A 72 hour cycling holiday in Girona: what you need to know (inc GPS) Back to top
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A (72 hour) cycling holiday in Girona

We’re fortunate to have been on a few cycling holidays in Girona. 

Before now, we’ve always based ourselves in the (fabulous) city of Girona and ridden from there. However, on our most recent Girona cycling trip we did something a bit different; a three-day point to point cycling tour. It started and ended in Girona and took us through the stunning Costa Brava and Girona Pyrenees regions surrounding Girona.

The trip really opened our eyes to what’s possible even on a short Girona cycling holiday – especially when you don’t need to loop back to the city each evening.

In this article we share our itinerary for our three day weekend in Girona’s Costa Brava and Girona Pyrenees regions. You’ll find our routes, where we stayed plus our thoughts and impressions from the trip. We hope it’s helpful!  

Supported by

Girona Costa Brava logo
Cycle Tours Catalonia logo

Note: our trip was originally due to be run by Dave and Saskia at Bike Breaks Girona. However, in July 2021 they sadly had to shut their business as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. They handed us into the excellent care of Eduard and Jordi from Cycle Tours Catalonia. A huge thank you to Cycle Tours Catalonia, Bike Breaks Girona and Patronat de Turisme Girona for making our trip possible.

Banner photo: in the Garrotxa region on day 1.

 

72 hours cycling in (+ around) Girona: an overview

Some facts and figures from our 72 hour trip to Girona, the Costa Brava and Girona Pyrenees:

  • Support, including luggage transfer and BMC Teammachine SLR TWO bike hire courtesy of Cycle Tours Catalonia (info here and more details on their trips below)
  • 270 kilometres and 3,000 metres climbed (approx)
    o Day 1: 79 kilometres, 1,100 metres climbed
    o Day 2: 125 kilometres, 1,000 metres climbed
    o Day 3: 65 kilometres, 850 metres climbed
  • Starting and finishing in Girona
  • Riding through the Garrotxa region (part of the Girona Pyrenees) and Gavarres region (part of the Costa Brava)
  • Two very special hotels: La Rectoria de Sant Miquel de Pineda and Hotel Sant Roc
  • One food tour with Girona Food Tours

Read on for full details!


Day 1

Day 1 of our Girona cycling holiday took us 79 kilometres from Girona to south of Olot, in the Garrotxa region.

10am Arrive in Girona

First stop: Cycle Tours Catalonia.

Carles, a charming Catalan who speaks good English, greeted us at the shop and instantly made us feel at home.

After much faff on our part, and armed with a sparkling new BMC Teammachine SLR TWO and coffee stop tips courtesy of Carles, it was time to go.


Practical notes:

Cycle Tours Catalonia’s shop is helpfully located next door to an underground car park and moments from the train station (35 minutes by train to Barcelona!).

They offer BMC road bike rental, as well as a range of gravel, leisure and e-bikes. They also provide self-guided and guided tours (info here).

Two cyclists at Cycle Tours Catalonia, Girona

Outside Cycle Tours Catalonia

River flowing through the centre of Girona

Looking over to Girona's cathedral and Eiffel Bridge

11am Brunch in Girona

There might still have been 80 kilometres ahead of us, but given Girona’s incredible coffee and food scene, it seemed very important to take the opportunity to fuel for the ride ahead.

We headed into Girona’s old town. Girona was looking impossibly gorgeous, morning sunlight bouncing off the honey coloured buildings and Catalan flags proudly fluttering in the light breeze (more on the independence politics of the region here).

Amongst narrow, cobbled streets lined with chic boutiques and restaurants, we found La Communa, Carles’ recommendation for the new place to go for excellent coffee.

Sage green walls, natural wicker chairs and light shades provided a fresh backdrop for excellent espresso - and the most delicious breakfast burrito I’ve ever eaten (I’m still thinking about it several weeks later!). Other highlights included the unusual looking, but delicious tasting chia pudding with granola and marmalade.


Practical notes:

Girona is a foodie paradise. As well as La Comuna, other notable cyclist-friendly coffee hangouts include La Fabrica (and Expresso Mafia) run by Christian and Amber Meier as well as Hors Categorie (sadly closed at the time we visited but set to re-open shortly). Our guide to Girona’s best cyclist cafés has more info.

La Comuna cafe, Girona

La Comuna

Breakfast burrito at La Comuna

Absolutely delicious breakfast burrito at La Communa

Midday Banyoles

Midday in mid-July is not the ideal time of day to begin a ride in Spain, but when you’re on a short trip you don’t always get the luxury of being able to start early. 

