Mountain Bike ALQUEVA: The largest artificial lake in Europe

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Mountain Bike ALQUEVA

Text & Riding: @david_cachon // YOUTUBE CHANNEL

Photography & Film: David Ponce

Video editing: Alberto Porras

Alqueva – Mountain Bike next to the largest artificial lake in Europe

My eagerness to find new and different places to ride a bicycle has led me to the southwest of the province of Extremadura, specifically to the province of Badajoz (Spain). There is the Alqueva Lake MTB Center, that is, a space for mountain/gravel bike routes. In total, seven routes can be made, totaling more than 300 kilometers.

It is a sustainable space, without schedules and 100% accessible. The park is made up of five municipalities: Alconchel, Cheles, Olivenza, Táliga, and Villanueva del Fresno, around the Great Lake of Alqueva that links the province of Badajoz with Portugal.

Alqueva, with more than 1,160 km of coastline, is the largest artificial lake in Europe and offers visitors a wide range of activities to enjoy a few days in full contact with nature. A place to enjoy alone or with the whole family.

Mountain Bike Center Around the Lake Alqueva 

The natural environment of the Alqueva reservoir, in Extremadura, has seven mountain bike routes to learn about the local ecosystem and its historical heritage.

Extremadura is a land of reservoirs. Numerous long-kilometer hydraulic dams adorn the two provinces of Extremadura. One of them even goes beyond our borders and extends to the Portuguese Alentejo. It is the Alqueva reservoir, the largest reservoir in Europe, whose environment is made up of twelve municipalities and aims to become the benchmark destination for sports lovers.

With 250 kilometers of freshwater, Alqueva is one of the most interesting nautical tourism alternatives in Spain. But not only that: the natural space allows the development of other sports activities such as hiking, horse riding, or cycling. So much so that Alqueva has the Alqueva Lake Reservoir MTB Center, that is, a space for mountain bike routes. In total, seven routes of more than 300 kilometers can be made with different level modalities, routes that have the approval of the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA).

Enjoy the surroundings

The heritage resources are very rich and offer idyllic landscapes with medieval castles and villas, religious and popular architecture. While pedaling you can enjoy the wonderful environments of the pasture and the mountains, which have a very characteristic fauna such as bulls, black vultures, storks, cranes, foxes, badgers, wild boars and otters.

The area is also famous for having one of the cleanest skies in Spain, where you can admire the stars when night falls. In summer the area is ideal to go out and enjoy the routes at night, in this way we will avoid high temperatures and we can enjoy the clarity of its sky.

Local gastronomy

There is no doubt that after a good cycling route it is appreciated to taste rich foods with a designation of origin. If what you eat is delicious and you also know where it comes from … eating becomes an absolutely wonderful experience.

Excellent local raw materials that make traditional and pastoral dishes that never disappoint. Iberian pork products reign in the local cuisine, as well as fish stews such as Barbo. Famous desserts like the famous Técula Mécula will leave you with your eyes upside down.

We cannot pass through the area without tasting its wines, hams, and sausages from the famous black leg pigs.

Mountain Bike ALQUEVA
Mountain Bike ALQUEVA

The Routes

  Route 1: Pedanías de Olivenza

This route runs through the plains and districts of the bordering town of Olivenza, which was declared a Historic-Artistic Site in 1964. From this municipality, a circular route will begin that takes you through its walled enclosures and bastion, as well as the main points of interest in Olivenza. Afterward, the route continues to San Rafael de Olivenza and San Francisco de Olivenza where we can see Roman remains and a Visigoth church. The next stop will be Villarreal, on the border with Portugal, a town where the ecofluvial corridor of the Ajuda bridge starts.

Total distance: 68 km

Route: Circular

Positive slope: 341.33m

Negative slope: 346.15m

Difficulty: Red (Hard)

  Route 2: Dehesas de Olivenza

Route number 2 begins at the Convent of Our Lady of the Conception of Olivenza. From there, the small mountain ranges and hills that extend between the municipalities of Olivenza and Alconchel will be surrounded. The route passes through several mountain ranges: the Sierra de Alor and the Sierra de Montehongo. A route that will end in Alconchel and its Miraflores castle, the southernmost point of the entire route, from where we will return to Olivenza, passing through San Benito de la Contienda.

