Spain, with its striking landscapes, diverse culture, and rich history, is a haven for cycling enthusiasts. From the sun-drenched coasts of Andalucia to the lush vineyards of La Rioja, Spain's topography presents a variety of beautiful routes for every type of cyclist. In this article, I'll share with you my top 5 destination recommendations for self guided bike tours in Spain and give you my highlights of each!
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1. Camino de Santiago - The Pilgrim's Route
The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage route with centuries-old traditions, providing an unforgettable spiritual journey for cyclists. While there are several main Camino pilgrimage routes through Spain, my personal favouirte is stil the "Camino Frances". This route invites you to explore historical paths winding through picturesque villages, lush green valleys, and hilly terrains.
This epic bike tour route showcases the verdant splendor of the Pyrenees, the vibrancy of regions like Navarre and La Rioja, with their historical towns and lush vineyards, and the tranquil beauty of Castilla y León's plains and hills. The route's historical highlights include cities like Pamplona, Burgos, and León, each boasting a rich past.
The final leg takes you through the picturesque region of Galicia, leading to the grand Santiago de Compostela Cathedral - a sight providing an overwhelming sense of achievement. Cycling the Camino Frances is more than a tour; it's an unforgettable journey through history, diverse cultures, and a path to self-reflection and spiritual fulfillment.
Main Highlights of the Camino de Santiago bike tour route (Starting in Leon):
- Starting in the beautiful city of Leon, noted for its gothic architecture.
2. Picos de Europa - Mountain Majesty
For the adventurous cyclist, the Picos de Europa tour provides a stunnigly scenic challenge. This self guided bike tour route takes you into Spain's first national park, with stunning mountain scenery, deep gorges, and verdant meadows. This rugged landscape of towering limestone peaks, deep gorges, and lush valleys offers a scenic and rewardin ride.
Iconic sights such as the massive limestone wall of Naranjo de Bulnes and the breathtaking Garganta del Cares gorge punctuate the route. Along the way, cyclists will pass through quaint mountain villages like Potes and Cangas de Onís, providing glimpses into traditional Spanish life.
Despite its demanding nature, the tour balances the challenge with rewarding experiences. Spotting local wildlife, such as the chamois and griffon vultures, or tasting regional cuisine, like the hearty fabada asturiana stew or the pungent Cabrales cheese - if that tickles your fancy - add further depth to the adventure.
In essence, the Picos de Europa bike tour is an epic journey that tests your physical stamina while immersing you in striking natural beauty, local culture, and history.
Main Highlights of the Picos de Europa bike tour route:
- Starting in the medieval town of Cangas de Onís, featuring the historic Roman Bridge.
3. Andalucia - The Southern Serenade
Andalucia offers a perfect blend of cultural exploration and scenic rides. This bike tour route showcases the region's Moorish history and architecture, flamenco music, vibrant festivals, and tapas culture at its best!
A self-guided bike tour in Andalucia is a picturesque journey through a region rich in cultural heritage and natural beauty. Beginning in the historical city of Seville, with its stunning Moorish architecture, the tour leads you through serene olive groves and charming white-washed villages, offering glimpses of traditional Spanish life.
Alongside the scenic rides, Andalucia's vibrant culture is experienced through the region's flamenco music and local festivals, which fill the air with rhythm and joy. The journey is not just a feast for the eyes and ears - Andalucian cuisine, with its tapas, paellas, and gazpacho, is sure to delight your taste buds, and providing an unforgettable Spanish adventure.
Main Highlights of the Andalucia bike tour route:
- Beginning in the historic city of Seville, famed for its majestic Alcázar and lively tapas scene.
4. Catalonia - The Mediterranean Magic
Catalonia offers cyclists the chance to experience Spain's artistic side along with its stunning coastal beauty. This bike tour route combines diverse terrain, beautiful beaches, medieval towns, and world-class gastronomy.
The diverse terrain encompasses coastal plains, rolling countryside, vineyards, and forests, offering a visually captivating and mildly challenging ride. The journey is also steeped in history, with stops at medieval towns like Girona and Besalú, offering a glimpse into Catalonia's rich past.
Catalonia's culinary delights play a significant part in the tour. The region is known for its innovative gastronomy, combining traditional recipes with avant-garde techniques. From local seafood to delicious Catalan dishes like 'pa amb tomàquet' and 'crema catalana', each meal adds to the richness of the Catalan experience.
In a nutshell, the Catalonia bike tour is more than a cycling adventure - it's a journey through history, culture, and stunning landscapes, topped with world-class gastronomy, creating another unforgettable Spanish expedition.