We headed out of town through quiet streets lined with colourful houses. After a short but necessary four kilometre stint on the N-IIa, we were soon out into the countryside: well-kept fields with neat hay bales and tall crops of maize, copses of shady trees and the odd hamlet and village.

We dropped down to Banyoles and were welcomed by the sight of the beautifully clear lake lined by ancient plane trees. Small houses dot the water’s edge, rowing boats bob and a hubbub of chatter gives the area surrounding the lake a wonderfully relaxed feel.

You’re spoiled for choice in terms of water-side cafes around Banyoles lake. On Carles’ recommendation, we headed to Cafe SET, by the tennis club for an espresso pick-me-up. The waitress not only happily filled our water bottles but added huge lumps of ice; a welcome addition on a hot day.

Cafe on Lake Banyoles, perfect for cyclists

Cafe on Lake Banyoles

Cyclist cycling around the edge of Lake Banyoles, Girona

Path around Lake Banyoles

3pm Santa Pau

The roads after Lake Banyoles were dreamy. Narrow, winding affairs, taking you into the heart of the Garrotxa region.

The Garrotxa region is a rare beauty: over 40 extinct volcanoes shrouded in lush green oak and beech forests. Classic triangular shaped volcanic cone follows volcanic cone. To add to the drama, the route is liberally dotted with stone farmhouses and Romanesque churches sporting grand steeples and huge arched windows.

It’s definitely worth the short steep deviation from the main road, to take you up into Santa Pau. Santa Pau is an exquisite medieval village presided over by El Castell de la Baronia, the imposing square castle that’s at least 13th century (probably older).

The Plaça Major (main square) was the perfect place for café stop two of the day. Here the cool shadows under the medieval arcades provide space to enjoy freshly squeezed orange juice - or maybe even a cold beer. There was a great atmosphere in the square when we arrived with nearly every table occupied by couples and families enjoying a late lunch and drinks.


Practical notes:

La Garrotxa county is part of the Girona Pyrenees. If you head further north from La Garrotxa, towards the border with France, you can find peaks nearing 3,000m high. Having such serious mountains so close to the coast is a big tick in our book.

Santa Pau is famous for its medieval village centre. The castle dominates the village and was built between the 13th and 18th Centuries. The market square sits at the heart of the village and is an irregular triangular shape. Around it you’ll find stone houses lining irregular streets. In 1971 the village was declared to be of historical and artistic interest.

View to Santa Pau

View over to Santa Pau from the route

Shaded arcades at Santa Pau

Shaded medieval arcades at Santa Pau

5pm La Rectoria

It was more exquisite riding and dramatic volcanic scenery as we passed through the Vall d’en Bas.

After leaving Sant Esteve d’en Bas a large white sign with a cyclist, walkers and “itnerari recomanat” took us off the main road onto a via verde. It’s the old road that winds up a pass, while the main road continues through a tunnel below. Not only are there no cars but we found excellent asphalt.

At the bottom of the steep descent to the other side of the pass, we ducked onto the gravel via verde, through a railway gorge and out at La Rectoria B&B.


Practical notes:

Top marks to Bike Breaks Girona/Cycle Tours Catalonia for their choice of hotel. La Rectoria de Sant Miquel de Pineda was wonderful. 

  • La Rectoria is a whitewashed house that sits on the Olot -Girona Via Verde. Formerly a priest’s house, it dates from the 12th Century and a few paces away from the main house is a beautiful Romanic church.
  • La Rectoria was transformed from a wreck into a very special place to stay by Roy and Goretti. Roy is a Scottish chef and Goretti is a Catalan who's also a whiskey expert.
  • The rooms are simple but tastefully furnished with warm terracotta tiles, chunky exposed ceiling rafters and fresh white linen. A sense of calm pervades.
  • With a cycling enthusiast son and plenty of cycling guests, Roy and Goretti understand cyclist needs. A plate of local cheeses and breads on the terrace followed by a dip in the pool was perfect after a hot ride.
  • The wonderful aromas coming from the kitchen had our stomachs rumbling from the moment we arrived. We were not disappointed; the cherry clafoutis was particularly memorable.
  • Bike storage was available by way of a locked shed.

For those with gravel loving tendencies, you might want to check out the PireneXus route through this region. We’ve heard it’s stunning!

Road heading to Garroxta region perfect for cycling holidays

Heading into the Garrotxa region

La rectoria, Garroxta region, Spain

La Rectoria in the early morning

Day 2

Day 2 of our Girona cycling holiday was our longest ride of the trip; 125 kilometres from the Garrotxa region of the Girona Pyrenees to the Costa Brava coast.


