After two tours in Sardinia, we decided to find a new location for a cycling tour in the fall of 2014. Andalusia (a region in Spain) is well known to cyclists for its good weather conditions and challenging stages. We flew to Seville, rented bikes there, and did a five-day cycling tour on MTBs, via the villages of Gerena, Berrocal, and Higuera de la Sierra. It was a great success: the surroundings are beautiful and very diverse, there are very good sleeping places on the way, and the weather was amazing (28 degrees and sunny).

route-andalusia

Some overall stats: we cycled about 235 kilometers in 5 days (Oct 1, 2013 – Oct 6, 2013), conquering 2,100 meters of cumulative elevation gain. For each day I shortly describe our route, where we stayed, things that can be improved, and some stats for that day. We rented our bikes from Rent a Bike Sevilla; the bikes (MTB) were excellent for the trip and not too expensive either. They did, however, give us two broken pumps, so make sure to check those things before you leave Seville.

The map above shows our route. Clicking the top-left corner takes you to the website that was used to produce it, which also allows you to view an interactive profile of the route. Here, we only put the screenshot of the profile as an indication.

profile-andalusia-2014

Day 1: Seville – Gerena (35km)

As always, leaving a (big) city by bike is not the best part of a trip. Exiting Seville is fairly easy, but you’ll have to cross Camas and Santiponce on a big road before getting to the start of a Via Verde (former railroads, now unpaved tracks). Once you reach the track, it is a nice 30km stretch through rolling farmlands. Depending on the time of year, this part of the route will look very different, but the views remain similar. It is a very relaxing way to get you started on the first day. Towards the end of the route (after crossing the A-477) it gets hilly, with some steep climbs towards our casa rural.

Sleeping: We stayed at Valle Ventoso, which is a casa rural (rural apartment). It is located about 5km outside of Gerena and offers a nice interior, beautiful terrace, and a pool. The small apartment is perfect for four people. Make sure to get your groceries from Gerena before getting here, otherwise you’ll have to do an additional 10km to get your food and drinks. Staying here is definitely recommendable.

Stats: Mainly flat stage, with only towards the end some (steep) climbing. Most of the track is offroad, so MTBs are highly recommended.

What to improve: Not much. After 28.5km you make a sharp right turn, it might pay off to continue straight for 300m to visit an old rail bridge.

Day 2: Gerena – Berrocal (52.5km)

After leaving the casa rural, we quickly get on the A-477. This is a main road heading straight into Aznalcollar. There are other ways (e.g., getting around this city), but we really wanted a nice cup of coffee:) And Aznalcollar, like most villages in this area, is pretty and relaxed. We leave Aznalcollar via a 1.5km offroad track, before reaching the SE-538, which is a paved road. This road will be your main companion for some 30km. Don’t worry, we only saw one(!) car on this road. Cycling here involves quite a bit of going uphill, but it will give you great views. Don’t forget to stop once in a while to enjoy the silence. After some going up and down, we reach the tiny village of Berrocal, a charming place with two bars on the main square.

Sleeping: We stayed at Alojamientos Rurales Berrocal, which is a house at the edge of the village. From the outside it looks amazing, with a nice garden and a pool. The interior is decent, and it easily fits four people. Given the (very) limited options around here, this one is quite alright.

Stats: Except for a 1.5km track, the full stage is paved. Up to Aznalcollar everything is fairly flat, but after that the road climbs to reach over 400m at kilometer 38. After some descending, we finish the day with a steep climb towards Berrocal.

What to improve: Instead of heading into Aznalcollar (via the main road), you can choose to cycle around it. It is a bit of a detour though, and you’ll miss out on the coffee. Other than that, this is a nice route, although a tough one.

