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Spain - Ebro & Rioja
10th September 2019 - 24th September 2019 (15 days)
This is a hotel based moving-on tour in northern Spain with Portsmouth-Santander ferry/cruise included. You will carry your own luggage over terrain that varies from flat river valleys, to hilly and occasionally mountainous. Daily distances vary according to the terrain and number of attractions along the way, with no day requiring more than 5½ hours of moderate cycling. (See Itinerary for daily distance and climb totals.) The route is mostly on minor roads, plus other cycleways, most of which are tarmac but some gravel.
In addition to experiencing the scenic delights of rural Spain at harvest time, you will have the opportunity to visit several places of historic and cultural interest. Highlights include the source and spectacular gorges of the upper Ebro, fortified Frias, tours of at least two Rioja bodegas (tastings included), several scenic 'Vía Verde' (VV) rail-trails and cliffs and beaches of the Cantabrian coast.
- Holiday Type Guided
- Tour Manager Christopher Juden
- Grade Moderate
- Booking Status Fully Booked
- Accommodation Hotel
- Board Basis Half Board
- Travel Arrangements Ferry
- Road / Off Road Road
- Holiday Style Moving-on
- Vehicle Support Carry Own Luggage
- Holiday Ref 03224
Tuesday 10th September
Meet 1430 at Portsmouth International ferry terminal for the Brittany Ferries overnight crossing to Spain departing at 1715.
Wednesday 11th September
Cruise the Bay of Biscay and disembark 1815 (approx) in Santander. Take the harbour ferry to Somo. Stay 1 night.
Thursday 12th September
Cycle via VV del Pas, Puente Visego, Corrales de Buelna to Fragas. 61km (560m). Stay 1 night.
Friday 13th September
Cycle up Besaya valley on lanes to Bárcena de Pie de Concha; then steadily climb on quiet main road (bypassed by motorway) over 850m col into Reinosa. 27km (730m). Leave luggage at hotel before optional afternoon ride via Villacantid (Romanesque Church Museum) to Fontibre (source of Ebro) & back. 20km (110m). Stay one night.
Saturday 14th September
Cycle on lanes by Ebro reservoir, then young Río Ebro; on gravel road from Bustasur to Aldea de Ebro (interesting group of churches); up to Arroyal then down by Río Polla to Bárcena and rejoin the Ebro through Polientes. After visiting the fine Romaesque church of S. Martín de Elines, the deepening valley sides close in to form cliffs adorned with pinnacles and battlements in fantastical shapes, such as 'the kissing camels' viewed from our hotel in Orbaneja del Castillo. 73km (520m). Stay 1 night.
Sunday 15th September
Cycle through a succession of gorges and more open valleys as the Rio Ebro carves its random way through limestone plateaus, sierras and basins formed by the Meseta butting up against the Cantabrian mountains. In two places the river cuts a cleft too narrow for our road to follow, so we must a climb a couple of hundred metres. Below Angés a cliff-carved hermitage can easily be visited. Finally we emerge from La Horadada defile into Trespaderne. 80km (820m). Stay 1 night.
Monday 16th September
Cycle by the Ebro: crossing a medieval bridge into fortified Frias, to wander its picturesque alleys; by the lake and spectacular gorge of Sobrón; through sunflower fields to Miranda de Ebro and on riverside cyclepaths through the town; by a scenic corniche on the flanks of Montes Obarenes; to the vineyards of La Rioja and the winemaking town of Haro. 75km (350m). Stay 2 nights.
Tuesday 17th September
Free day in Haro. Optional cycle on Via Verde del Río Oja to the interesting mountain town of Ezcaray in the foothills of Sierra de la Demanda. Return via Santo Domingo de la Calzada (pilgrim's road to Santiago) where one may visit the Cathedral shrine to the miracle of the chickens! And so, via Anguciana and the old-time winery of Bodegas Olabarri (only 3km out of town so all may visit and taste), to Haro. 73km (400m) - optional.
