Spain is ascendant in its reputation as one of the most innovative food destinations in the world. This should not surprise us given the rich array of its culinary influences. Greek, Roman, Goth, Muslim, and Frank (French-German) civilizations have each stood triumphant upon Spanish soil, contributing their particular flavors to Spanish culture and cuisine.
This tour centers on the northeastern region of Catalonia, tucked beneath the Pyrenees Mountains. We’ll explore four of its most charming towns – Girona, Vic, Cardona and Sitges – and savor the best of Catalan cuisine, an edible mosaic of mountains and sea. We’ll meet a producer of the world-famous jamon (cured ham, one of the signature foods of Spain) and winemakers of vino tinto and Cava, the Spanish answer to Champagne.
When Greeks and Romans arrived in Catalonia, they called the people they found there Iberians or Hispani. After the collapse of the western part of the Roman Empire, the Goths ruled, until the dawn of the 8th century, which saw the arrival of the Muslims and Catalonia was absorbed into al-Andalus or Muslim Spain.
The Franks (precursors to modern French and Germans) came next, winning the region from the Muslims in the conquest of Barcelona at the turn of the 9th century. Securing Barcelona was part of a wider effort to create a buffer zone between Christian and Islamic nations.
In the 12th century, Barcelona entered into a dynastic union with the Kingdom of Aragon, establishing a common political entity known as the Principality of Catalonia, which developed courts and other institutions in order to limit the power of kings. (The term “Principality of Catalonia” would remain in use until the Second Spanish Republic in 1931.) Catalonia contributed much to the expansion of Aragon’s trade and military, and the Catalan language flourished.
With the marriage of Ferdinand to Isabella in 1469, Aragon and Castile united. Although each realm would keep its own laws, borders and currencies, the political power tilted, fueled by the conquest of the Americas. Tensions between the Catalans and the Crown grew.
The mid-17th century saw a brief proclamation of a Catalan Republic, but King Philip V banned the main Catalan political institutions and rights, and merged it into Castile. These actions led to the fading of the Catalan language in politics and literature.
While Catalonia was greatly impacted by the Napoleonic Wars and occupation, by the mid-nineteenth century, it had risen as a hub of industrialization. As wealth grew, Catalonia saw a cultural renaissance alongside currents of nationalism and workers’ movements.
In the 20th century, the Second Spanish Republic cemented Catalan self-governance and the official use of the Catalan language. Like much of the rest of Spain, Catalonia fought to defend the Republic (against Franco) in the Civil War of 1936-1939. Their ultimate defeat gave rise to Franco as a dictator, unleashing a period of harsh repression and ending Catalonia’s autonomy. With Spain cut off from international trade under Franco, industry suffered.
Spain experienced the Spanish Miracle, the second fastest economic expansion in the world from 1959-1974 and Catalonia prospered once again. With Franco’s death in 1975, the regime ended and the new democracy of 1978 recognized Catalonia’s autonomy and language. Catalonia regained considerable self-government and is now one of the most economically dynamic communities of Spain.
In recent years, there have been growing calls for Catalan independence. The referendum vote of October 2017, which the central government attempted to block, led to violence of riot police against Catalan voters. According to Catalan authorities, 90% of voters supported independence, although voter turnout was far lower. In the aftermath of the referendum, Catalonia declared independence from Spain. But its parliament agreed to suspend immediate action in order to engage in a dialogue with the Spanish Government. Later that month, the Catalan Parliament voted in a secret ballot to approve a resolution declaring independence. Citing the Spanish Constitution, the central government in Madrid dismissed the Catalan government and implemented direct rule. Several Catalan politicians were arrested and others fled, which has led to the affixing of yellow ribbons (emblems of solidarity with the politicians and will for independence) on buildings, roads, and bridges across Catalonia.
Catalonia is different from other parts of Spain. Situated in the northeast corner of the Iberian Peninsula, below the Pyrenees, the heavy French influence gives the region its unique charm. A distinctive blend of culture, cuisine, art, history and varied landscapes makes Catalonia a fantastic destination to explore by bike. Te estamos esperando! (We are waiting for you!) Nos vemos pronto! (See you soon!)
CYCLING TOUR IN CATALONIA
Minimum of 6 participants, maximum of 16, with a maximum guide-to-guest ratio of 1 to 8
DATES (8 days)
September 2-9, 2020
For more info, dates and availability please contact us.
Per person in double occupancy: from $4,490 to $4,890
(this tour will feature elegant 4-star hotels and tour price will vary depending on group size)
Single Supplement: $790
In addition, we pledge to donate more than 1% of your trip price to food literacy and environmental non profit organizations
- Discover wine, Jamon (ham), and olive oil over delectable meals, visits and tastings that demonstrate the best of Catalan culinary heritage
- Exposure to local culture and history with native, bilingual, local experienced Tour Leaders
- Elegant and traditional accommodation mostly in 4-star hotels and paradors
- Unforgettable meals featuring the local cuisine
- Discover the must-see towns of Girona, Vic, Sitges and Cardona
- Exhilarating rides and opportunities to improve your cycling skills with your Tour Leaders
- Traditional, local recipes to bring home with you!
This 7-night tour is especially designed to create wonderful experiences for riders and non-riders. However we individually travel, together we soak in Catalonian life through visits to local producers and opportunities to explore and discuss the local culture and traditions of this magic corner of Spain.
Tour highlights include: discovery of plenty of local wines, olive oil, and cured meats; learning local recipes during a cooking demo and over delicious dinner; and exploring the towns of Girona, Vic, Sitges and Cardona with your experienced and professional Tour Leaders.
If you prefer to arrive the day before please let us know and we will help you organize your pre night at the same hotel used on tour in Girona, and early transfer from Barcelona airport at additional price. This is recommended just to allow you more time to settle in and get ready for the tour.
