• Distance 110 km
  • Elevation gain 1580m
  • Difficulty
  • Epic rating

It’s rides like this that are what cycling in Catalunya is all about.

This is a gem of a ride with three clear sections: the first 30km are a good warm up from the coast, onto wide valley roads over gently rising terrain. The middle 50km are dreamlike: a loop from Alforja on narrow roads that take in the dramatic mountain scenery of the Serra de la Mussara. The last 30 km offer a fast return back to the coast.

While the first and last 30 kilometres are good, the Alforja loop is outstanding and what makes this ride memorable.

All metrics in this article are approximate.

Highlights

The whole of the 50km loop from Alforja was brilliant – quiet, picturesque and challenging while not being crazily demanding.

If we had to pick a highlight from this, it would be the 5 kilometres after you turn left onto the TV-7092 after La Mussara. The views over the plains were incredible and this rolling road is a joy to ride.

Cyclist heading into the Costa Daurada cycling hillsClimbing to the La Mussara summit
Mussara hills Costa Daurada cycling heavenUnspoilt scenery as far as the eye can see
Climbing the Mussarra range by bikeLa Mussara climb

Route notes

1. Salou to Alforja: 0 to 32 km

It’s a flat 10km through the urban area of Salou. The road rises as you hit Cambrils and turn inland and the next 20km are on a gently upward sloping wide, but not overly busy, main road towards the hills. You climb up through the winding, leafy streets of Ruidoms and 7km later spot the pretty houses and tall church tower of Alforja to your left.

Seafront cycling near CambrilsRoad along the seafront at Cambrils
Tower near Montbrio del CampRiding out of town from Cambrils near Montbrio del Camp
View towards Alforja, Costa DauradaView to Alforja from the road

2. Alforja to La Mussara summit: 32 to 47km

The loop from Alforja is what this ride is all about. It’s pure class.

At Alforja you turn off the C-242 onto the TP-7013 and it feels like you’re leaving urban development behind you and the adventure is really beginning, with green rolling hills all around.

The first 6km east of Alforja have a few minor lumps, including a sign indicating a 9% drop down into Vilaplana, which is where the first climb begins in earnest. You take the third exit of the roundabout (signposted Prades 29km) and climb up above Vilaplana and up into the hills on the T-704.

It’s a fabulous winding, 10km climb, with 6% average gradients with a carpet of green trees before you, reaching up to the rugged red rocks of the Mussara above you. As you reach the switchback section at about 5km into the climb (43km into the ride), the views open out and you get that feeling of being on top of the world.

Above you you can see some communications masts, it’s just a question of keeping the legs spinning until you reach the top – but on this friendly climb (average gradient 6%, maximum 8%) it’s not too much of a struggle. There’s no summit sign or marker, just an open flat road and a couple of kilometres of easy, twisting descent, before a little ramp up to where you turn left onto the TV-7092.

Cycling from Alforja to VilaplanaLeaving Alforja and riding towards Vilaplana
Climbing La Mussara by bikeNear the start of the La Mussara climb
View near the top of La MussaraNear the summit of La Mussara

3. La Mussara to Salou: 47 to 110km

The next 5 kilometres are rolling, but stunning, as you pedal along a sort of plateau. It feels like a ridge road, with far-reaching views opening up on the left towards the coast.

The road then descends, mainly through forest. There’s a sharp right turn off half way down the climb and then you descend into Arboli a tiny little hamlet with steep streets where you weave through the buildings on ancient roads.

There’s a little climb after Arboli and then you’re on a high ridge road with the reservoir Siurana appearing on your right. It’s quite a wow moment as the reservoir comes into sight. Red cliffs soar above the reservoir and there are stunning rock formations. From here it’s a four kilometre descent, around the reservoir. Take great care on the road – we found it very narrow and very gravelly.

There’s a T junction at the bottom, which meets another road to the reservoir, before a second T junction that brings you onto the more major C-242. Reaching the C-242 felt a bit like being back in civilisation again – not that there are any/many buildings, rather that the light traffic we encountered here made us realise how ridiculously quiet the rest of the loop had been!

This is the start of the climb up to the final big hill of the day – the Coll d’Alforja, which will take you to 641 metres. Luckily, this twisting, wooded climb is also pretty gradual – 6 kilometres at an average 3-4%. From the top of the pass it’s a final big descent down to Alforja, with superb views out across the coastal plains to sea.

From Alforja, you’re back onto pretty much the same route that brought you the 30 km inland this morning – except you’ve got the slight gradient with you, so you can fly back to the coast. What a great day!

Summit of La MussaraAt the summit of La Mussara
Cyclist with spectacular backdrop to seaSpectacular views along the “ridge road” after La Mussara summit
Road back to the coast and Cambrils/SalouRoad back to the coast from Alforja

Café stops

Once you leave Vilaplana, expect to be self-sufficient for the next 25 km until Arboli, and really, given this is such a tiny hamlet, until you’re back in Alforja. There’s almost no opportunity for refuelling during the 50 km between Vilaplana and Alforja. This is remote Spain, which is brilliant fun – just don’t expect fuelling stops and help on hand!

Accommodation

We stayed at the Hotel Estival Eldorado just outside Cambrils. You can find our review of the hotel and information on what Cambrils and Salou are like in our Ultimate guide to cycling Costa Daurada, here.

Tips

Read our tips for cycling the Costa Daurada before you set out.

The Alforja loop is extremely rural – there’s almost nothing in the way of towns/villages/petrol stations for 50km. Expect to be self-sufficient.

Take care on the concrete section of road near the Siurana reservoir. We had a few dodgy moments on the gravelly descent there.

At the top of the Mussara climb, at about kilometre 51 of the ride, there’s a turning down to La Mussara. We didn’t get a chance to take a look, but we’ve heard La Mussara is one of the area’s abandoned towns with an impressive ruined church and a romantic atmosphere.

La Mussara (which used to be known as Coll de Les Llebres) is used by people that want to complete the everesting challenge. To complete it here you have to go up and down 14 times (8,498m) plus a final ascent of 350m altitude of the 5.4km to the top. This gives a total distance of 298 km in 20 hours. More info on everesting, here.

Cycling in Catalunya: have you been?

Let us know your favourite routes in the comments below!

Don’t miss our other routes for the Costa Daurada region – links below or click on these: Priorat/MontsantPoblet/Mont BlancEl Vendrell/Santa Creus.

Got a question for Clare?

Fill out this form and we will send it to Clare. We aim to get you an answer within 24 hours wherever possible!

We will use this info to send the enquiry to Clare and/or their team. Our privacy policy explains more and here’s a reminder of our terms and conditions.







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.

The contents of this website are provided for general information purposes only. It is not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on it. You should carry out your own due diligence and take professional advice. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content on our website is accurate, complete or up to date. If you use any information or content on this website, download from, or otherwise obtain content or services through our website, it is entirely at your own discretion and risk. Epic Road Rides Ltd disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the information and content on this website. Find out more here.

Leave your comment

  • (will not be published)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.