Cycling tours of Andalucia are extremely popular – both amongst locals, cyclists from abroad and pro riders. Andalucia offers amazing weather, mountains, natural parks and UNESCO protected sites and an Andalucia bike trip is the hassle-free way to experience all this.
In this article we speak with Fiona Towell, who co-runs Wild Atlantic Cycling Tours and offers an incredible 1,000km cycling tour of Andalucia from Seville to Valencia.
The carefully researched route, takes in the best of rural Spain including Moorish castles, deep gorges and chasms, mountain ranges and wonders such as Ronda’s 18th Century bridge and Granada’s Alhambra.
If you’ve ever considered a point to point cycling holiday in Spain, you’ll want to keep reading.
(And even if you’re not looking for a supported Andalucia bike tour, Fiona shares loads of inspiration and tips to help you plan your next trip for cycling in southern Spain.)
Part 1: An introduction to Andalucia cycling tours
1. Tell us about Andalucia
Andalucia is a large region on the southern coast of Spain. It is made up of the provinces of Huelva, Cádiz, Sevilla, Málaga, Córdoba, Jaén, Granada, and Almería. The capital of Andalucia is Seville.
In terms of its landscapes, 50% of Andalucia borders the Mediterranean sea and it also includes three National Parks, eight UNESCO Biospheres and seven UNESCO World Heritage sites. There are also many Natural Parks (one step down from a National Park). Nearly a fifth of Andalucia is protected!
Andalucia is serviced by nine international airports. Five are located within Andalucia itself; Malaga, Seville, Almeria, Granada and Jerez, and four located just outside; Gibraltar, Faro, Murcia and Alicante. It is also totally do-able to arrive by train from other parts of Spain and Europe.
In terms of weather, this part of Spain gets more sunshine than many others (325 days per year); it’s particularly popular with those looking for winter sun when northern Europe is shivering!
Andalucia’s warm climate means that it has a superb range of delicacies including olives, oranges, raisins and avocados. The paella and jamon are also delicious.
Food forms a big part of our cycling tour of Andalucia and a welcome ‘staple’ is ‘tostada with domades’ (smashed and skinned tomatoes on toast with olive oil and garlic butter) in many of the little cafés and bars that we stop at in the more remote areas.
2. What is cycling in Andalucia like?
Andalucia’s cycling opportunities are extensive: from the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada (which includes the highest paved road in Europe, the Pico de Veleta) to its 800 kilometre coastline which includes the Costa del Sol, Costa Tropical, Costa de la Luz and Costa Almeria.
World class climbing
Andalucia is home to Vuelta climbs including the Sierra D’Espuña, Pico de Veleta, Puerto del Leon, Carretera del Cabra and El Torcal de Antequera.
Famous cyclists known to train in Andalucia include Cadel Evans, Alejandro Valverde and Peter Sagan. You’ll also cycle over Contador’s name on the renowned Port Canalis d’onil climb (which is a regular in pro cycling as it links to other climbs both to the north and south).
Cycle events in Andalucia
There are three main professional cycle races in Andalucia:
There’s more on what to expect from an Andalucia bike tour below.
Part 2: Your Andalucia cycling tour
3. Tell us about your cycling tour of Andalucia
Our 1,000 kilometre route starts in Seville and finishes in Valencia. It takes cyclists across the Spanish plains and through the Sierra de Grazalema and Sierra Nevada National Parks.
It includes approximately 14,000 meters of climbing over eight days of cycling.
The landscape varies dramatically throughout and each day provides a very different cycling experience capturing the sheer size of this country, the vastness of its plains and the breath-taking beauty that its remoteness retains. It’s most certainly a far cry from the busy tourist beaches further south.
In 2023 this trip will run between 14 and 23 October 2023.
We’ve picked a route which is perfect for cyclists that love to climb. Many of the mountain passes and cols are used in pro-cycling racing.
