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Gravel Bike Packing the Camino de Santiago: An Epic Journey

Gravel Bike Packing the Camino de Santiago: An Epic Journey

Embarking on the Camino de Santiago by gravel bike is a remarkable adventure that blends physical endurance with cultural immersion. This route, stretching 711.7 kilometers from Madrid to Santiago de Compostela, features 8,456 meters of positive climbing and passes through some of Spain's most historic and scenic regions. Here’s a stage-by-stage breakdown of the journey.

 

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Stage 1: Madrid to Segovia

Starting in the vibrant capital of Spain, Madrid, you pedal through the picturesque Sierra de Guadarrama, with its rolling hills and lush landscapes. A key highlight of this stage is traversing sections of ancient Roman roads, which adds a historical dimension to your ride. These roads, built with characteristic Roman engineering, offer a glimpse into the past infrastructure that once connected the Roman Empire.

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One of the highlights of this stage is the challenging climb to Alto de la Fuenfría. This mountain pass, nestled at an elevation of over 1,790 meters, offers stunning panoramic views and a glimpse into the natural beauty of central Spain. The climb itself follows the route of the old Roman road, known as Via XXIV, which was part of the larger network of Roman roads connecting important cities in Hispania.

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After conquering the Alto de la Fuenfría, you descend into Segovia, where the sight of the iconic Roman Aqueduct welcomes you. This UNESCO World Heritage site, with its 167 arches, has stood the test of time since the 1st century AD. Explore the fairy-tale Alcázar of Segovia, which inspired Walt Disney's Cinderella Castle, and the impressive Gothic Segovia Cathedral.

 

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Stage 2: Segovia to Simancas

Leaving Segovia, you journey northward through the vast Castilian plains. This segment offers a blend of serene rural landscapes and quaint villages. Arriving in Simancas, a town steeped in history, you can visit the Simancas Castle, which houses the General Archive of Simancas, a treasure trove of Spanish historical documents dating back to the 16th century.

 

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Stage 3: Simancas to Bercianos del Camino

From Simancas, you pedal towards the province of León. The route becomes increasingly pastoral, with expansive fields and gentle hills. Bercianos del Camino, a small but charming village, offers a glimpse into the rustic life of northern Spain. The village is known for its traditional adobe houses and the welcoming hospitality of its residents, often shared with pilgrims on the Camino.

 

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Stage 4: Bercianos del Camino to Rabanal del Camino

This stage takes you deeper into the heart of León. The terrain becomes more challenging as you approach the foothills of the León Mountains. Rabanal del Camino, a historical stop on the Camino, has been a resting place for pilgrims for centuries. The village is known for its Romanesque Church of Santa María, where you can attend the vespers sung by Benedictine monks, a moving experience after a long day of cycling.

 

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Stage 5: Rabanal del Camino to Herrerías

The climb intensifies as you head towards the Cruz de Ferro, one of the highest points of the Camino, where pilgrims traditionally leave a stone brought from home. The descent into Herrerías offers stunning views of verdant valleys and traditional stone houses. This village serves as a gateway to the Galician mountains, marking the transition to the final, most scenic stages of the journey.

 

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Stage 6: Herrerías to Melide

Cycling through the lush, green landscapes of Galicia, you pass through the historic town of Villafranca del Bierzo and climb the steep ascent to O Cebreiro, a picturesque village with ancient stone huts and breathtaking views. Descending through dense forests and rolling hills, you reach Melide, famous for its pulperías where you can savor Galician octopus, a culinary delight.

 

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Stage 7: Melide to Santiago de Compostela

The final stretch leads you through eucalyptus forests and rolling countryside, with the excitement building as you near your destination. Upon arriving in Santiago de Compostela, the sight of the magnificent Cathedral of Santiago, where the remains of St. James are believed to rest, marks the triumphant end of your pilgrimage. The Praza do Obradoiro, bustling with pilgrims and tourists, is the perfect place to reflect on your incredible journey.

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Fines Terrae

 While not on the direct path from Madrid to Santiago de Compostela, many pilgrims choose to extend their journey to Finisterre, known in Roman times as Fines Terrae, the "End of the Earth." This dramatic coastline, where the land meets the vast Atlantic Ocean, was considered the westernmost point of the known world by the Romans. The tradition of traveling to Finisterre symbolizes the true completion of the pilgrimage, providing a sense of closure and contemplation as you stand at the edge of the ancient world.

 

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Completing the Camino de Santiago by gravel bike is a transformative experience, combining physical challenge with profound cultural and historical exploration. Each stage offers unique insights into Spain's rich heritage, making this pilgrimage not just a test of endurance, but a journey through time and tradition. From the Roman marvels of Segovia to the spiritual culmination in Santiago de Compostela, and perhaps even to the ancient ends of the earth at Finisterre, this journey is one of both body and soul.

 

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Juan Londoño

Scarab Friend and Customer

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