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.

As it happened there was a particularly good example of a pre-Romanesque church a few kilometres to the south of Pola de Lena so I broke the habit of lifetime and set off in the wrong direction to see it and get some pictures. The Eglise de Santa Cristina was small but very beautiful.

Taking a casual approach to the route and timings seemed fine because Oviedo was only 40 kms away but it turned out I was tempting fate. After a frankly ugly stretch of cycling along the valley, crossing at various points the river, motorway and railway, the route climbed into the hills on its east. I assumed there was a purpose to this and vaguely hoped for a visit to another pre-Romanesque church.  After climbing for about 30 mins and dropping into a pretty green valley I found myself on a horrible stretch of cycling. Single track, through dense trees it was frequently waterlogged. If I had the nerve to go a bit faster I might have done better but I didn't and it took forever and by the time I emerged from what turned out to be a visit to an abandoned coal mine, I was covered in mud.

Crossing the main valley and climbing up the other side, Oviedo was now visible. Getting there however involved another nasty stretch of cycling, a narrow sunken lane lined cobbles much to big and uneven for me to cope with. I wasn't really able to get going until the final run into the city. That will teach me to take the route for granted.

Oviedo is famously Woody Allen's favourite Spanish city and it features along with its pre-Romanesque architecture in the 2008 film Vicky Cristina Barcelona. There is a Woody Allen statue in one of the streets although given the challenges to his reputation recently not all locals are as keen on it as they were. Some of the best examples of pre-Romanesque churches are just outside the city but one, the Iglesia de San Julián de los Prados, is within walking distance and it features impressive murals some of which date back to the 8th Century. The Cathedral also has pre-Romanesque elements but these are surrounded by every other sort of cathedral style and difficult to appreciate.

One more day to, 35 kms, no surprises please.


  1. Hi there from Minnesota, great trip and blog! After reading your blog, I've decided that off-road will be too much for me, particularly if I do it in April. If I do just on-road (I'm hoping I can take N-630 all the way from Seville to Salamanca and decide if I want to go further in Salamanca), will I need wider tires or I can get away with 23-25mm tires? Also, it seems that you brought your own bike vs renting one. Can you tell me how that worked - any particular packing, extra costs Thanks!

    1. Hi there

      Thanks for your kind comments.

      Tyres first. Yes if you take the road route then standard road tyres will be fine. The only decision is whether to use lighter more puncture prone tyres or something heavier like a Schwalbe Marathon which are nearly puncture proof.

      International travel with a bike when your touring is a challenge. Buying a hard case bike bag (expensive in itself) leaves you with the problem of how to get the case to the end of the route.

      What I did was buy a Cycle Touring Club plastic bag (you can Google them and there is guidance on how to pack your bike using the bag). You can then take the bag with you or order a second bag and have it sent to your last hotel. Not every airline is happy with the approach however so check.

      The second approach is to get a bike cardboard box from a bike shop, or even pay them to pack it for you. You need to protect the derailleur and take a spare derailleur hanger if your bike has one. Bike shops in Spain are excellent and they will do the same thing.

      My guide, when I've written it, will include detailed advice on this.

      I haven't hired a bike in Spain I'm afraid.


    2. Thanks John! Yes, I won't even think to bike that distance without puncture-resistant tyres. With a bag or carton box, did you have to pay extra to fly it?

    3. I had to pay extra, I think it was classed as specialist sports gear, like golf clubs