On your next visit to Spain, go leisure cycling in Catalunya. It is steeped in culture and history with dramatic landscapes alongside crystal clear waters and beautiful beaches, all calling for you to explore during a two wheeled cycling adventure. I’ve fallen completely in love with the area and I challenge you not to do the same.
If you’re looking a for a holiday with a difference, pure leisure cycling as a couple or to take your children on, this may well fit the bill.
Leisure cycling in Catalunya and family friendly cycle routes
I’m sat in my office this morning, still wearing my coat. It’s six degrees outside in the UK! Autumn has most certainly arrived! But in Catalunya, temperatures rarely drop below 14 degrees in Winter, which makes for great cycling weather any time of the year!
Full of contrasts, Catalunya offers relaxed cycling through fruit orchards and vineyards, olive groves and pine forests, along pretty coastal paths and alongside dramatic mountain ranges. It’s a real treat for the senses and a truly memorable cycling experience. My recent experience of cycling in Catalunya was an absolute blast. It’s a place that offers something for everyone. Here are some wonderful leisure cycle rides and some family friendly cycling routes that should be top of your list when you’re cycling in Catalunya:
City cycling in Barcelona
If only city cycling in the UK was like it is in Barcelona. Whilst some of the city centre is obviously busy with traffic and pedestrians, cycling is welcomed and well-considered in Barcelona and you can avoid the traffic and busy roads easily enough. There are cycle lanes with protective bumpers to ensure some distance from the cars – I’ve not seen these before and I liked them. A lot!
There are also plenty of bike hire schemes for self guided travel around the city (think schemes like Boris Bikes), and there are lots of companies offering city tours with cycle hire included.
Barcelona is mainly flat and has a whole array of beautiful sights to see. Take a 3 hour guided city tour with Barcelona Ciclotour and you’ll receive an introduction to the top things to see across the whole city! It’s excellent value for money and our tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable. Whilst we were in shorts, t-shirts and trainers, she was riding along in a floaty skirt and clog sandals, perfectly weaving her way through some of the narrowest streets in Barcelona. No special clothing needed for cycling in this city!
You’ll get to see far more of what the city has to offer than if you were to attempt it on foot. There’s Gaudi’s world famous architecture, the Gothic Quarter, the beautiful marina, the Olympic Park, the Barcelona beach and the Parc Ciutadella all worth pedalling to. Barcelona offers so much to see and for city cycling, it’s a fun and actually, quite a relaxing way to explore the city.
Looking for somewhere to stay in Barcelona? I’d highly recommend the Angla Boutique Apartments. They are so stylish…with a great welcome pack full of goodies!
Barcelona is always top of people’s lists when visiting Catalunya so cycling through it is something a little bit different.
Catalunya also has so much more to offer that shouldn’t be missed.
The Vies Verdes in Costa Brava
Head to Girona, explore the magical city and then cycle along one of Catalunya’s Vies Verde. The greenways are disused railway lines that have been made into family friendly cycle routes. These cycle routes are perfect for those wanting more relaxed cycling in Catalunya.
The Girona greenways connect the city to the Pyrenees and the Costa Brava coast. There’s a 125 km loop which would make for the perfect bikepacking trip with many beautiful places to visit along the route. During my Catalunya experience we sampled only a 25km section of the loop, but my husband and I have plans to bikepack the full loop when we next visit. I can’t wait! (Not sure what bikepacking is…think packing minimally, stashing it on the bike and taking it all with you for the ride. Sleeping bag and all!)
Whilst you could make a whole cycling holiday focused solely around the greenways, sections of it are ideal trip as family friendly cycle routes. The cycle route from Llagostera to Sant Feliu de Guixols takes you right down to the pretty marina where you can spend some time swimming in the sea, relaxing on the beach or simply eating tapas by the marina while you gaze at the turquoise waters. Pretty perfect, right?
Poblet to Montblanc
Now this one might be for the slightly fitter cyclists amongst you as getting up to Montblanc obviously involves some hill climbing! But, don’t be put off! The wonderful thing about Catalunya is that it caters for all cycling abilities and if you fancy taking an e-bike up to the top, then there’s nothing stopping you. This route is perfect for couples, especially if one of you is a keen cyclist and the other doesn’t do much cycling at all! Or this route would also work for you if you have older teenage children who enjoy a little challenge. A bit of electric powered oomph might not be to everyone’s taste but if you’re cycling with someone who’s not a frequent cyclist, e-bikes give a great little extra boost for those hills and, having tried one out during my Catalunya Experience, what they lack in fulfilling a sense of achievement, they certainly make up for in fun! Otherwise, this is mountain biker’s territory and an experience you’ll love, I’m sure.
Vineyards & Monasteries
You can follow the Ruta del Cister and call in at the Milmanda Vineyard, home to Spain’s famous Torres wine. This particular route connects three Cistercian monasteries in the region. During my Catalunya experience we stopped by Poblet Monastery, the UNESCO World heritage site, to admire the architecture and history, as well as to learn more about life as a Cistercian monk. It’s a curious existence but to hear them chanting is quite magical.
Whatever bike you choose, power assisted or not, Montblanc will reward your efforts. It’s a medieval walled town where you can climb up to the fortress towers. The views at the top are amazing, and it’s pretty cool to think that you’re standing exactly where soldiers stood to guard the town in the Spanish Civil war.
If you fancy some more history and a chance to re-fuel along the way, Montblanc tourist board offers a tour of the town with visits to local tapas restaurants for food and wine for an amazing €8! We sampled some of the best food and local wine here!
Or for a longer, lazier lunch, you can’t get much better than a visit to the Cal Jordi restaurant. The beef carpaccio was delicious and Jordi, the owner, was a real character! That’s him above! A top tip for the adults…if you get chance, make sure you finish your lunch Catalan style with a porre of Muscadel. Great fun (and I surprised myself at how good I was at it!).
Benefallet to Bot on the Terre Alta Greenway
This 40km, slightly downhill greenway route takes you back along the old railway track, through tunnels cut into mountains and over bridges looking out to the stunning surrounding valleys. This route is a real gem!
I can’t tell you just how blown away I was by the scenery. It was early evening and the light was incredible looking out from the bridges to the surrounding valleys.
Make time to stop at the Prat de Comte station. If you’ve not already been knocked off your feet by the valleys you’ve cycled through, then the Santuario de La Fontcalda sanctuary hidden away close to this station will definitely tug at your heartstrings! Cycle down the steep hill and you’ll find a little haven surrounded by awesome rock formations, beautiful rock pools, a river to cool off in and even some mineral medicinal hot springs.
It’s somewhere I’ll remember for a very long time. A little tip for you all – whilst cycling down the hill is great fun, remember you do have to get back up it again! Whilst I tried to cycle back up it, I failed! Big time! So it’s worth remembering you may have to walk back up!
The views along this route, glazed by the late golden sun are spectacular. And cycling through the many tunnels carved through the rocks is kind of cool! The whole family will love them. Or, for the more serious cyclists amongst you, they are perfect for sprint interval training!
Have you cycled in Catalunya? Is there anywhere I’ve missed that you’d recommend for my next cycle touring visit and bikepacking stay?
*Thank you to the Catalan Tourist Board for my #CatalunyaExperience and for showing me some wonderful places I want to revisit again and again.*