Top 10 cycling holidays in Portugal

Our best cycling holidays in Portugal take you away from the crowded beaches and into some of the wildest rides on Europe’s Atlantic coast. This is where you’ll discover shaded pine forests, huge expanses of sand, and some of the best melted cheese sandwiches you’ll ever taste. Self guided cycling holidays in Portugal are the perfect bridge between joining a group and doing everything yourself. Locally owned accommodation is ready and waiting for you each afternoon – and so is your luggage, so you don’t need to worry about overdoing it on the Lycra.

Keep reading to find out our top 10 Portugal cycling holidays…

1. Porto to Lisbon

There’s a cracking self guided cycle ride from Porto to Lisbon that allows you to pedal 40-60km a day along Portugal’s untamed Atlantic coastline. This is a super sensory route, with salty sea air combining with pine-infused forests and wild rosemary. High Atlantic rollers aside, this cycling holiday in Portugal also includes overnight stopovers at some of the west coast’s lesser-known seaside towns and villages – places like Ovar and Sao Pedro de Moel.

2. The Algarve

The great thing about cycling in the Algarve is that you’re not restricted to staying at a resort. Cycling in this region of southern Portugal gives you the freedom to explore and seek out those tiny inland villages away from busy beaches. If you’re cycling daily distances of 30km, you can take advantage of secluded stretches of sand – so don’t forget to pack a towel and swimmers in your panniers.

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3. The Alentejo

Cycling in southern Portugal is a joy for fans of wide open spaces, vineyards and cellar doors. A cycling holiday in the Alentejo region is all about discovering the sun-kissed culture of the countryside as you cycle via almond, fig and orange orchards en route to traditional hilltop villages. Closer to the coast, you’ll pedal past sand dunes and the crashing waves of the Atlantic. Costa Vicentina Natural Park in south-west Alentejo is practically untouched and a treat for anyone riding a bike with a pair of bird watching binoculars in their saddle bag.

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4. The Azores

Although the Azores aren’t established territory for bike enthusiasts, they’re starting to become something of a cycling holiday hotspot. Take the island of Terceira, for example. This is where you can cycle through green fields and shaded woodlands on your way to smoking volcanic fumaroles and wild swimming in tidal pools. Elsewhere in the Azores, you can pedal up to 45km a day, as well as taking time out of the saddle to go whale watching, sea kayaking and wine tasting.

5. Atlantic coast

Cycling Portugal’s Atlantic coast is akin to a sensory overload. This is where you can pedal all day long if you want to, as crashing waves, pine forests and lemon orchards provide the backdrop for picnics plucked from your panniers. The terrain along this stretch of south-west Portugal is incredibly varied, too, from the relatively flat cycle paths following the Douro River to the sandy, shaded pine forest trails leading to the seaside towns of Costa Nova and Mira.

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6. Lisbon to the Algarve

A week-long cycling holiday from Lisbon to the Algarve requires average daily distances of around 50km – which is good news for early starters looking to pedal through the morning and explore on foot during the afternoon. This is a great route for lovers of long distances or cyclists who want to make the most of their first time on an e-bike as they cycle from capital to coast.

7. Obidos to Cascais

The narrow medieval streets and Moorish fortifications of Obidos are steeped in history and make a great prelude to a 100km cycle to Cascais. This route features plenty of opportunities to explore and stop for a rest at whitewashed villages, natural inland lagoons, green limestone valleys, wooded hillsides and, finally, the palatial estates of Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. Cycling is the best way to enjoy these uncrowded parts of Portugal.

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8. Portuguese Way

This historic pilgrimage trail provides ample opportunities to explore northern Portugal and north-west Spain on two wheels. Starting in the city of Porto, you’ll follow the Camino north along the Atlantic coast as you pick up your pilgrim’s passport and encounter a series of fishing villages and pine forests along the way. A short ferry ride allows you to enter the gloriously green Spanish region of Galacia, where you’ll continue through woodlands and along the coast before reaching Santiago de Compostela. Average daily distances of 50km over a week, plus a mix of paved roads and dirt tracks, make this a fairly moderate cycling holiday for pilgrims who love to pedal.

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9. Costa Vicentina

Experiencing south-west Portugal by bike is the best way to immerse yourself in the wild ambience of the Alentejo and Algarve regions. Costa Vicentina Natural Park covers a rich variety of natural habitats and terrain, from rocky headlands and secluded coves to rolling green hills and peaceful seaside communities. Average daily distances of 40-45km allow you to cycle from Sines to Sagres over the course of a week, and overnight accommodation at locally owned hotels makes this a really relaxing holiday ride rather than an uphill slog.

10. Douro River

Following the course of the Douro River as it winds its way down from Porto is the chance for cyclists to experience Portugal from a rural perspective. Roads through the valley are practically car-free and feature several climbs, as well as lots of opportunities to visit wineries and olive farms. Lesser-known riverside villages such as Peso da Regua, Pinhao, Marialva and Barca d’Alva are great places to pause from pedalling and enjoy a well-earned francesinha (a chunky meat and melted cheese sandwich).

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Written by Chris Owen
Photo credits: [Page banner: alynst] [Porto to Lisbon: Peter K Burian] [Azores: Luca Nebuloni] [Algarve: Artem Zhukov] [Costa Vicentina: Paula F. Souza]