Road Cycling Holiday in Murcia
“If you haven’t been on a cycling holiday in Murcia, you haven’t ridden in Spain!” These are the words of Carlos, a proud Murcian local and our tour guide extraordinaire for our weekend exploring what this great region of Spain has to offer.
Murcia is a real hidden gem for road cycling, it may not be as well known as other cycling hotspots such as Mallorca, Tenerife or Girona but after just a short time here we quickly discovered why it is becoming more and more popular amongst the cycling community.
Our Trip to the Region of Murcia
We started our cycling holiday in Murcia on Thursday evening, catching a late flight out from Gatwick. After arriving in Alicante (flights are also available into Murcia airport) we were through security and customs within a matter of minutes.
Our first stop was the remote town of El Berro, located in the Sierra Espuna National Park. When we arrive at the Bajo El Cejo hotel, the first thing we notice is the absolute silence, with no noise from cars, planes or many other people (El Berro has a population of just 100). It’s a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of busy London.
We are greeted in the morning firstly by a magnificent sunrise and then at breakfast by the very friendly owner of Bajo El Cejo, Andreas, who shares with us his mantra which is for guests to completely relax, unwind and enjoy the stunning surroundings free from normal life’s daily distractions.
Road Riding in the Sierra Espuna
We have a big day of riding ahead of us, with a route planned for approx. 65km with 1,200m of climbing, so we make sure to stock up on calories at breakfast. This consists of delicious coffee, juice, bread, olive oil, ham, jams, marmalades, cake and a selection of cheeses. Many of the items are homemade including the juice and olive oil which have been made with oranges and olives harvested from Andreas’ garden just a few feet away.
After a quick set up of the bikes, we stock up on gels, bars & water and we head off for today’s route which takes us into the stunning Sierra Espuna National Park and includes some of Alejandro Valverde’s favourite segments.
As we climb for the first 15km the first thing we notice is how quiet the roads are, in the first 2.5 hours of riding we are only passed by a total of 3 cars. At the top of the climb topping out at 1,200m we are rewarded not only with stunning views across the Sierra Espuna National Park but also an exhilarating descent. The road winds its way down through the trees with switchback after switch back. The only thing that temporarily halts us is the spotting of two mountain goats on the road which we stop to let cross.
After 10km of descent we stop for a coffee in the town of Aledo, where 4 British riders pull up shortly after us. Talking over an espresso we find out that they’ve been coming to Murcia to cycle for the past 20 years. They tell us; “Murcia is a riders paradise, a real cyclists playground.” We couldn’t agree more.
After heading out of Aledo we continue to descend another 14km until we reach the flats at the bottom of the National Park and we then pass through Totana towards Alhama De Murcia where we then climb back up to El Berro.
La Manga Resort
With some tired legs we are treated to a night at the 5* La Manga Club Resort. Although more commonly known for golf with 3 on site courses, La Manga Club is also a great base for cycling not only for access to the fantastic routes but a range of cycling facilities including secure bike storage.
Today’s route is flatter than yesterday’s, but just as stunning with 65km and 550M elevation. As we cycle out of La Manga Club it’s just a few km to our first climb through the Portman hills. This 200M climb takes in views of the Portman Bay out towards the coast as well as the vast and fascinating abandoned structures of the Sierra Minera mine.
As we cycle down towards the coast we pass what must be over a hundred cyclists in total; a mix of weekend warriors out for a Saturday spin with their friends, a few club rides as well as pelotons of up to 40 riders as part of semi-professional training camps. Even though it’s March, with the temperature being in the mid-high teens, clear blue skies and the sun beating down, we’re comfortable in short sleeves and summer gear. For the locals though, this is Winter, so we do feel somewhat underdressed as we see many wearing long sleeves, leg warmers, jackets and even winter gloves!
Cycling out to the La Manga Peninsular
Once we reach the coast we take a quick stop to take in the sea views that reach across to the La Manga peninsula. This natural 21km long but only 100 metre wide peninsula runs along the coast, separating the Mediterranean sea from the Mar Menor lagoon.
This flat stretch along the coast with the Mar Menor to our left and the countryside to our right really gives us a chance to stretch our legs and get some speed up. Anyone who’s cycled abroad in places like Mallorca or Tenerife will know how great it is cycling on smooth flat tarmac, and the same can be said about Murcia. This high quality road surface really means you can put your foot down without worrying about dodging potholes, making the whole experience that much more enjoyable.
Faro Cabo de Palos lighthouse
At the end of the stretch we reach the Faro Cabo de Palos lighthouse where after a quick coffee stop (it would be rude not to), it’s just a few kms past the picturesque golf course views back to La Manga Club.
After a day’s riding we take a chance to relax on the beach with our host Carlos who is keen to show us his hometown of Calarbardina. Sitting on the beach as we watch the sunset we enjoy the local beer of Estrella De Levante (Star of the Sunrise) drunk in the local way; in a glass with two olives dropped inside.
Our cycling holiday in Murcia was nearly at an end, but not before a final day’s ride out from Aguilas, on the border of the Region of Murcia and Andalusia. The routes offered truly traditional riding and we saw almost nobody who was not born and raised in the area. Aguilas offers mostly flat riding but there are also some fantastic short climbs to the north of the town.