Northern Spain by Bike
Day 1 Barcelona
Arrive in Barcelona at any time. As your fellow travellers are arriving throughout the day, there are no planned activities. Check-in to the hotel (check-in time is approx. 3pm) and enjoy the city. In the evening meet your fellow group members at 7pm to go over the details of your trip. Check the notice boards or ask at reception for the exact location of this group meeting. After the meeting, you can head out for a meal at a local restaurant with the group (optional). Please make every effort to arrive on time for this important group meeting. If you are delayed, please contact the hotel or the emergency contact numbers in your trip dossier. Your Chief Experience Officer (CEO) will then leave you a message at the front desk. If you arrive early why not spend the afternoon at leisure exploring Spain’s second largest city, known worldwide for its dynamic atmosphere and exciting style. Barcelona may be Spain’s second largest city, but it's the capital when it comes to fashion, architecture, food and music. Renowned for its dynamic atmosphere and groundbreaking style, Barcelona is always fun and exciting. As the most cosmopolitan and economically active city in Spain it has always shown its will to be modern. Barcelona is always at the forefront of the latest international styles, whether it be in architecture, fashion or ways of thinking. There is plenty of history too: visit the old Gothic Quarter with its maze of dark streets, historic cathedral, medieval buildings, bars and cafes. Stroll the Rambla, a large tree-lined pedestrian boulevard perfect for people-watching and window shopping, ending at the harbour front facing the Mediterranean Sea. Make sure to view Gaudi’s most famous work, the Sagrada Familia cathedral, an inspiring yet bizarre testament to the artist’s unique vision. Should you need some quiet time away from it all a visit to the imaginative Park Guell will cure all ills, as you stroll the tree lined paths and admire more of Gaudi’s creative genius at play. For nightlife, the highest concentration of young and beautiful locals dancing the night away – both in the bars and on the street – can be found near the intersection of Santaló and Mariano Cubi streets. Here you can always find good music, good drinks and lots of fun. Another good nightlife spot for meeting the fashionable locals of Barcelona is on the Plaza Francesc Maciá.
Days 2-3 Olot
We begin our journey with a morning train to the medieval town of Ripoll where our bicycles await us. Today we take the Bici Carril, a former railway line that has been transformed into a bicycle route, and which leads all the way from the Pyrenees as far as the Mediterranean Sea. The trail, gently graded and easy to follow, takes us through varied rural scenery, dotted with small Catalunyan villages and sunflower fields. We pass over a hill approximately 7-8km, which requires a fairly good fitness level. Total biking distance to Olot is approximately 40km. We leave Ripoll behind us and follow the Bici Carril through the lovely village of Sant Joan de les Abadesses on our way to the historic town of Olot where we spend the night. The following day we have time to explore this lovely village and choose from the many optional activities available in the area. The historic town of Olot is located within one of the most important volcanic areas in Europe, the Natural Park of the Volcanic Area of the Garrotxa. This impressive volcanic landscape, combined with the plant species of the area, lends the region its unique natural beauty. The scenery here is varied and often spectacular: dense oak forests, valleys both narrow and wide, white cliffs striped with bands of deep green trees clinging to ledges. If you feel energetic there are two nearby volcano trails, Santa Margarida and Croscat, both with stunning views and delightful scenery. People have lived here for thousands of years and used the land gently. See towns and stone farmhouses perfectly placed to catch the best sun while shielding themselves from the worst winds. Hillsides are terraced with intricate dry walls and tiny country churches serve a social as well as spiritual purpose. All are signs of a life of harmony that was all but lost when nearby cities offered promise of a better future. Only now people are slowly starting to return to their roots and the lifestyle of yesteryear in these intricate hills and valleys. Today also marks our entry into the Catalan Pyrenees proper, where we will spend most of our trip. The Catalan Pyrenees consists of a mountainous strip nearly 250km long, stretching from the Val d'Aran to the Mediterranean. The range includes some of the highest peaks in Europe, including Mount Aneto (3404m) in the Maladeta Massif. For an area renowned for its varied landscape, the peaks themselves are surprisingly similar, including the glacial cirques with their lakes and ponds. Visualize crystal clear mountain streams running through deeply carved valleys lined with pine forests. The region is made up of several sections, each making up its own natural region. These sections are based on a major river valley and possess their own distinct personality and history. The regions are the Val d'Aran, Ribagorça, Pallars, Alt Urgell, Cerdanya, Ripollès, Garrotxa and Empordà. Visitors to the Catalan Pyrenees can enjoy a wide range of attractions, magnificent scenery, villages steeped in character, facilities for all types of mountain sports and delicious culinary specialties. It is an area where time honoured traditions still hold true. Estimated Travel Time by bus/train: 2 hours Biking distance: 40km Elevation: Start: 690m; Highest: 1000m; Finish: 450m
