The train transport system in Portugal is great. Here's what you need to know how to make it work for your bicycle journey by following our guide to fuss-free bike travel on trains when you visit.
If you are going to start or finish a route in Lisbon, Faro or Porto in Portugal you will most likely use the Intercidades trains.
Their routes go to: Lisbon – Oporto / Guimarães / Braga / Viana do Castelo, Beira Alta, Beira Baixa, Alentejo (Lisbon Oriente / Évora) and Algarve.
This is their list of conditions for bike travel:
The 2nd class carriages on these trains have proper supports for traditional bikes, allowing 2 bikes to be taken in each carriage. The supports in the carriages do not have padlocks.
More information can be found in English here:
The Regional, InterRegional and Coimbra urban trains allow you to take your bike. These trains are used more for shorter distances, to cross the Algarve or the Douro, for example. On the platform before boarding, go to the ticket inspector, who must issue the ticket (the passenger's) and say whether the bike can go on board as the space is limited depending on the type of train.
There are a few temporary restrictions on bikes on the Regional and InterRegional trains.
It is advisable to use the carriages and spaces indicated by a bike symbol on outside of the regional trains.
More information about traveling by public transport in Portugal can be found here:
By Vanya Maplestone & Enrique Díaz
We are both cycling tour guides and travel all year round in Portugal, sometimes by train or motorhome but mostly on two wheels. After 5 years traveling in this amazing country together we have many useful things to share with you!
A guide to cycling the Camino de Santiago in Spain: When to go, what to pack and how to prepare for your bicycle pilgrimage across Spain.
Cycling the Camino de Santiago can be a once in a lifetime adventure, and as such, to make the very most of your journey, here are a few suggestions from a fellow cyclist and perennial pilgrim to help you on your Way!
When is the best time to take a Camino de Santiago bicycle holiday? is a question we get asked a lot at Cycling Rentals and one that has many answers. It will depend on the route chosen, the specific section, as well as what you are hoping to experience on the route.
Generally, most pilgrims choose to travel from Spring to Autumn. The most famous route, the French Way or Camino Frances, for instance crosses very different regions, from the Pyrenees to Galicia, and the weather will change from region to region. Summer months can be very hot for cycling across the Meseta, the middle sections of the French Way, but if you are cycling the last section from Sarria to Santiago, temperatures won’t be as high; as you will be cycling in Galicia and its mild Atlantic climate.
Coastal routes such as the Portuguese Coastal Way, Finisterre Way and Northern Way are best appreciated in the Summer months, when seaside towns come to life.
If you are cycling in the Summer months, whether along the coast or inland, always make sure you bring essential items to avoid sunstroke such as hat, sunblock and plenty of water. You should also make sure you take breaks from the heat and avoid exposure to the sun around lunchtime, the hottest part of the day. We recommend leaving early in the day to get your cycling in before the sun can make your experience feel more extreme.
The popularity of the Camino de Santiago has increased over the past few years and you will encounter fellow pilgrims on the French Way route most months of the year, but particularly during peak season. If you are looking for a quieter experience, we recommend other Camino routes such as the Portuguese Way.
Winter months will be quieter on the French Way but the route will be more challenging due to the weather conditions. Mountain areas such as the Pyrenees and O Cebreiro are likely to get snow in the winter months; while lower areas can be wet and cold. In addition many cafes, restaurants and hotels may close during the winter months particularly in rural areas. Talk to the Cycling Rentals travel specialists if you are looking to travel on the Camino in winter and we’ll be able to advise you on your best options.
With the growing amount of Camino Rental Packs we dispatch, we thought a Camino specific cycle packing list would be very helpful! We update this list regularly and count on your suggestions to make it better and better. (Scroll down for a printable packing list).
The first thing to bear in mind with the Camino de Santiago is that you can essentially cycle the pilgrimage route any time of year - though our preference is for late spring, early summer or fall. Other times of year can be rather too cold or hot for comfortable cycling. Having said that, any time of year you choose to cycle the Camino, you should bear in mind that given the distance, elevation and natural micro-climates, the variation of the weather is something you must prepare for.