Cycling Route Info on Day 1: Main Route: 25mi/1720ft of elevation gain | Extra loop adds: 7mi/750ft
Cycling Route Info on Day 2: Main Route 64mi/3700ft | Extra loop adds: 10+mi/1000+ft
We begin in Girona for two nights. Here many pro-riders train in the early part of racing season. The medieval town center features beautiful facades and an exceptionally well-preserved synagogue, possibly the best anywhere in Spain. The way in which Girona is divided by a river may remind you of Florence.
Over our two days, we explore the surrounding countryside by bike. One ride takes us inland to explore the tranquil countryside with its sleepy villages. We’ll also ride to the Mediterranean and Empuries, one of the few Greek colonies found in the North Mediterranean, and an important archaeological site of Catalonia.
Other highlights include a guided visit of Girona and a visit and tasting at a local jamon (cured ham) to discover one of the signature foods of Spain.
Cycling Route Info on Day 3: Main Route 51mi/5250ft | Extra loop adds: 9mi/950ft
Cycling Route Info on Day 4: Main Route 40mi/3400ft | Extra loop adds: 12mi/1400ft
For our next two days, we transfer to the town of Vic and overnight in an elegant hotel conveniently located in the historic city center. Vic is famous for its Romanesque architecture and its pork, particularly fuet, a form of cured sausage. We’ll take our time exploring the town and riding in Montseny Natural Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve teeming with alpine and Mediterranean flora and fauna.
Here in Vic do not miss a walk in the town center and through the scenic Plaza Mayor, the perfect spot for a glass of vino tinto or blanco and some tapas. Feel free to join us for a Spanish language lesson and discover also some words of the local Catalan spoken by almost 10 million people, not only in Catalonia but also in Comunitat Valenciana and Balearic Islands regions, in addition to Andorra, the town of Alghero in Sardinia and part of the southern Pyrenees in France.
Cycling Route Info on Day 5: Main Route 52mi/5030ft | Extra loop adds: 10mi/1200ft
The next night we spend in the charming castle of Cardona, one of the Paradores hotels of Spain. These elegant accommodations have all been renovated to showcase local culture and tradition, and are usually built around a castle, convent, fortress or palace.
Nearby sits Muntanya de Sal (“Salt Mountain”), an extensive deposit of rock salt with an unforgettable collection of stalactites, stalagmites, and other salt formations. We ensure ample time to explore the historic center of Cardona before heading south to the town of Sitges.
Cycling Route Info on Day 6: Main Route 40mi/2480ft after 1-hr van transfer | Extra loop adds: 10mi/1030ft
Cycling Route Info on Day 7: Main Route 51mi/2750ft | Extra loop adds: 9mi/900ft
On the next day we gradually lose elevation as we cycle our way to the sea. Passing through colourful vineyards, we reach our destination of Sitges, which is popular with artists inspired by its narrow streets and striking beaches. Our hotel is located by the sea and features an unforgettable view!
Our last ride will feature a loop starting from the sea and heading inland, in the area known for Cava wine, the Spanish equivalent of Champagne that we’ll discover through a visit and tasting to a local producer. Then we celebrate over dinner in town at the end of our journey through this charming region in north of Spain.
After breakfast at 8:30am catch our 45-mins group transfer to Barcelona airport, or feel free to extend your stay in the area.
- 7 nights of accommodation in mostly 4-star hotels
- 7 breakfasts and 2 lunches
- 6 dinners with either a 3- or 4-course menu
- Guided walking tour in Girona
- Explore Vic, Sitges, Cardona and other small villages
- Visits and tasting to a local winery
- Visit and tasting to a Jamon (ham) seller
- 1 cooking demo featuring Catalan cuisine and 1 visit at the salt mines in Cardona
- Specialized Sirrus aluminum hybrid or carbon Bianchi Intenso road bike + Garmin Touring Edge or 820 unit (if you have one, bring yours and we’ll upload the routes onto your unit)
- Comfortable transportation and assistance by 9-seat van for all travel on tour as cited in the itinerary
- Refreshments, snacks, fruits and other local delicacies during our rides
- Two bilingual, professional Tour Leaders
- One group transfer to Barcelona airport at the end of tour
- Local taxes and gratuities for luggage porters and restaurant servers during tour
- 5 lunches and 1 dinner on your own
- Alcoholic beverages at group dinners (including wine, beer and spirits)
- Round-trip airfare and expenses to/from the tour
- Transfer to first hotel from airport
- Trip cancellation, baggage loss or travel delay insurance (this optional coverage is highly recommended and is not provided by Food.Stories.Travel.)
- Gratuities for your Tour Leaders
- Personal expenses, such as, but not limited to, phone calls, laundry, emails, snacks, gifts
Cristiano Bonino has organized and led tours for North Americans all over Italy for more than thirteen years. Currently, he resides in the Boston area with his American wife. Cristiano likes to say that he has been “hybridizing” over the past years in the U.S. He mixes the best of the both American and Italian cultures, which he loves, but never forgets his native roots in Turin, in Piedmont.
Davide Marchegiano has designed and led tours all over Italy and Europe for the last sixteen years; he loves to teach Italian using games and songs, as well as to bring guests to meet his many friends across his country. Davide was born in Ivrea, in Piedmont and he loves hiking and everything with pedals and wheels: he’s been riding and racing bikes for 30 years.
Your itinerary has been meticulously hand-designed by Food.Stories.Travel. and his team. This journey is based on their favorite flavors and unforgettable past experiences. Every establishment you will visit has been personally vetted, tested and enjoyed by Cristiano himself and his team of experienced Tour Leaders.
In some cases we’ll take you to places you could not find by yourself or in a guidebook.