Saddle Up: Why Portugal Should Be Your Next Cycling Destination

Looking for a European activity vacation that’s off the beaten track? Jump on a bike and cycle through idyllic landscapes in sunny Portugal.

Diverse landscapes

The southern European country’s warm climate and diverse landscape make it an ideal cycling destination. You can cycle the fabled routes of ancient pilgrims, hug the bracing Atlantic Ocean coastline, cycle inland through vineyards and olive groves, farms and sleepy villages, or mountain bike on tougher terrain. And there are delicious pit stops along the way, with fresh fish and seafood direct from the morning’s Atlantic catch.

Portugal is famous for its fortified wines. This makes cycling through a wine region such as the Douro Valley a pleasurable experience, both when cycling and when charging your glass after a day in the saddle. Its hillsides are banked with steep vineyard terraces and the Douro region stretches along its eponymous river, about 60 miles inland from the city of Porto (the second largest city in Portugal).

The river meanders to the Atlantic Ocean where you’ll find the Algarve region. This area is famous for its tourist beaches ­­– although they are more laid-back and less busy than neighboring Spain – where you can stop to admire endless clifftop views and explore sea caves.

Cultural Exploration

There is more to a cycling trip to Portugal than natural beauty. It’s a country that’s rich in history and culture. The Tagus, the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula, runs through the southern region of Alentejo. This traditional Portuguese region contains the UNESCO World Heritage Site city of Évora. This is a compact city of white houses, narrow streets, and monuments that date back to the 16th century when it was first used as a royal residence for the Kings of Portugal.

Another town to visit on scenic cycle tours of Portugal is Sintra which lies 30 minutes west of Lisbon. Nestled in the hills of the Serra de Sintra, the town’s landmark is its Royal Palace dating from the 15th century but there are other palaces and castles to view at this UNESCO site.

Cycling infrastructure

Portugal has been investing in its cycling infrastructure, making it an increasingly bike-friendly destination. There are well-maintained cycling paths, designated bike lanes in urban areas, and scenic routes suitable for cyclists of all levels. The country offers excellent mountain biking terrain: from the rocky, unspoiled Serra do Gerês trails in the north to the Trans Douro route, a 210km path that takes you from the Spanish border to Porto.

Upon arriving in that city, the hilly, narrow cobbled lanes of old town Porto may not seem cycle-friendly, but there are dedicated traffic-free cycle routes following flatter ground on either side of the river that extend beyond the city center.

There is an increasing choice of accommodation options and bike rentals throughout Portugal acknowledging the ever-growing market for this type of activity vacation.

Read Also: 

Where to Go in Portugal: 15 Hidden Gems and Must-Visit Spots

20 Best Beaches in Portugal to Visit (Maps + Photos)

The 13 Best Places to Visit in Portugal

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