Spain by motorcycle, from Barcelona to Gibraltar
4 friends see Spain by motorbike
Our journey of discovery across Spain took in Barcelona, Tarragona, Alicante, Cartagena, the Tabernas Desert, the Velefique pass, Granada, Ronda, Gibraltar, Sierra de Cazorla, the windmills of Campo de Criptana, Cuenca, Teruel, the Silent Route and, finally, back to Barcelona.
Barcellona, Valencia, Tabernas desert and Velefique Pass
Old habits are hard to break — especially when they’re this much fun. Once again, Marco, Gianni, Nicola and I (Salvatore) got back in the saddle, this time for a trip through Spain from Barcelona to Gibraltar and back again, a total of 6 days by motorcycle + 2 on the ferry.
We met up at the port of Civitavecchia, with the aim of cutting out a dull and pointless 1,300 km stretch of highway. Arriving in the port of Barcelona late in the evening, we set out at once towards Tarragona despite the chill in the air, in order to avoid the city traffic sure to slow us down in the morning.
Early next morning, we hit the road again in the warmth of a pleasant sunshine. The initial kilometres covered along the state road were nothing special, apart from the kick we all got out of being back together again. Our first stop was Valencia, where we had a minor dilemma to resolve: the keys to the hostel in Tarragona were still in my jacket, and we had to send them back in order to avoid a €30 fine. At least this gave us the chance to wander Valencia for a bit in search of a post office. It’s a beautiful city, and a shame we didn’t spend the night there. Once the problem with the keys was sorted out, we enjoyed our first paella of the trip and a few minutes of relaxation, before setting off once again towards Cartagena. We arrived in the city late in the evening and stayed in a little apartment in the very centre.
Cartagena is another charming town, with a well-maintained and bustling centre, filled with lots of restaurants and crowded bars serving tapas and cerveza.
The next morning, we climbed back into the saddle and headed towards the Tabernas desert, where we visited the sets used for countless westerns with their squares, buildings and saloon-style bars all perfectly capturing the atmosphere of the old west. Having taken the customary photos and videos, we set off again towards Granada, with a detour through the Velefique Pass. The word spectacular hardly does justice to this road, with its infinite series of curves and bends: a seemingly endless roller-coaster for motorcyclists. At first it scrambles its way almost hesitantly up the mountainside, but after a few curves it turns into a rapturous ascent: behind our helmets, all we could do was grin and enjoy it at full throttle. On the other side of the roller-coaster we headed towards Granada, another beautiful and busy city, particularly the Barrìo Alto area, where we enjoyed some tasty tapas, a few beers and a well-deserved rest.
Gibraltar and Sierra Nevada
Next morning, we were ready to set off for Gibraltar. Stunning roads and breath-taking views accompanied our journey to Marbella, where we lunched on a delicious paella on the beach, before setting off again. Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory, and there was a long queue at passport control before we could enter.
Gibraltar is tiny, with a small yet well-kept centre. It was rather jarring to see its typically northern buildings here, at the southernmost tip of Europe. After exploring the centre, we headed towards Europa Point to get a few photos by the lighthouse. It was thrilling to catch a glimpse of Africa, just a few kilometres away, though we couldn’t hang around for long because of the strong wind blowing in along the coast.
After leaving Gibraltar, we returned to Marbella for the night. It was Saturday evening and the historic centre was absolutely packed; all the restaurants tucked away down the little alleys were full, and the streets crowded with tourists. The town really is exceptionally well kept.
Our next destination was Riópar, which we took a memorable route to reach, along roads rich with curves and viewpoints. We crossed the Sierra Nevada, the Sierra de Cazorla Nature Park and the Calares del Mundo Nature Park, a truly wonderful landscape. After the Velefique Pass, the stretch we covered today was one of the most beautiful.
The Sierra Nevada treated us to spectacular roads looping through valleys and forests where opening the throttle is absolutely irresistible. After the Sierra Nevada, we took just a moment to get our breath back before entering the Cazorla area and the nature park of the same name. The road was extremely narrow but none the less inviting for that, and our enjoyment was at its greatest while coasting the great body of water of the Guadalquivir River. Inside the forest you feel like you’re in a video game: once you get into the swing of things, you’ll find one curve after another slipping beneath your wheels in a blur. Leaving Andalusia behind to enter the region of Castiglia-Mancia, after many kilometres of intensive olive groves reaching as far as the eye could see, we arrived at the Calares del Mundo Nature Park. We stopped here to take a break and a few photos, before tackling the final kilometres of fun and reaching Riópar in the late afternoon.
The windmills of Don Quixote
Riópar is a tiny town in the mountains, where we stayed in a hotel with a heated swimming pool and jacuzzi that were unfortunately closed by the time we got there. Harnessing powers of persuasion more suited to toddlers having a tantrum than fully grown adults, we convinced them to open the pool for just an hour, with a discounted admission. Because it was the off season, there were very few restaurants open. We let the hotel proprietor convince us to try out the most famous (and crowded) of those. We had an hour to wait, and started eyeing up a nearby bar: the hour flew by before we knew it, busy with games of pool, table football and darts. The thing we enjoy most about travelling by motorcycle is that you never know what’s coming next, and what seems like a nuisance at first can always turn into an opportunity for fun.
In the morning, we headed towards Campo de Criptana to see the windmills of Don Quixote. Much like the previous day, we stuck to internal roads with good asphalt and lots of curves. The highlight of the day came when we reached a stretch that was part of the route taken by Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. We reached Campo de Criptana and the windmills in time for lunch. Their picturesque charm has to be seen to be believed: various passages from the books are written on the walls, heightening the romantic feel of the journey and giving it a Picaresque flavour. The windmills, famously mistaken for giants by Don Quixote in the book, are jaw-dropping when admired from any distance or perspective. Every glimpse puts you in mind of weird and wonderful characters joining you on your journey and sending positive vibes. After the mandatory photos and videos, plus a quick lunch in front of the windmills, we climbed back into the saddle to head towards Teruel. With several kilometres still to go, and in the area around Conca and the nature park of the same name, we opened up the throttle again until reaching Albarracin and then Teruel, arriving in the late afternoon.
The Silent Route
Our journey was almost at an end, but there was still some excitement to go thanks to the Silent Route: around 60 km of road, some carved into the very rocks, rising and falling in the middle of nowhere. This is another roller-coaster popular among motorcyclists, without which no motorcycle trip around Spain is complete. We didn’t travel the entire route, but treated ourselves to a final breath-taking spin before resuming the road towards Barcelona, where our return ferry was waiting for us that evening.
It was our first time travelling Spain on two wheels, and we found the experience absolutely incredible. It’s an amazing place to visit, especially by motorcycle; in just a few days, we saw seamlessly the sea and the mountains. Over the 6 days of our journey, we covered a lot of ground; but of the 3,500 km or so we crossed, no more than 500 consisted of highways in Italy or Spain. This is one habit we hope never to lose: the urge to escape our everyday routines for a few days and climb into the saddles of our motorcycles to discover a fresh part of the world: no matter whether it’s near or far, what really matters is to get out there.
We’re already working on coming up with our next destination: stay tuned guys, this one might be a real challenge!