Wednesday 18th September
Cycle out of Haro over the medieval Ebro bridge to Briñas; then hilly vineyard roads and some tracks through Bastida, San Vicente de la Sonsierra (visit hilltop Fortaleza) and into the Rioja Alavesa (the Basque part) at Elciego, where we tour the modern bodega - but very old in parts - of Marqués de Riscal, taste the product and view their stunning hotel (by Frank Gehry). We continue via Navaridas to the hilltop wine-making town of Laguardia. 39km (590m). Stay 1 night.
Thursday 19th September
Cycle up (500m climb) the mountain ridge that protects the vines from cold and wet northern winds, to the Balcón de la Rioja viewpoint, over Puerto Herrera, down and over a further, mere 200m pass, to Vitoria / Gasteiz, in time to see something of the Basque capital and the greenest, most cycle-friendly city in Spain. 45km (870m). Stay 1 night.
Friday 20th September
Use a bike-friendly escalator to access the old town and cycle out of Vitoria / Gasteiz avoiding main roads on bike-paths & side roads to Apodaca; gravel track to Letona; minor roads over Puerto Aiurdin, through Murgía, Goiuri to edge of Cañon del Nervion (view of Sierra Sálvada escarpment). Descend 400m to Urduña; skirt Amurrio via Respaldiza to Quejana. 58km (650m). Stay 1 night.
Saturday 21st September
Cycle via Llanteno, Sodupe, Güeñes; climb 200m to Txabarri; in La Aceña join the Vía Verde Montes de Hierro, contouring picturesquely around these mountains rich in iron and relics of past industry, to Gallarta; where another Vía Verde descends to La Arena. Here we must walk 100m across the beach, over a bridge to Pobeña and up a long flight of steps. The reward is a most spectacular Vía Verde, on a clifftop corniche and good tarmac to Covarón, whence the old coast road brings us to the resort and fishing town of Castro-Urdiales. 72km (610m). Stay 1 night.
Sunday 22nd September
Cycle along the coast on minor roads where available, though the main road is largely traffic-relieved by an adjacent motorway, via Islares, Laredo, Santoña and Noja, to Isla Playa. 64km (470m). Stay 1 night.
Monday 23rd September
Cycle mostly on back lanes through rolling green coastal hills, via Isla, Arnuedo, Galizano, Langre and Lorerdo to Somo, whence take the ferry back across the harbour to Santander. 27km (340m). At 1400 check-in for the 1515 Brittany Ferries overnight crossing to Portsmouth.
Tuesday 24th September
Arrive in Portsmouth at 1415 (approximate, the ship may be delayed an hour or more by adverse conditions). End of holiday.
Accommodation & Meals
For the 2 nights on board ship: accommodation will be in 2-berth inside cabins, each one shared by a couple or by two people of the same sex. Participants will be responsible for their own meals on board.
For the 12 nights in Spain: accommodation will usually be in hotels of 3-star standard with dinner and breakfast included, sharing rooms with en-suite facilities. If a single room is wanted this must be requested on the booking form and the single supplement paid. Vegetarian and other special dietary requirements can usually be met, if requested on the booking form.
No vehicle support is provided. Participants are expected to carry their own luggage on a suitably equipped bicycle.
Passports, Visa & Health
EU citizens must hold a passport that is still valid on the date of their return to their home country. Holders of non-EU passports are advised to check whether they require a visa. There are no compulsory health related requirements for UK residents, but you are strongly advised to check that your tetanus protection has not expired. You must also carry your European Health Insurance Card.
Our Booking Conditions stipulate that, for holidays outside the UK, travel Insurance is mandatory. Details of the level of cover needed and other conditions you should check are stated in the Booking Conditions. CTC Cycling Holidays & Tours Ltd cannot accept responsibility for any costs that may be incurred due to insufficient insurance cover.
The price of £1,450 is based on a minimum number of 9 people taking part in the tour and is calculated at a rate of 1.12 Euros to £1 sterling (based on exchange rates published on www.x-rates.com on 14 September 2018; please note Booking Conditions, clause 3). If there are insufficient bookings by 2nd July 2019, we will contact you and return all monies paid, although in certain circumstances the holiday may still run at below minimum numbers but at the same price.
