Journal

Spain, a welcome dose of midwinter sunshine

If, like us, you have a real need to prolong your short-sleeve riding season or to get some welcome vitamin D during winter, then you’ll be pleased to know that the GravelUp team invites you on a special trip to the winter sunshine. We’ll be heading to southern Spain and the Sierra Morena Natural Park, just to the north of Andalusia. Far from the resorts of the coastline and the crowds you’ll find yourself in the heart of a unique and protected landscape, riding top notch gravel.

So if the mercury is struggling to rise much above zero at home and jumpers and down jackets are the order of the day, head south to earn the new GravelUp sunshine badge. Close your eyes and place yourself in Andalusia… you’ll find yourself by some water, in the warmth listening to the sounds of flamenco, and eating tapas - where you can let your imagination run wild! Add to this a gravel bike, and trails leading you deep into nature, with views of the typical “Pueblos Blancos”, or white villages. Et voila… that’s the Sierra Morena!

This mountain range is just north of Seville, down at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula. Wild and isolated, it’s one of the most beautiful parts of Andalusia. Come winter, the contrasting and authentic landscapes, and rich flora and fauna make it an idyllic destination.

Our GravelUp adventure begins at the Dehesa Don Pedro in the far west of Andalusia where it borders Extremadura. The wide 4x4 tracks used by farm traffic (and us intrepid cyclists!) are perfect for exploring the beauty of the region, accentuated by its architectural heritage and local people. We take the time to admire the hamlets of whitewashed houses, medieval castles, monasteries and churches dotted across the hillsides. Not forgetting riding through the many olive groves and cork tree plantations, only accessible by gravel bike of course!

We catch glimpses of the highest point of the region, Le Cerro de la Capitana at nearly 1,000m, as we ride alongside the pristine Pintado reservoir on the smooth wide trails that are a hallmark of the area. Formed from millions of years of erosion, limestone cliffs tower over us and nature and history collide, really setting the scene for our adventure.

Our gourmet feed-stops take in the best of the local produce, with local cheeses, cured hams, delicious game and local mushrooms, washed down with cherry and aniseed liquors.

This is where the GravelUp experience comes into its own, with memories made and shared on the smooth trails of the Sierra Morena. The wild and pristine landscape has prehistoric undertones, transporting you far from the complications of the modern world. The trails are a perfect introduction to gravel riding posing no real technical difficulties, ideal for a bike adventure.

The soft climate of the Med makes for a perfect winter playground far from the cold, giving us a a great window from November to March to make the most of those rays. We have two trips of 3 or 5 days riding so that you can make the most of the sunshine. Our advice: stay an extra couple days in Seville to explore its history and culture, a real treat out of normal holiday season!

Or for something totally different (and far from the palaces and gardens of the city) visit Júzcar, originally a typical Pueblo Blanco but turned bright blue for the Smurfs film in 2011!

Adventurer 3 days / 3 nights HERE

Explorer 5 days / 5 nights HERE

So how did we stumble upon this hidden wilderness in the Sierra Norte Park you may wonder? Well, one of the founders of GravelUp found themselves on a November work trip in search of some sunshine and far from the fog of Paris. As part of the team building exercise they visited some of the traditional Fincas where the fighting bulls are bred. These farms are connected by the dream gravel trails that you’ll ride, and the rest is history!

When the time came for the team to do a recce trip, they duly set off following their GPS and their instincts along the border of Andalusia and Extramadura. They found themselves in front of an old farm run by Jean-Pierre, sporting a leather vest and a cigarillo in his mouth. A Franco-Chilean rugby fan, they soon bonded over a few cervezas, shared passions for sport and previous careers in the hotel industry… a match made in heaven! Within minutes we were planning a GravelUp trip from his farm - Dehesa Don Pedro - that he had been commissioned to renovate, to Constantina.

Journal

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