Biking Andalusia: Colmenar to Antequera

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Day three of our Andalusia biking trip took us from Colmenar to Antequera, a distance of only 50 kilometers including a side trip to El Torcal National Park. The distance is entirely reasonable but factor in over 1000 meters of climbing, iffy weather, fully loaded bikes and a few hours needed to explore the park and you end up with a very full day.

"John climbing of the many hills on what would be an extremely hilly day"

John climbing of the many hills on what would be an extremely hilly day

We couldn’t leave our dodgy hotel in Colmenar fast enough though unfortunately breakfast wasn’t even available until 9am – which happens to be very typical in Spain. Without a lot of options in town, we hung around for several much needed coffees.

The first five kilometers of biking were mostly flat but from then on the day was either up or down. A couple of climbs interspersed with some seriously good downhill got us into the white village of Villanueva de la Concepcion by lunchtime. The town has been inhabited since 200BC – when the Romans settled a town here called Oscua. We didn’t have time to explore but there are remains of Roman villas, a burial ground and a forum to see.

"The white village of Villanueva de Concepcion"

The white village of Villanueva de Concepcion

Then the serious climbing started.

But the roads were lovely with very little traffic and the views exceptional. In fact we could see the Mediterranean off in the distance.

"Gorgeous quiet roads on the way to El Torcal National Park"

Gorgeous quiet roads on the way to El Torcal National Park

"Nice scenery on the way to El Torcal"

Nice scenery on the way to El Torcal

It’s funny how expectations play a role in the day of a cyclist. I had expected to be climbing to the turnoff to El Torcal for much longer than it took. But then the road up to the park was far steeper than expected and on several occasions I was tempted to just give up.

Don’t.

El Torcal was one of the highlights of our bike ride in Andalusia. It boasts a fantastic assortment of karst rock forms, eroded by wind and rain over time. You could get lost in there for hours, hiking one of the four trails and taking pictures.

"Our side trip to El Torcal"

Our side trip to El Torcal

"Bizarre rock formations in El Torcal"

Bizarre rock formations in El Torcal

When you leave El Torcal, the ride to Antequera is almost all downhill.

Its fast and its fun.

And if I had known just how fast it was I would have spent more time in the park.

"Looking back to the hills up to El Torcal"

Looking back to El Torcal

Your first views of Antequera are from above. It’s a very pretty city – full of Baroque churches and plazas, the Alcazabar fortress, and loads of shops and restaurants as well as the burial dolmens from thousands of years ago.

"The white village of Antequera"

The white village of Antequera

"San Sebastian church at night"

Looking up at the lit up San Sebastian bell-tower

"The Mengal Domens"

The Menga Dolmen - 2500 years old

Don’t miss a trip to the outskirts of town to see the Dolmens. The Menga and Viera Dolmens are enormous megalithic tombs dating back to 2000 – 2500 BC. The funeral chambers are made of huge stone slabs – with some estimates of one slab weighing 200 tons – and dragged from a quarry over a half mile away. A video inside the visitor center brings the building of the tombs to life and is well worth watching.

"A look inside the Menga Dolmen"

A look inside the Menga Dolmen

There are loads of places to stay in Antequera. We stayed at Hotel Cosa Viejo – a three star place with rooms on the small side – though the bathroom was huge and the view of the Alcazar from the room was lovely. It’s in a good central location too.

Spend some time walking the monumental quarter just below the Alcazabar.  Try to time it to catch the sunset glinting on the tiled roofs making them glow – the finest hour for a white village in Andalusia.

Other posts from this trip you might find useful.

Leigh McAdam

HikeBikeTravel
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/HikeBikeTravel
Twitter: @hikebiketravel

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