Day 1 Ruta de la Plata - off road - El Real de la Jara

Day One on the off-road version of the Ruta del Plata from Seville to El Real de la Jara is tough. It's longer than most of the stages, involves climbing out of the coastal plain into the mountains and once you get there they go up and down a lot. Adding insult to injury I took a wrong turn and went climbing up a gravel track for about 5km before I realised my mistake and headed back to the correct route. Including mistakes I've covered about 95km and climbed nearly 2000m. I’m totally wacked.
The start, outside the cathedral in Seville

Despite the stage being too long for most people, particularly if you've just got off the plane, it includes some really great cycling. It breaks down into a number of distinct phases.

The first one involves navigating what are essentially the suburbs of Seville, it has to be done but is the least interesting. It does give the chance to tune into the yellow waymarks, the pilgrim markers, which make navigation straightforward (although I still managed to go wrong).
The first gravel

The second phase starts 20kms in, just after Santiponce, where, still on the coastal plain, the Ruta joins a long straight gravel track that continues for 10km nearly all the way to Guillena. I stopped there for my first cup of coffee and chatted to a Dutch couple who were mixing the off-road route with the road route.

After Guillena the Ruta leaves the road and follows a track too narrow for vehicles through olive groves and then, after climbing a little, enters a very special landscape of meadows with evergreen oak, holm oak I think. At this time of year the meadows are full of wild flowers, and the birds, particularly the Iberian magpie (bluer and smaller than the ones in the UK) are going nuts.

The track itself was not too difficult, although occasionally it's been gullied to the extent that I felt the need to get off and walk.

This stretch is about 15 km long and finishes at Castilblanco de Los Arroyos, where I stopped for another coffee and a sandwich.

Now in the mountains the middle phase includes a welcome stretch of road cycling, hilly but generally climbing, which, if I hadn't turned off too soon, would have lasted 16 kms.

The penultimate phase was the best, now in a natural park, it went deep into the holm oak meadow countryside (some cork oaks) on a gently descending dirt trail. There was a sting in the tail however, a really steep ridge, just in front of Almadën de la Plata, which had to be climbed on foot. Exhausted I stopped for another coffee and chatted to couple of Spanish guys on a tandem who were definitely not doing the off-road route.
The dog's around the corner

The last stage was the toughest and perhaps a recommendation for the guide would be to take the road route instead for this last bit. It was pretty but some of the ascents and descents were just too steep for my set-up. Worse was the number of gates dividing fields each with their own species (pigs, cows, goats and sheep). The goats in particular were being looked after by massive Spanish sheep dogs, mastiffs that dwarfed the goats. Having these things running after you for about 40 metres is not a pleasant experience particularly when it happens more than once.

Anyway I’ve survived and made it El Real de la Jara with everything still attached. Better still I made it just before it started to rain and although the accommodation is a little basic it is incredibly good value.

Getting to Seville by the way went without a hitch. Putting your bike in a plastic bag is a bit controversial but bluster and lies ('the tyres are deflated) overcame all the obstacles. The Ruta de la Plata found me a hotel, organised a charming and informative guide, and found me a lovely restaurant (modern Spanish food), which, with today's trip, adds up to a pretty epic first 24hrs.


  1. Well done John. Sounds gruelling...glad the dogs' bark was worse that their bite. Am envious of your great adventure and am compensating by swimming in the filthy sea in Hove. It will build up my immunity oif notjhing else.

  2. John, thank you for this posting. I just read last year's N630 route. Could you please tell me what guides you are using? I just road the Camino Portuguese from Lisbon to Santiago, and both guides I used were for foot travelers which made for some almost impassable bike trekking at times.

    1. Hi Maria, I'm writing a guide which will explain which bits are good medium and horrible and what you should do to avoid the horrible bits. So I'm not using a guide but I have a GPS with the route and the alternatives. I'm afraid my guide won't be ready until next year

    2. Thank you, John, I am so looking forward to reading it. Hopefully it will be out by early 2019?

    3. It's late 2019 early 2020 I'm afraid. There is a Spanish guide which a lot of people use which has some good maps.

    4. John I appreciate all the great information. Heading out this May 2019 on this route. Like the amount of gear your carrying. What bag, rack do you have on the back of your bike. I mould like to use something similar. Thanks Joe

    5. Hi there - the bags I used are from a range provided by Apidura. Really good.

      Best wishes


  3. Hi John, just reading this blog along with your book. I cannot decide whether gravel or hard tail 29er?

    1. Personal choice I'm afraid. When I did it on my gravel bike I was very unusual but I suspect that's changed now. It's not a technical route and there are inevitable asphalt stretches so gravel bike definitely works.