Andalucia, Spain: Where bikepacking meets spaghetti westerns

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. The Magnificent Seven. For a Few Dollars More.

What could three Western movies, circa the sixties era of filmmaking have to do with a bikepacking trip through Spain?

Well, there’s the empty desert landscape, the scorching heat, oh yeah, and the clapboard saloons of the original sets. And even though the XPDTN3 team didn’t actually set foot on the set per se – steel horses were not permitted – they did enjoy the view from a short distance. 

On a recent 3T adventure, Marc Gasch and cycling buddy Loren headed into spaghetti western territory, the area in southern Spain where the Italian-made western movie industry boomed for a while (turns out it’s cheaper and easier to get a European crew and set to the Tabernas desert, the only official desert in Europe, than it is to transport people and gear to the far off lands of the Sahara or the Gobi).

This three-day trip commenced in the small Mediterranean village of Agua Amarga, then ducked inland to explore the mountainous desert scenery of the Tabernas and the surreal Fort Bravo film set and amusement park. 

It was amidst this striking scenery that they had some of the best riding of the trip. Leaving the Fort Bravo, behind they entered the official Desierto de Tabernas protected area. Ascending a steep climb, they dropped down to the Fuente Santas station on a doubletrack trail, before beginning another hot climb. In Marc’s words: 

From there a short double-track downhill brings you to the highest speed “Rambla” you have ever been to. With its sweet downhill profile, Loren and I were flying at 28 miles (45 kilometers) per hour on the dry river bed. No soft sand or big rocks this time, just smooth dirt with a few rocks here and there. Makes us laugh at the stupid speeds we were getting in there. I didn’t even want to think about the consequences of crashing here at that speed…But it was fun.

From Tabernas the pair headed into the coastal city of Almeria and continued along the coast to another site famous for its heyday in the film industry: The beautiful Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural Reserve, which once provided the backdrop for films like Lawrence of Arabia and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. When the XPDTN3 team rode through it was quiet, rugged and breathtaking – in more ways than one.

Marc says:

The volcanic landscape blends with a few sand dunes and desert vegetation as we get close to the town of San José – not our favorite, so we grab a quick sandwich and keep going until the next stop, the beautiful village of La Isleta del Moro, following rocky gravel tracks (and singletracks) making its way always parallel and close to the Mediterranean Sea.

They closed the loop by riding up and over the multiple hills along this beautiful section of the Andalucian coastline, ending back in Agua Amarga, tired, tanned, and happy.

You can read the full story and see even more inspiring photos over on the 3T website.

Words & photos by Marc Gasch