This is a self-guided hotel-based road and track cycle tour, exploring the interior of Catalonia (Catalunya) in the North Eastern reaches of Spain. This is a distinct region in terms of landscapes and culture; offering some of the finest cuisine to be found anywhere on the Peninsula! The itinerary is purposely kept flexible, allowing plenty of time for sightseeing and side trips. You begin at Ripoll a picturesque small town with a famous ninth century Romanesque monastery. It was here that Catalunya was officially founded. The tour starts by following a former railway line from Ripoll, which is now converted into a bicycle way called a ‘Bici Carril’ for gentle cycling. You stay on this track for long distances when cycling between hotels, for relaxed traffic free cycling until you reach the Mediterranean Sea at San Feliu de Guixols. On the way you pass through the largest former volcanic area on the peninsula, the forested Garrotxa, and the medieaval towns Olot and Girona. It is said that Catalunya has the highest density of well-preserved Romanesque architecture in the World, and you will have plenty of time to discover some of the finest examples along the way. The monasteries of Ripoll and Sant Joan de les Abadesses are among the highlights. In Girona you have a full day to enjoy this splendid city with its interesting Jewish quarter, Cathedral with its wide gothic nave and its ancient city walls that you can walk around and on top of. After finishing the cycling tour in San Feliu, you may wish to take a well deserved refreshing dip in the Mediterranean sea. Say goodbye to your bikes before you transfer to Barcelona for two nights, one of the most exciting cities in Europe. Visit the Olympic village, The Sagrada Familia church and other Gaudi pieces of architecture. There are also nice parks, good shopping areas including las Ramblas, a bustling port area and sandy beaches.
INTRODUCTORY TO MODERATE - GRADE 2
Daily cycle stages are 25 to 63km. The terrain is mixed, but there is very little uphill pedaling. A quarter of the tour is on small roads with good tarmac, the rest is on the ‘Bici Carril’ a type of good quality forest trail with no cars to disturb you. This makes the cycling easy and enjoyable and well suited to family groups.
On arrival in Ripoll make your way from the train station to the hotel, about a 15 minute walk. After check-in you have time to spend looking around the stunning Romanesque monastery in the town, with its impressive doorway (now UNESCO listed) and cloisters. Take the time to walk along the river where the new town square is an excellent example of innovative architecture blending with the old buildings. Overnight in the center of Ripoll, our hotel is a simple 2 star medium sized family run hotel in the town, renovated in 2001. Dinner is included, usually to be taken in the hotel restaurant.
Join the “Bici Carril” bike trail to Olot. In Sant Joan de les Abadesses you leave the rail trail and head over the coll de Santigosa (1064m) before a long descent on a quiet mountain road to Olot. Or if you are feeling fit, you can extend the tour and cycle into d’en Bas valley around Olot (5-20km extra). Overnight in Olot, in a modern 3 star hotel with most rooms in an apartment style. It is approximately 2km from the old town center, but does good dinners and serves a breakfast buffet. The first night here is on half board.
Distance: 36km, ascent: +395m, descent: -670m
Cycle into the Garrotxa National Park, a fascinating ex volcanic region of conical hills and forests, with kites and eagles wheeling their way around the sky. Don’t miss out the picturesque medieval village Santa Pau. Return to Olot, overnight in hotel with free dinner tonight.
Distance: 25km, ascent: +250m, descent: -250m
Cycle once again on the Bici Carril from Olot to the splendid city of Girona, and to your hotel. The city is great to walk around, from the ramparts of the old city wall, along the river and through the winding streets of the historic centre. The standard hotel in Girona is a comfortable 3 star centrally located, and has been welcoming clients for 150 years! However it has been renovated and offers ensuite, sound insulated bedrooms with TV and has a bar and spacious lounges. Bed and breakfast only.
Distance: 63km, ascent: +140m, descent: -550m
Free day for visiting Girona or nearby Figueres with its Dali Museum (under an hour by train). The town was founded by the Romans and later inhabited by the Moors. It also withstood three invasions by Napoleon’s troops. Because of this Girona is known as ‘the city of a thousand sieges’. It is split by the Onyar River, which is best viewed from the ancient footbridge. Many tourists head here on day trips in the summer from the coast. The only way to see Girona is by foot and the best part to see is the Call, the old quarter with its narrow streets and steep alleyways. Explore the cathedral free of charge or once inside you could pay to see the cloisters and museum. The way to the cathedral is up a 17th century staircase of 90 steps. The museum of art is worthy of a visit, located within a Gothic palace, next to the cathedral. In Girona you will discover 12th century Arabic baths, which, although restored, give a good impression on how the ancient baths would have looked. On Carrer Santa Clara, a very busy shopping street, there is a good selection of restaurants. Girona offers pleasant nightlife with tapas bars and cafes in the centre and scattered along La Rambla on the outskirts. Many people spend the evening hopping from one bar to another – on weekends mainly. Girona is also home to one of the worlds best restaurants, El Celler de Can Roca - reservations are required well in advance. Overnight in Girona.
Today you follow the Cycle path to San Feliu de Guixols. The city is situated in the middle of the Costa Brava and has a large sea-promenade surrounded by pine trees and palms. There is an open market place where fresh vegetables and fruits are sold and an indoor fish market –fish are caught the previous night by the small fishing fleet. The town officially dates from the 12C and stands on the site of the Benedictine Monastery of Sant Feliu. From the observation platform of Sant Elm, the whole bay can be overlooked. It had a lot of maritime traffic and cork industries, which made it important in the 14C. The church and other elements of the old Romanesque monastery are worth a look, with the famous Porta Ferrada, a beautiful, perhaps Arab portico from the 11C. There should be enough time for a relaxing swim, a rest on the beach, or maybe just a walk. There is also a pool at the hotel where you stay for the night. Overnight in Sant Feliu de Guixols in a good 3 star hotel close to the old centre of town, high up on a cliff and overlooking the Mediterranean. There is a buffet breakfast and dinner at a nearby restaurant. The hotel has a swimming pool. Dinner is included.
Distance: 40km, ascent: +80m, descent: -95m
Drop off the hired bikes and catch the local bus to Barcelona (you need to take your luggage with you) - a great Mediterranean urban center, cosmopolitan and full of contrasts. Founded by the Romans, elements of its past live side by side with the most beautiful examples of contemporary architecture inside the city. You are free to roam the city. This is the chance you have been waiting for to see those wonderful buildings by Gaudi, including the Sagrada Familia. Or just soak up the atmosphere of this exciting city. Two nights are spent in the Catalan capital giving you time to ramble down the Ramblas and make use of the city’s extensive metro system to see all of the sites. Our accommodation in Barcelona is a modern two star hotel, only ten minutes walking distance from the famous Sagrada Familia church. Breakfast only is included so that you can sample the local cuisine of your choice.
Another day to explore Barcelona and discover what makes this city so fascinating. Visit Park Güell, sample the Pintxos and seafood, or relax on the beach.
The trip concludes after breakfast. If you are flying out of Barcelona there are trains from Passeig de Gracia and buses from Plaza Catalunya to the airport; journey time 25 minutes. There are also buses, which connect with Girona Airport, which take a bit over an hour in reasonable traffic (leaving from Estacion Nord).
A beautiful trip and countryside. The accommodation was excellent, it was a good value holiday.
P. Foulkes-Taylor., WA, Australia.
Per Person, Twin Share