With over 35 cycling holidays (and counting) brought to you by our established Skedaddle España base, Spain is a destination we’re proud to call our casa! And what better way to understand more about this popular cycling destination, than by hearing from our local team out there? Here’s why they can’t get enough of Spain…
1. Tapas: more than just food
Tapas are at the very heart of Spanish lifestyle. Everywhere you go, you will find lively bars serving small plates of amazing food and local tastes. But tapas are much more than just portions of food, going for tapas is all about social activity and a bonding experience. Here, nearly everyone gets together on a daily basis to enjoy a good conversation and tapas together with their family and friends. People commonly eat their tapas standing up at the bar or at small tables, rather than sitting down. They are meant to be informal and after completing the first round of lively conversation and small plates, everyone moves on to the next bar, often only a few footsteps away.
When it comes to tastes, you’ll also soon realise that in Spanish cuisine, things vary hugely from one region to the next. In northern Spain, tapas are called pinchos or pintxos, meaning toothpick, and are usually served on bread.
Top tip from our Skedaddle España head honcho, Dan Hirst:
‘The best local places will be busy and have the dirtiest floors, as Spaniards just toss the napkins and olive pits when they’re finished with them. When it comes to tapas bars, the dirtier the floor, the better the food is there!’
2. Curious locals
The Spanish are friendly people and will be the first to greet you with curiosity about your journey. It is in their culture to be welcoming and open to a chat. When you ask for help, they will try to help you as much as they can whether it’s asking for directions or getting your bike over their fence.
Here’s what our Spanish operations guru and regular guide, Sabine Reichert, told us:
‘You will often hear phrases like ‘Ánimo!’ shouted at you as you pass by, which translates as ‘cheer up’ and is their way of encouraging you to continue and enjoy your journey.’
Spaniards are also very passionate and if you show your appreciation, especially for their country, Spanish cuisine and wines, any Spaniard will be very pleased.
3. Sensational Sierras
Literally translated as ‘mountains with jagged peaks’, Spain’s flat, dry plains are complemented by these dramatic, lofty ‘sierra’ playgrounds. Spain is often overshadowed by France when it comes to cycling in the mountains, but we are convinced that the smooth empty tarmac and exciting trails that Spain has to offer should be on every cyclist’s bucket list. Its mountains are majestic, from the northern Pyrenees and the Picos de Europa to the Sierra Nevada in the south, and many lesser known sierras in between. Whether you prefer to follow the glory of the winners of arguably the toughest cycling Grand Tour, the Vuelta a España, and climb some of Europe’s highest paved roads or want to enjoy some of the continent’s longest and most thrilling downhill trails, Spain will be sure to deliver.
4. Epic wilderness
Spain in a big country and is perfect to be explored by bike! It is home to a number of national parks and they really pack a punch. These parks hold the drama of some of the world’s most pristine and interesting landscapes, and have become famous for their natural beauty. But you don’t have to be in or near the national park to experience Spain’s wilderness. Here, you can go just outside the city and you will be rewarded by miles of smooth and empty tarmac running through deserted countryside that was overtaken by nature or iconic evergreen woodlands called Dehesa that are a unique feature of the Iberian Peninsula. Cyclists can expect loads of blissfully unspoilt riding here!
5. Sun, cycling and… siesta!
A siesta (a local term for “nap”) is a tradition that everyone knows about but less and less people put into practice, including Spaniards. But it is still sacred in many areas of the country, especially in rural areas, so don’t be confused by the closed shops and restaurants in the middle of the day.
Here lunch is the biggest meal of the day and many prefer to have it at home with family and friends, followed by siesta. People in Spain also have dinner much later and stay up longer than their European neighbours, and a nap during the day is what makes it possible. It’s all part of how people live in Spain, so why not embrace it? Another important reason for the siesta is to beat the mid-day heat, which can be very exhausting if you’re not used to it. So, when in Spain, do like Spaniards do and take a siesta during the day if you feel like it, that is also linked to many health benefits according to research.
6. Long summer
Spain is one of Europe’s warmest and sunniest destinations throughout the year, with its alluring climate shaped by the country’s location between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Here summertime lingers longer than almost anywhere else on the continent. Southern Spain sees more than 300 sunny days each year, which makes it a perfect off-season cycling destination. That’s exactly why Andalucia is our top choice for late and early season holidays, including our festive New Year road cycling and MTB tours.
Drinking in Spain is an art! There is a time and place for different beverages in Spain and it differs from one region to another. While getting a cold beer during the hottest part of the day is absolutely acceptable and is encouraged (especially after a ride), if you’re cycling in the north you might be encouraged to have a cider instead. One thing you will hear a lot is una caña, meaning a small glass of draft beer. The clever idea behind this small glasses is that your beer will always be extra cold! And no matter where you are, you will want to celebrate the end of the day’s ride with some sparkling Cava. And forget about asking for sangria at the bar, as it is strictly considered a tourist drink, so ask for a local’s favourite summer drink ‘tinto de verano’ instead. And if there’s a tapa there, take it – drinks in Spain should always be accompanied by food!
We could talk about Spanish wine forever! Spain is the third largest wine producer in the world and has a lot of land dedicated to vineyards – perfect to be cycled through! Among many highlights and favourites, are of course the region of La Rioja in the north, and the famous Sherry Triangle in the south. Salud!
Appreciation of beautiful architecture always goes hand-in-hand with exploring new places. Spain is a country with a rich and interesting past, having been ruled by many empires and religions, and each of them have left a fantastic legacy of overwhelming wealth of cathedrals, churches, temples and monasteries, all just waiting for you to explore. Cycling from city to city, you will be able to better understand the history and admire the unique and varying architectural styles that this country has to offer in all its glory.
Feeling inspired? Take a look at our extensive range of cycling trips in Spain to find out 36 ways to explore this classic cycling destination on two wheels.