If you don’t fancy pulling on your walking boots and doing the famous pilgrimage trail on foot, you can opt for two wheels instead. The best route for cyclists starts in south-west France and weaves almost 800km across northern Spain, ending up with the thousands of other pilgrims at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. There are pilgrim hostels along the route as well as a diverse range of sights, from historical monuments and churches to beautiful small villages, stunning landscapes and hearty local cuisine.
Follow in the footsteps of Spain’s most famous literary character by exploring the region of Castilla-La Mancha, a rich landscape studded with windmills. The 2,500 metre route encompasses 10 stages and goes through 148 towns, past some of the region’s major historical and cultural sights. It has been designated as a Cultural Route by the Council of Europe, alongside others including the Camino de Santiago and the Viking Routes, highlighting its environmental and cultural significance. Choose a section of the route if you’re after a shorter ride.
More experienced cyclists will be rewarded on this route with spectacular scenery, from Europe’s only desert landscape of Cabo de Gata and the magical Doñana wetlands to the soaring Sierra Nevada mountain range. The 2000km long mountain bike route, which was developed thanks to information provided by local riders, runs the length of Andalusia’s eight provinces, through beautiful whitewashed villages and past incredible landscapes. Another bonus: its 300 days of sunshine make the region a year-round cycling destination.
Spain’s ‘vías verdes’ (‘Green Ways’) programme to convert disused railway lines across the country into walking and cycling routes has opened up many stretches of wonderful countryside and landscapes for exploration. There are 2,000km of Vías Verdes across Spain; they are all flat and easy routes, ideal for children, older riders or riders looking for a beginner’s route that won’t be too hard on the calves. Check out the 109 possible routes on the Vías Verdes website, which also provides maps and helpful information about what you might see along the trail.
Escape the busy streets of the city and get a bird’s eye view of Barcelona by cycling the route through the Serra de Collerola, the mountains that rise up over the city. The 8,000 hectare area comprises lush forests and can be explored by both road cycling or off-road on its dirt tracks. So whether you prefer to stick to the asphalt, or enjoy a mountain biking experience, Serra de Collerola has you covered. One warning: it gets very busy, especially at weekends. Get out for an early morning cycle or opt for a weekday when things are a bit calmer.
Cycling through Lanzarote’s Timanfaya National Park is like stepping onto another planet, where sights include ancient volcanoes and probably the most unusual vineyards you will ever see, their vines planted in holes in the volcanic earth. The Montañas de Fuego (Fire Mountains), an incredible martian landscape, were formed by huge volcanic eruptions that occurred between 1730 and 1736. Today, Lanzarote’s mild climate makes a cycle through the lava fields a year-round activity.
Mallorca’s impressive steep climbs into the Tramuntana mountains, beautiful coastal routes and warm weather conditions make it a favourite with pro cyclists, many of whom train on the island. But whatever your level, the Balearic Island is a great cycling destination. Ride up to the island’s most northerly point, Formentor lighthouse, for a route through picturesque small villages with awe-inspiring views across the Mediterranean.