Arrival: Malaga / Lanjaron
On arrival in Malaga you'll be met by your local guide and transferred to the spa town of Lanjaron, the starting point of your classic loop of the imposing Sierra Nevada mountain range. Lanjaron, famed for the quality of its drinking water, is the gateway to the Alpujarras, a spectacular region bathed in bright, clear light on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada. Before the Spanish reclaimed their land the Moors left an impressive scattering of whitewashed villages across the mountainsides and above deep ravines almost identical to those found in the Atlas mountains of Morocco. Tomorrow you start your incredible journey.
Lanjaron to Cadiar - distance 74km
After breakfast, You'll head off on your bikes straight from the hotel door into the heart of the Alpujarra. With stunning vistas across the deep Guadalfeo valley, you’ll pass through Orgiva, the capital of the area, and begin your climbing into the High Alpujarra. You’ll pass the stunning Poquiera Gorge and the traditional, picturesque villages of Pampaneira and Bubion, perfectly situated for a coffee break to contemplate your first experience of the simple local architecture and handicrafts produced in the area.
Winding your way on well-surfaced roads you’ll pass over the Barranco del Sangre (Gully of Blood) where a last-ditch attempt by the Moors of the Alpujarra was defeated in a bloody battle. Legend has it the blood of the Christian soldiers flowed uphill in order not to mix with the blood of the Moors. There won’t be any blood, but maybe a little sweat, as you pedal high above the Trevelez River and into the village of the same name. Trevelez is the highest village in Spain at 1,476m and is famous for its succulent hams that are cured in the thin, dry mountain air. A fast descent into the village of Juviles will give you great views of the Sierra de Contraviesa and take us down through the Berchules Gorge to Cadiar your resting place for the night. Local mountain fayre will be on the menu, not forgetting that succulent ham to be washed down with the house wine!
Cadiar to Benalua de Guadix - distance 111km
Today you'll head further east along the Alpujarra as you gradually gain height. Snaking through the villages of Valor, Yegen, and Laroles that cling to the mountainside, you are rewarded with glimpses of the higher snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada, culminating in mainland Spain’s highest, Mulhacen, at 3,482m. Looking east from your vantage point you can see all the way to the desert lands of Almeria.
From Laroles at 1,050m you start the true ascent up to the Puerto de la Ragua. At 2,038m this is a tough climb rated as Category 1 and often features in the Vuelta a Espana. You’ll be rewarded though with views south to the Mediterranean and north as far as the Sierras de Cazorla and Segura in the far north of Andalucia. It’s a great place for a re-fuelling stop and a famous Skedaddle picnic of the best local produce. After lunch, a 1,000m twisting descent takes you into the northern side of the range past the castle-topped town La Calahorra and into Jerez del Marquesado, nestled at the bottom of the beautiful Barranco Alcazar. It's a steady ride into the cathedral town of Guadix, your home for the evening. The town is well off the beaten track and is famous for its cave houses which are still occupied today. This will be your chance to live as troglodytes as you stay the night in a cave hotel but don’t worry they are now luxuriously appointed. It's an excellent way to spend the evening in a magnificent desert landscape against the backdrop of the enormous snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada.
Benalua de Guadix to Guejar Sierra - distance 69km
After breakfast you leave the cave behind and head off on fast roads, rolling your way through undulating farmlands towards the Parque Natural de la Sierra Magina. This rugged park of precipitous limestone is a joy to cycle through. Its summits, culminating in the 2,165m peak of Magina are frequently snow-capped, reflecting a special Andalucian translucent light, topped by deep blue skies.
The riding flows on with yet more stunning views. If you are lucky you may get a chance to spot a bonelli or golden eagle soaring high above sheer limestone cliffs as you pass castle fortified villages that were once Moorish strongholds. The scenery becomes dramatic and desert-like, almost a mini Arizona, with sheer sandstone cliffs guiding us through the ‘badlands’.
You'll take a favorite ride of the local Granadense crew through the stunning pine-clad Parque Natural de Huetor. The road twists and winds its way across the high ground before dropping towards the ancient capital of Granada. For your lunchtime picnic, it would be unjust not to soak your bread in the olive oil of Magina, as it’s said to be the finest in Spain and is often described as liquid gold. Just before you reach the city you swing east and climb into the real Sierra Nevada, to the village of Guejar Sierra, with great views of Mulhacen and Alcazaba, the highest peaks in the range. Guejar is the perfect springboard for tomorrow’s cycling feast.
Guejar Sierra to Granada - distance 86km
This is a fantastic day on the bike, comprising the climb that all Spanish cyclists want to tick off their list. It's a climb that will take you high into the Sierra Nevada on the highest drivable road in Europe, well that was until it was closed to traffic, but luckily not bikes! First off you’ll cruise around the Canales Reservoir and head up the beautiful valley, deep into the Sierra. You can climb to the summit of Pico Veleta which stands at a grand 3,400m above sea level. The overall climb is pretty steady, but obviously, its length and altitude create a great challenge. If you finish the whole climb to Pico Veleta it’s a whopping 2,700m of ascent! You stay off the main road that runs up to the Pradollano ski station by taking a little-known detour up the picturesque Genil River valley. As this single-lane road leaves the valley bottom it heads into a series of switchbacks that steepens the going a little.
Shortly after rejoining the main road, you’ll reach the ski station at almost 2,500m. The views are incredible and the feeling of achievement is infectious at the rooftop of Spain. All that’s left to do now is let off the brakes and take the exhilarating, almost 50km, descent back to Granada on a different road. An evening stroll around the walls of the lit Alhambra Palace which without doubt is the most beautiful and innovative piece of architecture constructed by the Moorish people who occupied Spain. Then you hit the tapas bars for Granada’s infamous assortment of free tapas. Yes free!
Granada to Herredura - distance 89km
Your final ride takes you from Granada at 700m down to sea level and the calm shores of the Mediterranean. Once out of the city, a steady climb will take you over the Puerto del Suspiro del Moro. From here you have an exhilarating descent from 1,200m down through the awesome Sierra del Chaparral.
You’ll take in some of the best views of the western edge of the snowy peaks as well as far down the coast of the Med. You’ll see vultures soaring high as we drop off this coastal ridge following the fertile banks of the Rio Verde to the lively coastal town of Herradura. A couple of sunset sangrias and a celebratory dinner will bring this great trip to a very fitting end.
Departure: Herredura / Malaga
After breakfast, it will be time to pack your gear up for the last time and take the transfer bus back to Malaga and say your final farewells.