This is a fantastic wild and remote gravel bikepacking route through the Serranía Celtibérica region of Spain, also known as ’Montañas Vacías’, or 'The Empty Mountains'. The area is filled with medieval villages, remote refuges, natural parks, high elevation plateaux and infinite forest roads.
I was looking for some remote wilderness time and so this region of Spain, often referred to as ’Spanish Lapland’ (with less than seven inhabitants/km²), fitted the bill perfectly.
Our hardtail mountain bikes fully loaded with bikepacking bags, food and water, weighed in at a hefty 23 kilograms on departure of Teruel. We had definitely packed in holiday mode, not race mode! A big comfy tent, cooking pots and pans, chunky DSLR camera and lots of food, so we could be completely autonomous and stop where we wanted.
In six days we saw just four other cyclists, a handful of cars and only a few people in the sleepy little villages we passed through to re-supply: heaven! In contrast, every morning we saw deer in their hundreds, wild boar, ibex, hares, foxes and squirrels, and by mid-afternoon the vultures graced the sky in their masses. It was like cycling through a European safari park!
We swam in turquoise rivers, slept in mountain huts, ate patatas bravas until they came out of our ears and were met with nothing but kindness by the locals.
This beautiful 700 kilometre (435 mile) route has lots of options and shortcuts available, making it easily adaptable depending on the time you have available. We took a shortcut on the last day to make onwards travel, for example. The views and landscapes are incredibly varied but the terrain is almost always rideable, no big hike-a-bike sections on this route.
This region undoubtedly has a sense of abandonment, after years of depopulation resulting in schools and businesses closing. As wonderful as it is for someone like me, a bit of a loner drawn to wild places, to cycle through such inhabited landscapes surrounded by nothing but nature, it is also devastating to know that the culture and people of this region are quite literally dying out with the majority of people over 65 years old.
However, I think Ernesto who created the Montañas Vacías route, is striking a wonderful balance of offering us adventure seekers some much desired remoteness with ‘no’ traffic, whilst also bringing some much needed awareness and positivity to the area.
Gravel bike or mountain bike, newbie bikepacker or experienced roamer, this route definitely has something for everyone. For the full, official route, visit: komoot.com/tour/437854942.
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Last updated: August 2, 2021
Not quite the start we were hoping for!
Last night, as we unpacked and rebuilt our bikes, and loaded all our bags, we marvelled through the hotel window at the monster thunderstorm that was happening outside. The rain lashed down and the sky lit up with lightning and thundered loud enough to make me jump…
Day two: what a corker! I really didn’t expect to see quite so many different types of landscapes in just one day. 😮
We rode pretty much in silence for seven hours, doing little else than turn our heads from left to right, taking in the views.
We passed through dense pine forests, high mountain plains…
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Stunning views, so much wildlife, no people on day three… okay you get the picture, I probably don’t need to mention that again!
The afternoon's mountain climbs were powered by eating my body weight in patatas bravas at lunch!
Last nights Refugio la Alconera was set in an idyllic forest clearing, 40 kilometres…
Day four was a wet, grey day. We didn't have any views and the coat never came off.
It was just a head-down get it done kind of a day, once again powered by patatas bravas.
Day five started with a monster 1800m gravel ascent to the summit of Pico Javalambre. The climb took us all morning 😱! Despite heavily laden bikes, the track was actually rideable for the entire ascent, although a little challenging in places due to large loose rocks.
How novel… riding not pushing your…
Day six was sadly our last morning on the route, but it was still packed with beauty and variety. We actually took a tarmac shortcut to La Vergin de la Vega as we were a little short on time.
We had been met with wonderful kindness by the locals every day, and today a lovely lady in Cabra de Mora, opened…
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