From the brisk mornings in the Pyrenees to the hot plains in and out of Leon, to the chilly heights of O Cebreiro and the possible rain showers around Santiago de Compostela, you will be exposed to a range of temperatures and weather conditions. With that in mind and because you don't want to pack too heavy (despite the 40 liter capacity of our Ortlieb panniers!), here is our suggested packing list - scroll down for a pdf to print-out and you can check items off as you pack.
1 x Bike helmet
1 x Cycling cap
1 x Sun glasses
1 x Clear lens glasses (or changeable lenses)
1 x Fingerless gloves
1 x Full finger gloves
1 x Cycle Shoes
2 x Padded cycle shorts
2 x Cycle Jersey
4 x Cycling socks
1 x Light Water-proof wind breaker
1 x Warm, light Fleece (makes a great base layer for your rain jacket on cold days)
1 x Arm warmers / sleeves
1 x Sunscreen - small
1 x Small first aid kit
1 x Small packet of tissues (for pit stops!)
1 x Shower cap (for your seat on rainy stages)
1 x Long sleeve "dinner" shirt / blouse
1 x Short sleeve "dinner" shirt or polo or blouse
1 x Long trousers / practical skirt / dress
1 x Warm, light Sweater or Cardigan
1 x flip-flops or light-weight walking shoes
5 x Underwear (rinse them out in the shower on rest days!)
1 x Compact toiletry kit (including hand-washing liquid)
Tools & Equipment
1 x Smartphone and charger
1 x Spare battery pack (Optional but great if you take a lot of pictures and video)
1 x Camera (or save space and weight and just use your smartphone)
1 x Multi tool
1 x Spare tube (and / or patch kit)
1 x Small bottle chain oil
Download your packing list right here:
If you have found any other items to be useful, or any listed items to be superfluous, get in touch and let us know!
You can get by on as little as €10 if you are buying your supplies in supermarkets and grocery stores.
A ham and cheese sandwich (Bocadillo con jamón y queso) or slice of Tortilla de Patatas (Spanish omelette with potatoes) and a soft drink will set you back 4-5€, for lunch in most small bars, coffee will be 1-2€.
Some cafes and bars do a Pilgrim's lunch menu, consisting of a starter, main course/entree, dessert, drink and bread for anywhere from 5-15€. These can be great value for the main meal of the day.
Be sure to refill your Cycling Rentals water bottle at fountains along the way - always look for the sign 'AGUA POTABLE' (Drinking water).
I would recommend quite a lot of cycling before going on the Camino de Santiago. It ranges from challenging mountain passes to flat stretches of farmland and to complete the distance in a reasonable time you must have had plenty of TIME IN THE SADDLE (TITS - hehe!).
Getting accustomed to long stretches riding just takes repetition and time. Start training a few weeks before you go. Try to ride 2-3 times a week in the months preceding your Camino, and if possible ride a few days in a row, so you become used to spending time on the bike, without sore saddle bones and start to find your rhythm. Test out any gear that is new, such as shoes, helmet and padded cycling shorts if they are new to you.
These tips will make your trip that much more enjoyable and you will finish your Camino in great shape with lots of photos rather than blisters!
By Martin Thompson
Avid Mountain biker, Bike Tourist & Founding partner at Cycling Rentals
Cycling the Portuguese Camino with Rodrigo & Paulo
A client's account of riding the Way of Saint James, starting in Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
I am Rodrigo Fernandez. Almost 10 years ago I founded Nattrip Brazil Ecotourism and Adventures (www.nattrip.com.br). In 2018 we programmed to validate, as one of our products, the Portuguese Central way to Santiago de Compostela (making it by bike from Porto to Santiago de Compostela). Thus, in October 2018 we rented 2 MTB bikes from Cycling Rentals, with 29” wheels, each with 2 saddlebags, to go through the Portuguese Saint James Central way, starting the route at the city of Porto to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia.
