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The first time we saw the Spanish side of the Pyrenees we were literally stunned by its beauty. The cols may not be as high as the French side, but the climbs are just as challenging, although perhaps they lack the cachet that comes with some of the more famous French names, such as the Tourmalet and the Aubisque. The scenery is very diverse and everyone who has cycled it so far has told us it is nothing like they were expecting. If you've climbed the famous French cols and you want to do something a bit different, we'd definitely recommend our Spanish Coast to Coast supported cycling tour.
We ride the same route as the Spanish Raid™, but we take it over a more leisurely (although still quite demanding) six days, averaging 140km per day. The views are just as stunning, the people are just as charming and the roads are just as quiet, but you get just that little bit more time to enjoy it all. If you compare the profiles to the descriptions of each day, you'll see that there are more peaks than named cols. This side of the Pyrenees is far less developed than the French side, where they have catered for cycling for a hundred years, and you'll find some definite mountain tops that are only marked by a refuge or a sculpture.
We'll be at the airport to meet your flight, usually coming into Biarritz, Toulouse or Bilbao.Then we'll take you to Hondarribia to stay in a wonderful 3* hotel full of character and charm. All the tools, stands and pumps you need will be available for you to assemble your bike, after which you can relax until dinner, perhaps exploring the charming little town. Finally we'll enjoy a great dinner while we brief you on the trip and then it's off to bed for a good night's sleep.
We leave the pretty, quaint Basque town of Hondarribia on the mouth of the Bidasoa river, where it meets the Atlantic, and head away from the urban area. Within a few kilometres we're riding through rolling green hills, reminiscent of South Wales or Dorset. You'll see lots of buildings with the shallow red-tiled roofs and red-beamed gables, that are so typical of the Basque region, both on the French and Spanish side of the border, and all the signposts will be in both Spanish and Basque, with its unique font. We cycle along quiet roads through small towns and villages. We don't go far before we tackle our first relatively modest climb of the day, Aritxulegi (439m), followed quite soon by Meaka (636m). Through the small town of Irurita and on up the Puerto de Artesiaga (996m), before we ride down the Eastern side of Lake Eugi. We soon come to the Puerto de Erro (801m) and Mezkiritz (922m). Finally we climb to Roncesvalles, where we stay the night in a beautiful old monastery.
From Roncesvalles we back-track about 4km to get back on course. We descend for a while before we start the climb to the Alto de Remendia (1047m). Down through the small towns of Ezcároz and Ochagavia, followed swiftly by Izalzu, and we're on our way up to the Portillo de Lazar (1129m). We're well out of Basque country now, and the scenery is changing to stone villages with cobbled streets. If you like descending, you'll love the section from Ansó towards Hecho. We cycle south along the scenic Hecho valley for a while before we turn east again and cut across country to Aisa, across a massive plain that's full of wild flowers in the spring and early summer. You can see the skyline of Jaca for a while, and finally we're there and everyone can have a well-deserved dinner and a good night's sleep.
We start climbing this morning more or less straight out of the hotel, up a fairly steep climb to the Coll de Fadas (1470m), and then over the top and down to Pont de Suert, taking in the Coll de l'Espina (1407m) on the descent. We turn east to the Viu de Llevata (1230m) and almost immediately on to the Coll de Creu de Perves (1335m). The soil here is red, and there are lots of pine trees but foliage is less lush, and you can see that the ground is more arid than we've seen so far. Down into La Pobla de Segur and we cross the river, heading along another shady gorge, the Congost de Collegats towards Sort, famous for white-water rafting; in fact, the World Championships were held here a few years ago. At Sort we head east again, starting the climb to the highest point on the route, the Coll del Cantó (1725m). We descend into Adrall and continue to La Seu d'Urgell, where we'll be staying the night.
We start the day with a ride along one of our few main roads, but before long we turn off and it's quieter again. Our biggest climb of the day is the Puerto de Cotefablo (1423m) which is followed by the long, fast descent to Broto, where we turn south east to Ainsa, a nice little town on the edge of a lake, intriguingly called El Humo de Muro, or Smoke from the Wall. From here we head off on the 30km undulating climb to the Collado de Foradada (1020m), at the top of which is a sculpture by an Irishman called Frank Norton. Finally, after the descent we turn north for a short while and take in the Canyon of Ventamillo to Castejon de Sos, where we're staying. Another really interesting day with lots of stunning scenery and diverse environments. We're halfway already!
