Home > Articles and tour tips > Lo Mejor of Spain: Picking the Perfect Region

Lo Mejor of Spain: Picking the Perfect Region

28-02-2019

If sun, sand, Surrealism, and serrano ham are among the associations you have with Spain, you’re off to a good start. This Mediterranean country has much to brag about: a fantastic climate, world-class beaches; Dali and Picasso, and delicious cuisine makes exploration enjoyable year-round. And not to be forgotten are cities like Barcelona, Sevilla, and San Sebastian, which are never far from the top of must-travel lists. The history and heritage of Spain is rich and complex, with occupations from the Celts to the Moors each leaving their mark on the art, architecture, and culture of each distinct region. Colors abound, whether it is the splash of red wine in Haro, golden hues in a pan of paella, or the azure of the sea by the Basque coast. For cyclists, the landscape is just as diverting and varied, with such a slew of unique experiences that it’s easy to feel spoiled for choice.

We currently offer tours in six regions in Spain: Andalucia, Basque Country, Castilla and Leon, Catalonia, La Rioja, and Madrid.

Andalusia
Vineyards in Andalousia

When we think about Andalucia, the first word that inevitably comes to mind is ‘enchanting’. And so it is. The numerous occupations of this region throughout history, from the Greeks to the Moors, have given this indelible region its unique blend of culture and architecture. Cycling through the sun-baked landscape, riders discover true jewels including the Alhambra palace at Granada, the ‘white villages’ of Ronda and Zuheros, and the exquisite capital of Sevilla. And with such a spectacular and colourful history, it’s no wonder traditions like bullfighting and flamenco found their origins here. Andalucia is a great agricultural land as well, producing specialties like olive oil, wine, fried fish, and hams (namely, serrano and iberico) that make any meal a treat. They also provide the necessary fuel for tackling the terrain, which can be quite challenging… though the rewards are more than worth the work! Our Andalusia Jewels, Cordoba to Granada, and Sevilla to Cadiz tours are all weeklong trips, each taking you on an unforgettable exploration of this magical region.

Pros: You are unlikely to encounter much vehicle traffic while touring, so you can spend more time focusing on the climbs and the views.
Cons: The challenging terrain in this region might not be for every rider. Andalucia can also get very hot in the summer, which can make cycling uncomfortable. Read our blog post on dealing with the summer heat, or plan your trip during cooler seasons.

Basque Country

Rolling hills in Basque CountryIn Spain’s northeast corner lies the Basque Country, a unique region that is not quite Spanish, not quite French, and one hundred percent remarkable. The Basque stretches from the rugged Pyrenees to the coastline off the Bay of Biscay, providing a variety of landscapes and scenic views to satiate the exploring cyclist. The region’s culture is as rich as its topography, having absorbed a plethora of dialects and traditions from ancient to modern times. While perhaps best known for the fresh seafood dishes enjoyed at Biarritz and San Sebastian, inland specialties of cured meats and Gateau Basque make up the incredible culinary heritage of this region as well. Our Basque Country tour, Castilla to La Rioja, and Jewels and Treasures of La Rioja that dips into the Basque region, are both perfect summer trips.

Pros: Easily accessible from France and Spain, by plane or train.
Cons: Terrain can be challenging along the coast and in the mountains, but there are plenty of flatter routes as well for more leisurely riders.

Castilla and Leon

Open fields of LeonA sprawling, mountainous region in northern Spain, Castilla and Leon is decidedly off the beaten track for the average visitor…though it hasn’t always been the case. Travelers have been passing through this ancient land since the Middle Ages, brought along by the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route (still in use today). Here, you experience a different side of Spain, authentic and wild. The remoteness and sparse population of the area provide a unique atmosphere to cycle through, adding an extra thrill and sense of adventure. But what the region lacks in population, it makes up in heritage sites, including eight with designated UNESCO World Heritage status and over 500 castles! With each pedal, you may feel like you are traveling back in time as beautiful historic cities like Burgos, Avila, and Segovia emerge from their lush forest surroundings. The cuisine is hearty and flavourful, known for its variety of grilled and roasted meats, stews, sweets, and wines. Discover this remarkable Spanish region on our Madrid and Segovia tour and our Cycling from Castilla to La Rioja tour.

