Northern Portugal is one of the best kept secrets of the road bike touring world – lots of other destinations such as Girona, the French Alps, the Dolomites have deservedly great reputations for anyone who loves riding their bike in the mountains, so why haven’t you heard of northern Portugal yet?
Portugal is a small country, nestling in the south-western corner of Europe, overshadowed by its larger neighbour Spain and as such it is somewhat off the beaten track. The southern coast (the Algarve) is justly famous as a tourist destination, but the north of Portugal is only beginning to be discovered, mainly because of the recent growth in popularity of the largest city, Porto. The interior of northern Portugal is still largely undiscovered however and for the serious road cyclist it could not be more perfect!
The interior of northern Portugal offers a perfect blend of great, sunny weather, challenging mountains, largely empty and well-surfaced roads, breathtaking scenery and fabulous low-cost accommodation. The interior of Portugal is largely undeveloped, not least because the terrain is rather rugged, which means there are very few urban areas and even less industry, so you can ride for hours rarely seeing a vehicle and just the occasional village for a coffee-stop. There is also a good network of motorways (freeways) that take the bulk of what little traffic there is off the smaller roads that cyclists use.
Outside of Portugal’s largest cities (Porto and Lisbon) and the Algarve, hotels are generally very accessibly priced as our restaurants, which means that cycling tours in northern Portugal can be run at very attractive prices without compromising on luxuries.
Any serious cyclist looking to book a bike tour in Europe will want to ride some tough mountains and Portugal’s largest mountain range (the Serra da Estrela) has some brutal climbs that would be Hors Catégorie (uncategorised) in any race and the climb up to the highest point of continental Portugal (Torre at 1993m) is one of the most unforgetable rides in all of Europe.
So if you are thinking of a bike tour in Europe and you want to ride some challenging rides on empty roads, with the sun beating down on your back, stunning scenery to look at and not pay the earth for it, then perhaps northern Portugal is for you!