Via Verdes, the green cycling and walking paths in Spain
Cycling along ‘Vías Verdes’ (green roads) in Spain is a fantastic way to explore the Spanish interior. The government has recycled the abandoned railways into a recreational area. Spain now has 135 routes, totalling thousands of kilometres of Green Ways. The paths are easily accessible, essentially flat and car-free. They are, therefore, ideal for use by disabled people, walkers and cyclists of all ages.
Former railway lines
Some former stations have been restored and now function as a hotel, restaurant, café, bicycle rental/information point or museum. The great thing about these (former) railway lines is that they are flat. Because trains cannot ascend quickly, the railways, converted into cycling and walking paths, are so pleasant for cycling. The maximum gradient is three per cent.
There are dozens of Via Verdes in Spain. You can view and select them on this website per state and province. I cycled three: the Via Verdes in Cadiz, Jaen (Cordoba) and the one in Tarragona.
Via Verde de la Sierra in Cadiz
The Vía Verde in the province of Cádiz in southern Spain is a remnant from the beginning of the last century. A railway with train stations (which, as is now the case in Spain) was built never to be put into use. It is 36 kilometres of ‘railway’ that connects the towns of Olvera and Puerto Serrano. The original plan was to connect Jerez to Setenil and thus connect to the Granada and Malaga railways. However, the project was never completed due to the onset of the Spanish Civil War.
Today, the railroad is a scenic trail for equestrians, cyclists and hikers. It is almost entirely flat, with a slight increase of 1%. This makes it one of the few paths in Andalusia that is wheelchair friendly. Cars are not allowed on the path.
The path runs along the banks of the Guadalete and Guadalporcún rivers, around the Peñon de Zaframagón nature reserve, where a large colony of griffon vultures is based. The route includes five dilapidated train stations, four viaducts and thirty tunnels, the longest of which is 990 meters.
The route leads through a deserted hilly landscape and several tunnels equipped with motion sensors. In theory, the lights come on as soon as they sense motion. Unless the batteries have been stolen from the lamps, they don’t work, making the trip extra adventurous. So make sure you have lighting on your bicycle.
Via Verde de la Subbética in Cordoba – Via Verde del Aceite in Jaen
The 56-kilometre-long Subbética trail is located in the province of Cordoba in Andalusia between the Laguna del Conde bird sanctuary and the sleepy village of Navas del Selpillar. The other attractions of this trail are the friendly villages along the route, the local cuisine and especially the nature. Bats, wild boars, birds of prey, various types of butterflies and foxes are some animal species found here.
Along the path, you will see almond trees, olive groves, fig trees and grapevines. It is no wonder that the region is known for its cuisine with locally produced artichokes, olive oil, fruits, wines and various types of cheeses.
The Via Verde del Aceite is the extension of the Subbética in the province of Jaén. They were named after ‘aceite’ (olive oil) because the area of Jaén is the world’s most important olive oil producer. The olive trees are one of the most important features of the 128 km long route in the provinces of Jaén and Córdoba.
Delta de l’Ebre Greenway
The roads along the Via Verde in Tarragona are largely deserted. Even residents are few and far between. Most young people have moved to the city long ago to look for work. What remains are abandoned properties, picturesque villages and largely unspoilt nature. Deserted beaches, nature parks, rugged mountains and swamps add colour to the landscape. The red earth, the green of the water and the grey of the rocks alternate with spring colours.
In the spring, a sultry perfume of flowering broom accompanied me for most of my bike ride on the ‘Via Verde’, the ‘green road’ between Arnes-Lledó and Tortosa. This is an abandoned railway line along the Ebru River in Catalonia’s ‘Terres de L’Ebre’ region.
Practical Tips Via Verdes
- Please note that facilities (hotels, restaurants, bike rental and shops) may vary in quality and quantity on the different Vías Verdes.
- Remember to take cycling equipment and (paper) maps with you, because mobile reception is sometimes poor inland.
- The online information on Spanish websites is not always up to date. Trail maintenance varies by location. Some are busy and always well-maintained. Others less so.
- Therefore, bring a repair kit.
- Book your hotel along the route in advance to avoid surprises.
- Check the weather in the morning before departure time, especially in winter. It can be pretty spooky inland.
- Make sure you have enough water along the way in spring and summer. You might not find any more water until the end.
- Some (parts) are also accessible for wheelchair users.
- The tourist offices in the villages along the route have information about sights along the way and about renting bicycles and horses. They often have maps and know places to stay.
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