I love Barcelona, more every time I go. From the first time I went when it was my first stop on a four-month tour of Europe with the ex, to partying with friends after BBK Festival, chilling for a weekend with my parents and most recently relaxing for five days and sampling the coffee shops of Sant Antoni.
I love the vibe, the streets, all the bars that I’ll never have time to go to, the beach and just cycling around taking in the sites. Recently I’ve also discovered how great the rest of Catalonia is for cycling too – did you know Lance Armstrong has a flat in nearby Girona? Professional and hobbyist cyclists love the mountains, open roads and relatively traffic free routes. I was invited along by the guys at Catalonia Tourism to check it out.
So from my weeklong cycle tour here are five of the best routes I pedalled along in the region. Includes vineyards, marshlands, wet lands, easy routes, harder routes, cool little towns, vista-rich bridges and amazing caves, as well as a few tips on how to get there from Barcelona Sants.
1. Discover Barcelona with Ciclotour
For an easy bike ride, well if it wasn’t for all the pedestrians, and a bit of a city orientation, the sightseeing bike tour with Ciclotour is a great shout. We took the bikes from some doorway that I’ll never be able to find again in the Barrio Gothic and pedalled on down to the Parc Ciutadella.
As well as checking out the cool area of Raval and the big cat by famous artist Fernando Botero, we also went down to the port, cycled along the beach and up to the Olympic area. The piece de resistance was cycling up to the Sagrada Familia and seeing it from a new viewpoint, for me. I went inside in July and it was one of the most incredible sights I’ve ever seen, but a quick selfie from the park opposite had to make do for this time.
2. Green Ways Girona
Now it’s time to get out of Barcelona and explore the beautiful Catalonian countryside around. The Green Ways cycle route from Llagostera to Sant Feliu de Guixols is safe, flat and ends at the beach restaurants with stunning scenery all the way along. The 57km route crosses 3 regions and 12 towns, but I only had time for 20km as a sampler. Anyone with a decent level of fitness could do the full route in a day, I was raring for more!
The roads here were so quiet, which I guess can also be dangerous as you get a false sense of cockiness. Some of us in the group were from London so we had to laugh when our guide told us to be careful of traffic – look to the left, tumbleweed, to the right, tumbleweed, and go.
The route ends at the beach at Sant Feliu de Guixols. A beautiful spot off the usual tourist trail and in September, the sea was cool and refreshing after the sun-drenched bike ride.
Once you’ve freshened up here head to the old railway museum, which has been converted into the El Tinglado restaurant. Sit outside and enjoy some tapas to admire the view of boats in the harbour, the beach and the fisherman vying for a catch.
Train from Barcelona Sants: 1 hr 20 minute train to Caldes de Malavella, and then it’s a 9km cycle or taxi to Llagostera
Get a bus back to Girona from Sant Feliu de Guíxols (51 mins) and then train back to Barcelona (39 mins).
3. Poblet to Montblanc
Of course with a Montblanc mountain involved this route is a little more difficult. If you don’t think you can handle it, you could try renting an eBike to give that extra oomph. That’s what I did and I thought it was brilliant.
E-Bikes don’t replace the action of cycling, but they do give you more power when you go up hills or just want to cycle really fast. And there’s always that trusty rev button to play with when you start lagging behind (like I did).
Follow the Ruta del Cister route from Poblet to Montblanc and you’ll get to see where the famous Torres wine is made in the vineyard. You’ll also get the satisfaction of saying you cycled up Montblanc, without having to specify which one exactly.
Montblanc town is an interesting little place to hang out in for the afternoon after your cycle. You can climb up to the fortress towers on the outer wall and see how the soldiers guarded the town during the Spanish Civil War, and enjoy the views. And you can do a quick tour with 3 tapas and wine included for just €5, I’d just keep doing that all day if I had time.
I’d strongly recommend you check out Restaurant Cal Jordi here. The fish was incredible, and Jordi himself comes round with a porre of liqueur at the end of the meal so you can finish your meal the Catalan way. Boozey. Here’s a video of our brilliant guide Paula downing it, seeing as I got it all over the place.
Train from Barcelona Sants: Get the train to Lespluga de Francoli (2hrs 10) and then it’s a 3.9km taxi or cycle into Poblet.
You can get a train straight back from Montblanc into Barcelona Sants (2hrs 3 mins).
4. Benifallet to Bot
Benifallet to Bot follows an old railway track which has now been converted into a green route, only open to walkers, horse riders and cyclists. At 40km long, it’s all downhill. Weeeeeeee!
Along the way you get to cycle through caves which have been cut into the mountains, and over bridges looking out to the stunning Catalonian valleys. This route really is one of the most scenic cycles I’ve ever been on. I did it from 5pm until 7pm in September and the setting sun lit the valleys and mountains up beautifully.
If you have the time make sure to check out Prat de Comte along the way. It impressed me so much I wrote a whole blog post on how awesome it is.
Train from Barcelona Sants: go to Tortosa Train Station (2 hrs 9). From here get the bus the 25km to Benifallet, or cycle it. Same again back, in reverse.
5. Cycling the Ebro Delta
The Ebro Delta National Park is a vast wetland expanding out as far as the eye can see. There are mountains one way and a view to infinity the other. As we cycled through, for about three hours, we passed reservoirs, rice fields and isolated beaches along our loop, as well as flamingos enjoying some summer sun. It was such a peaceful place to be and so much wildlife, if you go get a camera with a zoom.
Unfortunately I managed to fall off my bike in the Ebro Delta National Park. Pretty skilful, or dumb, depending on how you look at it seeing as the park is flat.
I was coming off a low bridge and trying to look like a tough cyclist navigating the corner when I slipped on the gravel. Worried about my GoPro in my bumbag I launched myself to the side and smashed my elbow and leg. Got some tough-looking cuts, grazes and bruises, and couldn’t move my arm the next day. Clever.
You could spend as long as you like here, cruising the wetlands, bird spotting, checking out the little houses the workers once lived in and guessing what’s growing where. There’s also the opportunity to have a go at punting in the little boats. I was a useless punter, but an alright passenger so I stuck with that.
We did 36km and so I was definitely ready for my traditional paella feast from the Casa de Fusta by the end. Served with local wine, yum!
Train from Barcelona: Get the train from Barcelona Sants to Lampolla-El Perello-Deltebre (1 hr 56) and you’re done!
Same way back as you’ll do a loop round the park.
Cycling in Catalonia
I’m sure there are loads more routes around Catalonia to try – if you have any recommendations let me know. I’d love to go back for a tougher challenge next time. And let me know if you make it out to do any of these, I’d recommend them all!
I was a guest of the Catalonia Tourist Board – loved it