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Mainland Spain or Mallorca? The BEST cycling destination!

Cycling on holiday is such a joy! If you are travelling from the Uk to overseas, this almost always includes the promise of warmer weather and broadly speaking, reasonable road surfaces and drivers who are cyclist friendly. This is certainly true of Spain, and with the anticipation of sunshine on your face, bare arms and a cold beer to finish, it's something to get excited about!

Unusually (some would say greedily) I had two cycling trips in the same month recently, which brought about a natural comparison between the two Spanish destinations. Although this wasn't a controlled experiment by any means; trip one I would be riding with my Husband and trip two was with a group of girl friends, it was certainly interesting to experience mainland Spain and then Mallorca in quick succession.

For the three days cycling on the mainland, we were based just outside of Estepona which is on the Costa del Sol in Southern Spain, and about an hour from Malaga. Facing away from the sea, the backdrop of vast mountains is immediately apparent and unless you plan to cycle up and down the busy coastal road, it is clear that climbing is going to be involved!

There are not huge numbers of cycle shops in Estepona (this is in stark contrast to Mallorca where there are so many to choose from) but we found one in the town centre and prebooked two bikes online. The shop, El Tourmalet, kindly allowed us to collect the bikes the evening before our three day hire at no extra cost. We collected the bikes along with a rather basic hand drawn map, pointing out the best local climbs and the roads to stay clear of.

This actually worked an absolute treat in helping us to plan our three routes.

Our first ride began quite far south of Forest Hills where we were staying. We chose to drive to a convenient starting point on the coast which would avoid us having to ride on the busy A7 - although the hire shop had said this was fine, it looked a little sketchy in a 'duel carriageway with no bike lane' type way...

From the coast we began a steady climb to the pretty whitewashed town of Caseres, 435 metres above sea level. The descent back to the coast was gentle and flowy, with an abundance of wind turbines dotted along the horizon.

Satisfied that the bikes were fine, we embarked on a bigger ride the following day. The climb up to Penas Blancas took over an hour and 20 minutes and although never really steep, the continual hairpins coupled with a chance encounter with some angry dogs and then a rush of fire engines on their way to a forest fire, meant I was quite exhausted by the time we reached the plateau!

The lasting memories of this beautiful ride are the rugged mountain scenery and the unbelievable lack of both traffic, pedestrians and fellow cyclists en route! We had the place to ourselves and it was bliss.

The final ride followed a much flatter route that took us out to Castillo de Castellar - a castle on a hill and quite literally the only hill on this ride. We saw more cyclists on this day but in comparison with the numbers to follow in Mallorca, still really very quiet.

The following week and I was back on a plane, this time heading for Mallorca with 5 cycling friends, where we stayed in Alcudia at a nice half board hotel.

Again, 3 rides were planned for the trip - the first was a 'spineroo' to check everything was working fine with our hired bikes, and we rode up the coast for ice cream at Port de Pollenca. The bike paths along this coastal road are smooth and easy to navigate, you just need your wits about you as there are many other lycra-clad holiday makers on them!

Our ride on day two was probably one of the most famous and therefore popular routes on the island - the stunning coastal ride out to the lighthouse at Cap Formentor.

We set out early in the hope that we would beat most of the traffic. It is possible we did - goodness knows how busy it gets later in the day!

Every bend in the road brought another stunning vista and there is no wonder it is so busy with cyclists - it is a wonderful route.

We made our way out to the furthest point for coffee and cake, along with another 500 cyclists or so!!

Our final ride was a quieter one; a less obvious route away from the cycling honeypot spots. Recommended by a friend for the country lanes and pretty Spanish towns and villages we would pass through, It did not disappoint! Lunch was in the square at Inca, in the company of plenty of other cyclists enjoying refuelling in the sunshine, with the accompaniment of live music and traditional dancing!

A stop off in Alcudia old town was a lovely end to the few days away. No cycling allowed in the old town, but a pleasant walk down the narrow streets for a cold beer at the end of a warm day - perfect!

So which was best? I enjoyed both!

  • If you prefer the less obvious and you want solitude rather than feeling you are in a sportive, choose mainland Spain.

  • If you prefer the idea of a destination geared up for cycling, choose Mallorca, where the number of rental shops and the cafe culture make this a cycling mecca for good reason.

Head to our website, to check out our Pretty Gritty cycling kit, ahead of your next adventure!

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