Spain: A Country of Bucket List Cycling
There’s much more to cycling in Spain than sunshine and smooth roads. From the highest paved road in Europe (Pico de Veleta in the Sierra Nevadas) to the green countryside of the País Vasco, Spain’s vast and diverse landscape will have you begging for new adventures. Be sure to tick off these cycling destinations from your bucket list.
There is no doubt that Girona is the cycling capital of Europe. Home to hundreds of professional cyclists, the old town has a charm that is hard to not fall in love with. Riding is the perfect mix of flat, rolling countryside and some challenging climbs in the foothills of the Pyrenees. If you want character, culture and good food alongside high-quality cycling, look no further than Girona.
- Best climbs: Rocacorba, Els Àngels, Mare de Deu del Mont
- Best time to ride: All year around is great, but Girona is at its very best from March – June & September – December
- Bestselling Tour: The Classic Climbs of Girona
- Find out more: Read our Cyclist’s Guide to Girona
South Spaniards are very laid back (and who can blame them in the roasting temperatures of the Summer). But visit Andalucia from September through to June and you’ll have a spring in your pedal stroke. Andalucia is home to the fabulous cities of Granada, Cordoba & Seville, the high mountains of the Sierra Nevada & the fabulous Costa del Sol coastline. Its landscape is brimming with Moorish architecture & the sounds of flamenco music.
The Sierra Nevada mountains are home to the mighty Pico de Veleta & a whole number of fabulous climbs. Often used for altitude training by professional cyclists, you’ll need your climbing legs on because it’s up or down with not much flat! There are plenty of authentically Spanish places to choose to stay in the region, from the cultural hub of Granada to tiny villages in the mountains.
Visit Andalucia for your taste of authentic Spain.
- Best climbs: Pico de Veleta, Caminito del Rey
- Best time to ride: All year around, but avoid the summer months of July & August when temperatures are high
- Bestselling Tour: Trans Andalucia
- Find out more: Read our Cycling in Andalucia blog
3. Asturias, Cantabria & the Picos de Europa
Oviedo is a bustling city with all the culture of Asturias and its wonderful food, friendly people and interesting architecture. Ride for just 5 km south and you meet what can only be described as a theme park for cyclists. Scores of short steep climbs scattered over several valleys, the Big One being the Angliru. Often stated as the hardest climb in cycling its something every cyclist should do, but just once.
To the east of Asturias lie the hugely underrated Picos de Europa or “Peaks of Europe” named by Columbus for being the first mountains he saw on his return from America. They are beautiful rock formations comparable to the Dolomites. Don’t miss Lagos de Covadonga, a stunning series of lakes over 1,000 m up in the sky. Puerto de San Glorio is a hidden gem of a climb that will leave you wanting to find more “off the radar” climbs and there are plenty of those in the area.
Further east Los Machucos was the climb which sparked rider protests in the 2017 Vuelta España. It’s brutal kicks are rewarded by stunning rural views all the way up. Cantabria is home to many other feature climbs of the Vuelta such as the Peña de Carbaga and Puertos Alisas & Ason. There’s no wonder that when the Vuelta reaches Cantabria things get exciting. Close proximity to Santander & Bilbao is helpful for logistics but avid cyclists are better off avoiding the big cities and staying out in the lovely countryside.
- Best climbs: El Angliru, Los Machucos, Lagos de Covadonga
- Best time to ride: With chilly, wet winters, April through October are the best months to enjoy these stunning regions of north Spain.
- Bestselling Tour: Trans Picos de Europa
- Find out more: Read our account of our recce visit to North Spain in 2017.
4. The Basque Country
With its own language and Spanish-Basque and French-Basque regions, the Basque country is a mixing pot of cultures which creates the best food in the world. Rolling green hills line the distance with characteristic white and red chalets. It’s a treat on the eyes and lushness that of course warrants some occasional rainfall, typical of the north Spain area. Whilst the climbs are not long, some are steep so you can easily rack up plenty of climbing metres over a days ride.
The Basque Country is also hailed as one of the gastronomic capitals of the world. Be sure to combine and visit to the region with a stay in Bilbao, an industrial city in the west (& home to the iconic Guggenheim museum) & San Sebastian, set on the stunning La Concha beach. Bilbao is a little tricky to ride in & out of, so perhaps save your riding for your stay in San Sebastian.
- Best climbs: Col du Inharpu, Monte Oiz, Jaizkibel
- Best time to ride: With chilly, wet winters, April through October are the best months to enjoy this stunning region of north Spain.
