By Maggie Deffense & Enrique Díaz
As a consequence of the rich cultural heritage of Portugal, there are plenty of public events in the country, where its main focus can be gastronomy, a rural tradition, religion, or just a fun event to celebrate life.
Visiting Portugal during one of the best Portuguese summer festivals is an excellent way to experience Portugal’s rich culture. Let's explore some of the most remarkable:
Festa de Santo Antonio (Feast Day of Saint Anthony, Lisbon)
Lisbon celebrates its patron saint with newly-wed couples giving thanks and singles praying for a match made in heaven - usually around June 12. This is one of the primo festas in Portugal. Lisbon decorates its streets with Japanese lanterns, while local residents of the oldest parts of the city, the Alfama and Bairro Alto, put long trestle tables in the streets and serve grilled sardines and wine. So many sardines are consumed that the whole city smells like a fishing village. Sweethearts give little pots of marjoram to each other as valentines! Everywhere there’s music and merrymaking!
Festa das Cruzes, Barcelos
The lively Festa das Cruzes is held during the 1st week in Barcelos, Northern Portugal with a procession and stupendous handicraft fair. It’s one of the prettiest towns in Portugal - which definitely has more than its fair share of gorgeous towns and villages. May 3rd is the holy day commemorating a miracle when a poor cobbler saw a miraculous image of the cross engraved on the floor of a chapel 500 years ago. The octagonal-shaped church of Senhor da Cruz was built over this older chapel and is the focus of the festival.
Today, Barcelos is best known for its pottery, especially its brightly-painted clay cock, whose crowing saved a man from the gallows, according to the local legend. It also sports one of the biggest and best weekly markets in Portugal at the enormous Campo da República square. Each Thursday, visitors can browse amongst the market's vast range of handmade Portuguese pottery as well as, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, breads, you name it!
Festa de São João, Porto
The Festa de Sao Joao (John the Baptist) is big in Porto and on June 23-24. There are large street parties with people being hit on the head with harmless plastic hammers, leeks or dried artichokes - go figure! After an evening feasting and drinking outside in little bars and restaurants overlooking the beautiful Douro River you’re treated to one of the most stupendous displays of fireworks I’ve ever seen high high up off of the Dom Luis I bridge and into the Douro River below! Absolutely breathtaking!
Festas d'Agonia, Viana do Castelo
This festival is held in Viana do Castelo at the mouth of the Lima River in the Minho Province at the top of Portugal. The Minho is one of Portugal’s most beautiful provinces if not THE MOST beautiful! Green and lush with hydrangeas and wild roses growing everywhere over the low granite walls that surround the little fields of corn and green wine vines. The Festa includes an impressive parade of floats, displays of local crafts, carnival giants (gigantones), local music, nightly fireworks and lots of drinking.
Many people dress in their colorful national dress - women wearing the traditional red embroidered skirts or black wedding dresses and displaying the family’s wealth in gold earrings and heavy gold chains and medallions around their necks! The agricultural fair which runs all week sells everything from tractors to spindles for spinning flax!
Arraial Pride, Lisboa
The Arraial Pride is Portugal’s main gay pride event, free and open to everybody and has been held since 1996, getting more and more popular every year.
You can expect the usual fun and frivolity of music, food, drink, and a marketplace late into the night. Although it is usually held at the end of June, the exact date and location of the LGBT event change every year. At least in prepandemic times, this event was the bigger single event in Portugal. Unfortunately it was cancel in 2021, but it's again scheduled for 2022.
Due to the dynamic nature of the coronavirus pandemic, the rules and regulations adopted by each country vary and are subject to change at very short notice, so Cycling Rentals has altered its Term and Conditions to allow you maximum travel flexibility.
Read on to understand the current Coronavirus Bicycle Travel Restrictions for Portugal and Spain - updated September 2021.
Portugal Covid-19 Travel Restrictions
To enter Portugal, travelers must present either an E.U. Digital Vaccination Certificate or a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours before departure or negative antigen test taken within 48 hours of departure.
Once in Portugal, travelers must show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test to stay at a hotel or vacation rental property. Travelers who test positive for Covid while in Portugal will face a 10-day quarantine at their own expense.
General behavior guidelines have been enacted, in which all people must adopt the following rules:
- Social distancing;
- Frequent hand washing;
- Mandatory use of mask;
- Respiratory etiquette.
In order to prevent the spread of the virus and the possibility of contagion, all services should take hygiene measures according to the indications of the Directorate-General for Health, with specific recommendations for various sectors of activity.
In tourism, the “Clean & Safe” seal, defined by Turismo de Portugal, was implemented, which allows tourists to have greater security and confidence in the use of accommodation establishments, in the various tourist services and tourist attractions.
You can find full details and requirements for travel to Portugal on the VisitPortugal coronavirus travel advisory page.
Spain Covid-19 Travel Restrictions
Since September 6, Spain requires either proof of full vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery from Covid-19.
To enter Spain, all travelers must submit health information to the Spain Travel Health portal, which generates a QR code to show when entering the country. The system also sends each traveler an email with the QR code.
Full details at Spain Travel Health FAQs
Europe is one of the top global destinations for cycle and adventure enthusiasts. This is because of its cultural heritage, excellent food, and range of terrain.
Spain and Portugal take all of these aspects to the next level. So if you are looking for a long-distance biking adventure destination in Spain or Portugal, you are likely to find some of the best tours in the world. Read on to discover the 10 Best Biking Adventure Destinations Across Spain and Portugal!