8:30am Breakfast at La Rectoria

Breakfast from 8:30am seems to be standard in this part of Spain; since dinner also doesn’t start until 8:30pm, it makes sense to shift everything back.

We embraced the leisurely start and enjoyed Roy’s expertly cooked egg menu, good coffee and a nicely presented plate of local cheese and hams.

Bedroom at La Rectoria cycling hotel Girona

Bedroom at La Rectoria

Local cheeses on the terrace at La Rectoria

Plate of local cheeses on the terrace

11am Amer

It was pretty much downhill for the full 15 kilometres to Amer, taking in a combination of tiny local lanes and wide main roads with generous hard shoulders and excellent sweeping descents. To either side we admired the Garrotxa region’s extinct volcanoes and lava flows marking the exit to this impressive region.

Arriving in Amer, we found cafés in the large market square. Too early for us after Roy’s excellent breakfast, but a pleasant place to recaffeinate if you’re feeling the need!

Carles at Cycle Tours Catalonia had mentioned to us that Amer is the most Catalan of Catalan villages. The flags were flying from nearly every terrace in the beautiful market square and the large political murals seemed to pay fair testament to his comment.

Cyclist admiring Garroxta region of Costa Brava

Volcanic peaks of the Garrotxa region

Cyclist on a Girona cycling holiday in Amer, Garroxta region

Impressive square in Amer

1:30pm Llagostera

We headed out of Amer and continued our descent out of the Garrotxa region.

Crossing the River Ter we saw signs to the Susqueda dam viewpoint, recalling our last visit to the region a few years ago and an excellent ride up to the dam itself (more info here).

We hit the first real climb about 26 kilometres into the ride, just after the unprepossessing town of Anglès. This part of the ride gave us an insight into the commercial side of Catalonia - huge warehouses and business premises, enormous fields of maize being watered on an industrial scale. It might not be particularly charming to cycle past, but this commerce is a big part of what makes Catalonia one of Spain’s most wealthy regions.

Having skirted Girona airport we then found ourselves on a gorgeous road through fields of wheat, passing medieval villages such as Caldes de Malavella.

You see Llagostera approaching for a good few kilometres before you reach it. It’s a dramatic kind of a place, perched on a hillock and covered in buildings in all shades of pink. Decide whether you’re happy to view from afar or whether you want to take on the punchy climb to the castle and church at the top of the town. We did and the views were magnificent.


Practical notes:

We dropped down from Llagostera’s old town into the new town just in time to grab a quick lunch from the local Spar. Not exactly glamorous but we felt lucky to get there in time; 5 minutes after we left the shop, it shut! There didn’t seem many other options available on a Sunday afternoon either so make sure you check Sunday opening times before leaving home.

Carles from Cycle Tours Catalonia had recommended El Carril Bar in Llagostera, but unfortunately by the time we arrived it was closed. One to check out if you're a bit faster than we were!

Church at Llagostera with car in front

Square at Llagostera complete with novelty car

Cyclist on a Girona cycling holiday

Day 2 was full of stunning riding

5pm Hotel Sant Roc, Calella de Palafrugall

Leaving Llagostera behind, the GIV-6612 took us on a twisting climb through fragrant woodland with the odd view over the plains below. Gradients were gradual to start with but 7-8% in the last couple of kilometres. There was then a gorgeous, swooping descent down to the little town of Calonge.

From Calonge, it was straight into the next climb, another magical wooded number with gradual gradients and a great descent down the other side. During the 16 kilometres between Calonge and Bisbal there are hardly any buildings, let alone villages, it was just tranquil forest and a beautiful snaking ribbon of asphalt.

After all that rural serenity, it was something of a surprise to pop out into the commercial heartlands of La Bisbal d’Empordà (known just as Bisbal). From here, you could practically smell the sea and it was an easy last twenty or so kilometres, on a route designed to take you off the busy main road to the coast as far as possible.

Hotel Sant Roc was our end point for the ride; it’s a very special place with a spectacular position on the cliff above the magical village of Callela de Palafrugall. 


Practical notes:

It’s a good idea to call in to Calonge to fill the water bottles, as after Calonge you’re straight into the next climb and you won’t be able to refill until you get to Bisbal, 16 kilometres down the road. There’s a conveniently placed garage along the route if you don’t want to divert into the main town itself.

Bisbal is one of the leading pottery centres in Catalonia. You’ll find old industrial chimneys and shops selling the different pottery products. Our route didn’t take us through the shopping area, so you’ll need to divert from it if you want to browse the pottery shops. 

