The Trans-Iberian Challenge 2008

LengthStarts inEnds in
1102Km (684 miles)Gijón, SpainMálaga, Spain

This is a cycling touring trip I did with my girlfriend in June 2008. In 15 days (13 cycling) we crossed Spain North to South, starting at the Atlantic coast and reaching the Mediterranean sea. By far the best cycling trip I've made. Click here for a full screen version of the map.

As this was our first big trip, we didn't do any camping; we opted instead for cheap accommodation along our route. You can find a list of hostels we liked at the end of this page. We carried all our luggage in two pairs of rear panniers.

During the trip we set up a blog to post our progress and some pictures.

Trip details

This route took us 15 days to complete, 13 cycling and 2 rest days. The first day however we cycled only 30 km as we couldn't rest properly the day before due to airline schedules.

Here you can find our day by day itinerary, along with GPS routes and tracks. GPS routes are the routes we planned beforehand for our trip. GPS tracks are the path we actually took during the trip. As we didn't deviate from the planned route, both of them describe roughly the same path. The only difference is that GPS route files are more useful for planning your own trip and GPS tracks contain other information such as speed, altitude, etc...

You can also download the whole set of routes and tracks from here (Garmin DB v3 format). Contact me if you have any questions or comments.

Luggage and equipment

Our trip was self-planned and organized, so we didn't had any kind of support car to carry our luggage (and we didn't want to, anyway). We carried all our luggage in two pairs of standard 40L rear panniers. Therefore, weight management is crucial: we tried to strip our luggage to the bare essentials.

Clothing and accesories

Each of us carried:

Obviously, with such small luggage, hand-washing of the clothes was necessary from time to time. We found out that hanging the recently washed clothes at the back of our bikes was an excellent way to dry them!

We also carried a towel and a small selection of toiletries.

Bike equipment

We carried the usual spare tubes and equipment to replace/patch puncture tubes. Amazingly enough, we didn't have a single puncture during the whole trip! We brought two mini-pumps, which while light, were just barely enough to pump the tyres.

We also carried two bike locks, one of them key operated and the other one combination. The key operated lock was a Kryptonite Kryptoflex Lighted Cable Lock (left picture). Our other lock consisted on a Kryptonite Kryptoflex Cable with a dial combination padlock (center and right images).

In our experience, you don't need very hefty/super-secure locks. During the night we managed to put our bikes indoors in secure places such as hotel basements or patios. During the day the risk of getting your bike stolen is smaller and we didn't leave the bikes alone for more than a couple of hours anyway.

Each of us carried two standard-sized water bottles, which proved to be just enough for the hottest parts of our journey. There are lots of shops and petrol stations around the route to refill whenever needed. We also carried a Camelbak, which was useful in the hottest parts of the journey.

Lights are very important, not only to see but to let cars see you. I carried a Cat Eye LD1100 Opticube rear light (left picture) and a Cat Eye LED Light EL320 Opticube front light (right picture). Both of them use standard AA batteries, which is very convenient because they are easily found almost anywhere. We also carried smaller clip-on rear lights to put in the panniers in case of fog, and reflective straps.

I used my trusted Garmin Vista HCx GPS handheld unit for mapping and routing. While no GPS replaces the ability of map reading (and common sense!), they are quite handy. I used the City Navigator NT 2008 maps, which proved quite accurate (but not 100%). Also, I don't trust the on-road navigation information built in the maps, so all the routes here are point-to-point routes (following the contour of the road). That should make possible to use this routes in GPS units without mapping or map routing. The GPS unit is mounted on the handlebar using a Garmin handlebar mount accessory.

The Weather

The stereotype for spanish weather is sunny skies and warm temperatures. While this is mostly true in the mid-south of the country, the weather in the north is quite different. The northern part of the country, specially the one between the central plateau and the atlantic coast, is very wet and green, resembling more a nordic country that the image most people have of Spain. Rains in this region are more common, even in summer time. While temperatures don't usually drop below 15 degrees in summer, it can get quite windy and foggy. Nonetheless, is a beatiful part of the country and well worth visiting.

In our trip, the first two days we had mostly cloudy skies, with occasional drizzle and light to moderate winds. The climb to Pajares (last part of day 2) was quite difficult because of the very thick fog at the top. It also can get quite cold at the peak, so make sure you pack some raincoats and additional layers of clothing.

The next few days, until Salamanca, we had quite good weather. The skies were occasionally cloudy but the temperature was perfect! (around 20-23 degrees celsius).

South of Salamanca the temperatures began to rise, but were mostly bearable until Plasencia. From this point on expect very high temperatures in summer, absolute dryness and little wind. The strech from Trujillo to Cordoba is specially hot because Cordoba is in a valley. From Cordoba to Malaga the weather is a little more forbidding because of the proximity of the Med, but still very hot.

In the last half of our journey we used to wake up quite early and start pedaling as soon as possible, usually 8am. This allowed us to cover quite a lot of our route until the Sun got to its highest point and the heat started to get unbearable. At that point we usually stopped for lunch and rested until 3-4pm, and then resumed our cycling.

Water and food along the route

We had little problem buying supplies along our routes. Most spanish villages, even the smallest ones, have at least a small shop or a bar where water and snacks can be bought. Also most petrol stations have a little shop for drinks and snacks. Of course bigger towns have a bigger selection of supermarkets and shops.

Each of us carried a couple of standard water bottles with us. During the hotter parts of our journey we had to stop for refilling several times, sometimes 4 or 5 times! We also found that juice makes a great source of carbs during the ride, so we usually filled one of the bottles with juice and the other with water.

Besides snacks such as chocolate bars and fruit, we also carried with ourselves each day's lunch. We usually stopped in a shop on our way out of a city and stocked bread, cheese and ham or any cold meat we could find. I would recommend you to buy some Salchichon sausage or Jamón, specially near Salamanca or Plasencia!



Here is a list of hotels and hostels along our route that we particularly liked. All of them are bike friendly.

Cheap and nice


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