Most people know of the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, but fewer people know of Miguel Primo de Rivera, who took over Spain’s government in a coup in 1923. During his seven-year totalitarian rule, he instigated many public works projects, one of which was an unlikely railroad to link the textile town of Alcoy with the port of Alicante.
Unlike many railroads, the rails themselves were not laid as the project proceeded. Instead, all the track bed, viaducts, bridges, tunnels, and other civil engineering infrastructure were completed first. This took a long time and with the coming of the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939), work was abandoned, and the project was never finished.
Part of the track near the town of Castalla was cut by a new motorway in the 1990s, but the majority of the track bed has been converted into two fantastic trails. One of these greenways runs along a steep route (for a railroad) from near the village of Agost (just inland from Alicante) to a parking lot under the shadow of the Maigmó mountain. This section has seven tunnels, two viaducts, and roughly 16.5 miles of compacted gravel track.
The other greenway runs from the outskirts of Alcoy (close to an old growth oak woodland in the Carrascal de Font Roja Nature Park) through amazingly spectacular scenery to the outskirts of the town of Ibi. It’s about six miles long (of which about 4.5 are tarmac) with 10 amazing tunnels and three impressive viaducts. Some of the tunnels intersect natural caves in the limestone. The authorities seem to be blocking up these connections, but locals keep reopening them.
There is an amazing contrast in scenery between the Alcoy and Maigmó greenways. While the Alcoy section is largely in pine forests, once you cross the Maigmó watershed the land becomes semi-desert.
Between these two officially recognized greenways, it’s perfectly possible to cycle most of the remaining track through the olive and almond plantations on the outskirts of Ibi and Castalla, with the occasional detour along public roads. This links the two greenways to form a spectacular and historic cycle route between Alcoy and Alicante.
Know Before You Go
Logistics of returning back to the start are not too bad if you are prepared to lock up your bike and return to pick up your car by bus. If traveling by train check that bikes can be carried.For a less physically demanding cycle ride one should start at the Alcoy end and, on average, you will be on a route that descends to the coast (not that it is all downhill by any means). The other direction is quite tough going. Ensure that you carry water on this route. The unofficial part of the route South of Castalla starts at the southern end of Avenida Alcoy. It is an obvious track. When you reach the Autovia, cross the bridge, go south along the tarmac service road to the roundabout. Go around the roundabout to pick up the old trackbed again at the second exit. You can then follow the old rail line to within about a mile of the start of the Maigmo greenway, with this section being on quiet public roads.