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Route Planning for Lisbon to Italy Across Mediterranean Coast

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Route Planning for Lisbon to Italy Across Mediterranean Coast

Old 04-04-12, 01:31 PM
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ecrespo
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Route Planning for Lisbon to Italy Across Mediterranean Coast

Cyclers!

I am planning a cycling tour from Lisbon to Northern Italy. My goals:
- Make it self-led [i.e. not joining tours]
- Start on May 1st
- Depart from Lisbon and border the Mediterranean
- Make it an affordable, enjoyable, manageable trip

I am hoping people who have done this can search tips on a) route planning [what to avoid, where to stop], b) tips on accommodation [can it be done in tent?], c) purchasing equipment [what to buy and where], d) estimations on time this would take.

Any and all tips to make this possible would be immense help.

Thank you!
Eduardo
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Old 04-04-12, 02:52 PM
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indyfabz
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I rode part of the Spanish coast back in April of '00. Between Almeria and Torre del Mar, which is a a little east of Malaga. It pretty much sucked. The traffic on the coast road was heavy in many places, even where parallel sections of the new highway were open. It's my understanding that traffic is even heavier in and west of Malaga. The towns were, for the most part, uninteresting. Not many views of the sea from the road. Camping was sketchy as some places were not open for the season, although I did find a couple of places open. Some of the area immediately east of Almeria (between Adra and Roquetas del Mar) is a wasteland of plastic tarp farms. I also rode a short stretch between Villaricos and Mojacar. Lots of development and not much to look at.

While I don't have my detailed map of Andalucia handy (Michelin makes an terrific map of Andalucia), the Spain/Portugal map I do have suggests that between Huelva and Jerez de la Frontera, you need to head inland towards Sevilla and then head south because of a national park that hugs the coast. The map I have shows no road through there.

I was so happy to get off the coast head back into the hills of the Andalucian interior. If you can put up with the hills, it's a stellar place to ride. Lots of history, beautiful and varied scenery, cute little towns and cool cities. (Cordoba has a campground within walking distance of the city center.) If you have the legs, consider getting away from the coast at least around Jerez and riding through Arcos de la Frontera, El Bosque, Grazalema, Ronda, Antequera, Ventas de Zafarraya and the Alpujarras, which are essentially the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. You could then drop back down to the coast at Almeria, although staying above Almeria and riding through Tabernas and Sorbas is a worthwhile off-coast detour. You would go through the Tabernas Desert, where portions of several of the "Spaghetti Westerns," including "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly" and "A Fist Full of Dollars" were shot. Almeria though that area and back to the coast is a one day ride, and you will likely have a killer tailwind.
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Old 04-04-12, 03:52 PM
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Eurovelo route 8 covers most of your intended route.
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Old 04-05-12, 07:02 PM
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Eurovelo route 8 covers most of your intended route.
Right now I think Eurovelo Route 8 is mostly a concept.


This was essentially our route starting in Lisbon and heading for the coast. I think part of the route is on the proposed EV Route 8. We did very little planning, as you can tell. Usually a couple of days at a time. We generally knew what cities we wanted to see, and would plan on a way to get there. It is pretty easy route planning: Lisbon, Evora, Serpa, Seville, Cordoba, Valencia, Barcelona, and keep heading north along the coast. Using Michelin maps as a guide, just stay on the white and red roads.

I apologize for the poor picture quality, but it is a copy of a Power Point slide from one of our presentations. I can't seem to find the original. However, it will give you a general idea of a possible route. There are numerous campgrounds on the Mediterranean Coast, and it might be easier to head more southerly from Lisbon and get to the Spanish coast a little sooner. It is a long way between places from Cordoba to Valencia. You are starting at the right time of year. We hit temps of 43C in southern Spain.

A GPS unit with Garmin City Navigator maps is a great time saver, especially for getting through the larger cities. It is also good for finding campgrounds. It covers all of the roads, not just the cities.


Last edited by Doug64; 04-06-12 at 06:01 PM.
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Old 04-09-12, 02:49 AM
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Indyfabz,

Thanks for taking the time to share your insights. Sounds like looking into Andalucia interiors would be wise. Will look into this detour and see the terrain to see if legs can hold this time around. Sounds spectacular.

I am assuming you are not from Spain? If so, did you purchase/rent cycling stuff locally or shipped it? I am looking at options and hoping to source a good enough deal.

Thanks very much!
Eduardo
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Old 04-09-12, 02:55 AM
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Hi Doug64!

