Discovering Andalucía on two wheels

The region of Andalucía offers cyclists stunning views.
The region of Andalucía offers cyclists stunning views. / A. B.
  • Tough climbs, breathtaking views, epic descents and plenty of coffee await cyclists on the roads of southern Spain

  • Routes of varying length take cyclists through the countryside of the region’s eight provinces, while fans of the sport can follow cycling’s elite in the Tours of Spain and Andalucía

It may come as no surprise that cycling is a popular pastime in Spain.

Any Sunday you can see hundreds of lycra-clad cyclists flying along country roads as they explore the region’s countless white washed villages and stunning landscapes.

On the road near Benahavís.

On the road near Benahavís. / EFE

Thanks to an abundance of sunshine, smooth roads and minimal traffic in the countryside, the sport has exploded in popularity in recent years.

In fact there are over 5,000 annual cycling races and events to suit cyclists of all levels throughout the country.

Professional races include the Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain) in September and October, which is one of the most important cycling events in the world, and usually includes some stages in Andalucía; and the Ruta del Sol Vuelta a Andalucía (Tour of Andalucía), held in February.

Luckily for this sun-drenched region, the climate offers ideal weather conditions for cycling all year round.

What’s more, this two-wheeled past time is a unique and healthy way to discover Andalucía, allowing you to sightsee while enjoying your favourite sport.

An important point to note is that during the summer temperatures in Andalucía can top 40ºC, so many cyclists set off before the sun rises and are back by midday.

For that reason it’s important to take extra water and sun cream on any long cycles in the countryside.

Cyclists cross the province of Jaén as part of the Vuelta a Andalucía.

Cyclists cross the province of Jaén as part of the Vuelta a Andalucía. / EFE

Most towns along the coast have free organised cycling groups that set off together on weekend mornings.

For example, dozens of cyclists meet at the Piruli (the copper tower) in Marbella, while others meet at the Gibraltar/Spain border on weekend mornings.

Stunning scenery

One popular ride that attracts hundreds of cyclists every weekend is the Gibraltar to Jimena de la Frontera route. This 90km circuit passes through Castellar de la Frontera and is blessed with plenty of stunning scenery, safe cycle lanes and minimal traffic.

More importantly, there are plenty of cafes to refuel with a coffee and toast with ham and tomatoes.

And if you’re feeling particularly strong in the legs and fancy a challenge, you can add cycling up to the castle at Castellar to add a few extra kilometres.

Cycling past the Alhambra, Granada.

Cycling past the Alhambra, Granada. / EFE

Another popular ride that features breathtaking views of Gibraltar and Morocco and epic descents is a 136km route that starts and finishes in Estepona - although you’ll certainly need your climbing legs on as you cycle 11,475ft uphill.

The route climbs up quiet country roads through the villages of Casares, Gaucín, El Colmenar, El Robledal, Cortes de la Frontera and La Cañada del Real Tesoro, before heading back to Estepona via the Sierra Bermeja nature park.

Or if you’re more of a part-time cyclist, a less strenuous route takes you from Marbella to Istán and back, a 30km round trip in all.

It’s fair to say it’s a hard cycle up to the whitewashed village of Istán, but the views and ride back down to the coast will certainly put a spring in your pedal strokes.

For the more serious cyclist, the Sierra Nevada above Granada is often used by professionals for altitude training.

And once you’ve conquered this mountain range, you’ve got the historic city of Granada to rest at, where tapas are free with your drinks.

The all-important coffee break.

The all-important coffee break. / A. B.

Andalucía in one go

But if you’re looking at coming to Andalucía specifically for a cycling holiday, then feast your eyes on the TransAndalus, which makes cycling the Camino de Santiago look like a Sunday stroll.

This 2,000km route was designed by a group of cycling enthusiasts as a way to get to know Andalucía’s eight provinces by bike.

One third of the route passes though protected areas and includes the volcanic landscapes of Cabo de Gata in Almeria, Spain’s most popular tourist attraction the Alhambra Palace in Granada, and, pedalling through the wetlands of Doñana National Park in Huelva.

The circular route avoids roads and sticks to paths, lanes and cattle tracks. And if you don’t fancy doing the whole route, you can cycle smaller bite-sized sections.