Main Highlights of the Catalonia bike tour route:
- Starting off in Barcelona, a city famed for its unique architecture, including Gaudí's Sagrada Familia.
5. La Rioja - The Vineyard Voyage
The La Rioja tour is a dream for wine enthusiasts. Cyclists pedal through rolling vineyards, visit renowned bodegas, and sample world-class wines, all while enjoying the region's exceptional landscapes, against the backdrop of the Cantabrian Mountains.
Highlights of the tour include visiting the wine capital, Haro, with its array of renowned bodegas. Here, cyclists can learn about winemaking traditions, explore ancient cellars, and sample acclaimed wines like the full-bodied Tempranillo.
Beyond viticulture, La Rioja presents beautiful landscapes and historic landmarks. For instance, the UNESCO World Heritage Site monasteries of Suso and Yuso in San Millán de la Cogolla add a touch of historical fascination.
Complementing the wine, the region's gastronomy is another treat. Traditional dishes like patatas a la riojana and bacalao a la riojana pair perfectly with local wines, providing a delectable culinary experience.
For those more inclided for a broader cycling adventure, the Camino Frances route passes through the Rioja, offering a shorter but equally exciting experience of the wine capital of Spain!
Main Highlights of La Rioja bike tour route:
- Beginning in the bustling city of Logroño, the capital of La Rioja and the heart of wine country.
Ready to ride Spain's Best Routes?
Whether you're seeking a spiritual journey, mountain adventure, cultural immersion, beach retreat, or a wine-tasting experience, Spain's top self-guided bike tours have a lot of diversity to offer every level of cyclist. As you embark on these incredible tours, each pedal stroke takes you closer to the soul of this enchanting country. Hop on your bike, and let Spain's allure unfold before your eyes - you won't regret it!
The train transport system in Portugal is great. Here's what you need to know how to make it work for your bicycle journey by following our guide to fuss-free bike travel on trains when you visit Portugal.
If you are going to start or finish a route in Lisbon, Faro or Porto in Portugal you will most likely use the national train operator, CP (Comboios de Portugal) Intercidades trains.
The CP train routes go to the following destinations in Portugal: Lisbon – Oporto / Guimarães / Braga / Viana do Castelo, Beira Alta, Beira Baixa, Alentejo (Lisbon Oriente / Évora) and Algarve.
Below is the CP list of conditions for taking your bicycle on a train in Portugal:
The 2nd class carriages on Intercidades trains have dedicated supports for traditional bikes, allowing 2 bikes to be taken in each carriage. The supports in the carriages do not have padlocks.
More information can be found in English here:
Confirm space on the train at the ticket office well before you want to board the train!
The Regional, InterRegional and Coimbra urban trains allow you to take your bike. These trains are used more for shorter distances, to cross the Algarve or the Douro, for example.
On the platform before boarding, go to the ticket inspector, who must issue the ticket (the passenger's) and say whether the bike can go on board as the space is limited depending on the type of train.
There are a few temporary restrictions on bikes on the Regional and InterRegional trains.
It is advisable to use the carriages and spaces indicated by a bike symbol on outside of the regional trains.
More information about traveling by public transport in Portugal can be found here:
By Vanya Maplestone & Enrique Díaz
We are both cycling tour guides and travel all year round in Portugal, sometimes by train or motorhome but mostly on two wheels. After 5 years traveling in this amazing country together we have many useful things to share with you!
As a food lover, I have traveled all over the world in search of the best cuisine, and I can confidently say that Girona, a small city in northeastern Spain, is a hidden and not-sohidden gem for foodies. With a rich culinary heritage, Girona offers a diverse range of dining options, from Michelin-starred restaurants to cozy local eateries. In this guide, I will take you through the top-rated restaurants, hidden gems, and the more affordable dining options in Girona, so read on to find out where to eat out in Girona!
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Introduction to Girona's Food Scene
Girona is a small city located in Catalonia, Spain. It is known for its rich history, medieval architecture, and stunning landscapes. But what many people don't know is that Girona is also a foodie's paradise. The city's cuisine is influenced by its location - nestled between the mountains and the sea - as well as its history and culture. Catalan cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, French, and Mediterranean flavors, and Girona's restaurants offer a unique twist on this traditional cuisine.
Why Girona is a Foodie's Paradise
Girona has a vibrant food scene that caters to all tastes and budgets. Whether you're looking for a fancy fine-dining experience or a quick bite from a local tavern, Girona has it all. The city's chefs are passionate about using locally-sourced ingredients and traditional techniques to create innovative and delicious dishes. And with a range of international influences, Girona's restaurants offer a diverse culinary experience.
