Porto to Lisbon cycling vacation

The wild and weathered Atlantic Coast is tracked by the largest cycle path in Portugal, which winds its way south past pristine beaches and under sweet smelling pines, connecting pretty fishing villages and panoramic ocean views. Contrary to the serene waters of the sunny Algarve, Portugal’s western shore endures the temper of the restless Atlantic ocean. Untamed nature and big wave surfing reign supreme, and a bicycle tour is the best way to see it all.

Unlike the surging sea, the coastal path is made for relaxing days in the saddle; it’s pretty much plain sailing all the way from Porto to Lisbon. The forecast is for seaside cycling in the sunshine, with the promise of warm sea swims, peaceful afternoons of pedalling and long leisurely evenings spent uncovering your new favourite restaurant.

What do cycling tours from
Porto to Lisbon entail?

Cycling tours from Porto to Lisbon usually last for eight days, with six days of cycling, although tours can be tailor made to suit your pace and preferences. On a typical day you’ll be cycling 40-65km, with some shorter days. All together you’ll cover around 310km, with some hilly days, but fairly flat terrain throughout makes it an ideal trail for casual cyclists and family cycling tours.
Self guided tours are ideal for exploring the coast at your leisure, pausing for photos when you like and delaying the day’s ride to squeeze in a second custard pastry at breakfast. With your route mapped out ready and all your accommodation arranged in advance, you can enjoy the independence of the open road, without any of the hard work. On arrival, you will be provided with maps of the route, a GPS, itinerary and a bike, with luggage transfers between your hotels and most meals included. However, if you’d rather ride alongside a group, with a guide taking the lead, you can also join a small group cycling tour.

The best time for cycling the Atlantic Coast is between April and October, but a self guided tour can be arranged at any time of the year, depending on your availability. Mild temperatures in the winter months mean that Portugal is always an option for a smidgen of sunshine, while the cool Atlantic breeze curbs the sizzling summer heat. Spring and autumn are fresh and welcome long days of cycling, while blooming wildflowers and autumn colours transform the golden coast.

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Golden Beaches

The quietly sparkling, turquoise seas of Portugal’s coves and beaches are like oases in a desert of dunes and coniferous forests. For outsiders it may be overshadowed by the reputation of the south, but the western coast is home to some of the country’s best-loved beaches, including a glorious sweep of sand at Figueira da Foz known locally as the ‘Queen of Beaches’, or the Rainha das Praias. Pedalling between pines and dunes you’ll glide along the Silver Coast, past beaches primed for windsurfing and secluded spots for swimming.

Coastal villages

In contrast to the crowded UNESCO-listed cities, which top and tail this cycle tour, the traditional villages located along the coast lie mostly off the tourist map. Stop to admire the architecture at the once fashionable seaside resort of Figueira da Foz, where Portuguese families still vacation in palatial Art Deco homes, before cycling south to the traditional fishing village of Nazaré. It’s here, where fisherwomen still wear coloured skirts and clogs, and men dry their freshly caught fish in the sun, that tremendous waves attract surfers with the promise of a new world record. Famous for its perfectly preserved fortress, the pretty town of Óbidos is ideal for an overnight stay; you’ll find the whitewashed houses enveloped in fragrant honeysuckle and pink bougainvilleas.

Wild landscapes

Here, sleepy towns perch on rugged coasts where surfers ride hair-raising waves and fishing boats bob in their harbours. Plains of powdery sand dunes stretch out for miles, bordered by salt flats and the blue ocean beyond. Further south, golden sand gives way to the green of the Aveiro lagoon, peppered with colourful, painted molicieros, boats which collect seaweed from the salt waters. As you ascend through the acacia and conifers of the Serra da Boa Viagem, you’ll be met by a magnificent ocean panorama. The views below take in Portugal’s longest river, the Mondego, Cape Mondego Lighthouse and, on a clear day, the Berlengas archipelago 14km off the coast.
Written by Bryony Cottam
Photo credits: [Page banner: Web Summit] [Intro: Web Summit] [What do cycling tours from Porto to Lisbon entail?: NH53] [Golden Beaches: Marien van Os]