Cycling in northern Spain has got several meanings: It’s riding through centuries-old cultures. It’s relaxing on sandy beaches in small rocky bays. It’s pedaling past lush green meadows—and it’s enjoying plate after plate of hearty food. And while this combination of some of life’s purest pleasures is certainly rewarding, making the most out of this experience isn’t one for the faint of heart: To see it all, you’ll pedal up plenty of altitude, pushing your body up almost 33,000 feet (10,000 meters) of elevation over the 434-mile (700-kilometer) route. Therefore, you should arrive in peak physical condition and only bring the kit absolutely necessary for your adventure. After all, as you pedal up and down this cycling paradise, you’ll feel every extra ounce of equipment you brought along for the ride.
If you’re up for the challenge, you’ll be rewarded with one seriously unique cycling adventure. Cycling in the opposite direction to the ever-popular pilgrim route, Camino del Norte (the northerly section of the Way of St. James), this route will take you past a fair few pilgrims, although you’ll be able to enjoy long moments of complete solitude as you roll along the impressive, rocky, coastal landscape.
Your adventure starts in Santiago de Compostela. In addition to the famous pilgrimage cathedral, there are some small alleys and historic buildings in the old town, which you want to discover on a short walk.If you have explored enough, you will leave the city to the west. Take a look back every now and then, the cathedral you will still be able to spy on some hills. Speaking of hills, you will immediately be greeted by some crisp climbs, which are then replaced by rapid descents again. It will stay that way throughout your journey. To take a breather, the picnic area in A Santaia, where you can cool off in the dammed brook and take a nap in the shade of the trees.Northern Spain is intensively used for agriculture, but thanks to its rugged topography, this results in scattered small farmhouses here and there. Many of these farms have discovered rural tourism as a source of income and usually offer great renovated accommodation. Many of you are wonderfully supplied with treats from your own farm.
Also on this day you collect some altitude. The typical thing about Galicia is not very high, even if you drive today on the roof of the tour (680 m). The first part of the day leads you constantly up and down through quiet forests and past fields to Sobrado. The local monastery is a constant destination for accommodation-seeking pilgrims. You can plaster your provisions in the shade, watch the newcomers and ask you what adventures they've been through. It is particularly picturesque through the pasture behind the monastery wall, on the cows relaxed munch their grass.After Sobrado it goes on as contemplative. Here you are big parts directly on the Camino on the way. The buildings and the small walls to the left and right of the path bear witness to how ancient this path is. How many pilgrims have already gone this way? Arriving at the old stone bridge on the Río de Parga offers you a break on the shore.To get to your stage destination Vilalba, you are now following the main road. Thanks to the almost parallel highway but this is not very busy. Vilalba is a small town built on a hill. There are plenty of places to stop for a bite to eat and the central Plaza de Constitucion is the perfect place to watch the bustle of the small town enjoying a cold drink.
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The first few kilometers you drive along a main road, which was apparently planned with a simple ruler, thanks to the parallel highway there is once again little traffic.Before Mondonedo it will be more spectacular and it goes down on a rapid descent into town. The marketplace of the place invites you to linger briefly. From there you follow the course of the main road through several small towns, until you finally reach the Atlantic in Playa de Altar. Anticipating your joy over this sight, a wonderful picnic spot was built right here. Well rested, we are now heading west along the coast and you are riding on a promenade winding along the cliffs, always overlooking the beach and the sea.In the port of Ribadeo you cross the mouth of the river of the same name on a large bridge, here you leave Galicia and are now traveling for a few kilometers in the region of Asturias.
To escape the great slopes of the coastal mountains, head north again to the water. Even if you always make detours, essentially you follow the little-busy highway on the coast.The port of Luarca is almost spectacularly crowded in the washed-out valley of the Rio Negro. The beautiful and tranquil harbor town is ideal for your lunch break. After paying a visit to the lighthouse, you drive along the coastal road, constantly pacing up and down.Before Cudillero you turn towards Faedo in the mountains, the small town in the Asturian mountain country radiates a wonderfully relaxed, rural flair.
After your short excursion into the mountains, today we will go to the city of Gijon. It is still pretty rural soon, from Avilés, very industrial and urban. Gijon has traditionally relocated a lot of heavy industry, mainly steel production. Although this is in stark contrast to the rural tranquil days before, but is also very exciting to see. For miles you drive past busy steelworks with blast furnaces. The road is colored red by the iron ore which the delivering trucks transport.The green and peaceful valley of the Rio Pervera between the two industrial centers feels like a little oasis, here you can breathe deeply.Once in Gijon, you can explore the winding streets of the old town from the Plaza del Marqués, take in one of the many museums in the city or enjoy the evening sun on one of the two city stalls.
