Trans-Mediterranean

The Mediterranean coastline isn’t uniformly ruined by development but for biking the coastline is pretty much a disaster – even the unspoilt bits of corniche like the Costa Brava between San Feliu de Guixols and Blanes are so heavily congested, especially in summer of course, that unless you ride at dawn you’ve pretty much had it. But it seems a shame not to at least dip a toe into the Med. after all, this is Spain! Furthermore, some of the roads that cross the sierras that hug the littoral for most of its length are the stuff of dreams! So, my route follows the Mediterranean inland of the littoral mountains, but with short optional detours, each of which offers excellent riding plus aiming for some of the best coastal resorts and cities.

The route has to start and finish somewhere, and it occurred to me that anyone using it will chose their own depending on their larger itinerary; access to Spain, destination, onward to Morocco, etc. So I’ve chosen the start/finish points in a completely unrelated to biking! The route starts at the city of La SEu, d’Urgell, which means the ‘seat’ or home, of te Urgell family, who were a medieval dynasty of Catalan aristocrats – a bloodthirsty lot they were too. The end is outside the Alhambra in Granada. Why? Well, the Counts of Urgell began the Catalan branch of the reconquista here in the XI century (the process began Covadonga in the Picos de Europa in 711 – I’ll start the Reconquista Theme Route there) and the long process ended at the Alhambra in 1492 – so the start/finish theme seems apposite!

Thus far I have three detours:

  • the Coasat Daurada at Alafulla/Tarragona (an excellent camp site at Altafulla and Tarrgona is a city worth  staying at least one night – imagine York set on a cliff overlooking the Mad. – but no vikings!)
  • the Costa Azahar at Peñiscola. In general this coast hasn’t got much of a reputation other that sun, sea and sand, but Peñiscola is a nice town to stop over at and the ride too and from it spectacular. It’s also a good ay into Spain so my be the first stop off.
  • the Costa Blanca at Calpe. This is probably the best of Spain’s tourist ‘costas’. It has spectacular inland scenery, lovely beaches and, by some standards, tasteful and elegant resorts – actually I really like, and certainly admire, Benidorm – but one visit per decade is enough!. All this adds up to a good destination for biking holiday centred around one base (see Self Catering). The inland roads are excellent but be warned – it does get seriously busy in summer!

There are three major omissions:

  • Valencia: as well as hosting the last GP race of the calendar (November 6, 2011) this wonderful city is well worth staying at for a couple of days. But the access for bikers is pretty awful -. you may be better off flying! Valencia city gets it’s own guide.
  • Murcia: this region isn’t particulñarly interesting and my route trends well inland here in search of interesting landscape. But the coast of the Alboran Sea and the Cabo de Gata, actually in Almeria in Andalusia, is worth looking at. It is an area of outstanding natural importance and is nt developed at all for tourism – apart from a few highly illegal monstrosities that are constantly under threat of demolition! Access to this coast is difficult die to its isolation, recently being surrounded by a rising tide of hideous agriculture, and the level of restricted areas due to the nature. But I’m going to explore this during my Tour de España, 2011 and I’ll add a route if it’s worthwhile.
  • Costa de Sol: I’m not even going to bother with this disaster – the whole coast has little to recommend it. But you have to go through the region to get to the ferry ports for Morocco, so these routes appear in the Santander – Algeciras routes.
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