Portugal Bike TripsPort wine glasses at sunset

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One of our favorite countries, for her fresh fish, “Age of Discovery” art and architecture, leagues of ocean front, gorgeous tilework, haunting music, exciting cities, and affordable, approachable wines.

We love Portugal, and her atypical Europe.  The home-grown natives are already interesting enough.  But if they fail to keep you sufficiently entertained, a diverse population keeps close links with this seafaring nation’s vast network of former colonies. 

Cities surprise with Goanese Indian restaurants, Timorese politics, Brazilian and Cabo-Verdian music (not to mention the world-famous Portuguese fadistas).  The countryside delights with windmills, red tile roofs, and exuberant vineyards.

An added bonus:  you actually start north of the Portuguese / Spanish border, in Spain, and can easily tack on a visit to Santiago, one of her most exciting cities.

 

The following trips visit Portugal:

Atlantic Coasting (3 weeks)
Visits Galicia (northwest Spain), and Portugal

Portuguese Explorer follows this itinerary exclusively.
Departure dates and prices are in the table, below.

Lisbon at Dusk

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Day-by-Day Itinerary:  Portugal

Day of the Week
Description
Typical distances, in kilometers
Sunday
ARRIVAL in VIGO, ATLANTIC COAST to PORTUGAL
We meet in Vigo on Sunday morning.  If you have subscribed to our Access Package, you will arrive either via an overnight sleeper train from Madrid or Barcelona, or via a morning train from nearby Santiago de Compostela.

We fiddle with our bikes in the Vigo station parking lot, and set out along the port.  Follow the beach-lined ria (a broad, fjord-like estuary) to Baiona, the first town to hear of Columbus’ probe of the “New World” (the Pinta landed here at the end of its return voyage, and a surprising replica still sits in the harbor).

Then a dramatic afternoon of ocean-front cycling.  Beautiful isolated beaches allow for dips in the Atlantic.  Evening brings us to the tip of Spain, for two nights on the ocean, at the Portuguese border.


Half Baggage
55 k
Monday
The MINHO VALLEY
Up the river valley to Valença do Minho and Tuy, twin Portuguese and Spanish fortress towns facing each other across the river.  A flat route is available on the Spanish side of the border, a hilly one in Portugal.

In the afternoon, we head inland via small lanes passing through smaller towns.  Trademark trellised vineyards and ornate white churches decorate the route.  Once you’ve climbed over a couple of ridges, turn back out to the ocean, following a little river as it tumbles back down the hill.

Half Baggage
40 - 80 k
Tuesday
CAMINHA, train to PORTO
A train ride into Oporto (Porto in Portuguese), on more-or-less whatever schedule your please.  Get an early start for a full day in Portugal’s second city.  Or, if you would rather go for a bike ride in the morning, plenty are available. 

When you reach Porto, spend what’s left of the day exploring the city.  Visit the Port wine houses, have dinner in one of the waterfront bars.  Perhaps an evening of fado down by the Eiffel bridge.
0 - 60 k
Wednesday
BACK COUNTRY to LUSO
A morning train gets us clear of the city, and to Aveiro, down the coast.  Then it's “head for the hills.”  We travel inland to Agueda, and then turn south on a beautiful forest road.  Through loads o’ eucalyptus, and little villages where your helmet will be enough to identify you as a space invader.

Our ride ends in the spa resort of Luso, famous for its radioactive hot springs (which would worry us if we lived around here), and for its position on the edge of the Buçaco National Forest.  This will be our home for two nights. 

Half Baggage
55 k
Thursday
LOOP in the BUÇACO FOREST
We use today to explore one of Portugal’s most extraordinary sights.  A relic of the colonial era, Buçaco has been planted with trees from around the world, some 700 species at last count.  Beautiful forest walks, and a visit to the magnificent palace hotel in the middle of the woods are on the menu.

For those who prefer military history, a little museum crowns the park, testimony to an early face-off between Napoleon and Wellington.  And bike routes into the Bairrada back country abound....

Half Baggage
Variable k, or hike instead
Friday
MONDEGO VALLEY, COIMBRA
We continue along the trail of one of Napoleon’s most famous (and costly) campaigns, across the Serra da Penacova and down the now peaceful Mondego Valley toward the Atlantic ocean.

Coimbra, reached as we come out of the hills, is one of Europe’s premier university cities.  The old university buildings crown a hill, and look out over a beautiful jumble of a town.  Shop for your very own filagree shrine, then spend the evening singing fado by the cathedral.

Half Baggage
45 k
Saturday
CROSS COUNTRY to LEIRIA
A long day, though you may shorten it with a train ride, if you wish…  Through picturesque valleys, across ranges of hills:  the best and the roughest of rural Portugal.  If you decide to take the whole thing on, it is one of the two longest days on any Blue Marble itinerary.  But it is also one of the prettiest, and one of the most unusual for any non-European.

