Done the Alps? Done the Hautes-Pyrenees? Even if you haven’t, the Pyrenees-Orientales has so much to offer cyclists of all levels. This relatively undiscovered region is already popular with mountain bikers, but the only roadies you see are local cycling clubs who are savouring the smooth tarmac, steep climbs and rewarding descents on their doorstep – not to mention the stunning mountain views and excellent weather.
We have been riding in this valley for over 10 years and have routes for everyone, from sightseeing tours in the valley to 150km days into Spain with over 2000m of climbing. Routes are tailored to each guest based on what you’re looking for from a cycling holiday, but rest assured there’s something for everyone and you will never be dragged up a mountain if that’s not your idea of fun.
Here’s some of our suggestions, split into three levels of fitness and ability:
23 km one way / Elevation +62m -329m
Start the day downhill through our local village, following the sweeping valley road. Pass in front of the 11th century abbey and join the Voie Verte, a wide cycle path that follows the path of the old railway that carried iron ore from the mines. You won’t see a single car as you cruise along smooth concrete path, passing over viaducts and through a railway tunnel as you enter Céret. Enjoy a coffee under the plane trees at bar Le Pablo, named after Ceret’s most famous resident, Mr Picasso. You will cross the river Tech over the Devil’s Bridge, a huge single stone arch bridge built in the 14th century. Now down from the mountain and on the mediterranean plain, the path flows through cherry and apricot orchards, passing the gardens of Chateau d’Aubiry. You will see all kinds of cyclists on this route, from kids learning to ride to local pensioners on their electric bikes (very popular here). Have lunch at the restaurant next to the lake at St Jean where you can swim, wakeboard or fish with an uninterrupted view of Mount Canigou and the Pyrenees. You can return by bike or we can pick you up from the lake.
26 km loop / Elevation +747m -747m
This ride starts with a 7km climb at 6.5% pretty much from our front door, a flowing road with cambered hairpins and great views. This climb is in the trees so can be done even in the summer sun. Half way up the climb you will have a view of the full valley down to the Mediterranean. The climb continues past the farms who supply us with honey and cheese. The gradient stays stable throughout the whole climb, so you can just stay in the saddle and enjoy the views! At the highest point of the ride you pass through the pretty village of Montferrer with its Roman church, and village spring if you need to take on more water. Once over the col, you have a flowing 18km descent through oak and chestnut forests to look forward to. Rejoin the valley bottom road at Le Tech by the hydro electric station which powered the old tramway for a couple of flat kilometres in the drops back to home. This is one of our guest Strava sections, if you take the pyrenees.cc KOM you win a bottle of champagne and a place on the leaderboard!
75 km loop / Elevation +1933 -1933m
One of our big rides that crosses the French/Spanish border twice. Because the border follows the ridge you notice straight away that you’ve crossed into Spain. A different aspect means the trees, mountains and even the temperature is different on the Spanish side. If the weather’s not perfect on our side of the hills, you only need to ride the lovely 14km (average 4%) Col de Coustouges to enjoy a day in a different country. This col is one of the region’s dedicated cycling cols so features signage and mileposts with your average grades and distance. A downhill stretch over a viaduct marks the border crossing from France to Spain, after which you can enjoy 10km of wide, sweeping descent down into the next valley with hardly a car in sight. The next climb starts at Le Vajol, which for a small village was temporarily the capital of Spain during the Spanish Civil War. We climb back towards the French border via the Col de Manrella which features a short gravel section at the top, just like the 2018 Tour de France stage on the Plateau des Glieres. Lunch can be had as a picnic on the col at 750m, or at a café in Céret after our 12km (average 7%) fast descent down through the trees from the Pic de Fontfrede. If you’re lucky you can watch a paraglider take off from the peak and race them into town! Having done 75% of the work in the morning, the afternoon is a more relaxed cruise back up the valley, by road or by the cycle way where you pass over viaducts, through tunnels and through the spa town of Amelie-les-Bains before shower, swim and steak to cap off an action packed day.