Cycling vacations in Portugal

Portugal is a much underrated destination for cycling vacations, but can a country that boasts such a rich variety of terrain, off the beaten track locations to explore that see very few tourists, and appealing local culture stay off the radar for long? Not if we have anything to do with it.
Cycling in Portugal typically involves point-to-point routes, traveling between small rural hotels, which often have an inviting pool for you to refresh yourself after a day on the road. But don’t be under the impression you’ll be fetching up exhausted every afternoon. These trips for the most part adopt a pleasantly easygoing pace that allows ample time to pull over for a photo, a picnic, a glass of wine or a dip in the sea. And if you do pick up a few aches and strains, you can book a massage to relieve them.
Of course there’s challenge available too if you want it, as these are mainly tailor made vacations so organisers can plot longer or steeper routes as required. You have the structure you need, but plenty of flexibility too. There are small group cycling trips available too, riding as part of a peloton and led by a guide, and making for social cycling in a relaxed and encouraging atmosphere.

What does a cycling vacation in Portugal entail?

Whether riding as part of a small group or on your own, for convenience there will be luggage transfers between accommodations available, and sometimes included in the price. On tailor made self guided trips that’s just one element of the support you’ll receive throughout for complete peace of mind. Detailed maps and comprehensive route notes are provided, along with a GPS. You’ll be supplied with mountain or road bikes (some trips also offer hybrids and electric bikes) equipped with panniers. As for what to pack, it’s recommended to bring your own helmet and water bottle, and of course you’re at liberty to also use your own saddle covers and pedals.

As for terrain, expect quiet, tarmac roads and the occasional dirt track with forgiving gradients. There will be the occasional slog involved but manageable, and the best thing about hills is that at some point you always get to ride down again.

Where to cycle in Portugal

Alentejo

Alentejo is glorious rural scenery, fields of undulating wheat dotted with ramshackle farmhouses, groves of olive and cork trees where shepherds find shade while tending their flocks, and vineyards bloom in one of the country’s premier wine destinations. This is one of Portugal’s most untouched landscapes where traditional ways of life go on much as they have for centuries. Itineraries offer a mix of coastal and countryside cycling, and some also dip into the neighbouring Algarve.

Atlantic Coast

Typical Atlantic Coast routes travel down from Porto to Lisbon, though there are others that take you from the capital down to the Algarve through Setubal, Aljezur and Sagres. Daily distances range from 40 to 60km, and immerse you in wildly beautiful scenery of pine-scented forests, idyllic beaches (notably the prestigious resort of Figueria da Foz), fishing villages, conservation areas and historic towns such as Obidos.

Algarve

The Algarve is prime terrain for cyclists of all levels. Casual and moderate riders will find daily distances of 30km to 50km easily manageable, while those wanting a bit more exertion can look at a center based training camp that combines a demanding 500km over four days with work on safe handling and riding, team dynamics, diet, lifestyle and physiology. There are both coastal and inland routes that might encompass historic towns such as Silves and Lagos, the foothills of the Monchique mountains, or well known trails including the Ecovia do Litoral.

Azores

Cycling vacations in the Azores focus on Terceira, one of the largest islands in the archipelago and known as the ‘Lilac Isle’. Although you’ll be riding predominantly quiet country lanes it can be quite hilly, so the Azores is best suited to more advanced and confident riders. If you don’t fancy spending the entirety of your vacation in the saddle then between the lush forests and a coastline dotted with volcanic features you have no end of options for swimming, wine tasting, whale watching and sea kayaking.

Geres-Peneda National Park

Ideal for family cycling vacations, this national park in the northern Minho region of Portugal presents moderate challenge and a mild climate as you cycle around a simply jaw-dropping natural landscape, and some of the oldest ancestral villages in Portugal, some of which date back to the 16th century. It’s also very close to Porto, Portugal’s second city and home of port wine.

Our top Portugal Vacation

Porto to Lisbon cycling holiday, self guided

Porto to Lisbon cycling vacation, self guided

Family Cycling Vacations in Portugal | Self-Guided

From 939 to1390 8 days ex flights
Tailor made:
This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Portugal or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Best time for cycling in Portugal

Generally you can take cycling vacations in Portugal at any time, but you should give Alentejo and the Algarve a miss during late-July and August when the heat gets pretty intense and popular areas are crowded. Winter weather can be chilly and damp, especially further north, so the best time for cycling in Portugal tends to be the spring and autumn.
The cycle takes you through rural areas of Portugal which are relatively untouched by tourism. Some of the accommodation was idyllic.
– Anne Nicholl
“We loved every aspect of this trip. Responsible Travel put us in touch with a local operator which was awesome. Communication was easy and fast and they answered all our questions. It was so well organized. A rep from the company met us at our hotel in Porto and gave us our bikes, a gps, local phone with their numbers pre programmed, answered all our questions and we took off the next day. We loved following the well marked paved trails along the coast and came to trust our gps as it took us through corn fields and random trails and always delivered us right to the front door of that night's hotel.” – Laurie Crossman on a self-guided Porto to Lisbon cycling vacation

“The cycle takes you through rural areas of Portugal which are relatively untouched by tourism. Some of the accommodation was idyllic. It’s a great vacation if you are looking for a good mix of cycling as well as relaxing. Miles per day can be adjusted to suit, and aren’t overly long, the route itself isn’t overly taxing and the bikes...are comfortable with sufficient gearing to get up all the moderate climbs. Great vacation if you’re looking for a good mix of cycling, relaxing and sightseeing of some of Portugal’s untouched areas.” – Anne Nicholl on a self-guide cycling vacation in Portugal
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Web Summit] [Topbox: Web Summit] [Algarve (Silves): Graeme Maclean] [Best time to go: Thibault Mokuenko] [Rural countryside (meadow flowers): Francous Philipp]
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