Another reason why Girona is a foodie's paradise is that among its many gastronomic delights, the region is home to a thriving wine industry that produces a range of high-quality wines. The Empordà region, located in the north-eastern corner of Spain, is renowned for its rich history, stunning natural beauty, and exceptional wine. Situated between the Pyrenees Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, the region boasts a unique terroir that produces some of the most distinctive wines in Spain.
Top-rated Restaurants in Girona
If you're looking for the best of the best, Girona has several top-rated restaurants that have been recognized by Michelin and other prestigious culinary organizations. El Celler de Can Roca is perhaps the most famous - it has held three Michelin stars since 2009 and was named the best restaurant in the world in 2013 and 2015. The restaurant is run by three brothers who specialize in creating innovative and delicious dishes using traditional Catalan ingredients, with dishes like lobster with citrus and green curry, and lamb with honey and thyme.
Another top-rated restaurant in Girona is Massana, which has two Michelin stars. The restaurant is located in a restored 16th-century house and offers a sophisticated dining experience with a focus on seafood and local ingredients. This family-run restaurant has been serving traditional Catalan cuisine for over 40 years and is consistently rated as one of the top restaurants in Girona. The menu features classic dishes like grilled beef tenderloin and suquet de peix (a fish stew made with local ingredients), as well as a great selection of local wines from the nearby Empordà wine region.
If you value the environment as highly as you do your palate, Bionbo may be the place for you! This a trendy vegetarian and vegan restaurant located in the heart of Girona's old town. The restaurant's philosophy is based on using fresh, organic, and locally sourced ingredients to create healthy and delicious dishes that are both good for you and good for the planet. But the foodie experience hits the mark, and this restaurant is consistently in the first spots of the top rated restaurants in Girona.
Fine Dining Experiences in Girona
If you're looking for a fancy night out, Girona has several fine dining options that offer a memorable experience. Divinum is one such restaurant - located in a historic building in the heart of Girona, it offers a sophisticated atmosphere with an extensive wine list and a focus on local ingredients. Another fine dining option is Nu, which offers a tasting menu that changes daily based on the freshest ingredients available. The restaurant has a minimalist aesthetic that allows the food to take center stage.
Best Local Cuisine in Girona
For an authentic taste of Girona, head to one of the city's many local eateries. La Fabrica is a great place to start - it's a casual restaurant run by and ex pro cyclist and his wife, that specializes in traditional Catalan dishes like paella and grilled meats. Another popular local eatery is La Tagliatella, which serves delicious homemade pasta and other Italian dishes. And for a truly authentic experience, head to El Cul de la Lleona, a cozy tapas bar located in the historic Jewish quarter.
Hidden Gem Restaurants in Girona
While the Michelin-starred restaurants get a lot of attention, there are plenty of "hidden gem" restaurants in Girona that offer outstanding cuisine. One such restaurant is the Can Roca Bar: Located next to the world-famous El Celler de Can Roca, Can Roca Bar is a hidden gem that's often overlooked by tourists. The restaurant serves up delicious tapas at a more affordable price. The menu changes regularly to showcase seasonal ingredients, and the dishes are beautifully presented and bursting with flavor. With its laid-back atmosphere and top-notch food, Can Roca Bar is a must-visit hidden gem for any foodie visiting Girona.
Another hidden gem is Mimolet, which offers a modern take on traditional Catalan cuisine, using fresh, locally sourced ingredients to create delicious and innovative dishes. The atmosphere is minimalist and sophisticated, but also warm and inviting, with attentive and friendly service. I would recommend trying the tasting menu for the full culinary experience!
Affordable Dining Options in Girona
If you're on a budget, Girona has plenty of affordable dining options that won't break the bank. La Deliciosa is a great place to start - it's a casual cafe that serves delicious sandwiches, salads, and other light fare. Another affordable option is La Parrilla, a cozy restaurant that offers grilled meats and other hearty dishes. And for a quick and delicious meal, head to the food trucks at the Mercat del Lleo, where you can sample a range of local specialties.
Why Girona needs to be on your Foodie Travel List
Girona is a small city with a big culinary scene. From Michelin-starred restaurants to cozy local eateries, Girona offers a diverse range of dining options that cater to all tastes and budgets. With a focus on locally-sourced ingredients and traditional techniques, Girona's chefs create innovative and delicious dishes that showcase the region's rich culinary heritage. And with stunning views, fine dining experiences, and affordable options, a trip to Girona should be on every food lover's (and cyclist's) travel list!
Discover the Secrets Behind Our Perfectly Maintained Bikes: Your Guide to Quality Control at Cycling Rentals & Tours
As cyclists ourselves we know that bike trouble is the last thing you want on a bicycle tour, so we take servicing and packing your bike very seriously. Here's a look behind the scenes at how we do Quality Control!