We had planned to go through the route of the Portuguese Central way in 3 days, from 27 to 29 October 2018. We settled with Cycling Rentals to receive the bikes (in boxes sent by a courier) to our Hostel in which we stayed overnight when we arrived in the city of Porto, the day before the planned start of our journey. Similarly, we would just have to return the bikes, leaving them at our final lodging location in Santiago de Compostela. These hostels/lodges where we stayed at the beginning (Porto) and at the end of the planned route (Santiago de Compostela) have to be affiliated with Cycling Rentals. And so we did.
But the conditions of various stretches of the route were quite harsh, beyond our initial expectations. So we only managed to complete the course in 4 days. Nevertheless, it was quite exhausting to complete the entire course, even in a 4-day period. The ideal for those who want to make the Portuguese Central way, in less time than walking, so as not to be so physically challenged as we were, and to enjoy many of the attractions along the way, is to travel the entire path from Porto to Santiago de Compostela by bike in around 6 days. On foot this same route is done, more commonly, in 10 to 12 days.
Porto -São Pedro de Rates (October 27th)
On October 27th, we started our journey to Santiago de Compostela in the hostel where we stayed, without worrying about going to the Cathedral of Porto to start the journey. We recommend not to start the journey to Santiago de Compostela as we did, as this may bring difficulties in the first KMS when leaving the city of Porto to find the indicative signs typical of the Camino de Santiago (yellow arrows and shells). Thus, the ideal start is always at the Cathedral of Porto, and then go following with attention the indications of the Portuguese way, through the yellow arrows and shells.
On this day we went until the village of São Pedro de Rates, where we stayed overnight in the cozy local hostel (Albergue de São Pedro de Rates). Just before this village, we went through the beautiful monastery of Vairão, where there is also a hostel that seemed very friendly (Pilgrim's hostel of the monastery of Vairão), and that may be also an interesting alternative, in case you decide to stop a little before arriving São Pedro de Rates.
São Pedro de Rates -Rubiães (October 28th)
The next day, October 28th, in the morning, we left São Pedro de Rates towards Rubiães, a long journey that day. The scenery is quite distinct from the one found on the previous day, because the urban areas found in the previous stretch were replaced by rural areas, through trails of land, often with many stones and irregularities of the terrain along the trails. This stretch has moderately uneven terrain in general, but has a particularly high one at the end of the stretch (Alto do Portela - Labruja). The journey at this stretch also becomes more interesting, as we cross through an essentially wine-growing territory (producer of grapes and wines). The ascent of Labruja, for those who are making the Portuguese Central way on bike, is especially harsh (when passing through there, we could not avoid associating the name with the term in Spanish 'La Bruja '-the Witch!). After overcoming all this stretch from São Pedro de Rates, it is an immense joy to find the hostel in Rubiães, which is also very comfortable and welcoming.
Rubiães - Pontevedra (October 29th)
From Rubiães onwards the next day, October 29th, we had a challenge to travel another great distance to Pontevedra. We passed through Valença do Minho (last city of Portugal) and Tuí (first city of Galicia), on the banks of the river Minho, which we crossed to leave Portugal and enter the territory of Galicia.
After passing through Tuí, we proceed to O Porriño. In this city there is an alternative itinerary (which we strongly recommend!) by a natural grove called As Gándaras, by the left bank of the Louro River, which avoids the industrial polygon of O Porriño, the largest in Galicia, with heavy traffic, buzz and pollution (visual, sound and air).
After passing through Redondela further forward, we finally get to Pontevedra, to finish the long journey of this day. Throughout this day, the unlevelling is moderate and the route follows alternating the asphalt of local rural roads with trails of land and gravel, passing through beautiful woods and bordering streams with crystalline waters. The hostel of pilgrims of Pontevedra is at the entrance of the city, and is very large, with good accommodation and welcoming.
Pontevedra-Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (October 30th)
Finally, on the last day of the journey, we left Pontevedra towards the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Passing by Caldas del Rey, we went towards Padrón. Padrón is a locality of high cultural and historical interest, along with Iria Flávia, which is aside, and was founded by the Romans during the occupation of Galicia to explore the large amounts of gold found there at that time.
