Cycle through beautiful countryside and villages, along quiet back roads and Via Verde rail trails on this gay Spain bike tour. Discover the rich history and culture of northern Spain. Spend relaxed evenings in lovely paradors and inns enjoying traditional cuisine and fine wines.
Explore the beauty and charm of the Rioja region of northern Spain, as deep and rich as the wine for which the region is famous. Bike through peaceful villages and along winding country roads in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Surrounded by lovely untouched landscapes, we will start in Pamplona (no bull!), then ride to Logrono, and on to the ancient monasteries of San Millan, where we spend the night in 4-star monastic quarters. We then immerse ourselves in the juxtaposition of modern design hotels and centuries-old village architecture before we shuttle to Bilbao, the major city of the Basque region of northern Spain.
Day 1: Arrival: Pamplona
Our adventure begins as we meet in Pamplona in the afternoon for a walking tour from the famous Plaza de Toros to the Cathedral, nd through the authentic medieval quarter of this old Basque city.
After our walking tour, we’ll fit out our bikes to allow a quicker start in the morning. Later we’ll gather for a reception and orientation about our tour before our tapas-style Welcome Dinner featuring many courses. Tonight, we stay in a lovely 4-star hotel. We stay close to the airport on the edge of town so that we avoid much of the urban traffic when we start our riding in the morning.
Day 2: Leggin’ it to Logroño (50 km)
After breakfast we’ll start our cycling by riding out from Pamplona until we reach the quiet roads of the countryside. We’ll have a short transfer in the middle to the village of Estella, in the region of Navarre, then continue our cycling. Estella was founded in 1090 AD and became a prominent stop on the Santiago de Compostela (Way of St. James). Today the town is known for its Romanesque architecture and arched bridges. Our ride continues with views of desert-like mesas as we head into Logroño. Logroño is the marketing center for Rioja and is a prosperous small city, with a charming old quarter overlooking the Ebro River. No visit to the town is complete without strolling along Calle Laurel and sampling copas and tapas. We’ll start the evening with a tapas dinner together, then spend the night in Logroño.
Day 3: Our Own Monastery for a Night (45 km)
Today we follow a beautiful undulating route into the verdant Valley of San Millán de la Cogolla, and tour two of Spain’s most ancient and important monasteries, Yuso & Suso. Now a World Heritage Site, this monastic community was founded by St Millán in the mid-6th century.
A fine Romanesque church built in honour of the holy man still stands at the uninhabited site of Suso. A thousand years ago a monk from Suso wrote a document that is often considered as the first instance of written Castillian Spanish, so there is a great deal of history echoing off these walls.
In the early 16th century the community was established in the fine new monastery of Yuso, below the older complex. Yuso hosts a thriving Augustinian community today that manages a 4-star hotel for pilgrims in some of the old monastic chambers – our home for the night!
Day 4: Vineyards, Villages & Wine Tasting (42 km)
Today we enjoy wonderful vineyard views en route to Briones, a picturesque hilltop town with a vista over the Ebro River. Briones is nicely preserved with medieval walls, a ruined castle, and a gentle historical quality. We finish today’s riding at a lovely Bodega where we have lunch and a wine tasting.
After the tasting we’ll have a van shuttle along country roads to the medieval hill town of Laguardia which is seen from miles away. The town is riddled with a maze of underground cellars. On a walking tour, we can see one of the cellars and the local church with its famous portal.
In late afternoon we’ll shuttle to the village of Villabuena. Our home for the next two nights will be a unique modern 4-star design hotel featuring a series of cubes, juxtaposed against the neighboring centuries-old church. After we check in we’ll enjoy a snack of light tapas together, featuring ingredients grown in the area. You’ll be on your own for dinner at our hotel or a nearby café.
Day 5: Cycling in the Shadow of the Camino de Santiago (50 km)
Today’s ride is a morning loop ride to see the charms of historic San Vicente and Haro. We finish our ride with a picnic lunch.
By popular demand we have added a new feature to this tour. We will shuttle 10 km from Villabuena to the village of Elciego to visit the award-winning Frank Gehry-designed hotel at the Marqués de Riscal Winery. (He also designed the Guggenheim Museum that we’ll tour in Bilbao, so he’s put quite a stamp on this region!) As a special treat, we’ve saved time for an afternoon visit to the hotel’s luxurious spa.
On our return drive to Villabuena we’ll stop at a local bodega for a picnic dinner and wine tasting, accompanied by music.
Day 6: Bilbao: Heart of the Basque Country
After a relaxing breakfast we will transfer by minibus to Bilbao, which will be our home for the last night of the trip. We’ll plan to arrive in Bilbao early enough for a guided tour of the Frank Geary-designed Guggenheim Museum, along with free time to explore this unique city.
Our hotel is in a central location, across from the Museum, allowing easy access to the city’s highlights. Tonight we’ll have our farewell dinner in the heart of this gourmet capital.