Two that are particularly special are the Sierra Espuña and Port Canalis d’Onil. For me these climbs particularly stand out. Espuña is a solid ‘kind’ climb with a gradient that doesn’t need the lowest gear and just keeps giving at every turn on the view front. It also has a tight exciting switchback descent that I love. Port Canalis d’Onil is great because it’s a tougher climb with a more challenging gradient.
You will come across some famous Spanish cycling names painted on the roads as you approach the brow of the hill. Alejandro Valverde, Luis León Sánchez & Rubén Fernández to name a few.
We’ve also carefully designed the route to take in some incredible towns and stopovers. My personal favourites include Ronda and Antequera. You cannot help but be taken in by the wonder of Ronda’s town centre canyon and the view from the Alameda de Rajo looking our over the Rio Grande. And Antequera’s cobbled streets are gorgeous.
Our route picks the quiet roads wherever possible: one morning on our last trip, we had three vehicles pass in two hours. And one of those was our support van! It really is a delight to cycle on these beautifully quiet roads.
It obviously gets busy on the approaches to the city early evening and leaving in the morning but most of the towns we pass through cater well with cycle lanes and where these are absent we’ve found drivers considerate and accommodating.
4. What can cyclists expect each day?
Day 1 – Dos Hermanas to Ronda – 119 km 1,943 m
From our hotel we cycle through the beautiful Algondales towards Ronda. After a gentle start for 100km you then wind your way uphill to the hilltop settlement of Ronda in the Spanish province of Malaga. You’ll take in the magic of the quaint Pueblos Blancos, which are the white towns of Andalucia in the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. The views of the canyon from the town bridges are spectacular.
Day 2 – Ronda to Antequera – 90 km 1,766 m
We start with a climb out of Ronda to the Parc of Sierra de las Nieves where you’ll be rewarded with the ‘Puerto del Viento’ col sign at 1,190 metres. Rest your bike against it for the compulsory photo shoot!
Freewheel from here to Tapas, but the highlight today is undoubtedly freewheeling down El Chorro Gorge, with its cool breeze. Finish with a gentle climb into the delightful town of Antequera.
Day 3 – Antequera to Granada – 131 km 2,055 m
Today we head towards Granada and the Sierra Nevada mountains.
After a tough morning, the freewheel to lunch in Alhama de Granada will put a smile back on your face. The sight-seeing continues and the smooth tarmac allows you time to fully appreciate the sun glistening off of the many reservoirs you pass. Camera at the ready today.
Day 4 – Granada to Basa – 152 km 2,500 m
Today is our biggest climbing day. From the foothills of the ski zone we follow a path between Sierras Nevada and Huetor out into olive tree plains.
We have two main climbs today and at the first we reach the highest point on our tour.
Day 5 – Basa to Lorca – 136 km 1,388 m
We continue to head east through some stunning cycling landscapes. Look out for the interesting cave houses carved into the rock at the 24 kilometre mark before you head left and north at Cullar. Little Orce makes a lovely coffee stop.
The last 50km today is a lovely descent into Lorca where you are welcomed by the sight of its medieval castle as you approach the town.
Day 6 – Lorca to Murcia – 96 km 1,415 m
From Lorca we head north into the Parc Regionale Sierra d’Espuna; training ground of many cycling greats! Today is one big climb and one even bigger descent; you are in for some switchback fun!
Should be plenty of energy left for the one mile stroll into town to see Murcia’s famous Cathedral and the Segura River and partake of the local nightlife and cuisine. A welcome shorter day in the saddle to allow ‘parts’ recovery and replacement.
Day 7 – Murcia to Alcoi – 139 km 2,265 m
We head north and up through the fertile plains. This section is particularly abundant with rows of fruit trees and a variety of produce. The day includes a descent to die for! Please don’t!
Day 8 – Alcoi to Valencia – 134 km 1,269 m
Leaving Alcoi we embark on our last day of cycling to the busy Mediterranean port of Valencia. Two beautiful climbs with stunning descents, then steady to Valencia with sections by the sea and great cycling infrastructure coming into the city. Accompanied by a tiger of a tailwind if you’re lucky; hop on and join a pedal steam train for this final leg!
