Segovia: Cycle the Spanish Heartland by Exodus' Andrew Buswell
The area around the foothills of the Guadarrama Mountains to the north west of Madrid is relatively unknown to tourists, yet the city of Segovia is one of Spain’s most historic cities, whilst the province of Castilla-Leon itself is a stunning contrast of canyons, nature reserves, castles, ancient towns, pine forests and grazing routes.
Our week-long cycling holiday began by tackling a section of the famous pilgrimage route of the Camino de Santiago as it crosses the Guadarrama Mountains. The group headed towards an old Roman road whereupon a shocked local gentleman pulled me aside to advise me that we should head in a different direction. I politely informed him that I completely trusted my cycling leader and thanked him for the tip. However, the short distance of 100m was mainly covered on foot! I saw the same gentleman at the top of the pass and gloated about our efforts but it was also an opportunity to take a break and recuperate in preparation for the gradual ascent to the ancient mountain pass of La Fuenfria.
The heavens opened as we reached the peak of our first and hardest climb of the trip at Peñalara (2,430m) so we took cover lunching in the pine forest. Thankfully, we were not to see any more rain until our drive back to Madrid Airport six days later.
The next two nights were spent cycling near the beautiful historic city of Segovia. A pleasant circular route took us past storks nesting in farmers’ fields and clock towers and red kites frequently swooped by - all under the spotlight of the beautiful sun. Whilst Segovia is most famous for its impressive Roman aqueduct that transported water into the city, I would say the superb culinary delight of tucking into suckling pig was the most memorable experience for me. With our stomachs full to the brim we ambled our way around the twisting alleyways and narrow winding streets admiring the Moorish, Christian and Jewish architecture. Our last stop was the fairytale Alcazar of Segovia, rumoured to have been the inspiration for the castle in Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty”, and this provided us with absolutely stunning views of the city, set in the shadow of the Guadarrama Mountains.
My trip coincided with the Spanish lavender season (June) and there were purple flowers blossoming for miles around. There was almost every colour of the rainbow in the nearby countryside, as a plethora of flowers tempted us all to dismount and snap away for the perfect picture. There was also time for a dip in the river before heading to the mediaeval town of Pedraza.
Another day came and we had the opportunity to explore one of Spain’s most beautiful walled mediaeval villages. As with Segovia, it was the food that stayed in our hearts and minds, with the local “asadors” serving excellent lamb. After a tour of the old jail I thought myself very lucky to be living in modern times where you can’t be thrown into a pit or chained to a wall for tax evasion!
The final day’s ride took us along a riverside route to the dramatic limestone canyon of Duraton, carved over millions of years by the slow action of the waters and now a protected nature reserve and home to the largest colony of nesting vultures in Spain. From a vantage point at the old hermitage at San Frutos, we enjoyed spectacular views over the canyon and were at just the right height for the flying vultures to cast great shadows over us.
This trip really helped me discover a different side of Spain – one well away from the tourists but totally surrounded by wildlife, history, nature and excellent cuisine - all perfect for being discovered by bike.
Andrew Buswell travelled on Exodus’ Segovia: Cycle the Spanish Heartland holiday.