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Cycling from Santander to Marseille via the pyrenees

hugh1982hugh1982 Posts: 40
edited June 2010 in Tour & expedition
A group of us have decided to get the ferry down to Santander and then cycle across the pyrenees, hugging the med until we get to Marseille. We've got 14 days set aside for the cycle leg of the trip.

Having never cycled in Spain or Southern France before, does anyone have any tips re route, prevailing winds, good points to cross the pyrenees etc.

I'm stepping into the unknown on this one so any advice gratefully received :D


  • cycladeliccycladelic Posts: 641
    Hugh, take a look at this - it might give you some ideas: ... 6355&v=1Q4

    The first page has some info on maps you might want to get.
    It's an uphill climb to the bottom
  • megillelandmegilleland Posts: 786
    What sort of touring are you doing - credit card (light) using hostals/hotels or camping? The only passes or crossing points between Spain and France on your proposed route would be:
    Puerto de Somport 1649m
    Puerto de Portalet 1795m
    La Seu d'Urgell/Andorra
    Coll d'Ares 1610m

    There are two other routes with tunnels only, but I would keep clear of them. The sidewalks are only a metre wide. I have been to the entrance of the Bielsa Tunnel, but did not go through.
    Bielsa Tunnel (Do not know if you can cycle through it legally?) Closed from 6th April to 21st June 2010 for renovation works.
    Vielha Tunnel (Bossost/Les) (Do not know if you can cycle through it legally?)

    You could cross over further west of Jaca but then you would spend most of your time in France. Your 14 days looks a bit optimistic. Michelin's shortest, direct route through Bilbao, Bayonne, Pau, Toulouse and Narbonne is 939kms, with 930kms of this on motorways!

    To experience the Spanish countryside and the Pyrenees, a route from Santander through the Cordillera Cantabrica, Estella, Tafalla, Jaca, Biescas, Torla, Plan, Castejon de Sos, El Pont de Suert, Sort, Le Seu d'Urgell to Puigcerda 750kms, but this leaves another 425kms from Puigcerda to Marseille - total 1175kms - average 84kms a day. No rest days. I can't comment on the French side haven't cycled there, but it looks straight forward up the coast to Marseille.
    The more you spend - the faster you go - the less you see.
  • hugh1982hugh1982 Posts: 40
    Thanks for the info - really useful stuff.

    We'll be credit card touring with the aim of travelling light and fast. That said, we don't want to become so obsessed with the riding that we forget to take in the scenery and enjoy ourselves - otherwise we may as well just do circuits on a velodrome.

    The point of the Santander-Marseiile route was that we want to avoid using planes but still wanted to cycle in Spain. Our route means we can get the ferry there and get the train back from Marseille but i'm wondering whether there might be some better options to look at.
  • To put in some sort of context for you, the "Raid Pyrenneen" is a challenge many do and you are alowed 100 hours to do it in. It takes you from the Atlantic coast (Hendaye)to the Med (Cerbrere) both of these on the french/Spanish border, it goes over most of the big cols.
    It will take you 2 days from Santander to Hendaye.
    Im not suggesting you do the raid! it just lets you know that it will take at least 7 days to get to the Med and then you still have to get to Marseille. As you say you want to enjoy and not push it. If you want to stick with it, i think after St Giron you would need as straight a line as possible to Narbonne then hug Med to Marseille. The big (famous) cols are all over by St Giron anyway. For what its worth it sounds doable and good to me.

  • crankycrankcrankycrank Posts: 1,830
    You could also just go ahead and try it and if you fall behind, catch a train to make it to Marseille on time.
  • Tim FarrTim Farr Posts: 665
    Some sublime photos - thanks for the link Cycladelic
    T Farr
  • cycladeliccycladelic Posts: 641
    Hugh, there are various places to catch a train from in France and you don't have to go all the way to Marseille... that coastal stretch would be the least interesting.

    Cheers, Tim
    It's an uphill climb to the bottom
  • Tim FarrTim Farr Posts: 665
    Hugh1982 -some tips for the ferry (I assume it's still Brittany Ferries). Marvellous buffet in the restaurant don't go for the cheap option - the self service cafe.

    If you're interested in wildlife and are travelling June and onwards go on seawatch. Dolphins, killer whales, and even whales can be spotted in the Bay of Biscay. Worth taking a pair of lightweight binoculars. Some people take the return journey just to seawatch.[/code]
    T Farr
  • Hi
    If you want amazing pics of Pyrenees then try this site.
  • bikistbikist Posts: 1
    I have returned to the Pyrenees many times because there's far too much to take in in just one or two trips. The cols are not just down the St Giron end as one respondent has commented above! There are at least 30 major Cols which have made appearances in the TDF stages through the Pyrenees and at least twice that number that haven't. Good towns to use as a base would be: Pau, Lourdes, Bagneres de Bigorre, St Lary Soulon, and Luchon. I am particularly fond of Bagneres de Bigorre, from where you can climb the Col du Tourmalet, Col d'Aspin, Peyresourdes, Hautacam, Luz Ardiden and Marie Blanc. If you need somewhere to stay, I would suggest checking out a rentals site called: The property we often rent near Bagneres de Bigorre is called Villa Tamerza - about 15 mins ride from the sstart of the East side of the Tourmalet.
  • MichaelWMichaelW Posts: 2,226
    The Raid Pyrenee is not necessarily the best route. It takes in some major roads and misses out plenty of great minor roads.
    If you are looking for some non-cycling interest along the way you should check out the cave painting at Niaux, a few miles down the hill from Vicdessos. This following a major climb from Aulus les Bains up to Port de Lers then down to Vicdessos.

    The Raid goes from Tarascon su Ariage to Ax les Themes along a motorway but the locals have a nice route to the North via Bompass and Axiat
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