A travel secret exists in Northern Spain and it’s name is Picos de Europa. Cycling in Spain may not be unusual but through these lush alpine valleys filled with wild flowers and grand Atlantic ocean views, the peaceful roads rarely see bicycles, or vehicles for that matter.
With cycling tourism flourishing worldwide, particularly in Europe, the Picos de Europa of Spain remain known largely for beaches and hiking. The beautifully paved routes remain quiet with cyclists feeling like they have the place to themselves.
I recall thinking during one of our days of riding in Spain that perhaps aliens had kidnapped everyone on earth and we on two wheels were the only people remaining on the planet.
Where are the Picos de Europa?
Translated to ‘Peaks of Europe’, the Spanish mountain range is located 20 km inland from the northern coast of Spain, within the communities of Asturias, Cantabria and Castile and Leon. The cities of Santander and Bilbao make good start points in flying to cycle in the Picos.
The origin of the name widely accepted is that these high jagged peaks of the Cantabrian Mountains were the first sight of Europe for ships coming back from America.
Can anyone cycle Spain’s Picos de Europa?
Let’s be clear. I am no advanced cyclist. On any ride you can find me at the back of the group, smiling and sweaty. It used to stress me out that I wasn’t fast on a bike nor did I possess a lot stamina. I decided to get over myself and enjoy the cycling.
The Picos biking tour can be the trip of a lifetime for novice riders like myself and is also recommended for intermediate to advanced cyclists. The ride is fully supported with luggage being transported from one lodging to the next.
Having a support vehicle nearby allows anyone the opportunity to have a break when necessary or when they would just like to sit back and take in the scenery. I took advantage of a ride in the support van more than once on this tour while Dave, who is a far stronger rider, loved climbing every hill the Picos delivered.
Since we did the trip electric bikes are now available. Imagine zooming up the hills to enjoy the views and waiting while the others catch up. Can you hear me squealing with delight at the thought?
How would I get there?
Bilbao is the nearest international airport. Famous for it’s Guggenheim Museum it makes for a fabulous city to arrive a day or two early or to stay on following the cycling tour to explore.
Isn’t it very hot in Spain in August?
Come August it did seem like most of Spain’s population had made their way to the beach. However the temperature in the alpine setting of the mountains provides a comfortable cycling temperature. On our final half day of the tour, once out of the mountains, we were surprised by the increase in the heat.
Why did you choose this cycling tour in Spain?
For those of you have followed us for some time will know we have cycled in many countries including Turkey, Slovenia, Peru and twice in Italy. The truth is we chose to cycle Spain because that is where Judy and Chuck from Nichols Expeditions were leading their tour.
Having done our first cycling trip in Piedmont Italy as a complete beginner, the long time owners coached and guided this newbie through the trip of a lifetime and put up with a few tears of mine along the way.
At the same time advanced cyclists on that tour also had a fabulous trip. Basically we have trusted the Nichols with all of our international cycling excursions since and have never been disappointed. The fact that cycling Spain and it’s jaw dropping Picos de Europa turned out to be so spectacularly beautiful was a bonus.
Hiking and other special finds cycling Spain
The Nichols tour includes a couple of days of fun hiking. Our suggestion would be to have the camera batteries charged fully for the magnificent views.
The tour begins in what has been called Europe’s prettiest little town, Santillana del Mar. In Santillana you will see those walking the northern route of Camino de Santiago or the Way of St. James. The iconic markers of the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compestela can be seen on the streets of the postcard perfect Spanish town.
For more information on how to experience this peaceful paradise yourself click here.
Have you been to Spain?
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Our cycling tour in Spain was not sponsored by Nichols Expeditions. We paid for the trip in full. We will will be working with Nichols in the fall of 2016 on a sea kayaking trip off the coast of Baja Mexico for which we have received a discount.