5. What are the highlights of this Andalucian cycling experience?
There are loads!
Cycling the Gorafe Megalithic Park is incredible, with its cave houses and surrounding desert. It’s an immersive, awe-inspiring pedal in one of the most remarkable landscapes of Europe. The large desert gullies and colourful sandstone formations are like spectacular settings from films and documentaries.
The descent to the deep bottom of the El Chorro Gorge is also very memorable. It’s famous for its cliff hugging walkway – reportedly the most dangerous walkway in the world!
Cycling the Regional Park of Sierra Espuña is another of my favourites. The Park covers 25,000 hectares, has twenty mountains over 1,000 metres and takes its name from its highest mountain, the Sierra d’Espuña at 1,583 meters. The Espuña is a really enjoyable ride; you climb just under 1,500 meters over a distance of 30 km. The average gradient is a respectable 5.5% with a max of 12.3%. So it’s a very doable and enjoyable climb!
Cycling across the Puente Nuevo bridge in Ronda is a fantastic experience. The bridge spans the 120 metre deep Tajo gorge and connects the old town with the new. Construction started in 1759 and it took nearly 40 years to build. It’s a sight to behold.
Other highlights include the quaint Pueblos Blancos and the white towns of Andalucia in the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, the long, flowy descent through to lunch in Alhama de Granada and, after days inland, the first glimpse of the Atlantic on the descent from the second climb on the last day…
6. What are the biggest challenges?
The amount of climbing on this Andalucia cycling tour is by far the biggest challenge from a fitness point of view! Preparation is important and the days will be easier and more enjoyable if some training has been undertaken. Days are long and the cycling is definitely ‘endurance’ style!
You will need to be an ‘Avid’ cyclist, comfortable riding six to eight hours over a distance of 95 to 130 km (60 to 70 miles). On a long day we’d expect an avid cyclist to manage 180 km (110 miles). Days of 1,800 metres (6,000 feet) of climbing are about average and on tough days up to 3,000 metres (10,000 feet).
Pace is of lesser importance as we do not impose any minimum restrictions. However, as a rough guide, most of our cyclists show a moving time average of between 20 and 30kph per day. Whether you ride at 20 kph (12 mph) or 30 kph (18 mph) you will be welcomed and catered for. A sense of determination and fun will get you a long way and keep a smile on your face!
Whilst the climbs can be tough and physically challenging, the descents vary in the level of technical competence required. Some are flowy with wide roads and smooth tarmac. Others steep with consecutive switchbacks to negotiate. For the experienced cyclist these are thrilling experiences.
By building up the miles in your legs you’ll enjoy your trip more and be able to get a greater benefit from your days in the saddle. Most of us are too busy (or not motivated enough!) to be generally cycling back to back, long days. But do what you can. Fit things around your work day or whatever you normally get up to.
Simply extending your weekend rides in the lead up will help your body in its readiness for what’s coming and psychologically you’ll feel more prepared. If you can set aside a little extra saddle time for one or two double-days it’ll put you in great shape.
Remember it’s a cycling holiday and not a race. Our tours are generally laid back. There is no pressure to cycle quickly, but the distances may be more than you’re used to. Feeling in shape will make the whole experience more enjoyable.
A comfortable bike that you are well-fitted to is key to avoid any discomfort.
Nutrition is also really important! Keep the tanks topped up by drinking and eating along the way. Don’t wait for a coffee or lunch stop. The hotels we use on our tours provide great breakfasts and most have lovely cosy restaurants and bars where you can relax and refuel at the end of the day. I mean that’s half the fun isn’t it!?
7. What will it be like to do this Spanish cycling tour with you?
We provide cycle trips for discerning cyclists who want to experience the best of point to point cycle touring in the limited time that they have available. Our Seville to Valencia bike trip is for experienced, avid cyclists looking to ride without the added complications of dealing with the logistics of food, accommodation and mechanical support. Not to mention the time involved in researching the best route to follow!
We use good quality accommodation throughout. Hotels are 3 and 4 star ratings, depending on availability.