From La Seu d'Urgell we head across country, cycling through small, rural lanes, and before long we're on a 16km climb up to the Col de la Traba (1491m). Now we're quite high and for a long time we're looking down on the surrounding countryside, including La Seu d'Urgell. Although at first the road surface is rather uneven, it does get better and after a while you're cycling on brand new, smooth tarmac. The second climb is up to the Coll de Port (1685m), and as you descend to Sant Llorenç de Morunys you can see the massive trefoil-shaped lake. This is probably a good place to get some lunch and then we climb again, taking in another small climb, the Coll de Mina (1200m), with a small tunnel on top. Finally we descend into Berga and then cross another large lake, the Pantà de la Baells. The road rises again before we descend into Ripoll, and then we continue a few kilometres to Campdevànol, where we stay in a lovely hotel, named after an ancient water tower that supplied water under pressure to all the lcoal mills, including a monastery.
Our last day and as we leave the mountains, we're back to rendered houses with low-pitched terracotta tiled roofs. This is Catalan country, where the people are fiercely patriotic and proud of their heritage; all the signposts will show you place names in both Spanish and Catalan. Still a bit of climbing to do today, but only a couple of minor cols. We start from Ripoll and on level ground for a bit, before we climb up to the Coll de Canes (1120m). Then down the other side before our route kicks up again and takes in the Coll de Coubet (1010m). That's the last of the real climbs on the route, but we follow an undulating path, taking in the town of Olot and then Banyoles. From here we cut across country, cycling past fields of fruit, vines and sunflowers, until we get close to the coast, following the headland for a while until we turn east towards Roses, our final stop. Time for a celebration beer, and then we pack up the bikes and get ready for a wonderful dinner.
After breakfast we head to Girona, Barcelona, Perpignan or Toulouse to drop you off in time for your flight.
Ensuite accommodation in 2*-3* hotels, in shared rooms. Single rooms are available and a supplement of £250 applies.
Continental or buffet-style breakfasts every morning, supplemented with muesli if needed.
3-course evening meals every night with wine, a beer or a soft drink.
Snacks to keep you going during the day, such as bananas, chocolate, and quality energy gels and bars.
Bottled water and carbohydrate powder for your bottles, as well as High5 Zero electrolyte tablets.
Maps of the route for you to refer to as you ride and GPS files for you to upload to your device.
Souvenir full-zip Owayo Spanish Coast to Coast jersey.
As many photos of you as we can take during your trip - usually a few hundred pictures - so you can relive your journey from start to finish when you get home.
We'll never be more than a few kilometres from you at all times, so you don't need to carry loads of kit with you "just in case". We'll try to be at the bottom of every climb so you can shed unwanted clothing, top up your water bottles and grab a snack or energy bar, and at the top of every col so you can add a windproof layer before you start your descent.
We don't make our prices look cheaper by leaving out evening meals, alcohol, or even airport transfers, so if you're looking at prices, it pays to make sure you're comparing like for like.
830KM, 18 COLS, AROUND 15,000 METRES OF CLIMBING
DAY 1 - HONDARRIBIA TO RONCESVALLES - 128KM, CLIMBING AROUND 3,000 METRES
DAY 2 - RONCESVALLES TO JACA - 148KM, CLIMBING 2,400 METRES
DAY 3 - JACA TO CASTEJON DE SOS - 145KM, CLIMBING AROUND 2,300 METRES
DAY 4 - CASTEJON DE SOS TO LA SEU D'URGELL - 154M, CLIMBING AROUND 3,000 METRES
DAY 5 - LA SEU D'URGELL TO CAMPDEVANOL - 143KM, CLIMBING AROUND 3,000 METRES
DAY 6 - CAMPDEVANOL TO ROSES - 119KM, CLIMBING AROUND 1,200 METRES