- Ferry-cruise, Portsmouth to Santander and return
- 2 nights ferry, sharing 2-berth inside cabin, no meals
- 12 nights hotel, sharing room, half-board
- Visits to two Rioja bodegas, with tasting
- CTC Cycling Holidays & Tours costs
Price Does Not Include
- Meals on the ferry
- Drinks with evening meals
- Lunches or refreshments during the day
- Entry fees at any attractions not listed above
- Any other personal expenses
- Travel Insurance
- Single occupancy supplement (£350, subject to availability)
A deposit of £400 per person is payable upon booking, with the final balance of £1,050 per person to be paid ten weeks prior to departure, by 2nd July 2019.
Should you be forced to cancel your booking for any reason you must notify us in writing. Cancellation charges are as follows:
Written notice received:
Before 2nd July 2019
From 2nd July 2019 through to departure
The Area Covered By The Holiday
After circling the quiet side of Santander harbour, a day and a half tracing valleys and gradually climbing between the green mountains of Cantabria, brings us out at 800m in the Alto Campoo. This broad high-altitude valley is dominated by 2175m Pico Tres Mares, whence rivers flow to three seas - if you call the Bay of Biscay, as they do, the Mar Cantábrico! Here rises the Río Ebro, Iberia’s second greatest river, at 930km the longest entirely in Spain and almost three times the length of our river Severn. We trace the first and most spectacular quarter of its course to the Mediterranean. First it makes a large but shallow puddle in the Alto Campoo, then babbles south through thickly wooded hills. The hills close in as we enter the province of Burgos and the river begins to carve a series of spectacular gorges through the limestone of the Meseta. In the first gorge we stay at Orbaneja del Castillo. It's one of those off-the-beaten-path places you'll be so glad to have enjoyed before 'discovery' by the guidebook writers. There are open valley sections too, where rich crops are watered by the river. One such is guarded, together with a strategically important medieval bridge, by the hilltop town of Frías - another little-known gem, complete with 'hanging houses'.
Finally the Ebro cuts between the Montes Obarenes and the Sierra de Toloño, into the rolling chalky hills of La Rioja and the wine-making town of Haro, where we spend two nights. There will be several opportunities to taste the product before (and after) we move on to Laguardia in the Rioja Alavesa. Three days follow in the Basque mountains, visiting the green and cycle-friendly city of Vitoria-Gasteiz and the spectacular canyon of the Río Nervión, but careful choice of route, including several Vías Verdes, minimises the climbing.
We come back 'down to the sea and ships' on the trail of a British-made railway that brought ore from the Basque 'Mountains of Iron' to be shipped in exchange for Welsh coal, so there's a bit of industrial archeology too. We hit the coast immediately west of Bilbao, just where it starts to get pretty and spend the night in the resort and fishing town of Castro-Urdiales. A day and a half by the green hills, rocky headlands and broad sandy beaches of the Cantabrian seaside brings us back to Santander.
Rides & Rest Days
Between disembarking and re-embarking in Santander, we spend 11½ days in Spain. Subtracting one rest day (with an optional ride) and another approximate 0.5 'days-worth' of wine-tasting etc leaves 10 whole days to ride about 640km and climb 6700m, an average of 64km and 670m per whole day, with no day exceeding 80km or 1000m. To enjoy that kind of daily riding, with luggage and enough relaxation to appreciate the view etc, you should be capable of a one-day unladen ride of at least 100km (65miles) with lots of hills.
The group will be led in a loosely knit group at a moderate pace with frequent stops for places of interest, photos and refreshments etc. We will use the ‘human signpost’ system to ensure that nobody misses a turn but anyone who prefers to make their own way is very welcome so to do. That's why, about four weeks before departure, GPS tracks & courses and a very detailed route instruction booklet in its own zip-lock waterproof wallet are sent to each participant!
Accommodation & Meals
Location is paramount on a moving-on tour, so if a scruffy 1-star guesthouse is the only place in the RIGHT place that will take our big group, that's where we stay! It should not come to that and the occasional less comfortable hotel will be offset by a night of 4-star luxury somewhere else with more choice. Local difficulties in accommodating a large group means that payment of the single supplement does not guarantee a single room on every single night, only where and when sufficient rooms are available that single use does not reduce the intended size of the group. If a single everywhere is essential, that may nevertheless be negotiable for a higher supplement, if clearly stated when booking.
