Calpe's best cycling and area guide
10 min read by Laura Fletcher
Calpe, the cycling Mecca tucked away on the Costa Blanca. A place of year round sunshine, epic climbs and rolling descents.
You can’t go wrong in the Calpe region. Nestled between the hub cities of Valencia and Alicante, the fishing village can take you from its past to its future in a matter of minutes. Enjoy a fresh Paella after visiting the ruins of Els Banyas de la Reina (the queen’s baths) and rest on the quietest of the beaches, Platja del Port Blanc, gazing off across the Mediterranean into what tomorrow may bring.
If you visit Calpe during the winter months, there’s a high chance you will be sharing the roads, and the hardest of climbs, with at least a few pro teams. It’s the winter playground of choice for many of the professional outlets. Kind drivers, a mild climate, and a great selection of quiet hotels over the colder months make it the ideal region for a two-week training camp.
In this case, we say, follow the pros. They are definitely getting a few things right, and cycling in Calpe might just be one of them.
The unmistakable beacon of Calpe
The Penyal d’Ifac — where the mountain touches the sky in the water.
As you come into Calpe, the first thing you notice will most likely be the giant rock formation in the water, jutting out into the sky and seascape of the azure Mediterranean Sea. The circa 300-metre climb of Penyal d’Ifac can be undertaken in just over an hour on foot, although it can be a bit dangerous. It makes a great backdrop and beacon for a trip: we can always know it’s close to home when we gaze down on the coast from the top of the mountain passes.
Check into your accommodation, get that bike built for the next day and take a walk down to the sea on your first evening, stretching the legs after travel and getting ready for the hills of the next morning, getting ready for your Calpe cycling holiday to kick off.
Calpe to Oliva
via Denia, and Pego climbs (circa 3,000 m climbing)
We set off early, 9:30 am, for this large classic Calpe loop. Going northeast from Calpe along the coast, we took in the contour of the coast to beach road, a constantly undulating and rolling terrain. Whilst the total elevation gain isn’t incredibly high, we were still getting some nice challenges to our legs with steep, sharp, and short uphills as the cliffs and hills hit the sea.
From Javea, we rode north, entering the stunning Parc Natural de Montgo. Rising steeply from the sea, the nature reserve of Marl and Limestone greeted us. The area is home to a vast array of flora and fauna and deeply respected by the local residents for not only its current impact on the environment but also it’s historical significance — being a key location over the years of Roman and Arab rule. The climb in the park is a highlight: one of the harder climbs of the day, even at only 2 kilometres in length. The reward of the fast-flowing descent into Denia made it worth it. A series of switchbacks and well-cambered bends made for some truly exhilarating riding. To be fair, it’s the perfect descent to get a bit carried away. But try not to as it’s still a road with motor traffic.
Coming into Denia keep an eye out for the castle ruins on the hill in the distance. Denia is a historical coastal city, with over two millennia of history, apparent at every turn, if you look hard enough. We stopped for a quick “repose” at the harbour area. If you feel like you deserve it, Heladeria Anima on the coast road is the place to grab a gelato before continuing.
Denia is also host to the well respected Cafe Ciclista, a coffee shop, bike hire and massage centre, and the hub of cycling culture in Denia. Although it’s casual, they say there are often riding groups leaving from the cafe between 9:30 am and 10 am. So if you are on a solo trip looking for some road companions, this cafe is a great resource to meet up with like-minded folk. Try their fresh homemade smoothies to kick start your day and get your body ready for the kilometres ahead.
After Denia, we rewarded ourselves from the hills in the park to enjoy the completely flat coastal road to Oliva. The coast road is literally on the beach, so it can be a bit busy in the summer seasons, but a wonderful experience in quieter times of the year. If the weather had been a bit warmer when we were there, it would have been tempting to stop for a dip in the azure waters.
Turning inland from Oliva, we were greeted by a never-ending series of groves of Oranges. Valencia oranges are world-famous for a reason, and if you see someone selling any on the roadside, we cannot say enough times to stop and try one. If not, enjoy the sweet citrus fragrance in the air, opening the lungs for the climbing ahead.