This whole last stage is simpler to accomplish and presents only small undulations, always following the national road N-550. This final stretch is largely made on asphalt and urbanized areas, with the mention of the moderate and progressive uphill in the Milladoiro, which required a lot of effort because we already had enough accumulated fatigue from the journeys of the previous days.
By Rodrigo Fernandez and Paulo Fernandez, October 2018
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Girona province is the training ground for many cycling teams and individuals alike. Find out why the cycling capital of Catalonia needs to be on your biking list!
In some ways it is a shame that Girona is lesser known than Barcelona, its Catalonian neighbouring city only 40 minutes away, but perhaps that is what makes it such a wonderful discovery - when you make it. If you want to explore more than Barcelona's well worn tourist traps, the medieval old town and the wider Girona province will surprise and delight. If you are already considering a visit to the less frequented Catalan metropolis, read on, you will find more than enough reasons to get in now before the word gets out!
1. The Cycling
Home to many current (and retired) pro cyclists, this area has everything you need for endless riding pleasure, here you will find mountains, rolling hills, epic seascapes, lush apple orchards, even volcanic craters. Home to some very famous climbs, Girona province is the training ground for many cycling teams and individuals alike. Professional cyclists like Robert Gesink (Jumbo-Visma), Dan Martin (UAE - Team Emirates), Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (CCC-Liv) all call the Girona region home, and for good reason, the area is busting with challenging climbs and long, rolling, quiet roads.
Three famous climbs near Girona:
Stats: 10.1km, 3%, 344m, Category 2
Mare de Déu del Mont
Stats: 18.5km, 5%, 919m, Category: HC
Stats: 10.7km, 7%, 742m, Category 1
2. The Costa Brava
For more than 50 years, holidaymakers have flocked to the Costa Brava, drawn by its perfect summer weather, golden beaches and multitude of attractions ranging from the Dalí Theatre and Museum in Cadaques to the Greek and Roman ruins at Empúries. While overdevelopment has tarnished some of the pristine coastline (the resort of Lloret de Mar accommodates 200,000 tourists at its summer peak), north of Palamós it takes on a quieter, more authentic feel and golden sands give way to the rocky, rugged landscape of cliffs, inlets and hairpin bends that gives the Costa Brava its name: the “rough” or “wild” coast. Here, a collection of small towns (Begur, Tamariu, Palafrugell, L’Estartit, Aigua Blava, Llafranc) have retained their Catalan charm, each set on a sheltered cove and often boasting a rustic seafood restaurant where the day’s catch can be enjoyed fresh, cooked over the coals.
3. The Food
A mecca for foodies with 20 Michelin stars in the province of Girona, you can eat some of the best food in the world here. El Celler de Can Roca is a restaurant in Girona, opened in 1986 by the Roca brothers, Joan, Josep and Jordi. It was first located next to their parents' restaurant Can Roca, but moved to its current location in 2007. It has been received warmly by critics, and holds three Michelin stars. In 2018, El Celler de Can Roca stood at No.2 in the World’s 50 best restaurants, having earned the number 1 spot twice in its history. This year (2019) one of the Roca brothers, Jordi, is opening a chocolate factory and 15 room boutique hotel in Girona’s Plaça de Catalunya.
You can also visit their ice-cream shop, Rocambolesc, on Carrer de Santa Clara, a quirky space resembling a mad scientist’s lab. You can sample their unique flavours of ice cream (Baked Apple or Mandarin, Passionfruit and Orange Blossom sorbet) or take a tub home to enjoy at your own pace. After your ride from L’Estartit through endless Medieval villages you could probably indulge in a Panet, a brioche bun filled with your favourite ice-cream and toppings, toasted shut in their custom made toaster oven.
If you can’t get a booking at El Celler De Can Roca (currently a 12 month waiting list!) try one of these locally-loved spots.