One place where the single supplement does NOT secure single use is in cabins on the ferry. Depending on demand, Brittany Ferries may nevertheless allow single use within group bookings, at an extra charge of course. If that's what you would like please clearly state this also, when booking.
Room availability may also require that sometimes, in some places, more than two sharers of the same sex must share a three or four-bedded room. This will also apply when two people apply as a pair to share: they may sometimes have to admit a third or even a fourth person, or split and share with different pairs, etc.
When two people of opposite sex apply from the same address, it will be assumed that they are partners, ie a 'couple' and allocated a 'double' room equipped with one large bed where available, a 'twin', ie two single beds, where not. If you are not a couple or a couple that prefers separate beds, please clearly state this when booking.
Conversely, when two people of the same sex apply to share, it will be assumed that they are a 'pair', requiring a 'twin' room. If you would prefer instead to be teated as a 'couple', please state this when booking.
Travel to and from Spain is overnight in 2-berth inside cabins aboard the Pont-Aven: Brittany Ferries’ flagship. This large and comfortable vessel is equipped with the range of dining and entertainment options one might expect on a cruise ship. Should you fail to arrive at Portsmouth International ferry terminal by the appointed time, we will not be responsible for any additional expenses you may incur in order to join the tour. The appointed time is 14:30 on Tuesday 3rd September 2019. But please do not book eg rail tickts to Portsmouth until you have been told by the Tour Manager that the holiday will run.
The ferry is scheduled to return on Tuesday 17th September at 14:15, but don't count on it. Adverse weather conditions can easily delay the ship by an hour or three, so inflexible onward travel arrangements are risky.
The maximum number of participants will be 15 excluding the Tour Manager.
Weather & Clothing
We go from Spain’s green north coast and mountains – that catch all the rain – to their dry and sun-baked hinterland. So be prepared for a range of weathers, from cool and soaking wet to dry and burning hot. It is hoped that we will not need warm clothes and waterproofs, but be sure to bring one autumnal set, in addition to your usual summer cycle-touring togs.
Spanish law currently obliges cyclists to wear helmets when riding on the road. Although there are so many legal exceptions (urban areas, uphill, hot weather...) that enforcement is patchy to say the least, you will need to bring a helmet with you to avoid the risk of an on-the-spot fine and/or confiscation of a wheel.
Cycles & Equipment
A touring/trekking or expedition bike is most suitable for this tour. You should fit hard-wearing tyres of at least 32mm to avoid problems on gravel sections of Vía Verde. Mountain-bikes equipped with road touring tyres would also be suitable.
A bottom gear no higher than 25 inches is recommended, ie smallest front chainwheel appreciably smaller than largest rear cog. Bikes should have mudguards and secure luggage carriers. Your bike should be road-worthy and in sound mechanical order before leaving home. You should test ride your cycle fully laden before the tour to ensure you are happy with its handling. You shouldn't need lights, but bring them just in case. Each participant will be expected to carry sufficient spares and tools to deal with punctures and minor repairs to his or her own cycle.
Maps & Guides
For detailed maps that depict almost all the roads and even some of the rail trails we shall use: choose the two Michelin Zoom 1:150k maps numbered 143 and 144. Or for one economical overview map: choose Michelin Regional 1:250k map 573.
Unfortunately though, neither of those options does actlualy map the whole tour. There's a little bit missing off the south of the two Zoom maps, and a different little bit missing off the west of Regional 573. To get it all you need all three, or 143 plus 573 for the whole tour with most of it in detail. The missing bits are small however, and included in your route wallet will be a colour photocopy of both of them on a single two-sided A4 sheet, so you can choose either detail or economy and still have it all!
Travel Insurance & Advice
In addition to travel insurance, EU nationals should carry a European Health Insurance Card, obtainable from www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC/. This enables you to take advantage of emergency medical services free or at a discount under a reciprocal provision that exists between EU member states. Your travel insurer may refuse to meet the extra costs of medical treatment if you do not carry this card. Before booking you should check the latest travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office including security and local laws, plus passport and visa information, at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice or on 0845 850 2829.