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Tour cycling in Portugal.

Tour cycling in Portugal.

I have been cycling in Portugal several times over the past 17 years and have covered many parts of the country by bicycle, so here is some general advice about tour cycling in Portugal, seen from my perspective.

What are the roads in Portugal like, for cycling?

The roads in Portugal are mostly good for cycling.

The roads in Portugal are mostly good for cycling.

Roads in Portugal are generally good for tour cycling. Getting in and out of Lisbon by bicycle can be a little tricky of course, but if you take one of the ferries from Cais do Sodre, that goes across the river Tejo, then you are quickly out of the city, in case you are heading south from Lisbon, on your bicycle. And you should of course stay away from the motorways in Portugal, where it’s both dangerous and illegal to cycle, but that should not really be a problem for you to find an alternative. Once you are away from the big roads, then you will find that most roads in Portugal are nicely paved and often, either have a shoulder for soft traffic, or is so quiet that you hardly see any cars. I generally find car drivers to be quite friendly towards cyclists in Portugal and I have never had any serious encounters with aggressive drivers, while tour cycling in Portugal. Be ware that Madeira Island is not quite as as good as the mainland for cycling. There is a trip report about Madeira Here.

 

Accommodation for tour cyclists in Portugal.

Space for bicycles on a road in Portugal.

Space for bicycles on a road in Portugal.

When I am tour cycling in Portugal these days, I mostly stay in smaller hotels. These places are often called Residencial by the way. I do it because they are cheap, usually costing me between 20€ and 30€ per night, sometimes even less. Sure enough, camping is cheaper and very doable if this is what you like. The government run campsites called “camping municipal” are often very cheap and there are also good chances to camp wild along the west coast of Portugal, on many of the secluded and little visited beaches. And don’t forget about the portuguese youth hostels. They are often very bicycle friendly and usually have excellent staff, who like to bike themselves. These places are cheap and have both dorms and private rooms.

And space for my bicycle in a portuguese hotel room.

And space for my bicycle in a portuguese hotel room.

Finding bicycle shops in Portugal.

 

If you need spare parts for your bike in Portugal, then you will find that almost all major towns will have a well equipped bicycle store, but be ware that smaller villages, usually don’t have a bicycle store. But ask around if you need it urgently, as there might be a bicycle repair shop, even in the small villages. You have quite a few independent bicycle stores around Portugal, that I highly recommend, but as an alternative, you can also look for the sport stores called “Sport Zone” where they always have a well equipped bicycle section. You also have bicycle sections in the Decathlon stores in Portugal.

Cycling near Fatima, in Portugal.

Cycling near Fatima, in Portugal.

What part of Portugal is the best for tour cycling?

Cycling in Alentejo is fantastic.

Cycling in Alentejo is fantastic.

Having cycled quite a bit in both north, south and central Portugal, I will have to say that my favorite region for tour cycling in Portugal is Alentejo. Sometimes people ask me if there is anything to see in Alentejo, because they have never really heard of places to see there, but I can assure you that there is plenty to see and the roads are nice and mostly quiet and Alentejo is by far the least populated part of Portugal, when compared to size. Because it is fairly unknown as a tourist destination, some of the really nice places there are surprisingly un touristy. Mertola is a great example of that for instance. It’s not that I don’t like the other parts of Portugal, it’s just that I think Alentejo is slightly better for tour cycling, In fact, Alentejo is one of the best places in the world for tour cycling if you ask me. but don’t miss out on the rest of the country. The area up around Aveiro and Coimbra is really nice for tour cycling too for instance.

Cycling near Aveiro.

Cycling near Aveiro.

What time of year is the best for tour cycling in Portugal?

Spring cycling near Estoril.

Spring cycling near Estoril.

If you are free to chose what time of year you want to go tour cycling in Portugal, then chose either spring or fall. This is when you have mostly nice weather, but not as steaming hot as you can get it in places like Algarve and Alentejo and the summer can be crowded with tourists too in many places, driving accommodation prices up. Winter is doable, as long as you are ready to put up with wind and rain every now and then. Portuguese weather is in general more unpredictable than the weather in other southern european countries, because it’s located by the Atlantic Ocean and not by the Mediterranean sea and you will see that during winter months in particular.

 

My final conclusion about tour cycling in Portugal.

As a whole, Portugal is a really nice country for tour cycling, with locals who are friendly to cycling tourists and a country where you can get by easily, even if you speak no portuguese, as most younger people there tend to be at least bilingual. Be ware that when you are close to the coast, then it can be quite windy in Portugal and the most common wind direction depends a little on what part of the country you are, so be prepared for a little wind in your face from time to time. But as a whole, Portugal is a great country to go cycling.

My bicycle leaning up against a cork oak.

My bicycle leaning up against a cork oak.

Claus.

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13 Comments

  1. Your pictures and comments were very helpful, thanks alot. I will place Portugal on list of countries to visit by bike.