Since we started offering bicycle rentals services, we knew we had to offer a superior experience that went beyond just the bikes themselves and that ensured that our cycling guests would have unforgettable cycle touring experiences for all the right reasons.
All too often I read about poorly serviced or beaten up rental bikes and knew that we had to do better than that. So we got systematic!
Each bike is first carefully. low pressure washed using biodegradable bike wash and de-greaser for the transmission. Next we dry and polish the bike, before handing it over to one of our full time mechanics.
This is where each bicycle goes through an 11 point check list that covers everything from cleaning to packing, to make sure you get a reliable and safe rental bike, wherever you want to cycle!
We have a guiding philosophy in the workshop: "If in doubt - change it!" and we stick to this axiom religiously.
Whenever any of the mechanics is not sure if a wearing part is in good enough condition for another rental, we simply replace it with a new part. No hesitation.
This also applies to inner tubes: whenever we change a tire, if the tube needs changing we go ahead and put in a brand new tube.
But don't worry, we don't throw out our punctured or patched tubes. Any time we replace a tire an find a client has used a patched tube, we replace it with a new tube and hand over the old tubes to the local bike club - it's a win for all!
Although this naturally costs us a little more in the workshop, it saves a lot of trouble on the road and most importantly it ensures the quality of the experience you expect, and the only acceptable level of service for our customers!
Have any questions? Get in touch!
Portugal is one of the best places in Europe for gravel bike touring, with something to offer cyclists of all levels. From the stunningly picturesque coastlines and rolling vineyards of the Algarve to the rugged, mountainous terrain of the Serra da Estrela, gravel biking through Portugal is an incredible experience. With its quiet roads, challenging climbs, and stunning views, this country is the perfect destination for an unforgettable cycling adventure.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at the best routes and places to explore on your gravel bike tour in Portugal. We’ll also provide insider tips on where to stay, what to eat, and how to make the most of your cycling experience. So, let’s get started and explore some of the best gravel bike touring routes and places in Portugal!
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What to Expect on a Gravel Bike Tour in Portugal
Portugal is well-known for its stunning landscapes and picturesque villages, but its growing reputation as an adventure travel destination is attracting an increasing number of adventure travelers every year.
And a growing number of adventure travelers are discovering the joys of gravel biking in Portugal. Although it’s not yet as widely known for its gravel roads as other cycling destinations in Europe, Portuguese gravel bike routes are growing in popularity and numbers.
Why gravel bike in Portugal? You can expect to experience: A varied landscape and terrain - Cyclists visiting Portugal can expect to ride through a variety of landscapes, ranging from the rugged, mountainous terrain of the Serra da Estrela in the north, to the rolling vineyards of the Alentejo, and the sunny beaches of the Algarve in the south.
And while you’ll find some superb paved roads to cycle, Portugal has an amazing network of unpaved gravel roads, perfect for adventure cyclists. Quiet and scenic roads - While there are some busy roads in Portugal, the majority of the roads you’ll travel on your gravel bike tour are quiet, unpaved roads through picturesque landscapes.
Where to Go: The Best Gravel Routes and Places to visit
If you’re looking for the best places and routes for gravel biking in Portugal, there are a number of options, but these stand out for me as the best places to start exploring Portugal your gravel bike adventure.
The Eurovelo 1 bike tour is an adventurous but also safe way to experience Gravel riding in Portugal. I recommend starting in Porto and ending in Lisbon, or Faro, depending on your time and logistics. Along the way, you can discover secluded beaches, shady pine forests, charming seaside villages and at the right time of year you might see the world's largest waves to ever be surfed!
The Algarve, the southernmost region of Portugal that runs east to west along the Atlantic Ocean, is an incredibly scenic part of the country, known for its beaches and landscapes. The quiet, paved and gravel roads of the Algarve are perfect for cyclists, and there’s a number of great routes that you can explore while you’re there.
The central Alentejo region is home to the city of Évora, a UNESCO world heritage site, and is a great place to spend a few days on your gravel bike tour. The central Alentejo has a number of excellent gravel roads, such as the road to the UNESCO site at Évora, which is long but not difficult.
This is one of my personal favourite gravel routes anywhere in the world! Starting from Lisbon or Setubal, you can cycle down the west coast of Portugal on small country lanes or gravel roads following the rugged coastline all the way down to Lagos. There are several route options to choose from and depending on your appetite for miles, you can make it a leisurely week long bike tour to stop and sample the excellent beaches - or do the whole 300 + km route over a long weekend.
