Lining the very western edge of Europe, Portugal is home to one of the best climates in Europe (and its fair share of wind and rain). Exposed to the mighty Atlantic, it’s well-known in adventure sports circles for its magnificent surfing and wind sports. However, it’s also a rugged country with plenty of mountain terrain, which means Portugal mountain biking holidays are well worth checking out.
From the mountainous north and picture-book Douro Valley to the sunny Algarve, there are plenty of places to ride. The coastal plains might be relatively flat in places but you’re never far away from some serious contours. The colossal Serra de Estrela stands between you and Spain, and if you can conquer that, you can ride anything.
Ok, so in your mind you might have a picture of the Algarve as a place full of sunburnt tourists, golf and all day breakfasts. And to a certain extent this is true. But there’s another side to the region, with an altogether wilder feel.
The western edge of the region is a national park, meaning it still retains its rugged beauty. It’s also a top spot for Portugal mountain biking holidays. Follow the pilgrim’s trail along the Rota Vincentina in the Vincentine national park, cross the Serra de Monchique and arrive at Cabo Sao Vincente, once known as ‘the end of the world’. Pass through picturesque whitewashed villages along the way, including Carrapateira, where you’ll find the amazing Bordeira beach. And if you get the chance, try the food at the nearby L Colesterol restaurant – you seriously won’t regret it.
Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Starting from Braga, one of the oldest Christian cities in the world, this ancient pilgrimage route runs all the way to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela and has been walked by pilgrims since the 9th century. It’s also great for riding too, with religious and mystic symbols everywhere along the route – as well as plenty of accommodation.
Experience the fortified town of Valença and the medieval Guimarães, the birthplace of the Portuguese nation. This won’t be the most challenging tour so don’t expect huge adrenaline rushes. But with a lot of it being off-road, a mountain bike is recommended.
The west coast
The west coast to the south of Lisbon is one of the lushest areas of Portugal. Start in Sesimbra and head down through the national park of Arrabida. On one side is the gorgeous Mediterranean landscape and the other the majestic Atlantic Ocean. Follow the rugged coastline all the way down to the Algarve and the Rota Vincentina, as mentioned above.
Northern granite villages
The north is Portugal’s most mountainous region. Dotted with traditional granite villages and with altitudes of over 1,000 metres, expect some pretty spectacular views. Visit the Pitões das Juntas, the highest village in the country, and cycle 2,000-year-old Roman roads. This is wine country too, so don’t forget to sample the local tipples after a hard day on your bike.
It’s not just in the water or in the air that Portugal offers a thrill. It might not have some of the downhill opportunities provided by the winter ski resorts of central Europe, but with some top tours and exciting all-mountain opportunities, Portugal mountain biking holidays are well worth exploring.