I'm planning a 3-week tour in Spain for the next year. This will be my first solo multi-day tour as a female cyclist, so I'm pretty excited.
I know that the topography of Spain consists of a mountainous terrain. I'm not averse to climbing uphill, yet I'm not very good at it either. I'd prefer a mix of some hills and plains. I plan on cycling 60 or 70 kms a day, if too hilly, then probably 40 kms. I'm gonna rely on wild camping, warmshowers and hostels. I won't be carrying any cooking gear as I plan to indulge myself with the Spanish cuisine.
Here are the four different itineraries I've come up with:
1- Madrid to Salamanca (via the Roman route), onto Porto (Portugal), ending at Lisbon.
2- Lisbon to Seville (via Evora), then Cadiz, Ronda, ending at Granada.
3- Cycling the Camino Santiago del Norte (starting off in Bilbao), down to Porto (Portugal) via Vigo.
4- Madrid to Cordoba via the Don Quixote route, then onto Granada.
Now, I have my doubts about the Camino because it kinda feels that it's not as scenic as one might expect it to be. Plus, as an unbeliever, being surrounded by pilgrims all the time might make me feel uncomfortable. The Madrid to Lisbon route is the most challenging I guess, as it travels along the Sierra de Gredos and I wonder if a touring bike will suffice for that region. The Don Quixote route looks very interesting, though has a in-the-middle-of-nowhere feel to it as well.
Well, I really feel lost at this point. Any advice or suggestion to help me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
from Valladolid to Tavira, taking in Salamanca, Sierra de Francia (hilly) Plasencia, Merida and then down the Guadiana, Portuguese side crossing at Badajoz (maybe even take in Evora) to Tavira our favourite route thus far.
map of some of our route
at present we are heading for Zaragoza and then to la Mancha towards portuga, again !
saludos y pedales
Kevin and Sylvia
Haven't been there recently, but I toured Spain a while back, and you will love the people, the food, and the scenery. One mistake I made was to over-estimate the ground I could reasonably cover in a month. I was planning to visit Lisbon and had to cancel that due to days of rain out of Madrid.
I started riding from Madrid and traveled south to Seville, Cordoba, Granada, and then up to Barcelona. What I would recommend is to focus on a smaller area and leave plenty of time for weather delays, and to linger when you want to investigate a place more thoroughly. The trip south from Madrid is pretty flat and unremarkable, with miles of olive groves; however, once you get down near Seville, things get really interesting and much more scenic. Yes, there's more climbing, but often scenery=hills! I would highly recommend Seville and Granada. These three cities are great to explore, with fine food, wine, and architectural features. In Granada, the Alhambra is fantastic, and for a really cool side trip, ride unloaded up into the Sierra Nevadas. Another place I had to scratch was Malaga/Gibraltar, which I plan to get back to one of these days.
You could probably do Seville\Malaga\Gibraltar\Granada/Seville, or something like that in three weeks; that would be ~150 miles/week, and could be easily expanded by taking more lightly-traveled roads and unloaded side trips. I'm not that much for following well-established tracks ~ just like to look at the map, read up a bit on what I'm likely to find, and then set my own course. Hope you have a fantastic trip!
Thank you all for the input, and sorry for the late reply.
spoke_n_chain you inspired me to take the route down to Badajoz from Salamanca, instead of heading to Porto, then onto Lisbon via Evora. But I think I'll skip the Sierra de Francia part as it looks pretty hilly. I might ride through the Parque Natural de las Batuecas from north to south, which seems downhill. I've been told that there are lots of cute, small villages and a beautiful landscape en route.
Stephen M Britton, thanks for the tip on scheduling. The distance I'm willing to cover in 3 weeks is about 950 km. I'm planning on riding 70-80 km a day, which allows me 7 days off. But yes, if I'm late on my schedule due to rain or other emergencies I might ride the train or take the bus, hopefully. Do you think the itinerary and 950 km in 3 weeks are doable for a first-timer?
Also, does anyone have any advice on wild camping in Spain, especially for a solo female cyclist?
we've been told that wild camping is allowed above 1000metres which is kind of in the mountains !
Ask bombeiros/fire brigade they are helpful, and usually let you stay and also ask in bars cafes etc...ayuntamento if there is somewhere to sleep.
We have asked the Guardia Civil on one occasion and they were very helpful.
950km is do-able
we are planning on Xmas in Evora, we are currently in Teruel and will head across La Mancha and Extremedura
saludos y pedales
Kevin y Sylvia
Thank you so much for all the useful information you have provided. I can't wait to get on my bike and ride! Hope you will enjoy your ride too.
I rode Valladolid-Salamanca-La Alberca-Ciudad Rodrigo a little over ten years ago.
For a true "plains" experience you'll need to start on the highland plains north of Salamanca, e.g. Valladolid or Medina del Campo (don't miss the latter if you're in the area). No real climbs but the region is very exposed to the wind.
If you are going directly from Madrid to Salamanca consider hopping a train to Avila (http://www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/mediadistancia/mapas_y_trayectos/Madrid.html). This will save you riding out of the city and up a nasty climb.
Southwest from Salamanca through Tamames is easy enough riding (wind permitting) but unspectacular. There is a climb up through La Alberca (visit the church there) that's steep in parts for a laden bike, but there's barely 300m of elevation gain to the top of the pass. Beyond La Alberca (which I didn't get to do) looks and feels like the middle of nowhere; at the time the road beyond La Alberca was unsealed.
If you get the chance to go to the top of nearby Peña Francia the view is pretty good.
I recommend budgeting at least one day for exploring Salamanca.
Thank you very much, Mike. At first, I wanted to add Valladolid to my itinerary too but then thought I wouldn't be able to visit all of them in 3 weeks. The train ride might save me time to visit Valladolid, thanks for the tip.
I guess you're right about the area beyond La Alberca but the view from Peña de Francia looks stunning.
Right now I'm gathering information on must-see sights along this route. I'll have to weigh all things up before deciding on how many days I need to spend in each city but I heard Salamanca is a very vibrant town. I'll keep your advice in mind. Thanks again.
I'm working on my plan to cycle from Madrid to Lisbon to Porto.
How was your cycle tour? What route did you end up taking and what would you have changed?