6 Innovative and Unique Restaurants found both on and off the Catalonia Girona Bike Tour
Vanya is a part-time cycling tour guide with a deep affinity for Catalonia, having relocated from Australia 5 years ago, she now makes her home in the heartland of Spain's cycling Mecca.
As you ride through Portugal, particularly the Alentejo and Algarve regions, you will see gnarly, reddish rather sculptural but ugly oak trees sporting large numbers in white paint on their trunks.
These are the Quercus suber, an evergreen Oak tree, dropping acorns and growing a thick bark that is commonly known as cork. It is the primary source of cork for wine bottle stoppers and a multitude of other uses, such as cork flooring and as the cores of cricket balls.
Portugal produces about half the world output of commercial cork! Here's a brief summary of the billion dollar cork industry in Portugal.
Cork Oak is native to southwest Europe and northwest Africa where it is well suited to this climate: An abundant and evenly distributed rainfall, short summer dry periods tempered by atmospheric humidity, very mild winters, clear skies and plenty of sunshine, very permeable, moist and deep siliceous soils.
A fascinating and important tree, Cork Oaks can support diverse ecosystems and for this reason are a protected species, with their harvesting process being heavily legislated and regulated in Portugal. The species, which covers approximately 8 percent of the total area of Portugal and constitutes 28 percent of its forests, grows best in the central and southern parts of the country where the largest stands supplying the greatest percentage of high-grade cork are to be found.
Every year from Mid May to Mid August, well-trained seasonal harvesters stage their harvest of the Cork Oak in Portugal. Once a tree is about 25 years old it can be harvested for its ‘virgin cork’ and then every 9 years after the cork ‘bark’ is harvested, and the year is marked on the tree with the last number of that year (ie. A tree harvested this summer will be painted with a 9). Portuguese law prohibits stripping the trees more than once every nine years in order to protect the species. 38 year old bark (roughly the third harvest) is when the bark becomes of high enough quality to produce wine stoppers.
The harvest of the height of the tree is determined by the diameter, if the tree is 1 metre in diameter, you can harvest three metres of the height of the tree. A Cork Oak lives for about 150 - 200 years on average meaning that it will be harvested about 15 times over its lifecycle.
After harvest, trucks carry the cork to plants to be stabilised and prepared for cork stopper and other production processes. First, the slabs of bark are pressed under concrete slabs for 6 months, the cork is then sterilized using a big boiler. Next, the cork is classified into quality grades for different uses, with experienced cork workers visually assessing the quality of the bark. Wine cork stoppers are made in the north of Portugal and then exported all over Europe. The residual cork wood can be used for flooring and building materials (see other uses below) but also a new market in cork-based eco-fashion has become a trend in recent years.
The European cork industry produces 300,000 tonnes of cork a year, with a value of €1.5 billion and employing 30,000 people. Wine corks represent 15% of cork usage by weight but 66% of revenues.
Of the producing countries, Portugal, plays an important part in the industrial utilization of cork, and so rightly occupies the foremost position. It has 500 factories, which employ about 20,000 workers, equipped with the latest machinery and utilizing the latest technological advances, enabling the industry to meet the demand for any product. This industry produces stoppers, discs, different types of floats, shoe soles, printing paper, cigarette tips, bath mats, table mats, hat bands, fishing rod handles, different kinds of packing. Cork wool is produced for cushions and mattresses and granulated cork employed chiefly as insulating material in ship-building, as a protective packing for fruit and eggs, and as tubing for plastic substances.
The Biggest Tree
Near the Portuguese town of Águas de Moura the Sobreiro Monumental (Monumental Cork Oak) is located, a tree of 234 years old, 16 metres (52 ft) tall and with a trunk that requires at least five people to embrace it. It has been considered a National Monument since 1988, and the Guinness Book of Records states it as the largest and oldest in the world.
Vanya is a part-time cycling tour guide, part-time food blogger/writer and full-time food savant. She also loves cork.