Pros: With the low population density in this region, riders can expect to follow roads and trails with very low traffic.

Cons: Unlike Spain’s more southerly regions, Castilla and Leon does get cold, so we would not recommend it as a winter cycling destination.

 

Catalonia
A typical coastal town in Catalonia

Perhaps the most popular of these regions, Catalonia provides plenty of reasons for that coveted status. The Costa Brava alone would be an incredible draw, but add dynamic cities like Barcelona and Girona, rolling landscapes of fields and orchards, rural medieval villages, and a glorious climate, and it’s easy to see why cyclists and other travelers flock here. The region boasts a stunning cultural and artistic heritage too, as the seat of great literary and artistic production from the Renaissance to more modern movements, and the birthplace of Surrealist icons Joan Miro and Salvador Dali. This natural and artistic beauty is sure to feed the soul, while traditional Catalan dishes like botifarra (pork sausage) stew and fried sonsos (eel) satiate the stomach as well. With such diversity of terrain and places of interest, Catalonia is really an ideal playground for all types and levels of riders. Our tours accordingly reflect this incredible range, with our most comprehensive trips being Bike and Beach (leisurely) and Pedal and Pamper (more challenging).

Pros: The Costa Brava is a great area for riders who wish to enjoy a relaxing "sun and sea" vacation before or after their cycling trip. Most of our tours in Catalonia begin in Girona, which is easily accessible by plane or train.

Cons: It can get very hot and busy with tourists, especially during the peak summer season. Thankfully, we offer a tour that takes place on tourist and car-free Bikeways and the warm climate means it is a great fall or winter destination too.

La Rioja
La Rioja's vineyards

In La Rioja, everything revolves around wine. It’s hard to miss it too: you’ll be biking by swathes upon swathes of vineyards! Fruity red wines filling every glass, the annual Wine Festival and ‘Battle of Wine’ in Haro, and the small villages and quiet roads all make La Rioja a defining region for European wine. While the thought of immersing yourself in good Spanish wine may bring you to La Rioja, we promise the incredible landscape, history, and culture will make you want to stay (or make many return trips.) Urban highlights include the vibrant capital city of Logrono, San Millan de Cogolla and its twin monasteries, and LaGuardia which is designated as one of the most beautiful villages in Spain. As a backdrop to this region, the Sierra de la Demanda mountains are hard to beat! With the Mediterranean forests, winding rivers, and towns nestled between rolling hills in the foreground, it’s like cycling through a cinematic masterpiece. Our weeklong tours through La Rioja allow you to really experience everything that makes this region so special.

Pros: Riders are likely to encounter more wine and grape vines than vehicle traffic!

Cons: La Rioja can sound a little daunting to get to, but we’ve compiled an easy travel guide on Getting to La Rioja (as well as other regional information!)

Madrid
Madrid Royal Palace

The region of Madrid is inevitably associated with the Spanish capital and all the trappings of a metropolitan city, but it is also home to a remarkable diversity of unspoiled natural landscapes and wildlife. Woods and forests line lowlands and mountainsides alike, from the beautiful Lozoya Valley to the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range, recently designated a national park. Each town along the way provides a different experience as well, whether it’s a picturesque hilltop village like Miraflores de la Sierra or the grand royal site of El Escorial. Madrid itself began as a fortress under the region’s Moorish rule, and today holds many monuments and museums that pay tribute to its rich blended heritage. Our Madrid and Segovia tour makes the most of quiet paths and secondary roads, allowing riders to experience Madrid from the outside in.

Pros: Madrid’s International Airport makes this region easily accessible from almost everywhere. Its central position in Spain also makes it a great pre- or post-trip visit if you’re doing a bike tour in a neighboring region.

Cons: Madrid’s summers are on the hotter side, as the ocean doesn’t affect its climate as much. This trip is offered all year round though, so it can be enjoyed during its prime in Spring and Fall!


For more information on our cycling tours in Spain, feel free to contact us or visit the rest of our website!

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