Back in 2016, my good friend Walter and I rode around Central Europe on motorcycles, exploring both the cities and the beautiful countryside of Italy, France, Germany, Czech Republic, and more. That ride was so fun that we promised we’d do a similar ride again. This year we did exactly that.
Like that last ride, our 2019 ride was totally unplanned. Part of the thrill of exploring new places is not knowing what each day will bring or where you’ll find yourself, not even which country. We had bikes rented, a couple of weeks clear on our calendars, and no other plans.
Our 2019 Iberian Peninsula ride featured:
- Dates: Riding September 27 – October 9 (plus a day or two of travel on either side)
- Bikes: 2019 BMW R1250GS (Jeff) / 2019 BMW R1250RT (Walter)
- Rentals: from IMTBike
- Distance: 4024 km / 2500 miles
- Countries: Spain, Andorra, Portugal
- All photos and video shot on an iPhone 11 Pro
Day 0: Arrival in Barcelona — 2 kilometers
We arrived in Barcelona where we’d spend the first tonight getting over jet lag sufficiently for safe riding. The bikes were reserved at IMTBike, a Spanish rental and tour agency. They were fantastic in every regard. Our rentals were for Saturday but they gave us the option of a free Friday pickup, which we did.
Day 1: Barcelona to Andorra — 380 kilometers
We rode north and had lunch on the Mediterranean en route to Girona, a medieval walled city with a beautiful cathedral, steps, and streets that are familiar to Game of Thrones fans. Girona was also GoT’s Bravos and some of King’s Landing.
We headed up into the Pyrenees Mountains in mid-afternoon for a beautiful ride into Andorra, a postage stamp country on the Spanish-French border. Over gelato in Girona, Andorra was picked as the target because we had never been there, and a new country always adds to the sense of adventure.
Day 2: Andorra to Lleida — 308 kilometers
Spent the morning enjoying Andorra’s central city, which is relatively small and very ski-season tourist focused. It’s a great place to wake up to.
We decided to ride up to the ski resorts above town to see what the views of the mountain range looked like; what a great idea that turned out to be. On the way up, we encountered travelers filling bottles with water from an artesian spring. The water was fantastic, as was the view.
We rode up past the gondolas, to the end of the asphalt, continued along a service rode, and found ourselves looking at herds of wild-roaming horses. In the first photo, you can see a herd on the top of the bluff. We rode up and loved getting to meet these beauties.
Riding down from the mountaintops was nonstop curves and made for a great afternoon. A highlight was discovering Baix Pallars, a town forgotten by time.
We arrived into Lleida, Spain to rooms in a hotel that was part of the train station.
Day 3: Lleida to Soria — 370 kilometers
While Lleida wasn’t the most interesting city that we visited, it did have an impressive castle — Castell del al Suda — at its heart. We walked into town to see it, stopping in the Església de Sant Joan, a beautiful cathedral, along the way.
The castle is on a hill above Saint Joan’s, which we hiked up. It was a pretty spectacular view, and the usual layers history dating back to c. 1203, with some very ancient ruins from centuries earlier.
A noon departure didn’t prevent us from taking in lots of twisty, country farm roads as we wound our way toward Soria. One of the farms featured the ruins, likely war-damaged, of a cathedral (see the photo at the top of this post). Later, I was enthralled at how smart the herding dogs are as they kept the goats together across fields.
Soria was one of the most beautiful towns that we stumbled upon, and was a great place to spend a night.
Day 4: Soria to Salamanca — 405 kilometers
A early start departing Soria put us on beautiful mountain roads. Our unplanned route delivered more unexpected marvels, including a highlight of the trip for me. As we rode through the town of Barrio De San Miguel, we noticed ruins on a nearby hill and detoured to explore them. We made our way through local streets and alleys that put us on a dirt road up to the peak upon which sits the Castillo Abaluartado De Juan Manrique De Lara.
The ruins of this fortress reflect the latest construction from 1563, but documents record a structure on the site as far back as 1173. We were amazed that there were no people there. Not just an absence of queues, but nobody at all. We were able to ride the bikes right up to the top of the hill and walk through the ruins as if we lived there. It’s a fascinating site to experience.
1173 apparently wasn’t old enough for this trip, because Walter noticed a sign for stone ruins from 60 A.D.. Of course we detoured again.
All of that was before lunch. And lunch, too, would be under ancient ruins. The town of Segovia hosts a Roman aqueduct from the first century. It slopes only 1º and is spectacular.
We had done everything except literally ride a motorcycle into the ruins of a castle. So…
Day 5: Salamanca to Casa das Estevas — 340 kilometers
Salamanca is one of the most beautiful cities of our trip, and we enjoyed spending a morning having breakfast at its massive Plaza Mayor, roaming the old city, and walking a Roman bridge built in 19 B.C..
Our “Spanish Autobahn” took us toward Portugal. It was a mix of gravel, single-lane farm roads, and twisty two-lane country roads. In Portugal, we enjoyed a great dinner at Restaurant Vilaportuguesa, and stayed at a fantastic home: Casa das Estevas.
Day 6: Casa das Estevas to Lisbon — 316 kilometers
Burned some miles on the autobahn in the morning to get closer to to the coast. En route, we came across another medieval walled town — Óbidos — that time seems to have forgotten.
Shortly after lunch in Óbidos, we arrived at the Atlantic coast of Portugal and then into Lisbon.
Day 7: Lisbon to Seville — 485 kilometers
Lisbon is beautiful and the food at Cafe Tehran may have been the best meal of our trip. We stopped by Praça do Comércio for a few photos on our way out of town, and headed for the southern coast.
Seville was an absolute blast. The entire city was alive with an annual fall festival. Families were out and about dining, dancing, drinking, and enjoying the scene until well after midnight.
Despite staying at a corporate hotel (not much available), we loved Seville.
Day 8: Seville to Malaga — 278 kilometers
Riding-wise, this was the best day of the trip. Without planning, we wound up on some of the best motorcycling roads in Spain. There were bikes everywhere! Our afternoon espresso was at Venta El Madroño, a biker stop similar to Los Angeles’ Rock Store.
Malaga was charming, with a beautiful cathedral and enormous pedestrian-only shopping and dining district.
Day 9: Malaga to Almeria — 240 kilometers
The ride from Malaga to Almeria was entirely along the Mediterranean coast. There isn’t much more to say than: it was beautiful…
Day 10: Almeria to Gandia — 435 kilometers
No sooner did we say, “It’d be tough to beat the riding over the past two days,” did Spain respond, “Hold my cerveza.”
I had the great idea to book us at an “adults only” hotel on the beach in Gandia, thinking that’d mean no kids. It turned out to be a senior citizens resort. The beach was nice.
Day 11: Gandia to Benicàssim — 185 kilometers
Another day entirely along the coast, with a few detours along farming roads. We had a nice break in Valencia, and explored roads, ruins, estates, and farms that no tour would ever see.
Day 12: Benicàssim to Barcelona — 280 kilometers
Our final day featured more coastal riding and a lunch stop in Tarragona, which was home to the ruins of a Roman amphitheater from the first and second centuries. It was closed but we got some nice photos.
A final autobahn blast brought us back into Barcelona. After twelve days of sunny, warm riding we got the bikes back to the rental shop just as a rain and windstorm was kicking up. The timing could not have been better.
Walter flew out first thing the next morning, while I had an extra day in Barcelona to fill a shopping list for the family and visit the Sagrada Família to get a few photos of the construction progress since I was last there.
All in all, another fantastic adventure around Europe. Spain, Andorra, and Portugal were all spectacular places to ride and explore.
We’re already planning our next motorcycle trip.