From desert cave houses to pretty Berber villages, endless olive groves to bare moonscape plateaux, dense pine forests to arid sandstone canyons. One thing that is for sure, is this bikepacking route gives you superb variety!
I was drawn to Andalucía because of the GR247 circular hiking route. It looked as though it would be a fantastic bike packing route providing a ‘middle-of-nowhere’ attraction. A combination of spectacular, dramatic, limestone mountains and gorges, combined with the rugged luna landscapes belonging to the plateau of Los Campos de Hernán Perea.
If I was going to be heading to Andalucía, then I wanted to visit the picturesque city of Granada as well. Not only steeped in history, but also famous for its tradition of free tapas with every drink! You can get by without needing to buy a single meal when you are in the city. If I was going to Granada, then it would be silly to not go and check out the Sierra Nevada while I’m there as well! Then there is also the badlands to consider, a semi-desert arid area filled with canyons and gullies; surely something which shouldn’t be missed!
So, I pieced together a loop starting and finishing in Granada, picking out some of the best bits of the Andalucían mountains. The route takes in the; Sierra Nevada, Sierra de Baza, Sierra de Segura and Sierra de Cazorla (GR247 loop), and finishes through the Gorafe Desert (aka Badlands).
The 10 days on the bike was everything I could have hoped for and more. With 20% of Andalucía made up of natural or national park land, the forested mountains feel wild and untouched, and many of the villages we passed through felt like they had been frozen in time, where small scale agriculture was still the heart of their survival. The locals were welcoming and friendly (although be prepared as no one speaks any English). The food is home cooked and very affordable. I particularly enjoyed stopping for one, or sometimes two, breakfasts each morning. Tostada con tomate and freshly squeezed orange juice quickly became my go to and was never more than a couple of euros.
Southern Spain is jam-packed with off-road tracks, so the majority of the route is a mix of doubletrack, single track, gravel and footpaths, and only veering onto paved roads to connect sections, (although it’s worth mentioning that the roads in Spain are amazing, with great quality tarmac and rarely any vehicles). I think it’s also worth mentioning that there are a few monster hike-a-bike sections dotted about too, particularly on the GR247, so it’s not for the fainthearted!
- The GR247 completely stole my heart. WOW, it can only be described as breathtakingly beautiful. A 309km footpath circular loop, that weaves through the dramatic limestone crags of the Sierras de Cazorla Segura y Las Villas Natural Park. With an area of almost 2,100 sq/km, it is the largest protected area in Spain and the second largest in Europe. As much as I enjoyed the entire route through Andalucía, this section was by far my favourite due to the incredible scenery.
- The moonscape High Plateau of Los Campos de Hernán Perea was amazing! It will be going into my shortlist of favourite gravel roads around the world. Just a simple dirt track snaking its way into the horizon, big skies, big vistas and no people. There are also four little refugios up on the plateaux with water pumps that I would recommend a stay in.
- The pretty white Las Alpujarras villages. Particularly Pampaneira, which can be found on Spains ‘Prettiest Villages’ list. The villages in this part of the Sierra Nevada are known for their historic white houses with flat roofs, typical Berber chimneys, and arched alleyways covered in beautiful flowers.
- The desert of Los Coloraos and Gorafe (Badlands). A semi-desert arid area, full of yellow and red hues coming from the clay that forms its canyons and gullies. It looks a little concerning in a ‘whole lot of nothingness’ kind of way, but it’s an incredible landscape to cycle through and a spectacular contrast to the lush green mountains from the days before. This area has the largest concentration of cave houses anywhere in Europe, 240+ Dolman from the Neolithic time, and the remains of the oldest hominids in Europe!
- I am a bit of a vulture nerd, so daily sightings of Griffon vultures, both flying and on the ground, always made my day. However, getting up close and personal with a wake of feeding vultures one afternoon was a real highlight for me.
- Patatas Bravas!! Simple yet delicious that became a daily staple along the way.
Feel free to ask me any questions, happy to help where I can.
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