On all of our tours we try to incorporate some stays that reflect a ‘feel’ of the local area. We try to combine a variety of the more luxurious 4 star offerings with the quirkier hotels. All provide a bar, beautiful comfortable beds, hairdryers and hot showers.
We also select our hotels for convenience and comfort, to accommodate tired cyclists who want to park their bike quickly and securely, check in and chill out.
We always do our best to make sure that our van will have off-loaded our clients’ luggage at reception before they arrive. Many of our hotels have dedicated basement areas or lock ups for bicycles with basic tools and cleaning materials so that you can clean and maintain your bikes overnight. We carry all of these with us too of course!
Some of the hotels we use have the quality certification “Bike Friendly”, meaning they have all the above plus washing areas.
Camaraderie forms a big part of the whole experience our tours provide and although single supplements are available, our tours are priced and catered for such that a single cyclist can feel comfortable making a booking and opt to share a twin room with someone they don’t know.
People tend to settle into their own way of cycling throughout the day and groups can vary from day to day and evening to evening. You can cycle at your own pace for a solitary cycle or join others.
Group size and tour leaders
Our groups are generally around 12 to 18 people. All our Andalucia tours go ahead with a minimum of six people.
Our groups are supported by a tour leader and assistant, both of whom have previous tour support experience and are themselves cyclists who fully appreciate just how it feels however your day pans out. The tour leader and assistant ride in the van to better aid a speedy assist where required. On most tours we also have a rider on the road with basic mechanical and first aid skills who will try to ride ‘mid-pack’, but the van generally gets there first.
At the initial briefing all cyclists are provided with the tour leader and assistant’s number, as well as that of the emergency services which they are instructed to use in the event of an emergency.
English is fairly widely spoken in the larger towns and where possible we will have Spanish speakers available to assist.
Our tour levels
This Spain cycling tour is at an avid level, designed for cyclists who want a holiday and a challenge. We travel through the hills of Spain because they are the fun and rewarding part for the more serious cyclists.
We do also run tours suitable for what we term the ‘active’ cyclist so someone new to cycling could aspire to one of those within a year.
We provide a detailed breakdown of the distance and climbing you can expect each day on our tours and recommend training accordingly.
We’re always happy to chat if you want to talk through a tour’s suitability for your own specific needs and circumstances.
Navigating the route
We recommend you bring a bike computer onto which you can upload the GPX files of the route, or rent one from us with routes already loaded. GPX files will be emailed to you before the start of the tour.
We will also email route profile sheets to help with finding your way.
Direction of travel
We chose west to east for our trip across Andalucia on account of the prevailing wind – we like the wind on our backs as much as possible!
Each morning (and evening) bike cleaning materials, basic tools, pumps and lubricants will be available so you can groom your trusty steeds.
You can telephone any time for mechanical support where required.
With regards to mechanical issues it’s helpful if everyone knows how to repair a puncture or replace a tube. However, we are on call if you need help re-seating a stiff tyre on the rim.
Minor mechanicals can be dealt with roadside and where more specialist help is required we can transport you and your bike to a local bike shop to carry out repairs.
Our support van with water and refreshments will pass you at least once each morning and afternoon en route to lunch and hotel so you will normally be able to access your day pack before lunch, at lunch and in the afternoon.
In the afternoon we ensure we get your bag to the hotel before you arrive.
Every day starts with a hearty breakfast and a briefing.
Breakfasts vary but for the most part will include cereals, fruit, eggs in various guises, cheeses, meats and breads with coffee, juice and tea.
We’ll advise of a suitable morning coffee stop for ‘second breakfast’ and we’ll also specify a lunch stop where the van can be found. Sometimes there will be a choice of restaurant but in remote areas there may only be one suitable.
Evening meals are available in all hotels for those evenings where you just can’t face walking anywhere. We do however advise a little walk each evening just to sample the delights these towns have to offer. For example, in Ronda, the Barcelona Las Ramblas equivalent is not to be missed.
Our support van is always crammed full of ‘bars’ and ‘bananas’ and as our tours progress we do our best to cater for the odd penchant our riders have for their own particular favourite sustenance where we can.
