Portugal by Bike

With only two weeks to play, my husband and I decided that our next bike tour would take place in Portugal.  June is the shoulder season in this Iberian Peninsula country.  June also marks the start of the hot season, which had us up early and riding late to avoid the afternoon heat.  We flew into Lisbon, the city of the seven hills and the red terracotta roof tiles.  After a day spent exploring Lisbon by foot we packed up our bikes and took a train to Porto.  I preferred Porto over Lisbon.  Lisbon had a certain charm. But Porto seemed more laid back, more approachable and friendly.  And, they had port.  Lots of Port.  After a lovely evening in Porto we officially started the bike tour by heading east along the Douro River and then headed south in to the rugged mountains.  Our first night out was spent wild camping along the Rio Paiva. The tranquility of a rarely traveled place was ours for the night.

We climbed out of Espiunca and made our way through the mountains to Sao Pedro Do Sul and down to the Ecopista do Dão. The Ecopista is a converted rail road track that runs along the Rio Dão – through lovely country side and mostly downhill!  After staying with an interesting family from Mozambique and having some of the best Indian Food either of us have had we decided to head out to the coast.   The ride out of the mountains was spectacular following the Dão and through Coimbra, the third largest city in Portugal.  Navigating big cities is always a bit of a challenge, but we managed to find an easy route through and on to the west side.  We continued to follow the river – which was now flat, boring, humid and very hot.  After 116 km of hot sticky riding we finally made it to my absolutely favorite campground – Tamanco just outside of Carriço mid-west Portugal.  They had beds in sewer pipes, a salt water pool, a tavern and a pay-on-your-honor farm stand.  Perhaps the best part was the bread truck which pulled in at 8:30 am and brought fresh croissants, crusty roles and of course, pasteis de nata, the national baked custard pies. 

We ended the cycling part of our trip by riding down the coast – which was actually a bit boring.  A few highlights included visiting Nazare where the largest waves have been recorded and imagining the sheer power of the waves that pound the rocks.  Also hanging out in a fancy hotel with our own balcony overlooking the beach for dirt cheap because it was shoulder season.  Our last evening was spent in a traditional Fado restaurant in the Alfamo district of Lisbon.  A night to remember.  A trip of a lifetime.