The PEGO climb (Val d’Ebo)
No trip to the Calpe area is complete without taking on the infamous “Pego” climb. Actually, it’s a series of climbs tied together, starting in the village of Pego. The first section takes you to 500 metres to the Val de Ebo — roughly an 8km section hits upwards and then along a gentle ridge with a soft downhill gradation into Ebo.
All of the area is windblown and open like a rocky moonscape, and we definitely were happy to have the wind mainly on our backs. But if the winds are strong, opt for a different day.
The overall series of climbs in this area is over 1,000 metres. As we left Ebo, the road started with only the slightest incline while we wove through the valley into the village of Benigembla, where the uphill drag begins again gently into Campell. The ridge undulates up and down, switchbacks, valleys, peaks and troughs all the way into Polop, where we are once again greeted by civilisation. Turning towards the coast, we rolled in back to our home base after a long, but truly satisfying, all in one day out.
Tucked away in the hills, with a short detour on the Pego climb inland route you can find the Musette cafe — a cyclist cafe off the beaten track of the busy coastal area. A trip to Calpe isn’t complete without stopping into Musette. In the winter months, a day rarely goes by where a pro team training camp isn’t parked up outside, taking a quick coffee before setting off to carry on their efforts. Grab a spare tube or energy gel as well in the cafe and take advantage of the ample bike parking outside. All of their cakes are homemade and are perfect alongside an organic coffee — the ideal pick-me-up to keep those legs rolling the rest of the way home.
Calpe isn’t just home to the pro riders. It's a haven for cycling clubs of all shapes and sizes.
Mattias Eriksson, from Cykelslang Cycle Club in Sweden, has been coming with his club for many years. We caught up with him about their endless adventures in Calpe and the area, to find out what makes the place so special to their club
“Calpe is a cycling paradise, and when you leave the coast and pass the motorway, it’s so quiet and remote. No fighting with cars or buses. It’s just you and your bike.”
How does the perfect day in Calpe start?
20 degrees, blue sky and sun. Then you leave Calpe on the coastal road towards Moraia before you hit La Fustera. The first climb of the day.
If you could take one street in Calpe home with you at the end of the trip, and have it on hand whenever we want, what would it be?
The 8km climb/descent of Vall d’Ebo. It’s just beautiful.
Where do you stay in Calpe and why?
The Suitopia Hotel. They offer rooms/apartments with beautiful views. Breakfast and dinner are served in a relaxed atmosphere. They also have a gorgeous rooftop bar with fantastic views. The perfect place for a Kwaremont beer and the stories of the day.
Do you have a favourite dinner place?
We really enjoy the buffet at the hotel after a long day on the bike.
How do you balance beach time with cycling time?
We try to spend most of the day on the bike. But we love the time in the sun on the balcony in the afternoon. Beach time is for the rest day.
Why/how does taking a trip with your friends make a “unique” experience that is hard to do without the sport/the bike?
We do about 1000km in 8 days with 1 rest day. That makes 140km/3000hm a day. It’s hard. But we do it together, having fun and along the way, we get to see wonderful places, roads and views. That makes it unique and worth it.
Why did you start Cykelslang?
I wanted to inspire, having fun and ride my bike in style! The club is about the love of cycling and cycling as a lifestyle.
Ride The Coll de Rates
Setting out from Calpe, head northwest towards Parcent, and hop on the CV 715 to reach the Coll de Rates. As we headed away from the city we warmed up our legs on the standardly bumpy roads. Once there, we were amazed by the climb, straight ahead of us, challenging and beckoning us up the road. The road undulates through to Benissa and Xalo as we pitched inland.
The Coll de Rates is THE testing ground for cyclists in the area, pros and amateurs alike. It’s the areas own Rocacorba and you can expect to see a challenging set of times on Strava. Tejay Van Garderen currently holds the second-best time, at 13:00. A good 2021 personal challenge is to get within 25% of that time. If you do, let us know, we will keep trying!