If you leave Gijon to the east, you have a different picture than in the industrial west. There are great bike paths and the cityscape is greener and more suburban shaped. The massive building of Universidad Laboral de Gijon will catch your eye from afar. Take a little time to visit the impressive building. Maybe you also like one of the different exhibitions.The farther you leave Gijon, the more rural and small-town it will be. In the streets of the town of Villaviciosa, various cafés and restaurants are open for lunch. The climb behind the city allows you a great view of the mouth of the Rio de la Ria, which is a nature reserve.Ribadesella, the destination of today's stage, is a typical seaside resort. No wonder, here has accumulated in a well-protected bay, a large sandy beach with calm water. The eastern part, divided by the Rio Sella place, offers some opportunities for shopping and fine fish restaurants. On the promenade you can walk to the secluded lighthouse and watch the sunset.
It is beach day! To lie extensively on the beach, the kilometers to be covered today are limited. The spectacular beaches line up here only on the rugged stone coast, as it is difficult to make a choice.The beach of San Antolin on the Rio Bedon is a wide and wide sandy beach that you share with many people, but its size never gets tight. Between Celorio and Póo is the Playa San Martin, where many smaller bays have eaten in the rock and you can choose one of them. The bike path created here is just beautiful.
It continues on the highway running parallel to the coast and highway. Again and again you will find branches to other small beaches. The two largest sandy beaches are waiting behind the vivid and slightly crowded place San Vicente de la Barquera.In Comillas the full package of culture and sights awaits you. The Papal University building, the Palacio de Sobrellano and Villa Quijano designed by Gaudi are the most outstanding. But even off these heavyweights, some interesting buildings are scattered throughout the town.Before your destination in Toñanes, you can relax on Playa de Cobreces from the cultural impressions of the day.
In the first half of the day you see the sea only from a distance, even if the first visited place Santilla is nicknamed "del Mar". Take a little time to explore the old town, it is full of well-preserved and renovated townhouses. The place is an old trading center.On the coast, you continue along the two rivers Besaya and Rio Pas, across which there is only a bridge further inland. It is definitely worth driving to the mouth of the Rio Pas, because here the dunes of Liencres National Park await you. Here there are the eponymous dunes, a beautiful pine forest and a wide sandy beach. Just the thing to refuel in front of the city of Santander a little rest and nature.Arriving in the Cantabrian capital Santander, there is a lot to discover. The city center, which is located between the harbor promenade and the town square, is home to numerous shops, restaurants and cafés. A curiosity is the escalators, which replace the sidewalks on the steepest places.A walk from the Centro Botín to the Palacio de La Magdalena on the peninsula upstream covers some of the city's sights and takes you to the two urban beaches.
Today is the day of the ferry, two small ferry crossings with romantic small harbor-kites are on the plan. In Santander you start near the Centro Botín on the harbor promenade with a crossing to Somo. You always go along the sandy peninsula Punta Rabiosa. Again with a firm ground under the wheels you drive on a small side road through the hilly hinterland of the coast to the resort of Santona. Here you can take the second small ferry of the day over the Ria de Treto directly to the long beach of the equally elongated place Laredo translate.After the seaside resort two more climbs wait for you, before you can go down to the beach Orinon. This beach has a very quiet atmosphere due to the two rugged coastlines at its side, even though the highway clings to the rock.
Your bike adventure through northern Spain is coming to an end, the destination Bilbao is near. First you drive on the steep coast to the resort of Castro Urdiales. When you arrive in the port, look at the Santa Ana fortress, the lighthouse and the church of Santa Maria. Along the beach promenade you leave the place again. Behind it with a longer tunnel for pedestrians and cyclists waiting for the first highlight of the day in terms of bicycle infrastructure on you.Continue to the seaside resort of La Arena, where a suspension bridge for pedestrians and cyclists was stretched across the river. The dune landscape merges here with a marsh landscape. After a well deserved break on the beach, you'll leave to explore the next bike highlight. From La Arena, an almost 17 km long cycle path leads to Barakaldo, a suburb of Bilbao. In a gently rising valley, you will overcome the last real climb of the tour, then you can easily roll downhill in the valley of Nervión. This is what cycling infrastructure must look like.Once in Bilbao you will drive to the most famous landmark of the city. The Guggenheim Museum is internationally known and renowned. For years, Bilbao was an industrial city that attracted few tourists. This changed in the early 90s of the last century. With numerous urban development measures such as the construction of the metro line connecting the suburbs with the center, and the construction of numerous other major projects, such as the Guggenheim Museum, the city was put into a veritable boom. So Bilbao became a city that attracts many culture-loving visitors.