Thanks so much for sharing your experience and the picture of your route The route suggested and tips will work very well. I am thinking of bringing an iPhone with GPS capabilities which will help source info on the go. Can I ask:

- Roughly how long it took to cover Lisbon to North Italy?

- Did you source your cycling equipment locally in Lisbon? Any suggestions on where to buy things or what to avoid?

Thank you again!
Eduardo
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Old 04-09-12, 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by ecrespo View Post
Indyfabz,

Thanks for taking the time to share your insights. Sounds like looking into Andalucia interiors would be wise. Will look into this detour and see the terrain to see if legs can hold this time around. Sounds spectacular.

I am assuming you are not from Spain? If so, did you purchase/rent cycling stuff locally or shipped it? I am looking at options and hoping to source a good enough deal.

Thanks very much!
Eduardo
No problem. Back when I did my 7 week loop around Andalucia, flying with a bike was a lot simpler and cheaper. I flew BA to London then Iberia to Sevilla. Inside the box with my bike was my small tent and helmet. I also checked a duffel bag with two packed pannier and my sleeping bag. I carried on two panniers. Total baggage charge: $0. I left the box and duffel at the campground on the outskirts of Sevilla and it was there waiting for me when I got done.

Definitely get the Michelin maps and take the smaller roads. Even some of the red roads can be empty. Yellow ones can be, too. The Rough Guide travel book series is excellent. Very opinionated and frank. If they think a place sucks, they will tell you. Lots of historical information, too. They have them for all over Europe.

While E-W just above the Spanish coast is mountainous in many places, it's very pretty and often secluded. (The portion fo the coast I rode was not all flat. There was a day with some pretty good hills and a few unnerving tunnels.) The Sevilla-Cordoba-Andujar corridor is less hilly.

I helped a couple of people plan route through the region. One couple sent me this great photo. Note the lazy dog.



Here is another nice one taken in the Alpujarras:

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Old 04-09-12, 02:31 PM
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Biking along the French Mediterranean coast is awful, especially in the summer. Way too much traffic to allow for pleasant cycling. The interior of Provence would be much more pleasant, but it will be hot and hilly. The Luberon region is lovely and has a signposted bike route (quiet roads, but not a bike path) which is very nice. You should check to see if there is a bike path along the Italian Riviera now. There wasn't one when I was there many years ago, and cycling from Genova to France along the Mediterranean was absolutely terrible. I recall from an earlier thread someone saying there's a bike path now. If there isn't, I would urge you to cross the southern French Alps into Italy.

I haven't biked in central Spain, but I have biked in Portugal north of Lisbon as well as in northern Spain and liked both. In Portugal, I especially liked the Douro valley and the Minho/Mino river along the Portugal/Spain border (the Portuguese side has a bike path part of the way). Going eastward up the river in Spain was extremely nice, too.

There is some fantastic cycling in southwestern France, especially along the Dordogne and Lot river valleys.
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Old 04-09-12, 04:59 PM
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ecrespo,

I think indyfabz's recommendations have a lot of merit, considering that with your starting time you will have cooler weather than we did. However, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the coast either. We were running into temperatures of 110F, and our plans changed. Our new goal was to get to the Mediterranean coast as quickly as possible. We may have stayed more inland if it was not so hot. We were originally planning on going from Seville to Granada, bot instead chose plan "B" and headed for Cordoba. We then went to Valencia where the temperatures were in the "cool" mid-eighties. Evora, Seville, and Cordoba are really interesting to visit.

Riding time from Lisbon to Valencia is about 13 days at 45-50 miles a day. You may be able to do better with more moderate temperatures. We also averaged over 100 photographs per day, which really cuts into riding time! It took us another 8 days riding time to get from Valencia to Barcelona. Then about 7 days to get from Barcelona to Nimes, France. That would be a little north of where you would have continued along the coast toward Italy.

I enjoyed riding along the coast. While traffic was heavy at times, most drivers gave us plenty of room. Some even gave us encouraging toots on their horns when we were struggling up some of the hills. Yes, there are a lot of hills. I think a person's perception of riding conditions is based on what they are used to experiencing. We have ridden some pretty sketchy roads in the US and Canada. The Pacific Coast Route being one example. The Med coast was no worse than Highway 1 or 101 on the west coast of the US. In some respects it is even better. There are good shoulders on most roads, and there are quite a few quiet local roads and some bike paths. This is where the GPS comes in handy. Did I mention that it was also a lot cooler? We did not see another touring cyclist until we reached the Med coast.