The climb is twisty, a seemingly endless set of hairpins in the first half of the ascent, but once it straightens, the hardest part of the climb awaits in the second half. Our advice? Pace yourself on this one and save some in the tank for the end.
The cafe stop at the top is well earned, for your effort, and reward yourself not only with a caffeine hit but also the spectacular view from the Restaurante Coll de Rates. If you are hungry, get ready for some local delicacies (think Boar, lots of Sausages etc.) in big portions. Be prepared to leave some extra time to digest, and make sure you have a gilet or jacket for the descent.
Over the top you will be treated with a beautiful flowing descent, heading south into Tarbena. If you are feeling adventurous turn right in Tarbena to follow the ridge along Castell de Castells for more climbing or stay straight towards La Nucia as the road heads back towards sea level. We extended our ride south a bit into the Benidorm area, avoiding the fish and chips shops and “brit pubs” (the outskirts of the area are a bit more peaceful) or at any point, cut across to Altea, heading back north into Calpe.
Service Course Cafe
Craving a Duvel or a Chimay Bleu after your ride for a bit of “Belgian classics flavour” on your trip?
For any cyclist in Calpe, the Service Course Shop is must stop resource for all things cycling. Enjoy a classic English breakfast or a Belgian beer from the Belgian owned cafe, have your bike serviced, take a coffee and meet like-minded individuals in the first cycling cafe in the city. If you want to treat yourself, book in for a sports massage from their expert therapists. And once you’ve been fixed up, give your bike a fix up in the showers for velocipedes.
We would highly recommend a piece of their apple pie… if you get there early enough before it’s sold out. This is a little piece of heaven, a taste of Spain in one bite!
Head South to Alicante
We headed out south from Calpe, taking in the coastal road until Altea, before heading inland up towards Finestrat. The road is gentle climbing, twisting with big open vistas and dry rocky terrain as it heads towards Finestrat. Small “golf course” style communities dot the road at the start, as it slowly becomes more rural with white painted villas. We continued to climb into Relleu, the highest point of the day and went downhill south all the way to the outskirts of Alicante. See the coastal city for a lunch break before taking in more coast all the way back.
Its a stunning coastline and the benefit of this ride is that you have done 9/10ths of the climbing before hitting Alicante. The way back home is perfect after enjoying a traditional lunch in the city.
Accessing Calpe from all over the world is easy.
The closest airport is Alicante, alternately, Valencia is also just over an hour’s drive. Valencia is linked to the high-speed train network, meaning it would be just a bit over 8 hours from Paris via land travel. Both Alicante and Valencia airport provide good connections to Barcelona and Madrid if coming from outside Europe. Car rental is an easy option at either hub, we always recommend full insurance of course. There is no shortage of cycling-friendly accommodation in the area. In Calpe, we recommend checking out The Cook Book Boutique Hotel and Spa for a smaller unique stay. And for splashy beachside digs, try the Gran Hotel Sol I Mar.
Spend three days or three weeks in Calpe and the Costa Brava, you won’t get bored and you can’t feel rushed here in the centre of “tranquillo.” Get ready for challenging climbs that will earn your that heaping fresh Paella, and the dip in the sea as the ride finishes. Take advantage of staying on the coast, and using the hallowed training grounds of the pros. And remember, most teams won’t say no to you hanging onto the back of their ride… for as long as you can.
The best of Calpe
Top 3 Restaurants in Calpe
The Calpe Vineyard — an upscale take on traditional Spanish cuisine
Audrey’s Restaurant — a tasting menu for Valenciana flavours (1 Michelin star)
Restaurant Puerto Blanco — best for seafood
Best Bike Shops
Ciclos Tony Calpe — a real local shop, no-frills, but a great reliable place for a quick tune-up or stock up on supplies
The Service Course — for a full circle service, massage, bike wash, cafe and more
Xabia’s Bikes — up the road from Calpe, a higher-end bike shop with a wide range and great service
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