Historic Villages of Serra da Estrela
The Serra da Estrela is a stunningly rugged, mountainous region in Portugal, in the north of the country, and is a great place to ride a gravel bike. The road connecting the towns of Manteigas and Seia is a popular gravel road, and is a great route for exploring the region.
Where to Stay: Accommodation Options
If you’re visiting for a cycling adventure, you’ll likely want to stay at a place that is both close to the best gravel roads in Portugal and close to the best sights, points of interest and restaurants. Fortunately, there are plenty of world-class accommodation options in Portugal that make perfect basecamps for gravel biking, at any price point. Here are a few of my favourite types of accommodation in Portugal:
Ocean front coastal hotels
If you’re visiting during the summer months, it’s hard to top the coastal hotels along the sparkling west coast or the Algarve. These coastal hotels offer stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, and many are just off some of the best gravel roads in southern Europe.
Historic town boutique hotels
If you’re visiting the central Alentejo or the Serra da Estrela, town hotels are a great option. These hotels are often located in historic buildings or former palaces, and are a great way to experience the culture of the region, with a touch of luxury.
Rural hotels or B&Bs
From north to south, inland or on the coast, you will find wonderful, family-run rural hotels and bed and breakfast accommodations, where you can get a privileged insight into the local way of life, often in unique locations such as tastefully decorated farms, old mills or renovated village homes.
If you are happy to forgo the comforts of a roof over your head, you are in luck too! Portugal is home to some outstanding campsites, and I do recommend using them if you want to use a tent - as wild camping is prohibited by law in Portugal. Even the most basic campsites offer good amenities onsite or very nearby.
What to Eat: Portuguese Cuisine
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when ordering Portuguese cuisine. First, a lot of Portuguese dishes are served in portions that are more than enough for one person, so you might have some leftovers.
Also, many Portuguese dishes are served with rice or potatoes as a side, so you'll never run short on carbs! Aside from the heartier sit down meals, you can alwasys find soup and toasted sandwiches on most cafe menus.
There are a couple of things that are commonly eaten in Portugal, regardless of the region. For example, you will find seafood on most menus, as the country is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. Seafood dishes might include fresh grilled fish, squid, octopus, clams, and of course, cod.
You will also likely find traditional Portuguese meat dishes on most menus. Some of these include roast pork, steak sandwishes (which make a great cycling snack!), roast lamb and feijoada (a bean and meat stew).
Eating vegetarian in Portugal isn’t difficult, either. Many restaurants offer excellent vegetable-based options, and rich Portuguese soup is a perfect staple meat eaters or vegetarians alike!
Essential Tips for Gravel Biking in Portugal
Ensure you have the right bike for the terrain and that you can lift your bike over obstacles. Stay on marked trails as best you can to avoid trespassing and be aware of potentially dangerous natural features.
Bring water, repair kits, and snacks. Be prepared for all-weather conditions. Visit in March or October for the best weather; avoid the peak of summer and fall during harvest season if want to avoid crowds.
Bring a helmet - Although helmet use is mandatory for motorcyclists in Portugal, it is not required for cyclists, but it is still highly recommended. Especially when riding off main roads and if you choose particularly technical terrain.
Although tap water is safe to drink in Portugal, make sure you can carry enough of it across longer sections between settlements, and do not drink from unaproved fountains.
Pack and dress appropriately - The weather in Portugal can be varied, so make sure to dress appropriately for both warm and cold temperatures, and naturally the season you choose to travel.
Follow these tips and you are sure to make the most of your gravel biking experience in Portugal!
Gravel Biking in Portugal: It's Not About the Bike
Gravel bike touring in Portugal is an incredible experience, with a variety of beautiful landscapes, quiet roads, and delicious food. But whether you are a fan of riding a drop bar or flat bar bicycle, please understand that garvel biking in Portugal - or anywhere else - is not really about the bike. It's all about the experience!
You certainly need the right bike to enjoy unpaved gravel roads, but it does not need to be what the marketing team tells you to ride - it's all about finding a comfortable bike that will allow you to enjoy days in the saddle, rolling over unpaved roads and trails, away from the cars and savouring the sounds and sight of nature once more.
Whether you’re looking to explore the around the rugged mountains of the Serra da Estrela, the coastal towns along the Costa da Prata, the interior or coastal Algarve, or the historic towns of coastal and central Alentejo, there are plenty of great routes to explore. The trouble might be trying to pick a single route!
And with a variety of accommodations available in different regions, there’s no better place to book your next adventure than Portugal. So, what are you waiting for? Head to Portugal and explore the best places and routes for gravel biking in this stunningly beautiful country!