Day 7: Departure or Explore Bilbao
Our Rioja Adventure ends today, but you may want to extend your trip with some additional time in Bilbao, or with a visit Barcelona or Madrid. Spain is filled with many wonders yet to enjoy!
If you have the time, it can be fascinating to explore this amazing city which has experienced many booms and busts. In the 19th century, Bilbao was the financial, shipping and mining center for the north of Spain and the elegant boulevards and fine buildings are a reminder of those days.
Since the Guggenheim Museum opened its doors in the 1990s, Bilbao has again become a world-class destination, rising like a phoenix from its post-Spanish Civil War obscurity. The city offers two extraordinary museums, a rich old quarter, and an elegant city with art galleries and fine shopping.
You can enjoy a classic view by gazing down Bilbao’s Calle Iparraguirre, and seeing the soft green mountains that enfold the curvaceous titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum. Below the avant-garde masterwork of Canadian Frank Gehry flows the River Nervión linking the newer city to the traditional Basque town founded in 1300 AD.
Whether dining at the Michelin-starred Zortziko, in the Guggenheim’s restaurant overseen by Chef Beraseteguí, or in the simpler but delicious Yandiola, you’ll enjoy this city of culture.
Price includes: Four full days of 40-50 km cycling each day in the countryside and small towns; Use of bike, with map and detailed route instructions provided; Services of bike guides; Daily van support to get luggage (and tired riders!) to destination; Vehicle for short shuttle on first riding day, for late afternoon touring on multiple riding days, and Villabuena to Bilbao at the end of the trip; Guided tours of historic sites including Pamplona, monasteries, Laguardia and Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum; Comfortable accommodations in 4-star hotels each night, in double occupancy (limited number of single rooms are available); All breakfasts, a picnic lunch, a sit-down lunch, 4 dinners with wine included at dinners; An evening of light tapas and two wine tastings in bodegas; Spa time in Marques de Riscal Hotel to see close-up the eccentric architectural gem of Frank O. Gehry. HE Travel provides complimentary Medical & Evacuation Insurance for every US Resident on our group tours who does not have other coverage.
Not included: Transportation to Pamplona and from Bilbao; Transfers between airports or train stations and hotels at start and end of trip; Meals not listed as being included; Personal items such as souvenirs, snacks, faxes and telephone calls; Admissions not described as included in the itinerary; Gratuities for guides.
Optional Tour Choices:
TBA Single Supplement (for solo travelers who wish to enjoy a private bedroom and bathroom)
“Beautiful trip. Re-energized me and exceeded my expectations in many ways.”— Christopher Burt, White Plains, NY
“A very well planned and executed trip through beautiful countryside. A group experience that works.”— Mark Robinson, San Diego, CA
Most of our trips draw more single travelers than couples. When couples do join us, it’s usually because they’re looking forward to interacting with a gay group; if they wanted a holiday by themselves, they wouldn’t have signed up to travel with us. Furthermore, the activities included with our trips serve as natural ice-breakers. Within a day, you’ll be traveling with friends. You don’t need to pay the single supplement if you’re traveling alone. We’ll be happy to match you with a roommate. Pay the single supplement only if you want a bedroom to yourself.
For selected trips, including cruises, we will charge half the single supplement if you request a roommate but we can’t match you with someone.
This tour starts in Pamplona and ends in Bilbao, Spain.
This trip is for cyclists who can comfortably bike 25 to 35 miles a day over moderate terrain with some steeper hills. Much of our cycling will be on quiet country roads across rolling terrain and on Via Verde trails following old railbeds where available.
From time to time, people come on a trip intending to cycle but end up riding in the van because of a minor injury, or because they discover the trip is harder than they expected. If you need to ride in the van, we’re happy to accommodate you.
However, this is a bike tour, not a van tour. The van’s route and itinerary are set up to accommodate cyclists, not van passengers. You’ll miss some of the sights, and some of the fun, if you’re in the van.
We offer trips in a variety of terrains; you should be able to find a bike trip on which you can complete each day’s biking. You’ll have a much better vacation if you select a trip that’s right for your abilities.
You won’t just be biking. The location for each of our bike trips was chosen because of its varied appeal. Cycling is a great vehicle for getting around at your own pace. But unless you take one of our longer route options, you’ll rarely spend more than 3 or 4 hours on the saddle in a day. Interspersed with your bike ride might be an hour exploring a picturesque town; a leisurely picnic in a riverside park; an hour at a castle; an hour browsing at a street market; half an hour playing boules. Next thing you know, it’s time for a two-hour dinner, then a late walk through the narrow moonlit streets of a medieval town.
Most international travelers will arrive in and depart from Spain via Madrid, so it will be an easy place to spend a few extra days. Barcelona is harder to get to, but famous for its architecture and a new gay hotel, the Hotel Axel. On the other hand, if you are ready for a beach experience after a week of riding through the hills, the Costa del Sol beckons, not far away from Andalucia. The Andalucia website offers many great suggestions about the region.
For answers to your additional questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 305-294-8174