Mountain bike holidays in Spain
Still pretty much off the beaten track within the mountain bike community: going on a mountain bike holiday in Spain. Whereas the Alps are well-established (and sometimes overcrowded), Spain is a somewhat unknown mountain bike holiday destination. Besides having amazing trails, Spain is known for its hospitality and its delicious gastronomy. What’s better than ending a tour on a local plaza with a cerveza and a tapa on the side?
Ideally, we keep it this way, it has a certain charm of providing off the beaten track mtb trips. But we don’t want you to miss out on the fun!
But where to start? Spain is a huge country and options are plentiful. In this post I will do my best to provide useful information, so you can plan your Spanish mountain bike holiday.
Ingredients of a mountain bike holiday
Before diving into the destinations and outfitters I want to share some food for thought. Most of the time it’s not just the quality of the trails which make or break your holiday. If you’re already an mtb holiday veteran, you probably already experienced it: the trails were great, the sun was shining, but still there was something missing…
I call these ‘holiday ingredients’. It’s not just the trails and weather which make up the experience. It’s the right combination of the various ingredients. And like any other dish, it all depends on you what you like and find important. Based on your own experience you can decide what makes a great holiday for you.
The holiday ingredients
What kind of weather do you prefer while riding? Does one or two rainy days ruin your entire holiday? Can you cope with heat? The various holiday regions in Spain have different climates. Whereas the Alps show all types of weather during their mtb season, Spain is a whole different story. Each region has a more stable climate.
Most people have their favorite scenery / altitude while being on the trail. Maybe you like lush forests, roots and the smell of fresh soil. Maybe you prefer the views of barren rocks and snowy mountain tops in the distance. Or the perfect trail is just next to a turquoise Mediterranean bay. And in some cases: you want it all!
Luckily for you: Spain has it all! From the high alpine Pyrenees (3000+ meter), to trails alongside the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean sea, to forests all around the mid-Pyrenees.
Obviously your main activity will be mountain biking. But after a day of biking, I can imagine you want to add that extra ingredient. Spain offers important and authentic historical cities and villages, beautiful beaches and coves, and historical landmarks.
Remember that depending on the location you’re staying at, you might only have access to 1 or 2 restaurants or you’ll find a whole city full of various options. How important is the food experience for you?
Group size and outfitter
With whom do you want to travel? What kind of group size and type of company do you prefer? Personally, I like being in smaller groups (4 to 6) as there is less waiting time and dependencies on the trails. But maybe, when booking as a single person, a group trip can increase the chances of meeting like-minded riders. The company you sign up with also plays an important role. Will there be a language barrier between you and the guide? What kind of operation do they run, e.g. large groups and as many trips as possible or more like a boutique company focusing on just a few trips? There is no good or bad, it’s just a different experience.
Personalized or standard trip
This one you can’t always control or choose. If you’re an individual or a small group (2-3 riders) then probably, you’ll join a standard trip. But if you can bring more friends it’s worthwhile checking with the outfitter if they provide tailor-made holidays, perfectly aligned with your wishes.
Pyrenees mountain bike holidays
The Pyrenees, both the French and Spanish side, receive way less visitors compared to the more popular Alps. Especially the Spanish part is unknown. In recent years more and more avid mountain bikers find their way to this upcoming holiday destination. During the Covid years more trails were developed, as the locals had plenty of time to start trail building. You will find every kind of trail in this 400+ kilometers wide mountain range. From rocky high alpine trails to flowy forest trails ending at the sea. There are plenty of mountain bike companies offering holidays in this region. So guaranteed you’ll find something that meets your needs.
The Pyrenees are a narrow-stretched mountain range which runs all the way from the west coast (Atlantic) to the Mediterranean separating France and Spain. It’s a proper mountain range with peaks spiking to 3400+ meters.
One of the major advantages of the Spanish Pyrenees is that it’s mainly south facing. Which means more sunshine! Another advantage is that bad weather often stays in France, which makes the Spanish Pyrenees rideable all year long; just don’t go too high in winter.
Pyrenees and the High Pyrenees
The Pyrenees and High Pyrenees are one of the most popular holiday destinations for mountain bikers in Spain. In my definition the Pyrenees range roughly from 1000 to 2300 meters (tree line) altitude and the High Pyrenees start at 2300 meters.
It’s not the question if you can find good trails in the Pyrenees – there are plenty – but whether how to ride all of them within the time given. All over the Spanish Pyrenees you’ll find trails but for a holiday you need to be based at a trail center where you’ll find enough trails to keep you busy for at least 3 days. Probably you’ll like to have your (occasional) uplift to make most of the available days.