  2. Great post! Adding it to my list of travel resources in Portugal. I love bicycling, but, unfortunately, since we started our perpetual travel around the world, two bags is all we carry around. That means that we switched to hiking.

    I can attest that Portugal is beautiful in spring: not too hot, not too many rainy days; basically, perfect for any physical activity. Beware though that higher elevations could be 10-15 degrees colder with some strong winds, so layers of clothing are necessary.

  3. Excellent summary and I would agree with all the main points – including the Alentejo probably being the best area for cycling. The eastern Beira region (to the north) is also excellent and even quieter (with some fabulous ruined castles) but can be a bit cooler and harder to get to.
    If you want more detail on Portugal’s different regions, ideas for routes, guided tours etc, can I suggest the Pedal Portugal website!

  4. No doubt, Portugal is the great place for cycling. But I hadn’t much idea about cycling in Portugal. After reading your post, I get enough idea about Portugal. My desire is, I will go to Portugal for cycling. Portugal is really nice place for cycling.

  5. Have you used trains or buses for inter city transportation with your bike in Portugal? Our group is flying into Lisbon, but wanting to start cycling from Evora, not Lisbon. We are finding conflicting information regarding being able to take our bikes (in boxes) on buses & trains. Our bikes are not foldable, so would be in larger bike boxes.

    • Hi’ Tanya. I don’t think you will be able to bring them on trains, as I have never seen any area on the trains that can fit bikes. Bur on busses should be ok, I would think, as long as the bikes are in boxes. But if you are a group traveling together,, then it’s maybe a good idea to email the bus company in advance and ask. Being a group, I suppose that you are reserving your bus tickets in advance anyway. Have a nice trip to Portugal.

  6. Thanks for the information. I’ve been thinking about riding in Portugal and your article helps motivate me to do it.

  7. Wheeler Edwards

    Claus, Thank you very much for this summary. It fired us up. We’re planning on a mid May trip to Portugal for 14 days. Your pics and words (plus comments!!) have inspired us. Do you know of a “Greenway” in Portugal.
    We rode the Kingfisher trail in Ireland and found that the buses were less expensive, more frequent and often to many town trains don’t go to. With folding BikeFridays we could quick fold and bag the bikes which the drivers appreciated!

    • I have not used busses that much in Portugal when cycling there. But they have fairly large trunks, where you can easily fit in a folded up bike. I do not really know of companies that helps you organising accommodation on bike tourslike Greenway in Ireland does. But they might exist.

  8. Hi, great post, thanks for this!

    Can you please give some advice on this?

    The idea is to arrive in Lisbon on 8th, get the bikes and explore Lisbon until 11th. We then want to take the train/or transport (incl. bicycles) to Coimbra. Stay there for 1 – 2 nights. (?). From there it looks pretty to cycle via Celorico de Beiraz – Pinhel- Figuera de Castelo Rodrigo – Freixo de Espada a Cinta – Torre de Moncorvo – S. Joao de Pesqueira – Pinhao to Peso da Regua. we think to do this in 8 days. From there we intend to take the boat to Porto and spend two (?) nights in Porto. From Porto to take the train/transport to Aveiro or alternatively to Figuera da Foz. From there cycling back to Lisbon. We think that will take another 8 days.

    Kindly advise if this makes sense, if we chose nice areas to ride in, if you take the train from Porto to Aveiro or alternatively to Figuera da Foz rather.

    We are no pilgrims, just avid riders and love nice food, wine and alternating scenery.

    Looking forward to hearing from you!

    Warm regards from sunny Cape Town

    Ines

    • Hi’ Ines. Be ware that there are a few conditions you have to meet if you take a bicycle on to a train in Portugal. You have details about it on this link to the Portuguese railways:https://www.cp.pt/passageiros/en/passenger-information/Useful-information/bike-transport
      The trip and the route sounds good to me. And I would only take the train to Aveiro, as the coastal area around the Aveiro region is quite bicycle friendly. Also make sure that the boat you take from Regua to Porto allows you to bring a bike on it. The trip north from Coimbra will take you though a very non touristy area and it should be a very nice ride. Have a fantastic trip and greetings from Sri Lanka, where I am cycling around at the moment.

  9. Claus, we are torn between 3 self-guided bike trips. One is 7 days of biking starting point is Lisbon and end point in Lagos. The next one is 7 days of biking inland the wine country, starting in Evora and ending in Evora. The next one is 10 days of biking starting in Oporto and ending in Estaril. First and third are basically along the coast, second one is inland. Which would you do? It’s our first time biking in Portugal and visiting Portugal.

    • Hi’ Terry. That depends a little on the time of year that you plan to bike. The inland tour around Evora sounds really good to me. The roads in this area are very good for cycling. But the weather is extremely hot there during July/August. So if you plan to go during these months, then I would recommend that you take the tour from Lisbon to Lagos instead. The tour that starts in Porto is probably not bad. But I do think that the central and southern part of Portugal are the areas most suited for cycling. Hope you will have a fantastic trip.

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