Leiria, our destination, is a pleasant maze of narrow streets and large praças (open plazas), crowned by a spectaculary-lit abandoned castle.  Dinner tonight can be eaten on top of a barrel in a wine bar.  You'll probably prefer to crawl inside....
95 k
Sunday
BATALHA MONASTERY, out to the ATLANTIC
Leave Leiria following a ridge, with views forever on both sides.  This pleasant morning ride brings us to one of Portugal’s most stunning structures, the Batalha monastery.  A text book on Portugal’s great contribution to architure, the ornate Manueline style, which characterized the Age of Discovery.  Then a quick roast chicken at the bus station, and back to the bikes.

Out to the coast through vineyards and forests of pine.  Visit Sitio for a spectacular view of the Atlantic, and of our night's destination, Nazaré, far below.  The age-old fishing port has largely transformed itself into a resort town in recent years, but traces of its past abound, and it remains one of our favorite places.
50 k
Monday
NAZARE LOOP, to ALCOBAÇA
It is tempting to just park in Nazaré for the day, and you may do so if you please.  Visit Sitio, the original town perched on top of the cliffs and accessible by funicular.  Make an all-day affair of lunch by the beach:  the arroz de marisco (a Portuguese paella) and a half bottle of vinho verde will put you in a fine mood for an afternoon siesta on a hot day.

But Alcobaça, home to Portugal’s largest pottery market (and another imposing monastery) also beckons, just a few (pretty, baggage-free) k away.  Tough choice.
30 - 50 k
for the loops
Tuesday
ALONG the OCEAN to OBIDOS
Down the coast on a glorious ride through São Martinho (where a Blue Marble group once ordered a golden bream big enough to feed 6 hungry bikers), and to Foz do Arelho.  Beach stop!

Then to the back of the bay, and to Obidos.  This walled town proudly dominates what used to be the sea and is now just more fields.  Absence of ocean takes nothing away from a walk around the ramparts… we strongly advise sobriety (and your helmet) for this activity - you will see what we mean!  But a Blue Marble marriage resulted from a walk on these walls....

Half Baggage
50 k
Wednesday
LOOP RIDE to CAPE CARVEIRO, BERLINGA ISLAND
Out to the ocean and back again.  Stop in sleepy cafés, pedal through gnarled olive groves, gawk at old windmills.  Cycle around the Cabo Carvoeiro, pounded by the Atlantic.  Perhaps take a boat to the sea caves on Berlenga Island.

Peniche, Portugal’s second fishing port, has great fish restaurants along the old harbor: a long lunch and a stop at Baleal beach for the lazy.  The more energetic can spend time abusing seagulls, or canning tuna.  Then back to Obidos for more risking your necks on the city walls, and a celebratory “last night on the road” dinner.

Half Baggage
65 k
Thursday
To LISBON
A short morning cycle to the local railhead, and a 2-hour train ride, combine to bring us to Lisbon.  A free afternoon to discover the Portuguese capital.

Lisboa is one of our favorite cities.  Great food, architecture, and a charming nightlife combine to form an ensemble that would easily satisfy for a week, if not a lifetime.  You will have to pick and choose, and it will not be easy.  Climb up to the castle for incomparable views.  Shop the boutiques of the Baixa, or wander the alleys of the Alfama, perfumed with fresh sardines grilling in impromptu sidewalk kitchens.  At the Jeronimos monastery, you can find yourself eerily alone in a chamber with the mortal remains of Vasco de Gama.  High school history suddenly in front of you in a stone tomb.

Our trip includes dinner, and a hotel night in Lisbon, to help you towards your ongoing project the next day.

Half
Baggage
10 k
Friday
TRAVEL DAY
We recommend another night in Lisbon, if you can afford the time and the funds....  We offer to book additional nights in our Lisbon hotel with no reservation fee, if you so wish, for a Saturday or a Sunday flight.
A bit more Lisbon?

Portuguese Explorer — Facts & Figures
2018 Dates
Baggage Services Offered***
(optional)
Difficulty of the Ride
Dates to be Determined
Follow this link to help choose them
$3,495 US
$4,195 C
2,595€

Daily, Half, Lite

Moderate

Some hills and a couple of longish days crowd into riding times shortened by interesting non-biking sightseeing.  Back-ups are always available.

* Prices in $ and € do not include precisely the same things.  Click here for details.

Prices of Optional Extras (links lead to explanations)
Currency
$ prices include
the bike.
See here for information on bringing your own.
*** At least 4 riders must subscribe to a given baggage service for it to operate.  The services listed are those currently offered on the departure in question. Services which appear in bold already have at least 3 subscribers (so, one more would ensure their operation).
Daily
Half
$US
$550
$230
$460
$C
$670
$276
$550
€uros
460€
184€
380€
290€

Reaching & Leaving Your Trip:  General Information on Access Packages
Specific information on reaching your trip’s start in... Vigo
Specific information on departing from your trip’s end... Lisbon