Start: Ábalos Finish: Ezcaray
Flight into Bilbao and journey by bus or taxi to the village of Ábalos, where you'll spend the first three nights. Your host is a young wine-maker and oenologist, whose first commercial wine won the prestigious Bachuss de Oro in the year 2006. The hotel serves a creative set menu for dinner each evening, accompanied by estate-produced wines.
Challenge: Travel to La Rioja.
The first cycling route of this program takes you east of Ábalos, into the Basque section of Rioja Wine Country. Every square inch of fertile soil across this rolling landscape has been covered in grapevines, and Medieval villages sit on hilltops throughout. You'll see historic Laguardia and the wine-making village of Elciego, with architect Frank Gehry's intriguing winery and avant-garde hotel designed for the vintners at the Marques de Riscal Estate. On your way back to Ábalos, you cycle on quiet country lanes through vineyards near Navaridas and Eskuernaga, with the limestone peaks of the Sierra de Cantabria in the distance.
Challenge: 35 km, 580 m ascent.
Villages along the way: Laguardia, Elciego, Navaridas, Eskuernaga
Today's itinerary takes you south toward the River Ebro. You then follow its course, winding along all the way to Haro. En route, lovely spots such as San Vicente de la Sonsierra, with its beautiful Medieval bridge and impressively situated Gothic church. Option of visiting the private collection at Vivanco winery: a display of almost anything having to do with wine-making, of interest to wine enthusiasts and art-lovers alike, with gardens home to over 200 varieties of grapevines.
Challenge: 38-45 km, 285 m ascent.
Villages along the way: San Vicente, Briones
Today you cross the Ebro and cycle 42km south through gently rolling terrain with vineyards, fields of grain and orchards. By way of Alesanco and Badarán, you reach the monasteries of Yuso and Suso, set in an open valley at the foot of the Sierra de Demanda. Your accommodation is a Baroque monastery turned luxurious hotel, situated on the village square.
Challenge: 29-36 km, 420 m ascent.
Villages along the way: Alesanco, Badarán, Yuso, Suso
You start off with a short stretch back to Badarán then ride along winding country roads toward Santo Domingo de la Calzada, essential stopover for Christians on the Camino de Santiago. Leaving the vineyards behind, you cycle into the grain-producing area of La Rioja. A converted railway used to transport coal in the 19th century is now a surfaced cycling path which leads directly to Ezcaray, where you'll spend the next three nights at a welcoming family-run hotel in the historical town centre. Wide selection of restaurants, bodegas and tapas bars in which to sample the local wines.
Challenge: 32-39 km, 400 m ascent.
Villages along the way: Santo Domingo de la Calzada
Do you fancy a day of walking? There's an easy optional walk for today, a there-and-back route along the River Ojo. If you prefer to stick with wheels, you can cycle into the foothills to remote villages with just a few resident farmers. After 10km of cycling, you'll begin to see a completely different side of La Rioja, one undiscovered until now.
Challenge: 20 km, 160 m ascent.
Villages along the way: Sierra de Demanda, Posada, Zaldierna, Urdante
Your last day of cycling offers a 46km circular route through waving fields of grain, first through the nearly flat Oja River Valley then up into the hills. Orchards, sunflowers and shady woodlands along the way. Optional visit to Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Return route by way of the Via Verde to Ezcaray.
Challenge: 49 km, 300 m ascent.
Villages along the way: Valle de Oja, Santo Domingo
Your cycling trip comes to an end this morning after breakfast. Departure from La Rioja and flight out of Bilbao.
Challenge: Travel home from Spain
Very nice family-run hotel surrounded by vineyards and with a refined decoration which combines in its architecture wood, stone and iron. Modern and comfortable rooms. Its wine cellar and restaurant offer a selection of the best and tastiest dishes of the "riojan" gastronomy along with a selected wine list... The best is the wonderful breakfasts served in their garden each morning!
The guest house from San Millan Monastery offers comfortable and peaceful rooms with beautiful mountain views.
This family-run hotel used to be a 19th century manor house. Casa Masip is a charming hotel that offers a comfortable stay and an exquisite gastronomy in the upper Rioja paradise.
You can start on any day of the week, subject to availability, between January and December.
The nearest airport is Bilbao (BIO)
Arrival in Ábalos
By public transport from Bilbao airport (BIO); you take a shuttle bus to Bilbao central bus station and from there get a bus to Haro. Check timetables in La Unión Alavesa bus company www.autobuseslaunion.com/en. Travel time 1 hour.
Make sure to allow at least 45min from Bilbao airport to the bus station (plus a maximum wait of 20 min to get the shuttle). You can purchase your tickets online in advance, though not more than 30 days before your travel date. From the bus station in Haro, you’ll need a taxi to Ábalos. We recommend booking this service in advance through S-cape Travel.
Departure from Ezcaray
By public transport to Bilbao airport (BIO); On the last day, transfer included from Ezcaray to the bus stop in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. From Santo Domingo, you take the bus to Bilbao (or to Haro, if you have parked your car in Ábalos).
Buses from Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Bilbao are also run by La Union Autobuses. You may have to change buses in Haro or Vitoria.
Optional taxi transfers on Day 8 from Ezcaray to Ábalos (or to Bilbao airport).These services may be booked separately. Rates vary according to number of passengers and time of departure. Prices on request
If you’re returning to Ábalos to pick up your car, you can take thebus from Sto. Domingo de la Calzada to Haro, then get a taxi to Ábalos. O book a direct taxi transfer to Ábalos. Speak to Octavio Cidre to arrange the transfer.
(*) Bicycle hire including delivery to hotel on Day 2 (around 9.30hrs)
GPS tracks are available on request.
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