As another long cold winter comes to a close many you ye in northern Europe will looking to your next motorcycle adventure or just a simple cruise south in search of blue skies and a little headspace. If the Pyrenees or Spain is the direction your headed I’d highly recommend a little detour into your trip into the badlands of the Bardenas Reales Desert.
What is it?
Well the Bardenas Reales is a semi-desert natural region, or badlands, of some 42,000 hectares (100,000 acres) in southeast Navarre in the north of Spain and not the south as you might expect a desert to be. It’s a Spanish National Park and provides a truly brilliant few hours where you can easily imagine you are riding through New Mexico or Arizona.
This incredible part of Spain had been on my bucket list for ages and I can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone looking to bag some spectacular photos and get off the beaten track, literally. It’s a National Park and the road that cuts a circular trail through it is of the unsurfaced dirt nature, however you do not need an off road bike, nor any off-road experience to do it, almost any road bike will manage it with a little care, i.e. keep your speed under 30kmh (which is the speed limit anyway), lay off the front brakes and keep an eye out for potholes.
The land here is made up of clay, chalk and sandstone that has been eroded by water and wind creating mad shapes, canyons, plateaus, tabular structures and isolated hills, called seamounts, honestly it’s straight out of a Spaghetti western movie. Bardenas is a desolate and gloriously unpopulated area, vegetation is scarce and the many streams that cross the territory have a markedly seasonal flow, staying dry most of the year.
Where is it exactly?
The Bardenas is in the southeast of Navarra bordering Aragon and north west of Zaragoza about 3-4 hours ride south from the Pyrenees. It is located in the middle of the depression of the Ebro valley at the foot of the mountains of the Yugo and the Zaragoza region of Cinco Villas. It is 45 km (28 mi) from north to south and 24 km (15 mi) east-west and at an altitude ranging between 280 and 659 m (919 and 2,162 ft). Google Map https://goo.gl/maps/yMw81
Its area is 41,845 hectares (103,400 acres). The area is “rural” so as yet I’ve not found any places nearby where I’d recommend to stay, however one of my favorite bases in the region is the biker friendly Hotel Pradas Ordessa about 2 and a half hours ride north east in the Spanish Pyrenees in the well placed town of Broto https://goo.gl/maps/icQXtTd8db22
If you want to get a feel what it would be like riding through North Africa or New Mexico without having to travel that far then this is a brilliant experience. It’s not surprising this spot along with Almeria further south were used for the old Clint Eastwood spaghetti western movies. If you fancy riding through a desert than the Banderas reales National Park needs to be on your bucket list.
If you can aim to spend a full day here exploring the countless tracks leading off the main route, there are 100,000 acres to play with, so a SatNav or an old fashioned compass and map would be essential
What you need to know
The Banderas Real is a protected national park so you need to stick to the trails and dirt road. You also need to stick to the 30kmh speed limit to stay out of trouble from the park rangers. They keep a low profile but I assure you they are there and are highly protective of this unique area. Keep an eye out on the weather also, if its raining or had rained the day before your arrival then steer clear, the hard packed dirt trails/road turn into a muddy mess next to impossible to ride on with road tires.
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