Cycling the Ruta Vía de la Plata

2021 on the Ruta Vía de la Plata.

Shout-out for a cycling adventure.

Are you the type of cyclist who likes to reward exercise with great food?  Would you rather sleep in a palace than a tent? Do you like to mix sightseeing with people watching? Do you enjoy sharing a journey with fun people who have similar interests?  If you answer "yes" to all of the above then you might want to join me in 2021 on a Ruta Vía de la Plata (the "Ruta") cycling adventure.

The at the start of the Ruta Vía de la Plata

Working hand in glove with Spanish experts, I've just finished writing the first English language guide to what, in my humble opinion, is one of world's best cycle routes. 

The Ruta crosses the expanse of Spain starting near the south coast in Andalucian Seville and finishing at Gijón on the north coast.  Its origins date back to Roman times and it has been in constant use ever since particularly, after the reconquest, by pilgrims heading up to Santiago de Compostela.  It’s generally easy cycling and providing you're happy to spend around 5 hours a day in the saddle can be completed in a fortnight.  Follow this link to get an idea of the sort of cycling the trip involves.

The Ruta connects amazing places.  You will visit 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites,  see every style of Spanish architecture, and take what amounts to a crash course in the country's fascinating history. That history has produced an intensely rich cuisine with elements from Spain’s Muslim and Jewish heritage mixed with ingredients brought from the ‘New World’ all brought up to date by a generation of brilliant young Spanish chefs. It also means you get the chance to stay in  Paradors, a uniquely Spanish institution where an ancient palace or castle has been lovingly restored and turned into a classy hotel.

The guide, when it's published later in the year, is designed to help every type of cyclist with every size of budget. You can do the route fast with road bikes, or at a more leisurely pace and follow what are essentially agricultural tracks deep into the Spanish countryside.  You can stay in cheap accommodation designed for pilgrims or aim for the best in town and stay in a palaces.

I've been asked by lots of people to help them design a holiday and was even asked by a group to join them on a trip.  Encouraged by this I now want to find out if I can assemble a group of cyclists to share a trip with me in May 2021.

It would be my sort of cycling. The route would include the best and most beautiful bits of off-road cycling (the "dehesa" landscape in May is a flower filled cycling paradise) with empty roads and each day's cycling would finish with a leisurely lunch - mid-afternoon, the best time to eat in Spain  . A highly selective tour of the cultural highlights (2 hrs) would, for those interested, follow a siesta after which a beer and tapas in the Plaza Mayor would round off the day. 

At this stage I'm just trying to find cyclists who might be interested.  I know exactly what's involved in making a self organised cycling trip through Spain work and it would be fun to try and put this knowledge to use with a larger group of people.

If you're interested, please email me at amithefirst@gmail.com or leave a comment on my blog.


Camiño dos Faros - the world's best coastal walk?

"Walking the Camiño dos Faros", published in 2019, is my 4th Cicerone guide.  This article provides a background to the walk and why I think it stands out as one of the world's greatest coastal walks.



In December 2012 a group of six Galician hikers, friends since childhood, and two dogs decided to walk from Malpica to Fisterra; a 200km journey around the coast of northwest Spain. They wanted to create a route that stayed as close as possible to the sea. Like many Galicians, they love the traditional landscape, culture and way of life and devising the route was their way of inviting others to enjoy it.

The GR1 - 2018 Review

It's now 5 years since I first walked the GR1 - the Sendero Histórico, the subject of my first guide for Cicerone, but my memories are kept fresh by a steady stream of people who come back to me with appreciative comments.  Although fewer people attempt it than the Karnischer Höhenweg or Munich to Venice, the subjects of my last two guides, I think it's more of a once in a lifetime adventure.  Not only does it take 55 days it also crosses a challenging empty part of Spain.  It's a beautiful walk, not technically difficult, but you are "on your own" and making things work is very rewarding.

Munich to Venice - 2018

I will always remember 2018 as the sad year when a young Canadian hiker, Jeff Freiheit, fell from the Aschelköpf Ridge on the Munich to Venice trail (theTraumpfad) and lost his life. Jeff had been in touch with me before embarking on the trek and was using my Cicerone guide to plan his itinerary. He was well prepared, and it was a terrible shock when this obviously fit young hiker went missing.

Jeff's death is a reminder to hikers in search of adventure and beautiful scenery that a missed step can have very serious consequences and that accidents happen even to the best prepared.

I've walked the Achselköpf Ridge twice and the advice in the guide is that it should be avoided unless you're an experienced hiker. It's the first serious stretch of exposed walking on the Munich-Venice trail, and cables and other safety features are limited. If you want to know what this section of the trail is like before attempting it than go to YouTube and follow this link to a very useful video.

It will be no consolation to Jeff's family, but lots of hikers successfully completed Munich-Venice in 2018.  Snow seems to have lingered on the passes well into July but, generally, the weather has been excellent through August and September.

Six days walking along the Alpe Adria Trail

In July August 2018 walked for 6 days along a section of the Alpa Adria Trail. Apart from some crap information from the tour provider and a nasty reaction to a wasp sting we had a good time.

Christine has developed a deep interest in all things to do with the Italian Front in the First World War. It was initially triggered by a trip we made in 2005 along the Alta Via 1when we saw for the first time the extent of the wartime remains in the Dolomites. After two trips along the Karnischer Höhenweg (2012 and 2016), and helping me write a Cicerone guide to that route, she was keen to complete the experience with a visit to the Isonzo Front and a walk along part of the new Alpe Adria Trail.
Cables from a First World War Cable Car

Jeff Freiheit Munich to Venice


I heard on 10th August that Jeff Freiheit a Canadian walking the from Munich to Venice, has gone missing. He was last heard off on the 1st of August on what would have been his first day in the high mountains. Jeff had made contact with me before starting the trip and was clearly looking forward to his hike.

Jeff’s family and friends are obviously worried. I know a number of people are currently following the route described in my guide so please if anyone has seen Jeff let me know and I'll make sure the information is passed on.  

In the meantime my thoughts are with his family and friends.


Postscript

It's with enormous sadness that I have to report that Jeff's body was found on the 25th of August on the southern side of the Achselköpf Ridge. Traversing what is possibly the most exposed stretch of walking on the whole Traumpfad, Jeff fell 60m. My thoughts are with his family and friends, Jeff's loss will leave an enormous hole in their lives.

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.
countryside

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.