The Ruta Vía de la Plata - off road 2018

The Ruta Vía de la Plata is an ancient route that traverses the heart of Spain from Seville in the deep south to Gijón on the north coast. It makes its way through fabulous, empty  and visits wonderful unspoilt historic towns. Some people walk it, usually as part of a pilgrimage to Santiago del Compostela, but it's better by bike - either on the road or off-road version, or by grabbing the best of both worlds: a combination of the two.

Setting off from  Seville
I first cycled the route in 2017 as part of a longer trip that included most of the Portuguese coast. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to write a Guide and Cicerone have agreed to publish it. This year I went back to Spain and, working with the Ruta Vía de la Plata Association, cycled the off-road version. The Association involves the towns and cities along the route and their support and help has been amazing.

The Karnischer Höhenweg - an English language guide

Cicerone have published my third guide  - “The Karnischer Höhenweg”. It is thinner than my first two!
The Karnischer Höhenweg

Day 25 Ruta Vía de la Plata - Gijón

So I’ve made it to Gijón and after 25 days cycling and more than 4 weeks in Spain emotions are just a little mixed. It's been amazing, the cycling, challenging at times, has been much better than anticipated, but it's great to get here and I'm now looking forward to getting home and putting on clothes that are different and clean.

Gijón is on the coast and, as far north as you can go, is a good place to end the trip. It's an interesting city whose hinterland of heavy industry, much of which has seen better days, contrasts with a huge and stunning sandy beach. It's where holidaymakers from Madrid head to in August to enjoy the food and escape the heat of central Spain.

Day 24 Off-road on the Ruta Vía de la Plata - to Oviedo

The Ruta Via de la Plata provides amazing examples of Spain's most important architectural styles. The unique contribution the Asturias makes, Oviedo especially, is the pre-Romanesque, buildings that pre-date the Romanesque style of architecture. It was able to do this because it was never captured by the Muslims who stayed to the south of the Cantabrian mountains. The independent Christian kingdom thrived, particularly when the remains of St James were discovered in 813, and there was enough money to build substantial churches. Oviedo was the capital of this kingdom.

Day 23 Ruta Vía de la Plata - Pola de Lena

If I’m honest the stretch of off road cycling from Leon to Pola de Lena, where the Ruta Vía de la Plata crosses a big pass and descends down into Asturias, had me worried. I did the road route last year and that was wonderful, an easy steady climb up to the pass and then an exhilarating 1000m descent sweeping round hair pin bends. I was nervous about that 1000m descent off-road.

Before coming out here I asked the Ruta Vía de la Plata Association if it was safe and they said yes it was because the path is wide. After some tricky cycling in the Camino Sanabrés my confidence had declined so I started checking again and found a review that said the route was difficult and shouldn't be attempted unless on a mountain bike with double suspension. I decided not to do it - getting home in one piece is the most important thing. It still nagged though, particularly as there would be big gap in my knowledge about the route for the guide.  I then found another review which confirmed what the Ruta Vía de la Plata Association has told me, that it wasn't difficult. I was stuck in the headlights so I decided to defer my decision to the last possible minute.

Day 22 Ruta Vía de la Plata - Leon

If I was forced to choose between all of the Ruta Via de la Plata's wonderful towns and cities, one place I'd like to return to time after time, than it would be Leon.

Day 21 - Ruta Vía de la Plata - Benavente

Arriving early at the lovely Parador at Benavente is a treat. Bite to eat after the cycle ride, proper siesta in a room with a lovely balcony and great views, I have nothing to complain about.

Although today's cycle ride was a little short, it was interesting with a lot to think about in terms of the guide.