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!
Cycling the Portuguese Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage route, with Rodrigo & Paulo. A first person account and travel guide for cycling the Way of Saint James, starting in Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, Spain:
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
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
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
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
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
Founder of Nattrip Brazil Ecotourism and Adventures.
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.
Written by Viv Stuart
Viv is a keen and knowledgeable cyclist who has been bringing groups of friends to the Algarve in Southern Portugal for the sun, fun and great riding
For 5 years now I have organised a cycling week in the Western Algarve for me and some of my lady friends. The first trip in 2013 there was just 5 of us, the numbers have increased year on year and last trip there was 12 - yes TWELVE!!!
We always base ourselves in the gorgeous village of Burgau just west of Lagos. We self cater in a couple of 3 bedroom villas and every year Cycling Rentals have provided our road bikes. They have been a major key player in the success of our trips and I cannot thank them enough for their support.
We usually ride 6 of our 7 days and average 80 kilometres a day. I plan the routes in advance and cycling in any direction from Burgau is just fantastic!
We have taken our bikes on the train from Lagos to the lovely town of Silves and then cycled back. A large percentage of our groups have also ridden to the Foia the highest point in the Algarve. There are enough restaurants in Burgau for us to eat somewhere different every evening. We have memorable lunch stops at some amazing beaches and also inland destinations,
On our day off we usually go kayaking from Lagos, another amazing day! We always have an on-line food delivery on our arrival with just about every essential item that 12 ladies could need.
We are not "Spring Chickens" either! our ages range from 40-69 and we have a fabulous time, roll on our next trip in September 2018. Give us a wave if you see a "peloton" of 12 ladies whizzing by!!!
After decades as a secret cycle touring paradise, the west coast of Portugal has finally been placed firmly on the bike tour map.
Written by Catherine Deffense
We first ran our popular Blue Coast bike tour back in 1986, when the Rota Vicentina did not even exist. Now, as all those years ago, this classic tour has you coasting along quiet back roads from Lisbon to Lagos and the brilliant beaches of the Algarve.
Officially inaugurated only in 2015, the Rota Vicentina offers spectacular seascapes along some of the wildest coastline in Europe, starting in the idyllic Alentejo region and ending at the Cape of Saint Vincent in the Algarve region of southern Portugal.
Our Rota Vicentina bike tour explores the beautiful and rugged Atlantic west coast of Portugal, cycling through white washed villages and cork forests along the way.
There are two official marked routes; Historical Way & Fisherman's Trail, the first of which being ideal for mountain bikes, the second for hiking.
Our tour route is a mix of small roads and optional off road detours. You can take a look at our Rota Vicentina Self Guided bike tour details here and see if it sounds like your kind of cycling holiday!
If you prefer guided road touring, Cycling Centuries Bike Tours, our mother company, offers all the all tarmac, fully supported Blue Coast route tour, with scenic, low traffic cycling through some of the prettiest villages and towns in Portugal.
Rota Vicentina E-bike rentals
We also offer powerful, class leading E-bikes on our Rota Vicentina Bike Tour, as well as all our Portugal bike tours.
If you like cycling but don't like sweat too much on your rides or can't get your heart rate up too high, electric assisted e-bikes are the way to ride. You can find out all about E-bikes for our self guided bike tours here.
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