If you've given more familiar destinations like Mallorca, Girona, Tenerife or Gran Canaria a try and are looking for somewhere new, the roads of Spain’s Sierra Nevada are cycling’s best kept secret. Situated in the beautiful Andalusian province of Granada, this mountain range is home to the highest point in continental Spain (Mulhacén), and features some of the best riding the country has to offer.
Whether you’re training or simply riding for enjoyment, the Sierra Nevada’s mix of quiet roads, epic climbs and spectacular descents means there’s plenty to suit riders of all abilities and tastes. Throw in lots of sunshine and excellent food, and the region has everything a cyclist could dream of.
The experts at Cycle Sierra Nevada (opens in new tab) have years of experience giving travellers their ideal holiday on two wheels. Here are six reasons to spend your next cycling vacation in the Sierra Nevada.
1. The weather is worth writing home about
While the city of Granada and the Ski Station at 2,500m above sea level can get rather chilly in winter, the area around Cycle Sierra Nevada’s headquarters (in the village of Velez de Benaudalla) is – unusually for Europe – warm enough to grow avocados, bananas and mangoes.
Situated just a few kilometres from the beaches of the sub-tropical Costa Tropical, the region is protected from cold northerly winds by mountains, while warmer breezes from the south prevent temperatures from dropping too low. Throw in an average 325 days of sunshine per year, and you’ve got one of the few regions of Spain where it’s possible to ride all-year round without your full cold-weather kit. There’s a good reason why some of the best pro cycling teams in the world spend their off-season training in the Sierra Nevada.
2. There are climbs to suit all tastes…
This region of Southern Spain is blessed with epic mountain ranges, with the Sierra Nevada, the Sierra de Lújar, the Sierra de la Contraviesa, the Sierra de Los Guájares and the Sierra de Almijara all close by. That puts a vast selection of routes at your disposal, whether you’re looking for something more gentle (most of the climbs in the area have an average gradient of 5-6 percent), or one of the 20-plus HC category ascents within riding distance of Cycling Sierra Nevada’s base.
It's also good to know that the roads in the area are generally quiet. In fact, Cycle Sierra Nevada say that it’s possible to take on some climbs without passing a single car. They also point out that drivers in the area tend to be respectful enough to provide plenty of room while overtaking, making your ride much more relaxing.
To get an idea of what to expect, check out Cycle Sierra Nevada’s guide to climbs in the region (opens in new tab).
3 …and the descents are pretty good, too
As Sir Isaac Newton theorised all those centuries ago, what goes up must come down, so it’s worth remembering that your hard work on the climbs will be rewarded by spectacular descents. The combination of sweeping bends, fast straights and tight hairpins are a cyclist’s dream, while the lack of cars and the quality of the road surfaces make it easier to settle in and enjoy the ride.
4. There’s no lack of variety
The Sierra Nevada boasts so many memorable cycling routes that you never need to cover the same tarmac twice – unless, of course, you were so captivated by a stretch of road first time out you feel you have to experience it again.
If you want to take on the challenge of your very own Grand Tour-level climb, there are plenty of options to choose from, including the Pico Veleta, Europe's highest paved road. Cycle Sierra Nevada have an extensive guide to riding the Pico Veleta (opens in new tab), and bike hire (opens in new tab) is available for anyone looking to take on the highest cycling climb on the continent.
But don't worry if you have days when you want to avoid the inclines – you can also choose to drop the intensity with a recovery ride or a quick jaunt to the beach.
5. It’s not just about the cycling
Even the most avid cyclist will want to enjoy themselves out of the saddle, and the region has plenty to offer when you’re not on the open road. Velez de Benaudalla is home to tapas bars and traditional Andalucian restaurants, while you can also find the amenities you need (supermarkets, banks, pharmacy, doctors etc) when you’re away from home. Cycling Sierra Nevada also say that the fact the village is off the traditional tourist track means you don’t need to worry about tourist-level prices.
At the same time, it’s only an hour from Málaga, Almería and Granada airports, meaning you don’t need to mount an expedition before you get in the saddle.
6. Cycle Sierra Nevada has plenty of happy customers
Cycle Sierra Nevada currently has an average rating of 5.0 from over 160 reviews on Google. Here are a few highlights from satisfied customers:
“Cycle Sierra Nevada provide first-class bikes with fair prices, their service cannot be topped. And yes, I almost forgot: this cycling area is about the best for cycling on very quiet roads, no traffic, absolutely stunning nature, great up- and downhill with terrific curves that make you high and singing. We will come again for sure.”
“Wow, what an incredible area of Spain to ride, facilitated by the great people at Cycle Sierra Nevada. The BMC bikes were well equipped and in great mechanical order. The riding is amazing, so if you like mountains, I would highly recommend the area and Cycle Sierra Nevada.”
“I am happy to report that this is an amazing cycling destination. Great road surface, very little vehicle traffic and respectful drivers. Enjoy very scenic roads through the mountains and along the coast. Breathtaking views and smile-inducing descents are on the itinerary each day as your experienced and knowledgeable guide brings you through thoughtfully curated routes. I can’t decide if my favourite day was climbing alongside thousands of almond trees in bloom or descending through a national park down to the beach.”
Cycle Sierra Nevada have a large range of top-line BMC road, mountain, gravel and e-bikes for rent. Visit the Cycle Sierra Nevada website for more information.
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Founded in 1891, Cycling Weekly and its team of expert journalists brings cyclists in-depth reviews, extensive coverage of both professional and domestic racing, as well as fitness advice and 'brew a cuppa and put your feet up' features. Cycling Weekly serves its audience across a range of platforms, from good old-fashioned print to online journalism, and video.
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