Cycling the Via de la Plata, Sevilla to Santiago de Compostela

Cycling the Pyrenees from Atlantic to Mediterranean

My trip the following year, 2007, when I cycled the length of the Pyrenees, was a shorter but tougher trip.

Via de la Plata Cycle Route Map

The Via de la Plata is some 1000 kms long, and I took 12 days following the route from Sevilla to Santiago in October 2006. By and large it was enjoyable both as an experience and as a challenge. The only real downside was a glut of 6 punctures around Salamanca, and a couple of days of real rain in Galicia.

I am a 61 year old, reasonably fit, male. Last time I was on a bicycle was 40 years ago as a student, so you could not call me an enthusiastic cyclist. After two weeks pedaling my way up (yes, everything is up when you are on a bike) the Via de la Plata, I was still 61, but an awful lot fitter.

To follow my route, click on any of the yellow buttons on the map, and that will take you to a page on that days ride, ending at that location. The buttons show where I spent each night. Towns are about 80 km apart, so 80 km a day is a good target to set yourself. I did not stay in hostels, but treated myself to good (I would say in fact very good) hotels. You will have a wide choice of good hotels in the towns indicated (with the exception of El Real, the first night north of Sevilla).

A typical days cycling on the Via de la Plata works out something like this. What I never really understood in advance was the net amount of ascending that would be necessary each day. My computer showed a tad over 10,000 metres of assent required over the trip. When you consider that Mount Everest is "only" 8,850 metres high, then you can grasp that the cycling pilgrim between Seville and Santiago has to actually climb the equivalent of more than Everest in 2 weeks. I would concede that I may have increased the amount of climbing required by taking a route that was not just following the N-630 all the way. The byways of central Spain have the advantage of being charming and the disadvantage of being mountainous

Total assent
Time on road
My Bike Details of the bike and equipment used      
Why a pilgrim Why I made the pilgrimage      
Compostella The Compostela      
Day 1 Sevilla - Torre de la Reina 25 km    
Day 2 Torre de la Reina - El Real 72 km 962 m 6.3 hours
Day 3 El Real - Zafra 66 km 1166 m 6.2 hours
Day 4 Zafra - Mérida 80 km 497 m 5.0 hours
Day 5 Mérida - Caceres 71 km 511 m 5.1 hours
Day 6 Caceres - Plasencia 82 km 617 m 5.5 hours
Day 7 Plasencia - Bejar 100 km 1280 m 8.0 hours
Day 8 Bejar - Salamanca 70 km 1033 m 6.2 hours
Day 9 Salamanca - Zamora 50 km * 730 m 4.0 hours
Day 10 Zamora - Puebla de Sanabria 78 km 825 m 5.0 hours
Day 11 Peubla de Sanabria - Verin 94 km 1282 m 5.5 hours
Day 12 Verin - Ourense 75 km 946 m 5.0 hours
Day 13 Ourense - Santiago 46 km * 266 m 3.0 hours

If you took longer you might have more time to explore the towns, but the very nature of the towns is that they are around 80kms apart, so if you do less in a day, then you are staying in hostels in the smaller towns and villages along the way. The Via de la Plata route is not rich in hostels, indeed many places are not rich in any forms of habitation, so my conclusion was and is, that you should cycle the 80kms a day and hotels in the towns.

If you are really knackered then take a day off every so often. Its really is not the distance in a day that is important, it is the amount of climbing. If I got into top gear on the big cog, then I could zip along, both uphill and downhill at a fair old rate, but once the climb got too steep for the top gear, and I ended up climbing in the lowest gear, then speed drops down to 5km per hour, and energy extended appears to increase exponentially.

Chris was on the trip with me, and we met up each night. To do it completely by yourself from Seville to Santiago de Compostela would be considerably more difficult. If I had a real problem, then I could use the mobile to summon the cavalry

Philosophical question now is "would I do it again", obviously not the same route, but another long distance cycle ride? Writing this a week after finishing, I am not sure. When Steven Redgrave was half way through his career he said "Anyone who sees me go anywhere near a boat again, ever, you've got my permission to shoot me." But within months was back in a boat again.

I have proved to myself that I can do it, and I enjoyed the journey across Spain. Perhaps if all the omens were right, then I might. Right now, I don't know if I will stick to cycling round Moraira, or plan another long distance adventure