Part of the problem in Spain is the toll structure for trucks. The trucks tend to use the "red roads" (secondary road) and stay off the more expensive toll-roads. That puts a lot of truck traffic on smaller roads.

We brought our bikes with us on the flight from Portland, Oregon to Amsterdam, and then on a connector flight to Lisbon. For all the flights, including the connector flight from Amsterdam to Lisbon was $75/ bike. Total round trip shipping of the 2 bikes was $254. We flew Iclandic Air. This also allowed us to spend 3 days in Iceland with no penalty.

Regardless of the route you choose, it should be a great trip.

Good luck on your venture.

This was probably the most congested place we encountered on the coast . It was a "scenic highway" and there was no room for alternate routes. No trucks either!


However, it was well posted, had good shoulders, and the drivers gave us a wide berth.

Last edited by Doug64; 04-09-12 at 10:30 PM.
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Old 04-11-12, 06:50 AM
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The coastal roads along the french med coast have lots of traffic. As soon as you cycle the smaller roads further inland, traffic is rather low, but the country is very mountainous. The same applies to the western parts of Italy. So it's more of a choice between less traffic or less mountains

Camping is fine. When on tour I often camp in the wilds. It keeps the budget low ;o)
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Old 04-16-12, 04:04 AM
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Merci!!

Dear Doug64

What an amazing, amazing, amazing response. Thanks for the insights on road condition, travel tips, and the overall layout of the Coast experience. You have given me such a clear picture on what to expect and thus on how to prepare.

Really I cannot thank you enough for all this insight and information. You are saving me time on all fronts and further convinced me this is the right route.

I am planning on going ahead and do the trip by the Coast. I will start in Lisbon and head towards Genoa-Italy along the Mediterranean. Will incorporate some of the interior of Andalucia. Will post all of those interested as soon as I finish my milestones setting on a per day and per week basis.

I am purchasing my flight tickets and equipment this week so perhaps it will make sense bringing my bike from London versus buying it locally, as per your suggestion it seems as though it is not overly complicated.

Anyhow, will come back with an update on planning as there may be others who could benefit from this.

Thank you again!
Eduardo

Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
ecrespo,

I think indyfabz's recommendations have a lot of merit, considering that with your starting time you will have cooler weather than we did. However, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the coast either. We were running into temperatures of 110F, and our plans changed. Our new goal was to get to the Mediterranean coast as quickly as possible. We may have stayed more inland if it was not so hot. We were originally planning on going from Seville to Granada, bot instead chose plan "B" and headed for Cordoba. We then went to Valencia where the temperatures were in the "cool" mid-eighties. Evora, Seville, and Cordoba are really interesting to visit.

Riding time from Lisbon to Valencia is about 13 days at 45-50 miles a day. You may be able to do better with more moderate temperatures. We also averaged over 100 photographs per day, which really cuts into riding time! It took us another 8 days riding time to get from Valencia to Barcelona. Then about 7 days to get from Barcelona to Nimes, France. That would be a little north of where you would have continued along the coast toward Italy.

I enjoyed riding along the coast. While traffic was heavy at times, most drivers gave us plenty of room. Some even gave us encouraging toots on their horns when we were struggling up some of the hills. Yes, there are a lot of hills. I think a person's perception of riding conditions is based on what they are used to experiencing. We have ridden some pretty sketchy roads in the US and Canada. The Pacific Coast Route being one example. The Med coast was no worse than Highway 1 or 101 on the west coast of the US. In some respects it is even better. There are good shoulders on most roads, and there are quite a few quiet local roads and some bike paths. This is where the GPS comes in handy. Did I mention that it was also a lot cooler? We did not see another touring cyclist until we reached the Med coast.

Part of the problem in Spain is the toll structure for trucks. The trucks tend to use the "red roads" (secondary road) and stay off the more expensive toll-roads. That puts a lot of truck traffic on smaller roads.

We brought our bikes with us on the flight from Portland, Oregon to Amsterdam, and then on a connector flight to Lisbon. For all the flights, including the connector flight from Amsterdam to Lisbon was $75/ bike. Total round trip shipping of the 2 bikes was $254. We flew Iclandic Air. This also allowed us to spend 3 days in Iceland with no penalty.

Regardless of the route you choose, it should be a great trip.

Good luck on your venture.

This was probably the most congested place we encountered on the coast . It was a "scenic highway" and there was no room for alternate routes. No trucks either!


However, it was well posted, had good shoulders, and the drivers gave us a wide berth.
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