I do like to encourage everyone to partake of the local specialities ‘though where possible as honey aubergines are truly scrumptious and a big plate of patatas bravas will get you up any hill!
Our trip dates are selected with the aim of making the most of the Spanish sunshine without frying or severely dehydrating our clients! Everything is warming up in spring time. In autumn the colour of the foliage is outstanding as leaves start to turn red and brown and temperatures are temperate with cooling breezes.
Generally temperatures will be around 20°C with occasional days of light rain showers. Bring clothing to cope with a range of conditions. Sun-screen will be required and insect repellent is highly recommended.
While the weather on cycling holidays in Andalucia is more predictable than in some parts of the world, it can still vary. For example in April and October / November it can be 25 to 30 degrees in Seville and Valencia but 3 degrees in the mountains of the Sierras! The weather is the one thing we can’t guarantee but it is highly likely that you’ll encounter more sun than rain, the inevitable headwind on at least one vicious climb and a tailwind descent that might literally blow you away!
8. How can readers find out more about your cycling tour?
You can find out more about our Andalucia cycling holiday here.
Part 3: Tips for Andalucia cycling holidays
9. What are your tips for those cycling in Andalucia for the first time?
Those cycling Andalucia for the first time will discover the sheer diversity of all that this part of Spain has to offer.
The countryside will astound you with its vast array of agricultural offerings and you’ll get a real ‘feel’ for rural Spain as you cycle through and stop off in the many villages at their little cafes and bars on route. It’s colourful and it’s characterful.
You’ll travel through quiet (and we mean quiet) villages such as barren dusty Darros and marvel at the wonder of the village of Maria atop the hills. Castles will appear in front of you. Mountain ranges will astound, the sun shining off of the reservoirs will take your breath away and at least once you’ll stop and hop off your bike and just listen to the sound of silence.
Lots of these teeny café bars don’t do ‘food’ as such but they all offer ‘tostada’ and ‘domades’ and a warm welcome. Coffee and Estrella beer are available everywhere! Our cyclists on this tour often take a second look at the bill as it usually represents incredibly good value.
Road cycling in Andalucia is popular. Cyclists are a common sight in towns and on the climbs the cycle-friendly warning signs for motorists will reassure you of the care that’s taken to ensure your safety and that there is a reason for the popularity of these routes with fellow cyclists. It’s not only stunningly beautiful and a joy to ride but the traffic stresses that exist elsewhere aren’t relevant here.
Although most places take card (tajerta) you should carry a few euros on you for the village cafes and stores.
Google Translate (or a traditional phrase book for the luddites) won’t go amiss in these parts as English is not widely spoken away from the main tourist drag.
10. Any general tips for cycling holidays in Spain or before you book a Spain cycling tour?
Right bit of Spain at the right time of year
The weather in Spain is generally ‘ambient’ year round but you can expect it to be slightly colder, windier and wetter in the north than the south both early and late season.
For that reason we tend to run our first Southern Spain cycling tour of the season in April and the first northern Spain tour in May. We usually run the last Northern Spain cycling tour in October and the last southern one in early November.
Wind direction can be a big consideration for your trip. We try to follow the prevailing winds which usually work to our benefit, with the occasional exception of course!
Choose your road
The tarmac isn’t Vuelta condition all the way across Spain but it certainly beats the UK pothole-riddled roads hands down.
Most of the main roads are very well maintained and provide for very safe and pleasurable descents.
We feel it’s important to give a full flavour of Spain and for that reason we ride through some of the quaint villages and agricultural regions where the tarmac is a little rougher. However all of the terrain on our routes is suitable for road bikes and our tour is designed with the road cyclist front and centre of our mind.
A big thank you to Fiona for sharing this information about cycling in Andalucia and Wild Atlantic Cycling Tour’s new cycling tour of Spain. Wishing you happy riding!
Have you been on an Andalucia bike tour?
How was it? Where did you go? Share your experience below!
You may also like to read our questions to ask before booking a cycling tour.
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