Some routes can also take you beyond Spain, wether it’s west to the Portuguese coast or towards France and the interior of the continent. From beach towns to architectural marvels, the Iberian Peninsula’s treasures are best discovered on two wheels.
At a little over 1,000 kilometers (674 miles) wide, Spain presents a moderate yet approachable challenge for beginning bike tourists. If most of your cycling experience entails commutes, day rides or overnighters, planning a tour throughout Spain is a legitimate goal that won’t break the bank (or your self esteem)!
Once you choose the proper cycle touring equipment, a few training rides can help you get in shape to embark on a longer trip. Use the weekends leading up to your trip to work on gaining mileage and stamina; cycling 50 miles a day is an average touring pace. However, there’s nothing wrong with making your daily tour goal less than that; you’ll just have to plan your itinerary accordingly to make sure you have enough time to complete the route you have in mind. When planning, make you space out where you’ll be staying based on your capabilities. You don’t want to find yourself frantically pedaling to make it to your hotel or campsite before night falls.
Three designated Eurovelo routes run through mainland Spain; you can find navigation tools for each route on the Eurovelo website, including route maps and sites of interest along the way. Each route section’s page also includes public transport information in case you do not have a pickup or drop off arranged. Cycling blogs and newsletters are another great way to gain some insight into your chosen route and get an idea of what to expect once you’re on the road.
The Eurovelo Route Finder tool also marks which sections of each route are completed, signed, or still under development. If you find that parts of the route you chose are not complete, contact the Spanish National EuroVelo Coordination Center for more information, updates and alternatives.
Eurovelo Route 1, or the Atlantic Coast Route, begins on the Portuguese coast and travels south, making a roundabout turn north in Southern Spain. After crossing the northern half of the country, it continues on to the cost of France, Britain, Ireland, Scotland and Norway, ending in the far reaches of Scandinavia’s North Cape.
While the route officially starts in Portugal, you can join it anywhere along the way; the route enters Spain at Ayamonte. At Huelva, the route takes a sharp turn and heads north, passing through the cities of Merida, Caceres, Salamanca and Burgos. The portion of the route between Burgos and the French border at Biriatou remains under development; this is information you can keep up with on the Eurovelo Route 1 webpage.
Much of the Spanish portion of the Atlantic Coast Route is historic in its own right; its path is based on the Roman-built Via de la Plata, or Silver Way. Extending from Merida to Astorga, the road played a crucial role from the Roman era to the Middle Ages and beyond.
Starting in Cadiz, Spain, Eurovelo’s Route 8 (Mediterranean Route) is worth keeping in mind for future adventures. Currently, only a few sections of this route’s Spanish portion are complete; they are the portions linking Cadiz to Taraguilla, Almeria to Carboneras, Elche to Castalla, and Sils to the French border at La Jonquera.
Much of the route remains in the development stages. WIth that in mind, any of the completed seaside sections would be ideal for a micro- tour lasting from a weekend to four or five days. The Mediterranean Route extends into France and crosses the southern half of the continent, ending in Greece; another option to consider is combining the Spanish section from Sils to La Jonquera with a few days or riding through the south of France.
Eurovelo’s Route 3, also known as The Pilgrims Route, begins just east of the Atlantic Coast in Santiago de Compostela. Traveling horizontally across the country, you’ll see larger cities like Leon and Pamplona, with plenty of tranquil countryside in between.
The Pilgrims Route is based on the French Way or Camino Frances, which is part of Spain’s well-traversed Camino de Santiago routes. The city of Santiago de Compostela, where the route begins, has been the holy destination of Camino walkers since ancient times until today; while you won’t have exactly the same experience, expect to run into plenty of adventure seekers at hostels and campsites along the way. After crossing the Spanish border, the Pilgrims Route continues Northwest, through Paris and on to Denmark and Norway.
Spain’s “Vias Verdes” cycling route network is another important resource to check out when planning a tour of any distance. The vias verdes, or “green ways” are railroad lines across the country that have been repurposed to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians.
The longest of these greenways totals about 190 kilometers, a distance best split up over two to three days. While the rest tend to be much shorter, Vias Verdes are a great option if you’re traveling by car; you can park near a greenway entrance, spend a few hours biking its length and turn back. The Vias Verdes website features maps, itineraries and more information about the network.
If you’re looking for a weekend or three day overnighter, consider Vias Verdes’ Del Aceite Greenway, which totals 128 km and begins in the southern city of Jaen. You’ll set out with views of the Jabalcuz Mountains on the horizon, and continue through acres of the olive groves this part of Spain is known for.
As you cross into Cordoba Province, you’ll pass bridges, nature reserves and cultural sites both on and slightly off the path. You’ll end your ride in Puente Genil, which has train service to get you back to your starting point or elsewhere in the country.
The Vasco Navarro Greenway is another 100- kilometer trail that is best completed over the course of two days. Beginning in Estella Lizarra in northwestern Spain, the greenway ends near the town of Alava. You’ll pass plenty of small villages, natural areas, and tunnels. There is no train service at the endpoint, so it would be best to arrange a pick up or re-plan your itinerary to reach public transportation.
For all the mountain bikers out there looking for an off road challenge, Spain’s Transpirenaica route is a no-brainer. Linking the western town of Llanca to the Atlantic coast’s Hondarribia, the route totals 800 km and is open to drivers, mountain bikers and ambitious hikers.
The route weaves in and out of both France and Spain, following the two countries’ mountainous border. Elevation on this route reaches up to 12,000 meters, and views of the Pyrenees surround you along the way. The route is marked, and there are services and campgrounds along the way. However, these are not clearly designated, so plan your itinerary carefully beforehand and do plenty of research about what resources will be available to you in remote parts of the route.
The Transpirenaica is best for experienced mountain bikers who are comfortable outdoors. Even a small portion of the route can put a challenging and worthwhile spin on a cycling trip to northern Spain. The months between Spring and Autumn are the best time of year to embark on a ride through alpine areas; winter tends to be both wet and cold.
No matter what kind of cyclists you are, touring the Spanish landscape by bike is sure to be rewarding. As you slow down your pace, you’ll become immersed in the country’s countryside, coasts or mountain ranges while diving into local culture along the way.
Spanish cuisine, historic architecture and quiet panoramas will accompany you no matter which direction you decide to pedal in. If the country will be your first touring destination, make sure you have the proper gear and are aware of your capabilities while planning daily mileage. Arrange transport in advance or make sure you know where the nearest train stations will be throughout your route, and whether they accept bicycles.
Day rides and long distance endeavors are both available thanks to the country’s route systems; it all comes down to what you want out of your experience and how much you want to challenge yourself.