Cycling the Ruta Iberica
Description Cycle Guide for Cycling the Ruta Iberica
The Ruta Iberica route goes from Pau (near Lourdes) in France to Madrid, Lisbon and Seville. It crosses through Spain and Portugal from east to west. The route goes over the Col du Pourtalet being the most suitable pass through the Pyrenees for cyclists. The route runs through the Gallego valley and the wider Ebro valley to Zaragoza, the capital of Aragon with its beautiful cathedral. After Zaragoza the route rises through the Jalon valley up to Moncayo a region with gently rising hills that form the transition to the Castilian high plateau. From the high plateau the route continues for a while along the Douro river valley. This is where you pass through the lovely little towns of Berlanga and El Burgo de Osma. The most direct and easiest route to Madrid is from Berlanga, thereafter it heads south. The route via Segovia continues for a while along the Douro valley, going through the important wine growing region of Ribera de Douro, where some of the best wines are produced in the whole of Spain. The route heads towards Segovia passing the impressive castles of Peñafiel and Coca. Segovia’s castle is a destination in itself. The Guadarrama mountains rise up after this. The route then goes over the mountain pass and descends to Guadarrama via the Baroque palace and gardens of this Spanish version of Versailles. Just after this there is another branch that splits off to Madrid. The main route goes via the royal monastery of El Escorial at the foot of the hills and heads towards the Tagus river valley. This is the start of a good cycle path running along the Via Verde de la Jara towards the entrance to the Extremadura region. The Extremadura welcomes you with its wild, forested mountains where eagles and vultures can be seen circling overhead. This is a birdwatcher’s paradise. The lovely town of Guadalupe with its beautiful monastery built in honour of the Black Madonna is located here. Another really special town is Trujillo, where the gold taken by the conquistadores was used to build a number of palaces. The route now descends to the Guadiana river valley via small, traffic-free roads to Merida, also known as the Rome of Spain, a title it richly deserves. Many of the original Roman buildings are almost completely preserved. You can also admire some of the most beautiful Roman mosaics here. After Merida, one branch of the route continues on to Lisbon, and another heads towards Seville.
The Lisbon route enters Portugal at the fortress city of Elvas. In addition to Evora, it has recently also been made a UNESCO World Heritage site. Between them lie the charming towns of Estremoz and Vila Viçosa. The route arrives at the coast after Alentejo with delightfully peaceful, sandy beaches. A ferry takes you to Setubal from where the route continues to the banks of the river Tagus for the last crossing before reaching Lisbon. The branch going to Seville largely follows the section from Ruta de la Plata, aka the Silver Route. The Extremadura is vast and empty and lies in the region of Tierra de Barros on the way to Zafra. Zafra is a lovely little town that looks very Andalusian. After Zafra the route rises up to Monesterio and the legendary mountain of Tenudia. The greenness then returns and through the Sierra Morena the route wends its way through the forests where black Iberian pigs snuffle for acorns. The route descends after the forests towards Seville, the proud capital of Andalusia.
The route is described in both directions and consists of two parts:
1. Pau – Madrid
2. Madrid – Lisbon/Seville
Distances including individual sections
Pau – Lisbon 1580 km
Pau – Seville 1490 km
Pau – Madrid 750 km
Pau – El Escorial via Segovia 850 km
El Escorial – Merida 400 km
Madrid – Merida 465 km
Merida – Lisbon 330 km
Merida – Seville 240 km
The complete La Vuelta Iberica circular route (combined with the Andalusia route) from Girona via Teruel, Granada and Malaga to Seville, then back via Segovia to Tortosa in Catalonia is 3000 kilometres.
The difficulty rating is average. The Pyrenees are surprisingly straightforward, the Guadarrama mountains (Navacerrada pass) is more difficult and includes a short section up to 10%. There’s also a couple of steep sections in eastern part of the Extremadura. Large parts of this route are easy. Where at all possible the route makes use of the existing Vias Verdes including the Via Verde del Eresma, the Via Verde de la Jara, and the Via Verde de la Guadiana.
Because of potential snowfall, the first part to Madrid should not be done before the end of April and until the end of June. Thereafter from September until the end of October. July and August are too hot for cycling there. The second part from Madrid to Lisbon and Seville can be done between the beginning of March and June, and thereafter there’s excellent cycling to be had from mid-September until the end of November. You can also cycle this part in the winter provided you wear a little extra clothing. The summer months are simply too hot (40 degrees and so substantial danger of dehydration). The Extremadura is often a feast for the eyes in early spring.
Edition/Year: 2nd impression – Dec. 2016
Distance: 1580/1490 km
Detailed Maps: part 1: 44 / part 2: 51
City Maps: part 1: 5 / part 2: 10
Difficulty rating: Apart from just 1 kilometre, easy to average
Direction: Described in both directions
Sample pages with detailed maps and height profiles.