Spain offers hikers and cyclists nearly 3,000 kilometres of “Greenway” paths through tranquil and picturesque natural settings. Abandoned railway lines converted to trails, they extend throughout the country – more than 120 in all, both inland and near the coast.
In the Murcia region alone, the network of “Vías Verdes” covers 220 kilometres following the incorporation this month of Chicharra Yecla. The other existing pathways, used by half a million people in 2020, cover the Noroeste (North-West), Campo de Cartagena, Mazarrón and Almendricos areas.
The 8.9-kilometre Vía Verde del Chicharra Yecla section was officially inaugurated by regional minister for the presidency, tourism and sport Marcos Ortuño and Yecla mayores Remedios Lajara (pictured). It begins at the old Yecla railway station, continues along an urban and cycling pathway, then returns to the former railway line before finishing at Villena.
National Greenway routes, including those in the Murcia region, are easily accessible paths, comfortable for walking or cycling and suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels, as well as for nature lovers with reduced mobility or other disabilities.
The routes are varied, covering both rural and urban areas, their length can range from five kilometres to well over 100 kilometres, and they are extremely flat, with slight curves and slopes no greater than three per cent. Various activities are also organised around the trails, such as sports events, photography workshops and cycle touring meetings.
More than 100 former railway stations in Spain have been restored to provide new services for modern travellers, including hotels and hostels, restaurants and cafés, railway museums and nature centres, tourist information offices and bicycle hire shops. The old rail routes also offer a wealth of heritage, with tunnels, viaducts and bridges.
Explaining why Greenways should be chosen as a hiking option, Spain’s official tourism website noted, “For their comfort, safety and variety and, of course, their natural beauty. However, Greenways offer much more than nature. These former railway tracks have been prepared for sport use and are all clearly signposted. Furthermore, everything has been carried out with the greatest respect for the environment, integrating the routes in their natural setting. Along the trails, you will find panels explaining the main natural and cultural points of interest. The Greenways website also has a map of all the rail trails in Spain with detailed information on each one.”
And for cycle touring? “Because you can enjoy nature as you cycle without the inconveniences of sharing a road with motor vehicles. Motorised traffic is restricted, and in most places where Greenways cross roads they go over or under them. The tunnels along the routes are also lit up for the convenience of cyclists and walkers, with a good surface and straight stretches for a comfortable transit.”