Going to Andalucia in southern Spain is like stepping back in time. Much of the rich, quintessential Spanish identity is deeply rooted in this part of the country. Classic Spanish clichés such as Flamenco, cold gazpacho soup and bullfighting all come from in this part of the country.
In Southern Spain you can ride our Andalucian Adventure taking you from Cordoba to Granada through fields of sunflowers, endless olive tress and snowcapped mountains.
Seductive Flamenco, flowered patios, twisting 'old town' alleyways and magnificent cathedrals and palaces highlight your stays along the way. You'll be able to visit the timeless monuments to the Moor's magnificent culture including the breathtaking medieval mosque in Córdoba and the ethereal Alhambra Palace in Granada.
Córdoba has always been my favorite of the 3 great Moorish cities in Spain - Sevilla and Granada bring the other two. It has an intimate charm to it that immediately seduces you. Being smaller than the other two is part of it. Everything is near or around the Mosque and is within easy walking distance. You can clearly see the vestiges of the 3 great religions nestled side by side- Jewish, Moorish and Christian, not to mention, 4 great civilizations - Roman, Visigoth, Moorish and Christian.
A good time to visit is early May when you will catch the Fiesta de Los Patios, where the Cordobese people open their house to the public and you can see close up the beautifully tended, lush, vibrant gardens contained inside the central patios of homes in the Jewish quarter and throughout the Old Town.
Along the route you’ll visit a famous olive oil mill in Baena run by a family who own around 100,000 olive trees. Olives are hand-picked to prevent bruising, then pulped in ancient stone mills. Núñez de Prado is one of the few operations in Spain that uses this traditional pulping method, and is famous for its flor de aceite, the oil that seeps naturally from the un-crushed olives.
Priego de Córdoba
From Baena, you will ride south following the edge of the wild Parque Subbética hills, to Priego de Córdoba a town famous for its quiet beauty and home to some of the most stunning Baroque churches in all of Spain. Priego is also home to a recently-renovated Moorish castle, whilst the town’s oldest neighbourhood, Barrio de la Villa, perches on the top of a cliff from where truly humbling views of the Subbéticas Natural Park can be enjoyed.
A dish local to Priego is Revuelto de Collejas, a green vegetable similar to silverbeet or spinach, scrambled with eggs and garlic, often served with jamón. Look out for it on menus at La Pianola Casa Pepe or in the Hotel Zahori Restaurant.
On the way to Granada:
Your ride now takes you through the very wild and sparsely inhabited area of the northern Granada Province. Many of our participants consider this the most beautiful ride of the trip. Pause in Montefrio for a photo at the National Geographic Lookout, and then have lunch at the lively terrace of Jomay bar in town.
Your last day of biking as you ride toward the fabled Moorish city of Granada. Finishing in Fuente Vaqueros at the Garcia Lorca museum where you can learn about the astonishing life (and death) of Federico García Lorca, Spain's most beloved poet.
The Andalucían Adventure is best taken in April/May or September/October. Contact us for more information and pricing.
Vanya is a part-time cycling guide who has been to Andalucía more times than she can count on one hand. Lucky for her, she loves tapas, rolling hills and olive trees.
With 365 days of cycling possibilities in a year, what was your favorite biking moment or most epic ride so far this year?
Written by Martin Thompson
Martin is co-founder at Cycling Rentals; a long time cyclist, mountain bike lover, environmentalist, full time eater & part time world traveler.
Share your photo or short video with fellow world cyclists here with a short caption and we will publish your photo and shortlist 2 contenders for a final vote vote on our Facebook page. The winner will receive a 25% discount voucher for any of our bike rentals and get mad kudos!
Deadline for submissions is the 25 of December!
Most of our cycling clients and friends bike tour a lot more that I do, so I thought it would be nice to share their inspiring stories with you. If you have a tale to tell of your two wheeled journeys, why not share it right here?
Some of the best bike touring stories are not all about the bike or even the ride, but about the people you meet along the way, and the experiences you have - or the emotions! A classic bike tour that never fails to elicit all of the above is of course the Camino de Santiago, but some of my own unforgettable rides have been much closer to home.