- Bestselling Tour: Tour of the Basque Country
5. Costa Brava
The Costa Brava runs from France down to Blanes (a town just northeast of Barcelona). It’s one of the most unspoilt coastlines in Spain, with no billboards or high rises to distract from the jaw-dropping views. Easily accessible from Girona and coastal towns like Begur and the more popular Tossa de Mar, the winding and hilly road that hugs the coastline provides hours of sun-kissed enjoyment. Whilst traffic is never that bad, in the winter you’ll be lucky to stumble across other cyclists, let alone cars.
The Costa Brava also hosts a large section of the Pirinexus cycle route, a 360 km loop along the Costa Brava, through Girona in to the Pyrenees & France & back.
- Best climbs: San Grau
- Best time to ride: All year around – avoid peak holiday times to enjoy the beaches to yourself & quiet roads.
- Bestselling Tour: Tour of the Costa Brava
Calpe is a region in the south of Spain which, as well hosting the nightclubs of Benidorm, is also home to a network of spectacular roads & climbs. It’s a hugely popular destination for professional & amateur cycling teams alike and enjoys a great climate all year around. The area is a regular haunt of the annual Vuelta España and is home to the fantastic short steep climb of the Cumbre del Sol, the site of Tom Dumoulin’s stage victory in 2015.
- Best climbs: Col de Rates, Port de Tudons, Cumbre del Sol
- Best time to ride: Avoid the height of summer in July & August when coastal roads are busy and temperatures uncomfortably high. Ride with the Pro’s in November & December.
- Bestselling Tour: Calpe Ride Camp
- Find out more: Read our guide to winter cycling in Calpe.
7. La Rioja
A stunning rolling landscape filled with vineyards as far as the eye can see. A perfect spot for a more relaxed approach to cycling, combined with delicious food & world-class wines. Combine your daily ride with visits to local bodegas for a spot of wine tasting. Trundle down the River Ebro from Haro to Logroño. Stay in luxury hotels, of which there are many, or authentic guesthouses.
- Best climbs: El Balcón de Rioja
- Best time to ride: Spring & Autumn offer climatic perfection
- Bestselling Tour: La Rioja & Pais Vaso Luxury Tour
Of course, it’s not actually a part of Spain but the tax haven of Andorra is packed with slopes to delight the most hardened of cyclists. Every year Andorra hosts La Purito, the toughest sportive in Europe, and thousands flock to attempt 5,200 meters of elevation in one painful ride. Andorra is best enjoyed over 2 or 3 days (or 1 if you’re feeling sadistic and want to give La Purito a crack). Andorra is a country for cyclists who love to climb, or cyclists who are not too proud to ride an e-bike!
- Best climbs: La Gallina, Collada de Beixalis, Col D’Ordino, La Rabassa and Els Cortals D’Encamp.
- Best time to ride: Avoid winter when Andorra turns into ski paradise!
- Bestselling Tour: La Purito Challenge
An island off the Spanish mainland, Mallorca has long been known as a paradise for cyclists, and with good reason. Mallorca enjoys a year-round, excellent climate & has a wide variety of fantastic roads. From the Tramuntana mountain range, the rolling wine-making region to the flat, coastal plains, there is always a route to suit the occasion. Mallorca remains a popular destination for professional cyclists to prepare for the their race season and offers a huge choice of boutique guesthouses, mountain retreats or all-inclusive hotels on the beach.
- Best climbs: Sa Calobra, Soller
- Best time to ride: All year around! Although it can get too hot in the summer months of July & August
- Bestselling Tour: Mallorca Experience
- Find out more: read our Guide to Cycling in Mallorca
10. Gran Canaria
Far away from Spain, the Spanish speaking island of Gran Canaria lies off the coast of Africa. The climate offers perfect cycling conditions all year around and it’s a popular destination for cyclists when the rest of the world cools. All roads in Gran Canaria lead the highest point in the island, Pico de las Nieves. Popular bases for cyclists include Playa Ingles, which offers good access to the roads, but consider staying in the north of the island for more variety & a more authentic experience. If you can split your time between north & south, perfect!
- Best climbs: Pico de las Nieves, Valley of the Tears
- Best time to ride: All year around
- Bestselling Tour: Gran Canaria Ride Camp
- Find out more: Check out our Gran Canaria Cycling Routes
Interested in Cycling in Spain?
To find out more about our European Cycling Tours give us a call now on +34 972 754 301 or contact us online! We can talk you through the regions and help you to work out where you’ll be happiest on a bike!
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