Cracking trip: great roads, stunning scenery, typically eclectic mix of good hotels and two excellent guides.
The Picos de Europa in northern Spain is a little known paradise for cyclists. There are few places with so much variety; rugged limestone mountains, deep gorges, ancient forests, mountain pastures and unspoilt villages. The climbs are also varied: gentle and meandering or short and sharp, and then there is the Alto de Angliru, which is just brutal (and thankfully optional!)
We have designed the Classic Route so that the distance and gradients between the hotels is manageable and enjoyable for most cyclists if taken steadily. However, each day there are ‘optional extras’ increasing the possible daily ascent to between 2600m & 3600m, so this holiday is also suitable for those looking to really push themselves and take on our Challenge Route.
It is important to us that you book the correct holiday so do read the Trip Notes for all you need on how this holiday works, food, accommodation & travel… For the latest travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office including security and local laws, plus passport and visa information, check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Departure Dates & Prices
Day 0: Travel Out
We offer included transfers at scheduled times. In 2018 each holiday departure has different Airport Transfer options (ranging from just Bilbao to Bilbao and Santander) so it is absolutely key to read the travel advice in our Trip Notes
Meet your guides, assemble your bikes and have a welcome briefing and great dinner in the peaceful setting of our hotel.
Day 1: Day Ride from Potes
The Puerto de Piedrasluengas (1355m) is a great introduction to the Picos. It starts off ‘relatively’ kindly, but does have a few cheeky sections in the middle. As you climb up you eventually emerge from the trees to be treated with a great view from the Mirador (view point) overlooking the Picos to the East and the plains to the South.
Head back to Potes for the option of relaxing by the hotel pool, visiting the lively town 1km away or taking on the Puerto de San Glorio – east (1608m).
Classic Route: Piedrasluengas (60km, 1100m ascent)
Challenge Route: Piedrasluengas + San Glorio (115km, 2400m ascent)
Day 2: Potes to Cangas de Onis
Head North through the deep gorge of the Desfiladero de la Hermida, almost down to sea level before joining a beautiful road that skirts around the North high peaks of the Picos. Your only real significant climb is the Alto de Ortiguero (443m), which should test the legs for what is to come later in the week. After 75km we get to the hotel, where you have the option of retiring gracefully, maybe visiting the mountain town of Cangas de Onis or to take on the recommended and infamous Vuelta stage ending; the Lagos de Covadonga (1120m).
The challenge comes 7km from the lakes when there is a 800m section of 15%! Your reward? A justifiable lie on the grass by the side of a beautiful lake / café at the top before free wheeling most of the way back to the hotel. If that is not enough cycling (!?) then the Alto de Riensena (534m) would be a fitting finale to the day.
Classic Route: Ortiguero + Lagos de Covadonga (114km, 1500m ascent)
Challenge Route: Ortiguero + Lagos de Covadonga + Riensena (146km, 2100m ascent)
Day 3: Cangas de Onis to Riano
It’s worth a post-breakfast churro today before the climb of the Puerto del Ponton (1280m). It is 46km long but thankfully its gradients are kind (mostly!) and the constantly changing scenery is bound to keep you motivated to the top. You are now on the high plateaux of the Picos, a landscape of small forested peaks surrounded by lush fields that have been laboriously levelled from this otherwise harsh rocky land.
Our destination is the ‘new’ town of Riano, built on a rocky peninsula when the old town was flooded under the huge reservoir. Our hotel offers classic hospitality and it’s kitchen produces some excellent local cuisine.
Classic Route: Ponton (69km, 1300m ascent)
Challenge Route: Ponton + Cazo + Los Begules (106km, 2600m ascent)
Day 4: Riano to Santa Cristina de Lena
We traverse the high plateau West of Riano, over several small mountain passes, though narrow gorges, remote villages and terraced hillsides. It is a truly stunning ride and the descent from the Passo Pajares (1378m) is a real treat. Options here: retiring gracefully to the hotel in the small hamlet of St Christiana de Lena or taking on one of two great climbs…
The Alto de la Cobertoria (1173m) is no stranger to the Vuelta and with good tarmac and stunning views; it is bound to be a highlight of the trip, despite being fairly tough! Those wanting even more can then add on the Alto del Gamoniteiro (1772m) – this is often known as the Ventoux of Spain and it is a brutal climb to the top of the mountain but the views are mind-blowing!
Classic Route: Valdejeta + Carmenes + Pajares (132km, 1400m ascent)
Challenge Route: Valdejeta + Carmenes + Pajares + Gamoniteiro (171km, 3100m ascent)
Day 5: Santa Cristina de Lena to Riano
What goes down, must go up again! The Alto de San Isidro (1520m) is another epic climb, going on for the best part of 30kms. Next up is the beautiful, gentle climb up to the Puerto de Las Senales (1625m) before rolling back down to the reservoir and Riano hotel. For those on the Classic Route, a detour up the Alto de la Colladona (850m) early in the day is well worthwhile. Foolhardy masochists might want to take on the gradients of the mighty of Alto de l’Angliru (1570m) today – a climb that rivals Alpe d’Huez and Mortirolo as one of the most demanding in professional cycling. The main ascent is only 7 kms, but it has an average gradient of 14% and an extended section of 24% – ouch! In order to get to the Angliru you must first endure the Alto de El Cordal (789m) which serves as a good ‘warm up’!
Classic Route: San Isidro + Las Senales (115km, 1800m ascent)
Challenge Route: El Cordal + Angliru + San Isidro + Las Senales (170km, 3600m ascent)
Day 6: Riano to Potes
Today is a day of narrow gorges, towering limestone cliffs and lush green meadows in the heart of the Picos. Start gently with the understated Puerto de Panderruedas (1450m), descending to the mountain town of Posada de Valdeon. Enjoy a coffee whilst you contemplate the Challenge route option of taking on the most famous ‘tourist road’ in the Picos – the narrow gorge to Cain de Valdeon. Unusually you descend to Cain where the road turns into a narrow path so you turn around face the climb back up! The road is narrow and our support vehicles cannot get down here so it’s a committed decision.
Next ‘up’ is the Puerto de Pandetrave (1562m), a cheeky climb that leads onto the Puerto de San Glorio (1608m) and a fun descent back to Potes and the hotel pool! Naturally more cycling is an option and the climb up to the cable car station at Fuente Dé (1105m) is more than worthwhile.
Classic Route: Panderruedas + Pandetrave + San Glorio (91km, 1380m ascent)
Challenge Route: Panderruedas + Cain + Pandetrave + San Glorio + Fuente Dé (155km, 2500m ascent)
Day 7: Travel Back
We offer included transfers at scheduled times from Potes to Bilbao Airport (and Santander if pre-booked) or depending on your departure.
Full travel advice and airport transfer timings (essential reading before booking your flights) can be found in our Trip Notes.