Below are a few of my favourite and most inspirational bike tour stories, that simply put the joy of pedaling in me. But I would love to hear about your most memorable experiences on a bicycle!
Written by Martin Thompson
Martin is co-founder at Cycling Rentals; a long time cyclist, mountain bike lover, environmentalist, full time eater & part time world traveler.
Cycling the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage path is a wonderful and challenging endeavor and in order to enjoy it, and make sure that the original walking pilgrims can enjoy it, there are a few common sense things to think about as you ride to Compostela.
Written by Martin Thompson
As more and more travelers discover the experience of cycling rather than walking the Camino routes, some of them chose to follow the well worn hiking trails, invariably riding past fellow pilgrims on foot. Naturally the hikers will be traveling at a much slower pace and it is simply good manners and good sense to consider their safety and yours, to make sure everyone has a Buen Camino - a good pilgrimage.
"I hiked the Camino and was appalled at the majority of bikers who approached from behind at high speeds with no warning"
Don't aim for Strava KOMs
Cycling the Camino de Santiago is not by any means a race and in fact you would miss out on so much of the experience by not slowing down to smell the flowers and occasional field of cows, that it would be a shame. It would also very much against the spirit of friendship on the Camino to zip down a bumpy single track trail or cobbled village, weaving through the unsuspecting pilgrims. Also remember that down-hills are much harder on walkers than uphills. If anything, offer to shuttle a weary pilgrim's heavy pack to the next Albergue!
Don't practice your Freeride skills on the trail
Some of the forest trails on the Pyrenees and in Galicia would be superb for some root-ridden enduro decents, only they are designated hiking trails... Graciously shared with cycling pilgrims by the hikers who began walking the Camino over a 1000 years ago. As a mountain biker myself, I have often been crazy to speed down the single track on my 29er, and I know we are both good for it - but that is not the point of the Way and I know this is a lifetime journey to be savoured by me and by everyone else.
Don't ignore lost, broke down or tired pilgrims
Sometimes where you are rolling at a fine pace, the last thing you want to do is slow down, let alone stop, but part or the Camino spirit is one of selflessness and willingness to give or help out. Just because you are hauling down the tarmac hairpins on your way in to Ponferrada with nothing but the warm wind in your face and a grin from ear to ear - not everyone in your team might be riding so happily. So take the time to stop and help and if needs be pedal back up the hill to help fix that blown out tire - or just to give a kind word of comfort; I can tell you from personal experience you will be much happier if you do!
Don't block Doors and Passage ways
At the end of a long days ride, you can be so tired you just want to lean your bike against the closest wall and grab a cold Aquarius. Just make sure it is not blocking a local's front door or path of passage for fellow cyclists, hikers or drivers. This can happen a lot more often that people care to imagine, I know: I have done so myself to a shepherd who was no doubt even more tired than I was!
Fit a bell to your bicycle
All our Camino bike rentals, rental packs and tours include a pretty handlebar mounted bell. Not only do they have a nice ring to them but they can keep you and your fellow pilgrims safer on shared trails and in the narrow streets of old towns and villages. If you are bringing your own bicycle to ride the Camino, make sure to fit a bell before you leave or certainly before you start your journey.
Make yourself known whenever you approach a walking pilgrim
No point in having a bell if you are too shy or forgetful to ring it to be heard! The point is to make your presence known before you pass the hikers, so if they are a little hard of hearing, let them know you are about to pass them by calling out some friendly heads-up words. As there are pilgrims from all over the world, I recommend using the timeless "Buen Camino" or Good Pilgrimage greeting!
Go slow when passing
To keep things safe, particularly when cycling on rough or technical sections of the Camino, it's best to slow way down when passing as you don't know when a hiker my decide to pull over for a rest, nor to which side. You won't know if they have headphones in or are hard of hearing so don't take a chance and just play it safe for both of you even after you have announced you presence.