Aínsa / Zona Zero region
Probably the best known destination for a mountain bike holiday in Spain is Zona Zero. This well-established trail center in the middle of the Pyrenees already hosted 2 Enduro World Series: in 2015 and 2018. Most stages are still available for you to ride! Zona Zero is the name of the trail center and is based in the medieval and picturesque village of Aínsa. It all started a while back, when local mountain bike enthusiasts, backed by the local business community, started to repurpose the existing ancient paths. These old paths were used to link the small villages in the region. Nowadays these paths form a superb mtb trail network, where you navigate between old mountain villages, or what’s left of them.
One of the best trails start at the scenic ruin village of Morcat. This is also the place where one of the best EWS trails start and another interesting trail called “the pussy of the world”. Besides the somewhat suggestive shaped rock formation in this trail, the surroundings are worth a visit. It’s a small canyon with a river flowing through it.
Aínsa is also the gateway to the higher Pyrenees: the trails around Bielsa. If time permits, it’s always worth adding 1 or 2 alpine days to your itinerary. Also, the Benasque valley is close enough to be combined with Zona Zero.
Aínsa mountain bike ingredients:
- The season: to make most of your holiday it’s best to visit it from March to early June or September to early November. Riding in summer can be hot for the lower sections (below 2000 m), while in winter the higher sections are often covered with snow, or it’s just too chilly and wet.
- Scenery: you will pass through various small old villages and Aínsa itself is a small medieval picturesque tourist town. You will have various views on the nearby High Pyrenees which are begging to be visited (which you’ll do of course 😉). It also has some special trail on black soil, the so-called Badlands. Most of the time you will circle around one of the villages or Aínsa, feeling not entirely disconnected from civilization. Of course, there are options for more back country mountain biking.
- Side activities: hiking, canyoning, outdoor stuff.
- Food: Aínsa has some nice restaurants and in the region you will find your typical standard Spanish cuisine.
- Group size and outfitter: We run group tours in this region! For single day guiding I would recommend contacting Jeroen from unbeaten adventures, he’s a fellow Dutchman living near Aínsa and provides great guiding services. As it’s one of the best serviced mtb regions of Spain it’s not too difficult to organize your holiday here. Depending on the company you will have small or large group (10+) and different drop off points – some outfitters won’t go up non-paved roads.
- More information: https://zonazeropirineos.com/
The Berguedà / Berga region
The Berguedà region, with its capital Berga is by far the most unknown destination on this list. But for no good reason: it packs so many different kind of trails and landscapes in a small forgotten section of the Pyrenees. Even locals from Zona Zero don’t know of its existence (I checked!). Most trails are established in the last few years by the local bike community, and they did a hell of a job.
The starting altitude in this pre-Pyrenees region is around 650 m and you can go all the way up to around 1800 m, so plenty of lengthy descending options! Trails are not too steep, but rather natural & technical. Rocks, roots and technical climbs are typical for this area. One of the best descents is 6.5 km long and has a vertical drop of about 1000 meters, taking in all kinds of riding; gnarly sections with some loose rocks, flowy loamy soil and ending with narrow tight switchbacks, a perfect way to finish your day in this beautiful region!
Another gem is the Vallcebre area, here you have beautiful views of the cliffs which surround this area. If you want a quick change of scenery: at only a 30 minute drive, you will find the bike park of La Molina and other natural trails in the Cerdanya region. So, all in all a region where you can easily be entertained for a week or so.
Berguedà mountain bike ingredients:
- The season: March to early June and September to early November. Riding in summer can be hot for the lower sections (below 2000 m), while in winter the higher sections are often covered with snow, or it’s just too chilly and wet.
- Scenery: Berguedà is not directly surrounded by the High Pyrenees but they are visible in the distance. You will have a more back country feeling in this region compared to Zona Zero as you won’t see too many villages while riding. Nature is a bit more rural and trails less ridden and therefore more adventurous. You will definitely pass some beautiful viewpoints, so bring your camera!
- Side activities: hiking, climbing, bike park La Molina.
- Food: Berga has some nice restaurants and in the region you will find your typical standard Spanish cuisine.
- Group size and outfitter: only we provide a fixed departure date holiday for this region. Companies that provide individual or tailor-made group packages for this region are limited.
Other smaller regions: Benasque valley and Val D’Aran
Two other holiday destinations in the (High) Pyrenees worth mentioning are the Benasque valley and Val d’Aran. Both regions are rather remote and not that easily accessible and I would not recommend spending your entire mountain bike holiday in one of these valleys. However, due to their remoteness and proximity to other mountain biking areas they’re ideal to be combined.
