This cycling trip is one of the longest I have done to date (and when COVID-19 no longer poses too many obstacles, I will make sure to go way further), starting from Reus in the Catalan province of Tarragona and finishing in Murcia about 580km away. This plan developed upon setting up my new life in Catalonia, where I would spend the next 5 years, and using a new bike, a hybrid from Decathlon, which allowing me to go off road on occasions if I needed to. It was Easter week, so I had time to go far, and get stuck into this new challenge set across multiple regions of Spain.
One thing you learn from previous trips is you try to use your free space as well as possible, and I experimented by removing any excess weight off my back, so the bike got loaded with bags on the pannier, a large compartment on the front, and attempted to set up a camera with my phone to record things hooked along a selfie stick. Not terrible ideas, but I didn’t know what I know now, and you will too if you don’t already.
The plan was as follows:
- Reus- Xerta 81km
- Xerta- Castelló (Castellón) de la Plana 147km
- Castellón- Valencia 73km
- Valencia- Javea (Xabia) 117km
- Javea- Alicante 97km
- Alicante- Murcia 82km, total 597km
The main reason I chose this route was to explore as much of the Costas as much as I could, with some key places I knew little about at the time. Some of this route was also via some caminos, or tracks where only one part I would say was unsuitable for road bikes, all of which were on the first day. The cost of the hostels were about 170€ for the 6 nights and of various levels of comfort, but all that info to come later, for now let’s start the journey…
The starting point was Reus, and you immediately follow a Camino called Molins Nous, which will take you straight to Riudoms, the first town of the journey. Just 6km separates you from Reus and the Camino is pleasant and mostly smooth all the way as you cross the Riera de Maspujols and enter the village of about 6000 people. The Plaça de l’Eglesia is the highlight of any passer by, and the narrow streets have a similarity to Reus, minus the people. You exit via the TV-3103 and can take sign posts to the Next village, Montbrio del Camp can be followed by signposts, or via the Cami dels Cerdans, I chose the main road as it’s actually quicker this time. Another 5km and you’re motoring along.
The best way to enter this village is via the Cami de Vinyols where you will join up alongside the dry riverside and get some impressive views of the architecture of the Parroquia de Sant Pere and The Ajuntament. This village is also a great place to stop for something as there are a few reliable cafés just before you enter the old centre. Montbrio is a bit of a crossroads between the coast and the mountains, so you are more likely to see activity here, than Riudoms. North towards the mountains is Riudecanyes where there is some impressive hiking trails, while south is Cambrils, a foodie hotspot on the coast. But I was heading to Mont-roig, via the Carrer major and this time I chose the Cami de Vilanova, Which is 50:50 for road bikes.
Mont-roig Can be accessed alternatively via the T-310 which will be important later, as it’s the road you take to leave the town. The generally flat experience that had dominated the first 12km is looking ominous to end as the mountains by this point are at the doorstep of this village. It’s still a very straightforward 6km and the old part of town stands out ahead of the other places so far. Though the 900- year history of Mont-Roig del Camp isn’t so telling, There’s enough to see to impress you such as the Eglesia vella de Sant Miquel d’Arcangel, and it’s newer church on the Plaça de Mossen Gaieta Ivern. It’s worth having a short walk around the narrow rustic streets of the Nucli Antic before continuing out of town.
The major mountain stage was coming up next, where you briefly rejoin the T-310 along the edge of the mountains with occasional impressive views of the sea, Which by this point are only about 5km away. For me, the major issue was the wind, which was quite strong along this stretch, and the challenge starts as you turn off onto the C-44 to where it’s signposted Mora and Vandellos. This route is quite busy at times, so be careful, and immediately you are climbing past the neighbourhood of Masriudoms and then to Masboqueira which has a very charming little old quarter, but very to offer any passer by in case you need supplies. by this point you will have cycled 14km from Mont-Roig and climbed about 150m.
Vandellos is just 2km from Masboqueira and notably bigger with more things you may need, but there isn’t much to see here. The bigger attraction of this town would be the numerous hiking routes that exist around here. The road does get notably steeper here as well, so there’s a push to the top of the pass. The Coll de Fatxes is the highest point of the whole trip at 507m high, and its a good challenge for any cyclist to reach the top some 5km or so from Vandellos. The views were also pretty spectacular as you leave the comarca of the Baix Camp and enter the Ribera del Ebre, and on top of that, you get to enjoy a nice descent all the way to the main road that follows the course of the River Ebro, the longest river wholly in Spain.
Before the junction however, you might be interested enough to stop off in Tivissa, Where the main square lies on the edge of a rocky outcrop alongside the church, giving you some really nice views of the surrounding area, and there’s also some castle ruins, Castellet de Banyoles on a hill just before the junction at the river that listed as a cultural heritage site. Only if you have time, as there’s still 38km to go from the village. Just short of the River Ebro, I reached the junction that directed me to Mora or Tortosa, The later took me south towards the sea and my bed for the night.
Not long after the junction, The small village of Ginestar is a possible diversion which I subsequently did not take. From what I was told about it, I don’t think I missed much, but you might be curious enough to check it out and let me know in the comments. It isn’t really out of the way, so it would be easy to keep to the itinerary. A few kilometres later you finally run alongside the famous Ebro river, where you will on the hill on the other side the Castillo de Miravet. There’s a small ferry that can take you to the other side just before the road goes away from the river and starts climbing rather unexpectedly towards another village called Rasquera, which was an unwelcome slog which gifted some of the most spectacular views of the river and surrounding mountains.
At the highest point, you are over 100m higher than the river and there’s even a viewpoint called the mirador de Benifallet, which is also the next village on this journey. The mountain scene made up for this leg burner and it also left an amazing descent to a bridge that I had to cross. This is crucial as there is not another bridge that crosses the Ebro until Tortosa, so stay on the C-12 all the way. Xerta by this point is a gentle push downstream and barely 10km away. The valley meanders until you reach the village, where the valley starts to open up a little, and there it is, my bed for the night.
I stayed in the Alberg Xerta, commonly used for travellers due to numerous walking and cycling routes, and was very good price for the night, just 15€ at the time. They even gave me preferential treatment due to my room being shared with a group of kid scouts, and sent me to an empty apartment which I ended up having for myself at no extra cost to my shock. It looked as though they had done this for other guests before, but under no circumstances can I guarantee that will happen to you whatsoever, just hope your trip coincides with a group of kids and you might strike gold.
Xerta itself was a pleasant village with some history to keep you interested, and it’s main square encourages you to enjoy it peacefully and enjoy the life of the locals for an evening. I only wondered around for a short amount of time, and while there are no museums, there is enough there to make it a great stopover. I enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere of the place and was able to prepare myself and rest well for the following day, which would be the longest of the trip so far. Day 1 complete, a perfect distance to warm the legs up.