Hotel Sant Roc was another inspired choice from the team at Bike Breaks/Cycle Tours Catalonia:

  • Run by Bàrbara and her brother Nicolàs, they are the third generation to run Hotel Sant Roc, which was built by their grandfather in the 1950s as a family home.
  • The hotel sits on the cliff above Calella de Palafrugell. It’s just 300m down into the centre of the village - but there’s also direct access to the sea via a 112 step staircase!
  • The shaded terrace and restaurant at the back of the hotel overlook the sea, colourful boats and whitewashed houses of the village. The view is to die for.
  • Each of the 45 rooms is air-conditioned. We’d suggest requesting a sea view room so you can really appreciate the special location this hotel occupies.
  • Make sure you book a table for dinner and leave enough time for a leisurely breakfast too; both were on the terrace and we loved the food.
  • There’s locked bike storage available and we were told there are also basic bike tools and bike wash facilities.
Cyclist admiring the view in Les Gavarres region of Costa Brava

View from Llagostera

Hotel San Roc with cyclist in front

Front of Hotel Sant Roc

  • Day 3

Day 3 of our Girona cycling holiday was a relatively short 65 kilometre return from the Costa Brava coast to Girona, through the Gavarres region.

8:30am Breakfast at Hotel Sant Roc

The view at breakfast somehow seemed even more spectacular than the same view at dinner the night before. Something about the fresh early morning light and the lack of other people around perhaps. 

We enjoyed a delicious breakfast buffet with fresh fruit salad, yoghurts, cold meats and cheese. The homemade granola was noteworthy too! A delicious start to the day.

Breakfast with a view over Calella Palafrugall, Spain

Shaded terrace at Hotel Sant Roc

On a cycling holiday in Girona Costa Brava cycling down road with hay bales

Rolling back to Girona through quiet countryside

11am A succession of medieval villages

Once clear of the coast, we wound our way back to Girona via rolling hills, fields of maize and harvested corn - plus a steady stream of gloriously old and sun-drenched medieval villages… Sant Feliu de Boada, Palau-sator, Ullastret, Corçà, Púbol, we were lured in by them all!

If you’ve got the time and inclination, try ducking off the main route, down a narrow, twisty street to the heart of a medieval village. It feels like taking a trip back in time. 

Follow your nose (and head for the church tower) and you’ll generally come to an attractive square with a welcoming looking restaurant or café.


Practical notes

The GPS file doesn’t take you into the villages mentioned above as we realise not everyone wants to stop at every village! Pick and choose depending on how you’re feeling; just follow your nose through the narrow streets to the centre which is generally where you’ll find a cafe, if there is one!

Not all the village cafés and restaurants will be open if you’re coming through before lunchtime (and depending on the day of the week etc). Check before you leave.

We didn’t spot any shops in the villages we stopped at, so plan accordingly.

If you’re a Dali fan, it might be worth a longer stop at Dali’s castle in Púbol.

Cyclist in a Spanish medieval town

Twisting lanes that three pedestrians side by side would struggle to walk down

Medieval square in Catalonia

Exploring these villages feels like you're going back hundreds of years

Midday Santuari Dels Angels

After a short climb up to the village of Madremanya, past vibrant fields of sunflowers, we took a left turning signed for “Els Àngels”. It was time to tackle the big climb of the day. 

In the summer heat it felt pretty brutal, but in fact the stats for this ascent to the famous Santuari are nothing too savage at  5 kilometres at an average gradient of 6.5%.

The climb took us up through fragrant pine trees; turn follows turn and we came across many more cyclists on the road than cars. As you climb, you start to get views across the plains. But depending on how you’re going, you might not be in the mood for admiring them! 

It’s worth the extra 500 metres diversion to the terrace of the Santuari dels Àngels; the 360 degree views are sublime and there’s a useful serving hatch where we enjoyed a nice cold drink.


Practical notes

If you want to avoid the long flight of steps to the Santuari terrace, look out for the gravel path to the right hand side of the church. Follow this round and it will take you up to the large terrace at the top.

The serving hatch beside the church provides welcome drinks, ice-creams and basic food. As usual, check opening times if you’re relying on it.

For more info on the famous Els Àngels route from Girona, read this.

Wooded cycling climb of Els Angels

On Els Àngels

Santuari dels Angels near Girona, a perfect stop for cyclists on a Girona cycling holiday

Sanctuari dels Àngels (and the serving hatch to the right of the photo)

1pm Girona

It was a fantastic descent from the Santuari back into Girona; 11 kilometres of twisting, flowing bliss. 

