Portugal Cycling Holiday Minho and Porto
8 days / 7 nights | Self guided bike tours | Green Portugal: from the mountains to the sea
The Alto Minho biking holiday will give you an almost surrealistic "change of scenery" experience. Starting high in the mountains area, you will literally cycle down to the Atlantic Ocean stretching before you as far as you can see. This land is also blessed by the Minho, Lima and Douro rivers, each of which will accompany you at one stage or another of your ride. This is a proud land, proud of its maritime history and of the remains of the fortifications that helped keep the Spanish well within their borders. It is the land of fine mountain cuisine and, along the cost, a wealth of fish and seafood dishes, best enjoyed with a glass of Vinho Verde.
Best of all, it is a biking journey that will put you in touch with some of the nicest Europeans. Do take every opportunity to meet the local inhabitants: fishermen and their wives, farmers, the kind lady at the local shop; listen to the stories of the owners of your accommodations. Cycle across the ancient Roman bridge at Ponte de Lima, famous for its beauty and its importance to medieval pilgrims as they made their way from Porto to Santiago de Compostela. Enjoy biking through the North of Portugal at its most authentic.
Day 1: Porto – Castro Laboreiro
Transfer by car from Porto airport to Castro Laboreiro (transfer from the airport or hotel at approx. 2 p.m.), inside the Gerês National Park. As you are driven across the hills and mountains of the countryside, past extensive vineyards, you will observe small villages dotted here and there, like pieces of mosaic, on the distant hills. As we reach the Serra de Laboreiro mountains where you will spend the night before beginning your biking holiday, a hush descends over all as we slowly climb up to the village through forests of long-needled pines. This is a tiny hamlet with beautiful wind and watermills and just one old shop in the centre, the hub of village life, where we buy a few goods. That night, your accommodation is a large, old farmhouse with excellent facilities.
Day 2: Monção (Cycling 46–57 km / 29–36 miles)
The first stage of your biking holiday is exceptionally beautiful, a pleasant downhill journey past the Spanish border, past a landscape of stark granite outcrops and few trees, across the northern regions of the Gerês National Park and into the land of the Serra de Peneda mountain range. The 72,000 acres of the Gerês National Park provide one of the last natural refuges for wolves and golden eagles. Don't be too surprised if you come face-to-face with a deer or a wild boar! Continue cycling through totally silent villages where you will always find a kind person to help you find the road when needed. The community ovens where villagers gathered to bake their bread, some of them still in use, are fascinating. Particularly striking are the traditional espigueiros, the granite maize stores on stilts. By the time you arrive in Monção, the fortified town on the River Minho, you will understand why the Portuguese are so proud of the fact that the Spanish were never able to conquer them.
Easy Tour: 46 km, 100% elevation gain, 140 m elevation gain.
Medium: 57 km, 100% paved, 222 m elevation gain.
Day 3: Caminha (Cycling 48–59 km / 30–37 miles)
Today, you will travel eastwards, along the River Minho to the Atlantic Ocean. Your journey will take you through the demarcated Vinho Verde winemaking region and the vineyards that produce the dry white wine for which it is famous. Enjoy the elegant Brejoeira Palace which is still inhabited by the family, a leading producer of top quality Vinho Verde, and pick up a bottle of this wine for dinner. Along the route, you will cycle past landmarks of the battles between Portugal and Spain, especially the impressive 17th century stronghold at Valença and the Vila Nova de Cerveira fort. That evening, you will stay in Caminha, an elegant town strategically located at the estuary of the River Minho and whose history dates back to pre-Roman times.
Easy Tour: 48 km, 90% paved, 134 m elevation gain.
Medium: 59 km, 90% paved, 395 m elevation gain.
Day 4: Ponte de Lima (Cycling 53–63 km / 33–40 miles)
Cycling along the mighty Atlantic Ocean is an extraordinary experience, especially when the ocean is showing its friendliest face as you ride past fishing villages that appear unchanged for centuries. As you arrive in Viana do Castelo the peace and quiet is replace by the buzz of this lively city at the estuary of the River Lima. A must-see is the 19th century byzantine Santa Luzia Church on the hilltop overlooking the city. This will take some climbing, but the reward is a breath-taking view. From here you will cycle inland again, following the River Lima until you arrive in Ponte de Lima. The oldest village in Portugal, it is famous for its beautiful 24-arch Roman bridge famous and its importance to medieval pilgrims as they made their way from Porto to Santiago de Compostela. After arriving at your accommodation, a little outside the town, although you might be tempted to stop and enjoy the charming setting, we recommend that you first stretch your legs with a stroll around the picturesque city. When you return, your host at this rural property will serve you a great dinner, accompanied by a tasting of his fine wines. The next morning, you will be able to sweeten your breakfast with the finest honey from the bees on the estate.
Easy Tour: 53 km, 70% paved, 97 m elevation gain.
Medium: 63 km, 85% paved, 123 m elevation gain.
Day 5: Barcelos (Cycling 33–41 km / 21–26 miles)
Whether you are religious or not, following the medieval Portuguese route to Santiago de Compostela is a special experience. Possibly because one is so aware that this has been a pilgrims' way for centuries and that so many have trod these paths with such fervour and dedication. It is a route that those who walk it still today, do so knowing they will meet challenges, experience great joy and forever learn the lesson of life. This is a pleasant, not complex, bike ride through cornfields and vineyards to the city of Barcelos on the River Cavado. The centre of the pottery industry, it is also of religious importance. You must visit the 13th century Mother Church. Every hour on the hour, you will hear the pealing of the church bells of the many parishes for which the city is famous.
Easy Tour: 33 km, 85% paved, 300 m elevation gain.
Medium: 41 km, 95% paved, 350 m elevation gain.
Day 6: Vila do Conde (Cycling 36–42 km / 23–26 miles)
Today you cycle back to the Atlantic, a sight we genuinely look forward to. This is a 35 kilometre-long stage, so you can take some extra time to enjoy a great lunch, the Portuguese way: a leisurely, several-course meal that again reminds you why the Portuguese people are so proud of their cuisine. Of the finest nature, it can only be made by those who genuinely worship the wealth of what the earth has to offer. Vila do Conde is famous for its shipbuilding past, as we can see by the replica of a ship used during the Discoveries and built here. The city centre is dominated by gracious manors and small palaces. The importance of its fishing harbour is not just evident in the port. That evening, you will enjoy a wonderful seafood dinner in the town and a leisurely stroll along the beach before you go to bed, refreshed by the sea air.
Easy Tour: 36 km, 70% paved, 163 m elevation gain.
Medium: 42 km, 65% paved, 203 m elevation gain.
Day 7: Porto (Cycling 34–48 km / 22–30 miles)
The last stage of your holiday will take you on quiet cycle paths along the coast, through a sea bird reserve, along dunes and across fishing villages. It is remarkable how hard these fishermen (and their wives!) work and even more their good spirits. You are approaching Porto and you will soon enter the city via the estuary of the River Douro. This city, famous for Port Wine past and present, is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. A Unesco World Heritage City, its historic centre boasts more than 1500 listed monuments. Still, as you meander on your bike alongside the River Douro, you cannot help but become aware of the gifts this city and this region have to offer. As we have said, a breath of calm, peace of the soul and a love of life.
Easy Tour: 34 km, 100% paved, 107 m elevation gain.
Medium: 48 km, 90% paved, 120 m elevation gain.
Day 8: Porto
After breakfast transfer back to the airport of Porto.
Please note: All cycling distances stated above are approximate only.