From Grense Jakobselv in Norway to Cabo St Vincent in Portugal, the European Divide Trail is the longest predominantly off-road bikepacking route in the world at over than 7,500 kilometres (4,660 miles), put together by Andy Cox, aka Doubletrackfanatic.
The third section of the route to the south passes through Southern France, Spain and Portugal to reach the trail's conclusion at Cape St Vincent at the most south-westerly tip of Europe. It is mostly dry, rocky and loose, and can get really hot in the high summer and surprisingly cold in the winter.
Enjoy a huge variation between mountain ranges across this section, with the Mediterranean Sea dominating the weather and geography. Having said this, Central Spain is quite unique with the highest parts of this section (and the whole trail) topping out above 2,000 metres (6,562 feet) above sea level.
In terms of the best time of year to ride the southern section of the European Divide Trail, an early spring start in Portugal is possible, although the high interior of Spain can be really cold and snowy until May, with the Sierra de Segura and Montanas Vacias regions being the highest and potentially coldest.
Ideally you should finish by late October or early November in Portugal to enjoy the best conditions. Avoid this section of the European Divide Trail in the high summer due to the heat, except for the highest parts of the route that could be pleasant in July.
Check out the full European Divide Trail Collection and other sections here: komoot.com/user/europeandividetrail/collections
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Last updated: December 8, 2021
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
Once past Valence you're into what I would class as the south of Europe. The mistral wind blows along the Rhone Valley here, and it can be excruciating to ride against, or amazing to ride with it, as it can get up to 100 km/h at times!
The surfaces once again change constantly, and once into the South…
From the southern edge of France's Massif Central you'll really start to notice that you're in Southern Europe now. The route touches the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, so it might be a good chance to stop and recharge for a few days.
The weather through this section can be very changeable due to winds…
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Out of Perpignan you'll cross through farmland until starting to climb over the Pyrenees. The crossing is at a low pass with some interesting history and you'll find yourself into Spain.
Spain is the second most mountainous country in Europe, so expect very little flat riding until you hit the Atlantic…
North of Barcelona you'll pass the beautiful mountain of Mont Serrat, then ride through a series of valleys and along high ridges with sea views at points, and plenty of dirt roads.
Crossing through the town of Mont Blanc you're then into a series of big climbs and descents, intermixed with some easier…
The terrain gets a bit wilder and the population more spread out as you make your way gradually higher into the emptiest area of Spain. Be prepared for drawn out climbing, loose surfaces and some amazing canyons and ridges to ride.
Stock up with food where you can as there's not much out here, but there…
Here you enter the area known as Spanish Lapland, firstly for its similar population density as Lapland in Scandinavia, but also for its temperature extremes. It can get down to -20°c in the winter and up as high as +40°c in the summer.
Teruel is the only city in this area and it's an out-and-back journey…
Here you'll ride out of the really big mountains and across some plains, but as with most places in Spain they plains are not so flat.
Then it's through the city of Albecete, along a via verde, the green routes (disused railway lines) of Spain, and into yet another range of mountains, the Sierra de Segura y Carzola.
Into another wild and beautiful area of Eastern Spain, but with its own route finding issues: there's not that many good, legal dirt roads to ride so there's a fair bit of paved riding in-between the good bits. Having said that, it's still a very peaceful and beautiful place to ride.
You climb through…
Out of the high mountains and into the land of vineyards and olive groves, and some more populous areas. You'll ride from the coldest areas of Spain to the hottest here, as the geography of the landscape means that the heat and humidity gets trapped by the surrounding mountains.
From Carzola you ride…
On this stage you'll travel through the beautiful city of Cordoba with its mosque with a Catholic church built in the middle of it, and through some more olive groves and vineyards before turning into the mountains again.
Here you'll follow some parts of the TransAndalus mountain bike route. This is a…
Crossing from Spain into Portugal, the routing of the trail becomes an issue once again, with lots of private land causing problems. There's also a big river to cross into the last country on the route, so there's a fair bit of paved riding in-between the trails, but it's a very quiet area so not much…
The final section across Portugal is characterised by the change in environment but also in weather patterns as you get close to the Atlantic Ocean, and away from a more continental air flow. Expect wind and rain, but also milder weather and pleasant riding conditions.
The trails and tracks through here…
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