Day 3: Berrocal – Higuera de la Sierra (55km)

Prepare for a day of railroad tracks, mines, and climbing. We leave Berrocal and head towards the Rio Tinto (red river), which gets its color from the minerals in the soil. It is an amazing view, which we will have for about 12km. At the crossing of the HV-5137 and the river, we take a sharp right onto the railroad tracks. This isn’t really a bike track, but with MTBs you’ll be fine. We follow the railroad for about 12km, keeping the Rio Tinto to our right all the time. It is probably the best part of the whole tour. The end of this bit is spectacular, reaching some of the old mines in this area. The old trains are still there… From here, we follow a winding road, pass through Minas de Riotinto, and continue with a small stretch of main road (A-461). We quickly turn right to enter more old mining areas, which slowly turn into woodland. By this time, we are going uphill quite a bit. We end the day in Higuera de la Sierra, another cosy little village.

Sleeping: We stayed at El Rincon de las Tobas, which is simply an amazing place. The apartments are really good and spacious, but the best part are the fantastic views from the terrace and the pool. We scheduled a rest day here, which is just perfect.

Stats: The start of the day is a steep descent from Berrocal to the river, followed by 12km of mainly flat (railway). Enjoy it, because after the mines it is 20km uphill (from 100m to 600m), followed by a short, steep descent, and again 18km of mainly climbing. Today we reach our highest point at the end of the day, at 630m. Most of the day is unpaved, with one steep descent being fairly dangerous because of this.

What to improve: Nothing much.

Day 4: Higuera de la Sierra – Gerena (62km)

Originally we planned for a different route today, but we encountered a fence (N37.79574, E-6.27315) which prevented us from following the path along the Embalse de la Minilla. The start of the day has some spectacular views, including that of Zufre and the Embalse de Zufre. Instead of heading to the closed track, we take the SE-316, which winds trought the landscape, and end up at Castillo de las Guardas (the route actually does not go here, but we did). From here, we ended up taking the N-433 towards El Garrobo. This is a main road (80-100km/h for cars) and should ideally be avoided. From El Garrobo is it another 10km, mainly downhill, to Gerena. This time we actually stayed in the village itself, which turns out to be very lively and pleasant in the evening. Well worth a visit.

Sleeping: We stayed at La Laguna, a restaurant that also has a couple of apartments. The apartment was very decent, but nothing spectacular. The restaurant offers some good grilled meat. I’m not aware of any other places to stay in Gerena.

Stats: In short: we go from the highest point of the tour (630m) to the lowest (50m) in one day. This does not mean there is no climbing, but it is downhill for most of the day, which makes it feasible to do more kilometers. All roads are paved.

What to improve: The road from Higuera de la Sierra to Castillo de las Guardas is very nice and scenic, nothing to change there. However, the main N road should be avoided, it is simply annoying to cycle along. One could perhaps take the SE-530 towards Aznalcollar and stay there. Otherwise, since the road from El Garrobo to Gerena is nice again, one could try to quickly do the 16km of main road.

Day 5: Gerena – Seville (30km)

A nice, relaxed, easy last day of the trip. We start at Gerena and take the Camino del Canal del Agua, a rolling road through farmlands. After 10.5km we turn left onto the Via Verde we also took on the first day, and we follow it all the way into Camas. The final bit is entering Seville and finding your way back to the bike rental.

Sleeping: We stayed at Apartamentos Fabiola (last night) and La Banda Rooftop Hostel (first night). The hostel is a very good one, with clean rooms and bathrooms (ensuite for us), and a beautiful rooftop terrace with cathedral view. The apartment is also very well maintained, with modern equipment. The hostess is very friendly and helpful. Both places are good choices for a stay, it depends on what you prefer.

Stats: Flat and unpaved most of the way.

What to improve: Not much, although one could try a different way to get back to Seville instead of using the same Via Verde.

Summary

We thought that cycling in Sardinia was already amazing, but Andalusia can easily compete with it. Even in fall, with the country having suffered 40+ degrees temperatures throughout summer, the surroundings are beautiful. The via verdes (old railways) are good for MTB cycling, and especially the hardly-explored railways along the Rio Tinto are impressive. We are considering to go in spring next time, to see how different the country looks in that time of year. Also, we only explored a small bit of Andalusia (mainly Huelva), with many other regions being at least equally attractive. Plenty of reasons to go back there!