Days 4-5 Girona
Start the morning on the Bici Carril, as we cycle along from Olot to Girona (55km). Most of the time there are gentle gradients as you wind your way through sunflower fields and tree lined canopies, crossing rivers and the occasional road until we reach our destination – Girona. Girona (also spelt Gerona in Castilian Spanish and English), an ancient walled city situated atop a hill overlooking the Onyar River, is the most fought after town in all of Catalunya. Dating back to Roman times, Girona has been the scene of bloody battles in every century since. For nearly two hundred years Girona was controlled by Arabs, followed by over 600 years of Jewish control. Girona was besieged a total of 21 times, and in the nineteenth century it earned itself the nickname "Immortal" by surviving five attacks, the longest of which was a seven-month assault by the French in 1809. Not surprisingly, all this turmoil has bequeathed the city a hotchpotch of architectural styles, from Roman classicism to modern, yet the overall impression for the visitor is of a medieval city, its attraction heightened by its riverside setting. Many bars and restaurants line Girona’s Calle la Força, in the centre of the old city. The areas that surround the Rambla, Libertan and Plaça del Vi, are two of the best areas to grab a bite to eat in the afternoon since they have ample outdoor seating. Another little enclave of restaurants with good menús del dia is over the river in Plaça de la Independencia. Biking distance: 55km Elevation: Start: 425m; Highest: 600m; Finish: 100m
Days 6-7 Sant Feliu de Guíxols/Barcelona
Take a rest from your biking and spend a well-earned free day in Girona walking along the Passeig Arquaeologic, located outside the city walls, for an astounding view of the cathedral’s eleventh Century Charlemagne Tower. Don't miss the gorgeous Banys Arabs, or Arab baths, built in the late twelfth Century; during the 1992 Summer Olympics this area was used for sculling. Or, if you'd rather stay on the saddle, you can take the opportunity to cycle to the nearby lake Banyoles where you can swim, row or go fishing.
Day 8 Barcelona
Departing Girona on our bikes we cycle the rest of the Bici Carril 40km to the Mediterranean Sea at Sant Feliu de Guíxols. Most of our trail crosses meadows and pine and eucalyptus forests. Sant Feliu de Guíxols is a typically Mediterranean town in the heart of the Costa Brava. The coastline surrounding Sant Feliu is full of contrasts, with stretches of cliffs interrupted by coves and bays with fine sand beaches. The town's beaches offer tons of opportunity to participate in a number of water sports. The countryside surrounding Sant Feliu offers fantastic hiking and biking opportunities. The town is situated in the Aro valley and surrounded by the Gavarres hills, the Montclar Mountain and the Cadiretes massif, with typically Mediterranean woods of pine and oak, and countless paths passing through dense vegetation. The coastal paths reveal a landscape of cliffs, coves and bays, and beaches where summer homes from days past still remain as a reminder of the longstanding popularity of the region. Sant Feliu de Guíxols is a town rich in culture, history and architectural heritage. An outstanding example is the architectural complex of the Monastery, built in 1723 by the Benedictine Order, which includes the Porta Ferradaj, the symbol of the town, and the towers of the Corn and Fum. Nowadays, the Monastery complex is the home of the Cultural Centre and the History Museum, which displays art from the town’s past. The Cultural Centre organises numerous exhibitions and activities all year round. Signs of the town’s seafaring past are evident in the 18th century Old Fort and the Sea Rescue building, located at the old medieval harbour. But Sant Feliu also has other landscapes, such as the surroundings of the chapel of Sant Elm, built in 1723 over the remains of a defence tower, with impressive panoramic views. Besides the obvious attractions of its many wonderful beaches, the Costa Brava (meaning Wild Coast) is also an ideal base from which to explore the countless treasures of Catalunya. Go for a swim or walk on the beach at the end of your active day, and make sure to enjoy some of the great local seafood for your evening meal. Biking distance: 40km Elevation: 80m ; Highest: 120m; Finish: 10m