Be a Goodwill Biking Ambassador
As you cycle the Camino you will start to feel the Camino "Vibe", a kind of kinship of fellow travelers on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Be a part of it! Help other bikers and hikers along their way and you help someone have a little Camino miracle with something as simple as a shared bar of chocolate or a plaster from your first aid kit, for a painful blister.
Can you think of more Camino Do's & Don'ts? If so, drop us an email and we will be happy to share your Camino words of wisdom here too!
Every February, in deepest, darkest Winter, restaurants all over the Catalan countryside load up their grills with a rather unusual vegetable and churn up huge bowls of rich, Romesco sauce, to host a fun food fiesta known as the Calçotada.
Calçots are not unlike a large, fat spring onion, which when grilled over hot coals soften and become sweet and sticky. The centre of the onion slipping easily from its blackened outer layers is then dunked in garlicky romesco sauce before being dropped vertically into the mouth for a fun and tasty food tradition enjoyed by Catalan families and visitors alike, every winter.
It is quite the sight. Salsa Romesco, is a special sauce made from dried red peppers, nuts (usually hazelnuts and almonds), garlic, vinegar and olive oil that is typical of Tarragona, the region where this tradition started.
At a real Calçotada, a 3-4 course menu is usually served, looking something like: a cream of artichoke soup or pan con tomate (coca bread rubbed with garlic and tomato), Butifarra (Catalan sausage) and Crema Catalana (the Catalan's version of Creme Brulée), with a pile of Calçots as the main event.
It is simple fare but is generally an excuse to gather with friends and family on a Sunday, drive out to a country restaurant, eat a lot and laugh as you get covered in charcoal, and start to smell like fire and onions.
Recently passing through Tarragona on our way south from Barcelona we stopped off for a Calçotada before we left the Catalan region. As plant based eaters we opted for a 'Teja' (roof tile) which is a piping hot pile of calçots served on a hot terracotta roof tile to maintain heat as you work your way through the lot.
You are provided with a Calçotada kit when you order, containing a bib, plastic gloves and extra napkins – all of which you look at wondering how on earth you could need so much stuff for a few grilled onions, but need them you will.
It is messy, hilarious fun with the added game of seeing who can eat the most calçots. Siestas afterward are unavoidable and you will potentially not eat for 24 hours following your Calçotada, so they are quite the memorable experience if you find yourself in Catalonia in Winter. And we highly recommend that you do.
The Most Famous Calçotadas in Catalonia
Address: Carrer de la Font F, 14, 43813 Masmolets
Telephone: 977 60 59 60
Restaurante El Rodavi
Address: Av. Can Nicolau, 47, 43881 Cunit, Tarragona
Telephone: 977 94 39 54
Hours:1-4pm; closed Monday
Hostal Restaurant Grau
Address: Pere el Gran 3, Santes Creus, Tarragona
Telephone: +34 977 638 311
Hours: 1-4pm; closed Monday
Font Les Planes
Address: Carrer Vallvidrera a Sant Cugat, 08017 Barcelona
Telephone: 932 80 59 49
Hours: 9am – 7pmSunday to Thursday; 9am-11:30pm Friday & Saturday; closed Tuesday
Address: Carrer Gran de Gràcia 57, Gràcia
Telephone: +34 932 187 370
Hours: 1-4:15 & 8:30-11:45pm; closed Sunday & Mon. evening
Make your own Calçotada at home!
Want to try calçots but can’t make it over to Spain before the season ends? Try this pasta sauce to get the flavour of a Romesco sauce (the best part of the Calçotada is the sauce!) and taste a little bit of Catalonia right in your own kitchen!
Cycling Rentals Smoky Romesco Pasta Sauce
Serve with your favourite pasta shape or some zucchini noodles for a low-carb option.
-Vegan, Gluten Free.
Written by Vanya Maplestone
Vanya and her husband Enrique are part time cycling tour guides, and full time eaters. They take photos of food, their bikes and pretty places. See their plant based recipes at www.wonderlandfood.online and follow them on Instagram: @Wonderland_Food & @Wonderland_Locations
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