From here it was a final, flat spin the last three kilometres back into Girona. We wound back into town and over the Pont de Pedra bridge with its picture-postcard view of the iconic red Eiffel bridge, river Onyar and cathedral. 

Head to one of the town’s cycling-friendly cafés (more on those here), find a spot in the sun (or shade!) and enjoy a cold beer to celebrate a fantastic weekend of cycling around Girona and the Costa Brava/Girona Pyrenees.

Cycling into Girona at the end of a three day cycling holiday in Girona Costa Brava

Cycling back into Girona at the end of the tour

View of Girona's colourful buildings

Girona's colourful buildings

4pm Girona Food Tour

Having returned our bike to Cycle Tours Catalonia and grabbed a shower, Bike Breaks/Cycle Tours had one final surprise in store for us: a foodie tour of Girona with Girona Food Tours

Alexia, our guide, expertly guided us through Girona’s medieval old town, sharing stories about its history and legends, interspersed with plenty of food and drink stops. We sampled xuixos (Catalan cylindrical pastries deep fried, sprinkled with sugar and filled with cream!) at artisan bakery Casamoner, chocolate tasting at Chocolateria Ecuador followed by some incredible iberico ham and local cheeses. The tour finished at famous ice-cream makers, Rocambolesc. The ice-cream panini was one we won’t be forgetting in a hurry!

Given the calorie onslaught, it was a good job we’d done a fair bit of cycling in the previous few days! It was an unusual but fun way to finish our trip and a reminder of how much a cycling holiday in Girona has to offer.

Jamon shop in Girona

Iberico ham and local cheese washed down with a glass of Cava!

The unusual iceream pannini from Rocambolesc

Ice-cream panini from Rocambolesc!

Our Girona cycling holiday fact file


Travel

We drove to Girona from France, but Girona also has excellent access via its airport and train links from Barcelona (35 minutes).


Trip organisation

Eduard from Cycle Tours Catalonia

Eduard from Cycle Tours Catalonia

The team at Cycle Tours Catalonia in Girona

The team at Cycle Tours Catalonia

Our trip was organised by Saskia at Bike Breaks Girona and, following Bike Breaks’ closure, Eduard at Cycle Tours Catalonia.

Cycle Tours Catalonia also supplied the luggage transfer and coffee stop tips!

Cycle Tours are Girona's longest established tour company. It's run by Eduard and his team of passionate cyclists who have lived in Girona and Catalonia all their lives. They offer guided and self-guided tours which are all designed by them. Their passion is to select the roads that show you the hidden spots.

They have a high commitment to customer service. For example they offer bike rental delivery within the Girona area free of charge. If you're on one of their tours (guided or self-guided) you know that if you have a mechanical they will promptly come out to help you. If your bike can't be fixed quickly, they will provide you with a replacement.

Cycle Tours are located just outside the old town, close to the train station. It's a nice shop that might be less glossy than those of their non-local competitors, but you can be sure of an authentic, warm welcome and finding local professionals with enviable experience of providing high quality cycling tours in Girona and the Costa Brava.


Bike hire

Cycle Tours Catalonia supplied us with a BMC Teammachine SLR TWO.

Description: Full carbon frame with Aercore Design / Stealth cable routing / Disc brakes.

Shimano ULTEGRA 2X11 52/36T 11/30T.

Frames available: 47 / 51 / 54 / 56 / 58 / 61.


Accommodation

We spent our first night at La Rectoria in the Garrotxa region, a beautifully restored priest’s house run by Goretti and Roy. More details here.

Our second night was at Hotel Sant Roc, whose cliff-top location above magical Calella de Palafrugall is something very special. More details here.


Routes

You can find GPS files for our day 1, day 2 and day 3 routes here.

Bike rented from Cycle Tours Girona

BMC Teammachine SLR TWO

Bike rental from Cycle Tours Girona

Aboard the Teammachine SLR TWO, a fast racy ride

Want more information on Girona cycling holidays?

If you're looking for a guided or self-guided tour, Eduard at Cycle Tours Catalonia will be able to help.

For more information about cycling in and around Girona and its surrounds, check out our articles.

Our main Girona guide is a great starting point - from there you will find links to our route guides, tips for cycling around Girona, articles on what to do in Girona and the best coffee shops.


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  • Desmond says:

    Great trip Claire and it has whetted my appetite for a return visit. The routes look very interesting and should extend our usual routes which we have until now based on ex-pro Dan Craven’s excellent guide

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