The most important consideration in planing this route is how best to avoid Madrid and its conurbation, which lies right bang in the centre of Spain – directly in your path from Santander to the ports for Morocco. The good news, however, is that because Spain’s trunk roads radiate out from Madrid like spokes of a wheel once you deviate from this network you are more or less guaranteed good riding! The main decision is whether to head east or west around this obstacle – of course the best answer is to do both, one heading up and one down!

The second consideration is how to arrive at or depart from the ports at each end. Santander is easy – the Cantabrian coast is so pretty that it’s worth riding along it just for its own sake, heading east or west depending on the onward route. But the choice is more limited at the southern extreme. The Strait of Gibraltar lies right at the end of the hideously overdeveloped Costa del Sol to the east and the plain of the Guadalquivir river to the west – which rather boring unless you’re a twitcher! – furthermore, this approach at best skirts around Seville, whose network of dual carriageways, or autovias, dominate the area. The solution to this conundrum is simple, by crossing the Sierra de Ronda, going through Ronda itself, which is a lovely little town.  There are good alteratives westwards via Ubrique along the way, but that’s about is as far as choice goes.


Madrid is encircled by other cities at a radius of about 80 kms which is effect make a megalopolis. Working roughly around the points of the compass are Segovia to the north, Guadalajara, Toledo, and finally Avila to the west. Riding within the ‘ring of fire’ (and smog!) is to be avoided. With the possible exception of Guadalajara – apologies to my various (ex?)-friends there! – each of these cities are well worth staying at, although they are popular tourist centres. Furthermore, each has excellent rail services ito Madrid so make useful bases for visiting that wondefu city without having to ride into it – you really really don’t want to get stuck in Madrid on a bike!

The eastern route:

  • This is the more straightforward: simply follow the Sistema Iberico mountain range and you can’t go far wrong. The N232 goes straight in that direction from Santander itself, neatly depositing you at the Sierra de la Demanda between Burgos and Vitoria-Gastiez. Once there all roads lead to Soria, but it’s better to deviate westwards and ride through Burgo de Osma – a delightful little town on the Duero that would make a good overnight stop – and onward towards Almazán.
  • From Almazá there is a choice of two routes: trending south pass through the historic city of Sigüenza, which has a Parador (NB don’t let your SatNav take you on the N111 from Almazán – head southwest on the CL 101 towards Barahona and then south into Sigüenza) and onwards into the La Alcarria, made famous by Spain’s Nobel laureat, Camilo José Cela. Otherwise continue on the CL 116 to towards Nuevalos, riding briefly along the A2 between Ariza and Alhama de Aragón. This is worthwhile as it eventually leads you to Daroca – a splendid old Moorish town which makes another possible stopping place.
  • Moving south the route goes into the Serranía de Cuenca, if not Cuenca itself. You’ll get lost in this region – and love every minute! After this the east route joins the Trans-Mediterranean.


Go west young man!


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