Portugal has become an emerging a destination for cyclists due to a variety of reasons:
- Proximity to the US;
- Diverse landscapes;
- Mild climate;
- Quiet roads;
- Great food and reasonable prices.
According to a recent study by the European Cyclists Federation, the cycling tourism industry in Europe is worth $55 billion per year, and growing.
With a pleasant climate and a sun shining all year-round, Portugal offers lovely conditions to be explored by bike. The diversity of landscapes makes it possible to, within a few miles, cycle from the hills to the sand dunes and beaches, from the city to the countryside, and so on. Set on a peninsula, Portugal has a fast changing geography coupled with very good infrastructure of older roads bypassed by newer highways perfectly suited for cyclists – with very little traffic and good pavement.
From the sparkling coastline to natural parks, forests and towns, you´ll find numerous cycle paths, as well as service areas and bike shops for quick repairs. In the north, following The Douro’s wine routes, travel green valleys and impressive mountain landscapes, stopping at regional city centers such as Mirandela, Vila Real, and Bragança.
Within the Centro de Portugal, Aldeias do Xisto, consisting of old recovered schist villages, offer a very special experience taking you through these very special places. The district is currently being rehabilitated for tourism and is ideal for sightseeing, biking/hiking and nature sports. The area is a must do for those traveling to this region; you may either explore the roads to the Natural Park around Bussaco, the “Roast Pig Capital” of Portugal at Mealhada, the rice fields around the old town of Montemor-o-Velho, or one of the world’s oldest universities, in Coimbra. Alternatively, along the coast, you’ll be able to pedal around memorable beaches, such as Nazaré, where Gareth McNamara famously surfed one of the biggest waves ever.
Heading south travel to the sunny Algarve, passing through the southern bank of the great river Tejo and the Alentejo, a mystical place of gliding plains, sudden mountains and the largest cork forests in the world. Right along the SW coast – known as Vicentina Coast –, between Santiago do Cacém and Cape St. Vincent, you’ll encounter a big network of walking/biking trails totaling about 180 miles. The route, developed in partnership between local authorities and businesses, earned the European certification for “Leading Quality Trails-Best of Europe.”
Furthermore, it may be possible to combine both cycling and public transportation such as, for example, taking a bike on the CP trains, public buses or Metro – at no additional charge. From the north to the south, many places also provide free bikes for short trips during the day, namely Aveiro, Cascais, Torres Vedras and Maia.
Lastly, worth mentioning, an increasing number of towns, in Portugal, are going to great lengths to provide cyclists with all the facilities needed to tour with exclusive waymarked trails and paths, support areas and bicycle parks. The interest for Portugal’s cycle-tourism trails is rising, many of the itineraries being now geo-referenced, and available via podcast or smartphone apps.