There are a hundred reasons why you should try Mountain bike riding in the stunning region of Galicia. The biking routes are littered with waterfalls, monasteries, spectacular landscapes, and wineries. There is also the stunning Sil Canyon which you can cycle above, taking in the views.
The network of routes varies in distance, difficulty and scenery. They are also well mapped with graphical maps, technical information, and signposted. In the morning you can mountain bike before partaking in one of the many actives in the afternoon, like wine tasting.
I had been mountain riding before in Les Gets and Morzine but I had never gone on a mountain bike adventure holiday before. When I was approached about exploring the MTB Centres on an eco mountain bike, I jumped at the chance.
Once I figured out how to use the two sets of gears correctly, I really enjoyed it a lot. So much so that I am already planning my next Eco bike trip next month.
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Mountain Bike Riding in Galicia Spain
Mountain bike riding in Galicia allows you to connect with Spanish nature, go on an adventure while having fun, not to mention it is great for your health and wellbeing. I cycled parts of the MTB Centre of Ribeira Sacra and O Salnes in the Galicia over two days.
In the afternoons we would do other activities like wine tasting, taking a boat down the Sil River and hiked around Fábrica de la Luz.
MTB Centres were created by BTT Galicia as environmentally friendly tourism through Mountain Bike Riding. It is a network of centres with designated routes that offer a different range in degrees of difficulty and distance. They are centred around enabling riders to discover the stunning rural landscapes and sites, at their own pace.
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What is an Eco Bike ( Electric/E-bike)
An Eco Bike (also known as an Electric or E-bike) is an integrated electric motor that works with the gears on your bike to assist and give you more power when pushing forward. It is like having an extra pair of legs that does all the hard work for you when pedalling. Making your life easier especially when going up a hill.
Apart from being great fun to ride, Eco Bikes are good for the environment, compared to motorcycles and cars. You still get the benefits of exercise when using an Eco Bike but if you want to work harder and get your heart pumping, then all you do is turn off the motor and you’ve got yourself a regular mountain bike.
About MTB Centres
There are 6 MTB centres with each having combined routes that make up a total of 100 kms. All routes are graded by colour with black being very hard, red is for hard and blue for the easiest, just like skiing. The routes are also marked in different colours on the maps to help identify them more easily.
At each Welcome Point there are bicycle services and tourist information, as well as washing points, toilets and showers. There is also bicycle rental available at these points if you decided to not take your own. At the start of each route, parking and technical information are available.
Routes are Sign Posted
In addition to the information boards in the parking area, all the routes are clearly signposted as well. Everything has been thought through to make sure that you don’t get lost and that you have a safe and pleasurable time. If you want peace of mind think about getting a portable bike GPS navigation like the Mio Cyclo GPS with Touchscreen.
What it was like to mountain bike ride in Galicia
Over the course of the adventure trip we rode two different sections of the MTB Centres, Centre of O Salnes & Centre of Ribeira Sacra. Both were very different experiences with completely different scenery. The MTB Centre of O Salnes was lush beautiful green forest, waterfalls and steep sections. The MTB Centre of Ribeira Sacra was across open spaces atop the mountains overlooking the Sil Canyon.
Overview MTB Centre of O Salnes
MTB Centre in Salnes consists of 10 biking routes, 4 Very hard, 3 hard and 3 easy. You can see the details and information of the different Centre in Salnes routes here for your GPS with GPX. Highlights are the O Castro Recreational Area, Armenteira (Santa María) and the little man made village called Muínos.
Overview MTB Centre of Ribeira Sacra
There are 5 routes that make up the MTB Centre of Ribeira Sacra, 2 Very hard, 2 hard and 1 easy. You can see the full details and all relevant information on the Centre of Ribeira Sacra site for GPS with GPX.
You can take a guided tour from Santiago de Compostela to Ribeira Sacra to see all the main highlights if you don’t feel like riding.
First day of mountain bike riding
We only completed a small section (only 8klms) of the MTB Centre of O Salnes route on the first day due to weather. When we woke, there were thunderstorms, lighting and it was pouring with rain. Not good conditions for mountain bike riding even on an eco bike.
As the weather cleared the guides had a discussion and comprised a new route. We set off on a flat path (also shared with pedestrians) through the forest along a stream. Before stopping at Muíno which is now used as a picnic area with a small waterfall.
Falling and steep sections
Then it was time for the hard part, as we climbed 6 (or maybe more) steep sections with our eco mountain bikes. At one point I fell off and straight into the mud, as I was still trying to work the electric gears with the normal gears. I ended up putting the bike in walk mode and pushed the bike up the steep sections with one of the guides assistants.
After this, it was back to flatter ground through a village and past a winery, before finishing at the Mosteiro de Santa María da Armenteira. We were picked up and taken to the golf course to shower (one of the services offered at the MTB Centres) before our wine tour at Mar de Frades Vineyard.
Mix up your trip and think about booking a full day private tour to three different wine regions in Galicia.
On the second day, we completed some of the MTB Centre of Ribeira Sacra section. We covered over 35kms in open wide spaces up above the Sil River Canyon and through villages. We rode through some spectacular landscapes and had some stunning views, which at some points remind me a little of the Fjords in Norway, especially from the viewing point.
We started our route from the famous converted monastery Parador de Santo Estevo. From there it was all uphill through the forest but not overly steep like the day before. I was struggling a little and I could not think why as I had worked out how to use the gears correctly.
As we got into the open spaces, the guide realised that I had a punctured tire, once fixed, it was all uphill from there (no pun intended). Make sure to carry a puncture repair kit with you for those unexpected situations.
