Cycle the Region

With Leigh and Merry Foster

Does you bike need some tweaking before you set off? Maybe you want to treat yourself to some new wheels? Whatever your biking needs and budget, head to Funbike Center in Céret.

fun bike center

Palau del Vidre to Villeneuve de la Raho

Total length : 25km
Difficulty : mediumMostly easy but some slightly bumpy bits

The “circuit” part of this ride actually goes from Ortaffa to the lake, but if you start in Palau del Vidre you can go via one of our favourite spots in the whole region, the river crossing at Ortaffa. More about that later though! 

Park and start your ride at the Post Office in Palau del Vidre. Set off on the Chemin d’Ortaffa heading north west. After about 100 metres you come to a T junction, follow the sign left to Ortaffa and head out of the village. Look out for the bizarre garden on the right where there are life-size concrete animals!

La poste, Palau-del-Vidre
La poste, Palau-del-Vidre

Keep going and soon you’re in the fields and farms surrounding Palau. Equestrian centres abound, and farms producing olive oil, honey, fruit and veg.   

About 2.3 km from the start you come to the river crossing. This is worth a stop to take in the peaceful riverside and lovely country views, families and dogs paddling, fish swimming, frogs, birds and insects singing depending on the season.  

Sometimes horses ride along the river which looks great fun, and the scenery is amazing.  The crossing was damaged by winter floods a couple of years ago, but has been completely rebuilt at a cost of over €1 million, and now even has a separate cycle lane. 

After your brief stop, continue in to Ortaffa past the rugby pitch. In the centre of the village you come to the main road, turn left towards Bages. 

Just along the road on your left is the quirky Ortaffa clock tower with its ornate wrought-iron bell frame on top.  

ortaffa clock tower
Ortaffa clock tower

Follow the road towards Bages up the hill, keeping right near the top and continuing until you cross the railway leaving the village. Now you are out in the countryside again, climbing a gentle incline until you come to a bigger road, the D8 from Brouilla to Villeneuve. Turn right towards Perpignan, but don’t worry you won’t be on the main road for long.  

After about 400 metres turn left on the D49 towards Bages. You’re out in the vineyards, and can also see a huge solar power installation built in 2014, supplying clean power for up to 10,000 homes. 

Continue on the road into Bages passing the sports hall Louis Noguères on the right. In the centre of the village, cross the main road and take the Rue Camille Desmoulins towards Villeneuve directly opposite.  

Follow this road about 200 metres until you come to a crossroads, where you turn right onto Rue Joseph Lakanal. This is signposted to Villeneuve, but easy to miss. Continue on this road out of the village for about 1km where you cross a small river. Just after this take the fork to the right up a gentle incline through the vineyards.   

As you come to the crest of the hill you suddenly see Villeneuve de la Raho ahead and the lake laid out spectacularly below you. Not much further on there is a car park on the left which you can cycle through, on to the dirt track that encircles the lake. 

approach to Villeneuve from Bages
Approach to Villeneuve from Bages

If you choose to cycle around the lake this adds about 6km to your ride, so bear that in mind before you decide. On the other hand, in summer there are cafés and restaurants on the northern shore of the lake, so you can stop for a drink or even lunch if they’re open. Out of season, everything is closed but there are chairs and tables all round the lake so take a picnic. 

Villeneuve de la Raho map
Villeneuve de la Raho map

Even if you don’t go all the way round, it’s worth visiting the nature reserve on the south west corner of the lake to see the birds, and sometimes even the turtles that live there.

Turtle at Villeneuve de la Raho
Turtle at Villeneuve de la Raho

Another option is to climb the hill in the centre of Villeneuve where the “you-can’t-miss-it” water tower is on the rue du Chateau d’Eau. There is a small public space there with a couple of benches where you can sit in the shade and appreciate the magnificent view of Canigou with the lake below. 

Canigou seen from Villeneuve de la Raho
Canigou seen from Villeneuve de la Raho

After exploring Villeneuve you start your return journey by making your way to the main D8 road which runs all along the eastern side of the village.  

Head south about 4km on this road until you reach a roundabout with a large InterMarché on the right. Turn left here and continue into Montescot. After about 700 metres you cross a bridge and turn right onto the Chemin de St Martin. This is a bit bumpy but lovely varied countryside, open fields and wooded lanes, as you cycle towards the Albères hills in the distance.   

After about 2km you cross the railway, and after a short downhill stretch you reach the D40 from Elne to Ortaffa. Turn right here and continue along the pretty tree-lined road for about 2.5km into the centre of the village, where you turn left on the Rue des Ecoles. There isn’t a signpost to Palau, but if you look carefully on the left there is a sign to the Parking and the école primaire, and at the bottom it says “Passage à gué”. 

View to Canigou from Villeneuve de la Raho

Retrace your track past the rugby pitch and take the right fork towards the river crossing. After that, simply follow the road back to Palau del Vidre, remembering to turn right where the sign says ‘Toutes Directions’ to bring you back to your start point. When in Palau, why not celebrate your ride with lunch or dinner at the fabulous Ancienne Ecole, pick up some lovely wine from Chateau Villeclare, or just have a coffee on the terrace at Café de France? 

Bon vélo! 

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