• Distance 119 km
  • Elevation gain 2260m
  • Difficulty
  • Epic rating

This superb ride takes in two of the Costa Blanca’s iconic climbs: the unmissable Coll de Rates and the lesser-known gem, the Port de Bèrnia.

The Port de Bèrnia loop is up first, before the classic Coll de Rates climb (from Parcent, the harder way up). After dropping down towards Taberna, the route follows the little used CV-752 to Castell de Castells, before a long gradual descent back towards Benissa and the run-in to Calp on small residential roads.

You’ll see from the map that the route is effectively three separate loops (the second loop from the coast is Port de Bèrnia, the third is Coll de Rates). This means it’s perfect for a first day if you’re sussing out how strong you are, or if you’re in a mixed ability group.

Watch this to get a feel for the ever popular Coll de Rates climb, then check out the rest of our guide below.

All metrics in this article are approximate.

Highlights

The Coll de Rates is the Costa Blanca’s unmissable climb. If you’re a self-respecting cyclist, you can’t come to Calpe and not ride it! It’s not the region’s steepest or longest climb, but it has majestic rugged mountain views and wide coastal panoramas towards the top. The winding hairpins from the Coll de Rates down to Taberna are a cyclist’s dream

Following on as a close second, the narrow winding climb of the Port de Bèrnia has swooping bends, mountain and coast views, and plenty of steep sections to test the legs

Almond blossom trees in SpainStunning almond blossom in February
Mountain road at dusk with cyclistColl de Rates at dusk
Countryside road with no traffic and white teeth on righthand sideRural road descending from Port de Bèrnia

Route notes

1. Calpe to Bernissa: 0-19 km

The ride starts working northwards through unremarkable coastal resorts north of Calp.

Soon you’re turning off left away from the coast onto the Avenida de la Fustera, the first leg-loosening climb. Initially a nondescript residential road, it rises above the coast into scenic hairpins. At the top, you cruise down and up into Benissa, a good sized town that’s light on charm but which is the gateway to many beautiful inland rides in the region.

Once you’ve navigated the short section of the N-332 through Benissa, you’re soon onto the tiny CV-749, the Carretera de Bèrnia, where the fun really starts.

2. Port de Bèrnia loop: 19-52 km

The Port de Bèrnia climb is 15 km long, though the first 12 km of that are pretty flat (there’s just one steeper section at 6% at kilometre 4 of the climb). The shallow gradient gives you time to appreciate the views down to Calpe and the Peñón de Ifach. The switchbacks loop around the craggy vertical cliffs and there are perilous drop-offs behind the concrete teeth that mark the edge of the road.

The last three kilometres are steep. Kilometres 12-14 average 9% and kilometre 14-15 is a punchy 11%!

It’s a fun 12.5km descent to Jalón (aka Xaló) through rural countryside: farmhouses, almond groves and twisty roads.  Near the end of the climb, in Jalón, is the VeloSol cycling bar, a good place to stop to refuel.

A short, flat transition section takes you four or so kilometres from Jalón to the turn off for Parcent.

Summit of Port de Bernia with pink almond blossom
Road twisting up the Port de Bèrnia
Summit sign of the Port de bernia

3. Coll de Rates: 52-58 km

The Coll de Rates is guaranteed to raise your pulse rate. It climbs 350 m in 6km from Parcent, with sweeping views to the north.

The first 4 km are very twisty as the road climbs higher and higher. There’s then a big 180 degree turn and you hit the hardest part of the climb: a straight ribbon of tarmac heads towards the sky at around 8%. The views to your left are incredible, but so is the pain from your legs!

Check out the Coll de Rates restaurant at the top if you need a break. The views from the terrace are unforgettable.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can go beyond the restaurant, along a short section of unpaved track and take on the truly epic 3 km thin, steep paved track that climbs at 10.5% another 300m. Check out the details in our Puerto de Tudons and Coll de Rates guide.

Road to the summit of the Coll de Rates
Village of Parcent in the Coll de Rates valley at dusk
Road in the Calpe mountains Costa Blanca

4. Summit of Coll de Rates to Calpe: 58-119 km

From the Coll de Rates, follow the road over the top. Just before Tàrbena, take a right turn on the CV-752, signposted to Castell de Castells. This is a wonderful, little used road that winds through the mountains. Enjoy the views of the north side of the Serella and Aixorta peaks and the almond tree terraces. After another 8km and 150m of climbing up to Port de Sa Creuta (at 780 m), you have broken the back of this ride.

Although there remains 38 km of road back to Calpe, the next 25km are all gradual downhill, down the valley through Castell de Castells, following the Xaló river all the way to Jalón. After that there are a few small climbs but nothing much to worry about as you head back into Calpe.

Café stops

It’s worth thinking about where you’re going to refuel on this ride since you won’t find many petrol stations or village shops where you can grab an emergency chocolate bar or bottle of water. Also consider the time of day and day of the week as this will be relevant to whether anything is open.

Your best bet are the valley towns: VeloSol cycling bar in Jalón (note that it usually closes for two weeks at the end of August) and Restaurante Tramonti in Parcent at the bottom of the Coll de Rates climb for example. Or there are restaurants in Castell de Castells and the towns in the Xaló river valley that take you back to Calpe.

Alternatively, there’s a few small restaurants at the top of the Col de Bèrnia. However we didn’t stop so can’t vouch for them. Also there’s the famous Coll de Rates restaurant at the top of the climb. Be aware that they don’t do takeaway/sandwiches.

Accommodation

We rode this route from the four-star Sol y Mar hotel on Calpe’s seafront. It worked well for us and was in a prime position for accessing the region’s best rides. You can find out more about what we thought, here.

Alternatively, we have more accommodation suggestions in our guide to where to stay in/around Calpe for cyclists.

Tips

This route offers lots of scope for you to tailor it to your needs. For example

In a mixed group, the A team could ride Port de Bèrnia while the B team head to Velocycling bar in Jalón for a regroup before everyone tackles Coll de Rates. Or the B team could go straight to Coll de Rates.

If  you’re concerned about time/fitness, you could ride the Coll de Rates loop first and then on the way back, if you have time and inclination, you could ride Bèrnia from Jalón. From the top of Bèrnia it’s then basically downhill all the way back to Calpe.

If you want even more challenge, when you get to the top of the Coll de Rates, tack on the epic secret summit path extension (read all about it here).

Read our tips for cycling in Calpe before you set out.

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Clare Dewey

Clare Dewey is a cyclist with a passion for travel. She set up epicroadrides.com in 2018 to help make it easy for cyclists to explore the world by bike. Today her mission is still inspiring cyclists to discover new places on two wheels – and doing what she can to make sure they have the best possible time while they’re there. Clare has visited 50+ destinations around the world, many of them by bike.

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