After a two-year Covid delay, the first English language cycling guide to the Ruta Vía de la Plata can be ordered from the Cicerone website. It's been a long time coming but I'm really excited - I think this is a special guide for what is a really special journey.The journey starts in Seville and, from this splendid beginning, travels north through wonderful landscapes visiting a series of amazing towns and cities on a route that runs parallel with the Portuguese Spanish border. Just north of Zamora and after crossing the famous Duero river, two options are offered. For cyclists seeking the full pilgrimage experience the first option heads west and ends up, via the Camino Sanabrés, in Santiago del Compostela. The second continues north and after visiting my favorite Spanish city, Leon, crosses the Cantabrian Mountains, stops off at Oviedo, and finishes at Gijon on the north coast.
The Ruta has been in constant use since the Romans. Its importance brought wealth to the towns and cities along its route, most of which are within a day's cycling of each other. So after 4 or 5 hours cycling, a leisurely mid-afternoon Spanish lunch and a siesta, the evenings can be occupied with site seeing before rounding things off with people watching, beer and tapas. If you have any interest in Spanish History, the Game of Thrones, bagging world heritage sites, or just cycling and eating great food then this is the trip - it’s cycle touring at its very best.
Depending on whether you choose Gijon or Santiago del Compostela the schedule assumes 14 or 15 days cycling. There are however lots of options and squeezing the trip a little, makes finishing it in a two week window more than feasible.
This is my fifth guide for Cicerone but my first cycling guide. Cyclists come in all shapes and sizes and perhaps the most innovative thing I’ve done (pushed by the team at Cicerone) reflects this in the guide. What I’ve tried to do is provide information for the widest range of cyclists to follow a route that matches their own preferences. The route itself makes this possible. You can cycle from Seville to Gijon or Santiago del Compostela along well-graded empty roads perfect for road bikes. This is because the Spanish national network (the N roads) has over the last 20 years been superseded by a new motorway and the N roads are, for the most part now empty. At the same time, it is possible to go to the same destinations using the Camino routes which are largely off-road and suitable for cyclists who prefer a touring, gravel or mountain bike. Much of the off-road cycling is amazing, providing intimate access to the wonderful and unique Spanish dehesa landscape, but some of it is boring or just plain difficult. So for every day’s cycling, you can choose the off-road route or the road route or develop your own mix using the information provided to assess the attractiveness and difficulty of the off-road bits.
One thing I’m always asked about, whatever the route or mode of travel, is can you camp. Although I can usually provide a fairly general answer, it’s not based on a lot of knowledge and that’s because, unless I’m on a trip where someone else puts up the tent, I don’t do much camping. In Spain, especially as you’re cycling from town to town, the choice of accommodation is amazing and if you like staying in a place, castle or monastery or palace, this route provides lots of opportunities.
I’ve cycled all the road and off-road elements of the route to both destinations and if I have a personal preference it would be to include as much off-road as you have time for and to head for Gijon. The destination choice is difficult because Santiago del Compostela is a lovely place but the final part of the journey is not as good as the Leon Oviedo combination and the ride along the Roman road over the Cantabrian Mountains is simply epic.
So at last, after a two year wait, the guide is now available. It’s a great route and the guide I think will do it justice.
Update - for more information on the route and guide why not listen to the Cicerone podcast