Road bike cycling along the northern coast of Spain is among one of the most delightful and rewarding routes Spain has to offer. Not only does it provide endless views of seascapes along plunging cliffs and forested hills, but it brings you through an area of Spain that is spilling over with culture and world renowned gastronomy, Michelin starred restaurants, and delightful fishing villages serving up exquisite platters of seafood and locally made cider or txakoli. Roll along quiet coastal roads or push yourself on challenging routes with sustained climbs and steep hills, all in an area known for its wide empty beaches and dramatic views. At the end of the day the plentiful hotel and dining options range from charming and rustic to world-class luxury.
Cycling the Northern Coast Camino de Santiago
Cycling in the north of Spain, inevitably, brings riders in contact with the famous pilgrimage route of the Camino de Santiago, or Saint James Way. The Camino de Santiago follows a path that has existed since ancient times – and is even said to have been an early path following the Milky Way to the end of the Earth – but became an official Catholic pilgrimage route in the Middle Ages. Following yellow shell signs across the north of Spain, most people walk it, but the bicigrinos (bicycle pilgrims) are becoming more and more prevalent, with thousands completing the entire route each year. People travel from all over the world to walk, bike, or even ride horses – and hilariously enough occasionally camels – the several hundred kilometers across parts of France and Spain. Whether for spiritual or personal reasons, the challenge of completing the Camino is for some, if not most, the experience of their lifetime.
One of the most beautiful routes for cycling the north of Spain coast, called the Northern Route, follows the northern coast of Spain down from the border of France, by Irun, through San Sebastian and past Bilbao. It continues for hundreds of kilometers, but the most spectacular parts are definitely the coastal parts. Joining this route even for a day or two is an experience of a lifetime, as you feel the joy of communion with the centuries of pilgrims before you.
Cycling alongside a Food Culture on the Northern Coast
Another great advantage of cycling around the north coast of Spain is without a doubt the spectacular gastronomy. Cycling from one incredible culinary city to the next, in an area with the second most Michelin starred restaurants in Europe, not to mention the delicious local cuisine and fresh ingredients from the earth and sea, it is nearly impossible to go wrong. Even the most simple dish seems to be infused with magic in this area and bursts with flavor.
The local pintxo culture means evening meals can simply be drifting from bar to bar eating the varied and unique Basque tapas and sipping on local txakoli a sweet lightly sparkling white wine, or a glass of local cider. Whether you explore the sophisticated yet beachy San Sebastian seeking out the best pintxos after a day of riding, or sit for a five course three star meal at a top restaurant, or go rustic and enjoy a sidreria meal of wood fire grilled steak and bottomless cider, there is no end of ways to replenish your energy each day with the actual best food in the world.
If you are looking for idyllic road biking, whilst exploring the culture, landscapes and authentic gastronomy this region has to offer, then Navarra to the Basque Coast is a road biking tour you are sure to love.
La Vuelta España on the Northern Coast
In 2020 Spain’s biggest bike race, usually just referred to as La Vuelta, will be running from August 14th to September 6th, is made up of 21 stages, and will cover a total distance of 3245 kilometers. Most of it will take place in the north of Spain (and a little bit in France and Portugal), with 5 mountain stages, and 6 hilly stages. Running through Pamplona as well as by Logroño and the Basque Country, these routes are accessible to everyone. One of the most beautiful routes they will cover is along the Basque coast from the border of France to a pretty village deep in the Basque countryside. The world renowned cycling team Movistar trains in this region for good reason and the Tour de France also regularly dips into this part of northern Spain, along this same coast. These road routes are undeniably some of the best in Europe.
Whether you are a passionate pro rider or an enthusiastic novice, the north coast of Spain has enough bike paths of every kind from sleek roads to gravel and packed dirt to cobblestone or mud and rock. Taking you through stunning scenery and vibrant cities, along sweeping coastlines and enchanted forests, by empty beaches and quaint fishing villages, this area has everything. The opportunity to stay in top-notch hotels and eat at the best restaurants along with access to traditional ways of life and exposure to the wonderful and welcoming local culture, allows cyclists to really understand this part of the world, to experience its living history and to partake in its daily rituals.
Cycling the north to the coast of Spain is one of the most rewarding trips you can experience. Here are some of our suggestions for exploring this amazing region:
that takes you deep into the part of Spain where ancient routes cross golden fields and wind through medieval cities. Cycle from Rioja, through rolling vineyards, on parts of the legendary Camino de Santiago, skirting the foothills of the Navarran Pyrenees, and on to the Basque Coast and the town of San Sebastian on the sparkling blue sea.
which is the perfect combination of the best of cycling, gastronomy, culture, and refinement. Northern Spain Travel takes you road biking through Navarra and into the Basque Country with a final day on the coast in the elegant city of San Sebastian.