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 1,000 metres 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.
We couldn’t leave our dodgy hotel in Colmenar fast enough though unfortunately breakfast wasn’t even available until 9 am – 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 kilomeres 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 200 BC – 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.
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.
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. Do the climb to El Torcal National Park.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Biking Andalusia: Granada to Alhama de Granada
- Biking Andalusia: Alhama de Granada to Colmenar
- Don’t Rock Ronda: A Photo Essay
- A Great Day on the Bike From Antequera to Ardales