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5 Best Biking Adventure Destinations in Spain
Due to Spain’s excellent year-round climate and incredible terrain, the country isn’t short of avid cycling fans. Part of the reason cycling is so prevalent in Spain is because of the excellent route, road and mountain biking opportunities available. Here are some of the best biking routes leading to adventure throughout Spain.
Ruta del Califato
The Route of the Caliphate is a prestigious route through Spain. It brings together some of the most significant and emblematic parts of the Andalus region in Spain. You cycle through a period of the past and get to enjoy the cultural heritage of one of Spain’s most beautiful regions.
Ruta del Cid
Ruta del Cid, or the Way of El Cid, offers cyclists the opportunity to get the true Spanish experience. If you aren’t interested in doing the better known and more popular Camino de Santiago, try Ruta del Cid instead.
It is a 2000 km route that offers a calm and beautiful tour through Spain. It takes you from Castilla along to the Mediterranean coast.
La Ruta de Don Quijote
Ever heard of the literary classic Don Quijote? Cervantes, a satirical Spanish author, may have written the book hundreds of years ago. However, the legacy it left behind is still living on.
This route takes you 2,500 kilometers from Castilla to La Mancha, tracing Don Quijote’s route through the region. In addition, there are national parks, cultural communities and more on the ten stages of the route throughout the country.
The TransAndalus takes you through one of the most scenic parts of the country, the southern region of Andalucia. The conception of the trail was to get cyclists to experience Andalusia’s eight provinces. The route takes you through the volcanic landscapes of Cabo de Gata along with wetlands and more. Keep an eye out for trail signs and keep a detailed map on you to successfully get through the 2,000-kilometer route.
El Camino de Santiago
No list of the Best Biking Adventure Destinations Across Spain and Portugal would be complete without The Camino de Santiago pilgirmage route.
This has been one of the favorites for cyclists and backpackers for many years. Since the bones of St. James the Apostle were supposedly discovered in 813 AD, the route has become a world-famous pilgrimage path. The Camino Frances that runs along the North of Spain is the most popular and sacred cycling trail that leads to Santiago in the North of Spain.
5 Best Biking Adventure Destinations in Portugal
Spain isn’t the only country with a beautiful climate and stunning cycle routes. So if you feel the inner adventurer calling out for the next trip, consider indulging them in a trip to Portugal along any one of these four routes.
Rota Vicentina is a bike tour that takes you along the coast of Portugal from Setubal to Sagres. You get to follow along the Alentejo and Algarve coastline to find your way along the scenic Rota Vicentina.
Along the way, take some time to explore the seaside villages and rural towns set next to the some of the most beautiful wild coastline of western Europe.
Douro Wine Valley
Douro Wine Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its ancient relationship with growing valuable wine. The vineyards across the countryside soak up the sun that shines down on them all year round.
Don’t only go for the sampling of wine, but indulge in vintage ports and unique landscapes that punctuate the whole ride.
Alentejo Marble Route
Alentejo is one of the least densly populated regions in Portugal. However, it is an area that is well worth visiting on the numerous bike friendly routes that criss-cross this part of Portugal, known mainly for wine, olive oil, cork and marble.
Starting and finishing in the postcard perfect town of Évora, you will cycle across the rolling fields past wild flowers, vineyards, ancient castles and cork trees along the way. Loop through the beautiful marble towns of Borba and Vila Viçosa, considered Portugal’s white gold where everything down to the park benches is made of marble!
Ecovia do Litoral Cycling Trail
Last but not least is the Ecovia do Litoral Cycling Trail. The route takes you through the well-known Algarve but gives you a different taste of the region than you would typically find. This almost entirely flat trail offers 214 kilometers of stunning cycling by clinging to the coast and swimming into the Spanish border.
Enjoy heritage sites like Cabo de Sao Vicente and Vila Real de San Antonio. If you prefer rolling terrain and don't mind travelling a little further inland, the Algarve interior offers superb cycling and very low traffic rides.
EuroVelo 1: The Atlantic Coast Route
The EuroVelo network is a criss-crossing route of 17 long-distance cycling routes that extend throughout much of Europe. The Atlantic Coast Route is the first route of the EuroVelo system. It is the extension that connects Lison to Oporto. Due to its beauty and positive standing throughout the communities along the route, it is widely promoted by the Portuguese National EuroVelo Coordinator.
It is quite a popular route among the EuroVelo network and we recommend riding from Porto to Lisbon, to take advantage of the prevailing tailwinds.
Spain and Portugal are fantastic countries for cycling, with great cycling conditions almost year-round.
It’s not just beautiful scenery that will tempt you to take a bike out on these routes, but also some of the best food in Europe. You can enjoy delicious regional dishes and wines on any of these bike touring routes.
These are just some of the wonderful sights and tastes await anyone looking for a cycling adventure in Spain or Portugal. Are you ready to explore?
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 Portugal.
If you are going to start or finish a route in Lisbon, Faro or Porto in Portugal you will most likely use the national train operator, CP (Comboios de Portugal) Intercidades trains.
The CP train routes go to the following destinations in Portugal: Lisbon – Oporto / Guimarães / Braga / Viana do Castelo, Beira Alta, Beira Baixa, Alentejo (Lisbon Oriente / Évora) and Algarve.
Below is the CP list of conditions for taking your bicycle on a train in Portugal:
The 2nd class carriages on Intercidades trains have dedicated 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.