Total distance: 58 km

Route: Circular

Positive slope: 437.23m

Negative slope: 465.53m

Difficulty: Red (Hard)

  Route 3: Alconchel – Embalse de Alqueva (Playa de Cheles)

This route begins from Alconchel that crosses the typical pasture landscape of the region where you can see flat meadows and you can enjoy a great wealth of fauna. The second stop will be the municipality of Cheles where there are buildings of great antiquity such as the Palace of the Counts of Via Manuel to finish the route at Cheles beach, a river beach from which you can see Portugal, which has a blue flag for the quality of its waters and services.

Total distance: 26,32 km

Travel: Linear

Positive slope: 181m

Negative slope: 263.1m

Difficulty: Green (Easy)

Mountain Bike ALQUEVA MTB Destinations_ALQUEVA_Sky_Earth_Water_by_David_Cachon83
Mountain Bike ALQUEVA MTB Destinations_ALQUEVA_Sky_Earth_Water_by_David_Cachon83

  Route 4: Dehesas de Cheles

Also in the town of Cheles you can start another route. Unlike the previous one, this one runs through the meadows that extend around the municipality, full of flora and fauna. Plants such as thyme, oregano or the Rose of Alexandria and animals such as black storks or golden eagles will accompany us during this journey. Water will also be one of the protagonists of the route; on the path you can see the confluence of the Valcuervo stream with the Táliga riverbank, among others.

Total distance: 14.28 km

Route: Circular

Positive slope: 140.29m

Negative slope: 145.19m

Difficulty: Green (Easy)

  Route 5: Dehesas de Alconchel

Alconchel, with the views of the Miraflores Castle, is also the starting point of this circular route in which you can see the ruins of the Convento de la Luz, from the 16th century, and the remains of an aqueduct, once you reach the stream by Friegamuñoz. On this route, you will cross the Alcarrache river, through the Bogaña Bridge, until you reach the municipality of Higuera de Vargas from where you will return to Alconchel.

Total distance: 56 km

Route: Circular

Positive slope: 531.77m

Negative slope: 526.2m

Difficulty: Red (Hard)

  Route 6: Ruta de los Bienes Comunales

The main municipality of this route is Villanueva del Fresno, a border town with our neighboring country that has been the scene of historical battles with Portugal. On the way we will be able to see the town of Mourao and its castle, as well as find privileged points from which we will be able to extend the Alqueva reservoir.

Total distance: 41 km

Route: Circular

Positive slope: 202.28m

Negative slope: 223.7m

Difficulty: Blue (Medium)

  Route 7: Dehesas de Villanueva del Fresno

This itinerary, without technical and physical difficulties, invites us to enjoy the rich landscape that we pass through. The pasture fields that surround the municipality will allow us to observe numerous steppe birds, cranes, vultures … and, also, other animal species such as the wild cat. On this tour, you will also visit the defensive castles of the town of Villanueva del Fresno.

Villanueva del Fresno has a shoreline of 22.5 km from Lake Alqueva, where the jetty is located. In that place, we can practice water sports, kayaking and canoeing, fishing or hiking.

A space, in short, open to all those interested in nature and in the practice of sport in the natural environment where water will not be the only protagonist. Along the way you can also see meadows of holm oaks and cork oaks; virgin places; fluvial beaches… This area is also ideal to contemplate the starry sky, since its municipalities have an international distinctive as ‘Startlight Tourist Destination’.

Total distance: 39.66 km

Route: Circular

Positive slope: 373.83m

Negative slope: 352.3m

Difficulty: Blue (Medium)

+ information:

– You can find information about this area on its website ALQUEVA PARQUE (https://alquevaparque.com) . In it you will be able to consult the activities offered around the lake, as well as options for lodging, gastronomic and cultural information, etc …

– If you are interested in doing guided tours, renting bicycles or E-bikes you can contact Bikes At Forest (https://www.bikesatforest.com) , they are a specialized local company that operates throughout the region, serious and very professional treatment .

Thanks to all my sponsors for making this adventure possible: Patrol Mountain // SR Suntour // Shimano // Alchemist // Vittoria // PRO Bike Gear // Lazer // Pearl Izumi // MagicShine // Bikefitting

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