Mountain Biking in Spain: 5 Reasons to Ride the Camino de Santiago

July 20, 2019

The Camino de San­ti­a­go is a net­work of ancient pil­grim routes that stretch across Europe and lead to the reput­ed bur­ial grounds of the apos­tle Saint James. Dis­cov­ered in the 9th cen­tu­ry and locat­ed in the great San­ti­a­go de Com­postela cathe­dral in north­west­ern Spain, Saint James’s tomb has been vis­it­ed by mil­lions of pil­grims on foot and in more recent years, by bike. There are numer­ous trails through­out Spain that are per­fect for moun­tain bik­ing; the var­i­ous Camino de San­ti­a­go routes have become more pop­u­lar among West­ern­ers in recent years after the release of the pop­u­lar movie “The Way,”  star­ring Mar­tin Sheen, and the book “The Pil­grim­age” by famous author Paulo Coelho. 

Many vis­i­tors com­plete the pil­grim­age for reli­gious beliefs and are moved by their faith, but there is also a large group of pil­grims that fol­low the route for a per­son­al chal­lenge, to find a spir­i­tu­al con­nec­tion to the world, and for their inter­est in his­to­ry, cul­ture, and archi­tec­ture. No mat­ter what your rea­sons are for expe­ri­enc­ing the ancient pil­grim­age route, every­one walks (or bikes) away from the Camino de San­ti­a­go trans­formed. After all, it’s hard to return home after mar­vel­ling at the rolling hills of the Span­ish Pyren­nees, befriend­ing oth­er pil­grims from around the world, and din­ing among medieval archi­tec­ture with­out a new and refreshed per­spec­tive on the beau­ty of the world around us.

Fol­low in the foot­steps of pil­grims (but avoid the blis­ters) by expe­ri­enc­ing the Camino de San­ti­a­go by moun­tain bike.

5 Reasons to Ride the Camino de Santiago

1. Time

Depend­ing on the route you take, walk­ing to the Camino de San­ti­a­go can take weeks or months with long days on the trail. Bik­ing the Camino allows you to cov­er more ground over the same num­ber of days, and you’re able to bike at a relaxed pace. Walk­ing from Pam­plona to San­ti­a­go de Com­postela takes around 28 days, where­as you can bike from Pam­plona to San­ti­a­go de Com­postela in about 15 days. Cycling the Camino may be more a more real­is­tic option for vis­i­tors who have lim­it­ed time off from work and home life, but are still look­ing to expe­ri­ence a spir­i­tu­al and chal­leng­ing adventure.

2. Get Off the Beaten Track

Most (walk­ing) pil­grims fol­low a fair­ly direct path to the cathe­dral in San­ti­a­go de Com­postela, but moun­tain bik­ing the Camino gives you more time to explore trails less trav­elled and small vil­lages out­side the pop­u­lar walk­ing routes. Tak­ing a ten-kilo­me­tre detour on foot vs. cycling is a much dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ence. Cycling also gives you more flex­i­bil­i­ty with your itin­er­ary. If you make an unex­pect­ed 2‑hour stop to explore a win­ery or a cathe­dral, it’s much eas­i­er to make up that time on a bike rather than walk­ing — and you’ll still make it to your hotel for evening appe­tiz­ers and wine.

3. Help the Locals

Hik­ing the Camino de San­ti­a­go has become very pop­u­lar and it has brought tourism dol­lars and pos­i­tive eco­nom­ic impacts in each region. This is great news if you’re a hotel own­er, shop keep­er or restau­rant man­ag­er in Leon, Logrono or oth­er pop­u­lar cities along the route, but ven­tur­ing out­side the main walk­ing routes (with a bike!) helps busi­ness own­ers in less­er-known towns reap eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits as well. There are dozens of beau­ti­ful towns just off the Camino that are uncrowd­ed, qui­eter and just as impressive.


Fol­low in the foot­steps of pil­grims across North­ern Spain

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Expe­ri­ence the Camino has­sle-free
15 days of guid­ed moun­tain bik­ing on the famous Camino de San­ti­a­go
Unique & com­fort­able lodg­ing along the thou­sand-year-old pil­grim­age route
Front-Sus­pen­sion moun­tain bike rental and on-trail bike main­te­nance
All meals (excep­tion to 2 lunch­es & 2 din­ners) and lug­gage transfers

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4. Physical Challenge

Bik­ing the Camino is chal­leng­ing. There are some flat sec­tions, but you will also come across rolling hills and moun­tain­ous ter­rain. The best part… you can con­quer the hills with­out the risk of bad blis­ters from hik­ing shoes and cov­er more ter­rain. Bik­ing can also be gen­tler on your joints, leav­ing you more ener­gized and pre­pared to trav­el the Camino for mul­ti­ple days in a row. Cycling the Camino is per­fect for Novice — Inter­me­di­ate rid­ers who are rel­a­tive­ly fit and have a keen sense of adven­ture (but also enjoy a com­fort­able bed at night and deli­cious Span­ish cuisine).

5. Transformation

There is a spe­cial bond that forms between moun­tain bik­ers that were brought togeth­er for their love of not only a sport but a way of life. This bond is mul­ti­plied when you’re fol­low­ing the path of ancient pil­grims along a route known for its beau­ty and ten­den­cies to help trav­ellers slow down and live in the moment. After bik­ing 200 kilo­me­tres, you will receive the Com­postela Cer­tifi­cate as an offi­cial doc­u­ment of your trans­for­ma­tive jour­ney. You can also keep track of your progress with a Pil­grim Pass­port and receive stamps along the route from hotels and estab­lish­ments that you vis­it. The pass­port often ends up being a trea­sured pos­ses­sion as it is a great reminder of all the places where you stopped and stayed overnight.

Is it time to expe­ri­ence the Camino de San­ti­a­go by bike? 

We recent­ly part­nered with our sis­ter com­pa­ny, Bicy­cle Adven­tures to offer a 15-day and 7‑day ful­ly guid­ed and sup­port­ed moun­tain bike trip on the North­ern Span­ish route of the Camino de San­ti­a­go. For­get the has­sle of try­ing to plan your vaca­tion and join us for the trip of a life­time along the Camino.

Click here for more information on biking the Camino de Santiago.