Stop off at the Sil Canyon viewing point
We passed the wind turbines and made out way to the viewing point to overlook the Sil Canyon. We stopped for a small break to take pictures of the amazing views. From there, we made our way back down to the meeting point where the Van was waiting.
Going down the mountain
I thought coming down a mountain on a bike would be much easier than going up but I was wrong. It took more concentration and control not to put the brakes too much and flip the backend out. For a second, I forgot how powerful these mountain bikes were with the electric gears and I flipped right off into a puddle.
This did not discourage me though and I was back on the bike, continuing my ride down the mountain to our pick up spot. Before we changed our clothes and head out on the boat through Sil Canyon Galicia.
Where to fly into Galicia
Galicia, an autonomous community is located in the north-west part of Spain and sits on the Atlantic coastline. There are 3 international airports, Santiago de Compostela airport, La Coruna Airport and Vigo airport that service the region.
London is roughly 2hrs to any of these airports, making it super easy for a weekend adventure. Flights from Santiago de Compostela airport are more regular than the other two and usually cheaper. You also have more options in regards of car hire from this airport too.
If you want to take your own Eco mountain bike from London to Galicia by plane you can. Airlines like EasyJet offer this service for an additional fee under sports equipment.
Tip for mountain bike riding in Galicia
- You can download the cycle routes and make your own itinerary
- It is compulsory to wear a helmet, which can be hired if you don’t have one.
- Select the appropriate routes based on your physical and technical abilities. Not only will it make it more enjoyable for you but it is less risk of getting into trouble.
- Just like when you go hiking, let someone know what route you’re going to take and roughly how long it will take.
Take a water bottle or water bladder
Take a water bottle (preferably reusable) or a water bladder to stay hydrated while mountain bike riding in Galicia. Especially in the warmer months of summer and spring when the Spanish sun gets very hot. There are drinking fountains in some of the villagers that you go through when riding but they are few and far between.
I used my reusable water bottle but I wished I had taken my water bladder instead for two reasons. One, I ran out of water as I was drinking more going up the steep bits, lucky though as we went past a drinking fountain soon after. Second, it was a pain stopping and starting to have a drink instead of being able to have water on the go.
Take a day backpack mountain bike riding
Make sure to take a day backpack for mountain bike riding in Galicia, to carry all your relevant items like a puncture repair kit. As well as your water (preferrably in a reusable water bottle) to keep you hydrated. You can also put your money in there and GoPro.
I use a women’s backpack from the Osprey range, which is spacious and comfortable to wear. I highly recommend the brand, as their backpacks are specifically made for outdoor adventures. Here are some other good day backpacks, all are reasonably priced.
What to carry in your backpack for mountain bike ridging
Here are some suggestions on what to pack in your day backpack for biking and a useful checklist:
- Puncture repair kit for fixing your mountain Eco bike
- A copy of your travel insurance
- Reusable water bottle to keep hydrated
- Small first aid kit for any accidents
- Sweets and Nuts to keep fuelled in a reusable food storage bag.
- Make sure to take a change of clothes and leave them in the car for after your bike ride.
Where to stay in Galicia
Due to the vast area covered in Galicia, we stayed in two different hotels while eco mountain bike riding. We used Hotel Quinta de San Amaro as our base for the MTB Osalné route and Parador Santo Estevo de Rivas for the MTB Ribeira Sacra route. Both were beautiful hotels and unique in their own ways.
Check availability and types of accommodation in the Galicia Spain
Hotel Quinta de San Amaro – MTB Osalné route
Hotel Quinta de San Amaro was charming and had amazing views of rural surroundings and a nice infinity pool. If you want to take a break from riding, the hotel offers a free trip to a winery that produces Albariño white wine and a tasting session.
Parador Santo Estevo de Rivas – MTB Ribeira Sacra route
Parador Santo Estevo de Rivas is a converted 10th century monastery that has a beautiful courtyard that looks stunning lit up at night. The hotel also boasts a fantastic spa, a 5 start restaurant and some amazing views over the surrounding countryside.
Other things to do in Galicia after mountain bike riding
If you have the time, here are a few suggestions of top things you can do in Galicia Spain.
- If you have time, spend a few days in the capital of Galicia, Santiago before or after your bike trip.
- Take one of the boat tours along the River Sil and River Mino canyons to discover incredible scenery. This is especially good if you are doing one of the routes in the MTB Centre of Ribeira Sacra
- Visit one of the many wineries in the region, like Mar de Frades Vineyard. Recommended if you are only doing a half day mountain bike riding in the morning.
- Stay at Parador Santo Estevo and wander around the beautiful Monasterio. It is truly a beautiful place overlooking the mountains.
Would I recommend doing mountain bike riding in Galicia
I read a quote once from Sacred Rides founder, Mike Brcic that said: “A bad day on a mountain bike always beats a good day in the office.” Mountain Bike riding isn’t just a sport or hobby to many it is a way of life and after my trip to Galicia Spain, I completely understand why.
If you love mountain bike riding or want an environmentally friendly adventure then Galicia Spain MTB Centres should be on your list. Especially as they have been created so you do them all year round. If you want to try electric biking riding before doing mountain bike riding then, I suggest somewhere like Vercors Massif France.
⇒ Head over to my adventure page, for some inspiration for your next outdoor holiday.
Thank you for reading my article on eco mountain bike riding in Galicia Spain. For more information, please feel free to visit Galicia Spain Website
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Have you been Mountain Bike riding in Galicia before?. I would love to hear your experience in the comments below.
Disclaimer: Even though I was invited by the Spanish Tourism Office. All views are my own and based on my own experience.