Either combine Val d’Aran with Benasque, or Aínsa with one of the valleys.
All the way in the west the Pyrenees drop into the ocean. Close to San Sebastian is the HQ of one of the biggest mtb companies in Spain. This area is serviced mainly by Basque MTB. The region provides you with many options to choose from. Rocky coastal trails, forest trails in the lower Pyrenees (up to 1000 m alt.) and cross-country mountain biking. The region is well-known for it’s higher rainfall compared to other regions in Spain. So it can be wet, but on the other side: it’s a bit greener.
Basque Country mountain bike ingredients:
- The season: to make most of your holiday it’s best to visit from May to September. Riding in summer can be warm sometimes. Riding off-season is possible, just be prepared to get wet.
- Scenery: backdrops with the ocean!
- Side activities: Surfing, beach time, touristic area at the nearby coast.
- Food: As it’s near tourist hotspots it provides all kind of options.
- Group size and outfitter: mainly Basque MTB, bigger group sizes, but also other companies service this area.
- More information: good article on singletracks website.
Cap de Creus peninsula & Girona
In the east, the Pyrenees drop into the Mediterranean at the peninsula of Cap de Creus. Being a natural park this peninsula makes a perfect holiday destination. Not just by itself though, combining it with the nearby Girona trails or Berguedà makes it a perfect destination.
Cap de Creus used to be a cultivated area of olive tree plantations, but was given back to mother nature a few decades ago. Nowadays old farmers trails are used as single tracks for hikers and a few mountain bikers. For me this peninsula is one of the most enchanting mountain bike destinations I’ve ever been. With the Mediterranean climate, turquoise water, remote coves and awesome backdrops I’m always delighted to visit this area.
Close to Cap de Creus you’ll find the historical city of Girona. With its heritage old center (barri vell) and large student population it’s a perfectly lively authentic location as your base of operation – at least if you want to be among people. Girona is located next to Les Gavarres, the hilly forest region which stretches all the way to the coast, and trails can be reached straight out your hotel. Nearby you will find one of the best smaller trail centers in Europe: Santa Coloma de Farners.
Girona & Cap de Creus mountain bike ingredients:
- The season: February to June and September to November. Riding in summer (July/August) is not advisable as it’s often way too hot. In winter it’s often dry enough to ride and temperatures during the day vary between 5 and 18 degrees °C.
- Scenery: backdrops with the Mediterranean and rolling hills.
- Side activities: beach time, exploring Girona and nearby medieval villages.
- Food: as you’re close to various villages you will find everything you need.
- Group size and outfitter: some smaller companies which come and go, operate in this area. We are the only company with a fixed departure date.
- More information:
Southern Spain & Málaga mountain bike holidays
The most southern part of the Spanish mainland is a perfect winter destination; the South Spanish mountain bike destination packs it all. There are 2 main locations: near Málaga and the Sierra Nevada. The Málaga area is great for winter riding and the Sierra Nevada for spring and autumn. Located around the highest mountain peak of the Iberian Peninsula – the Mulhacén at 3.482 m – the Sierra Nevada provides all kinds of trails, from beginner to expert. Nature varies depending on the altitude you are at, from lush forests to alpine wastelands.
In winter you will be biking more near Málaga and the lower sections of the Sierra Nevada. Obviously, because of its location, the “greenness” of the surroundings is less than of the Girona and Pyrenees area. Nevertheless, this region deserves to be in the list of the top mountain biking holidays in Spain. Where else could you go in the middle of winter and still have a great mountain bike holiday in Europe!
Southern Spain & Málaga mountain bike ingredients:
- The season: winter, early spring and late autumn.
- Scenery: dry environment, backdrops with the Mediterranean.
- Side activities: beach time, exploring Málaga, visiting the Alhambra, Ronda.
- Food: As it’s close to various villages you will find everything you need.
- Group size and outfitter: some medium size operators serve Málaga and the Sierra Nevada.
- More information: read in my blog more about the trails in Southern Spain
Central Spain mountain bike holiday
I’m still in the process of researching this region of Spain from a holiday destination point of view. For trail information I already covered this area in the following blog post: Sierra de Madrid / Sierra de Guadarrama
Let us help you!
I’ve done extensive research to find the best locations and mountain bike holidays in Spain. As part of our journey we setup partnerships with local mountain bike companies in various regions. Obviously, we will recommend you to book with us for Northern Spain mountain bike trips. However, we fully realize that Spain is big, very big, and that you want to explore other parts of Spain as well. For this reason we offer our professional insights of where to book in other parts of Spain, for free!
If you leave your contact details and which region you’re interested in I will come back to you with more information.