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?
A Saint For Coronavirus Times?
Along the Camino Frances, after the legendary stop of O Cebreiro, on a windswept crest, you’ll come across an impressive statue of a medieval pilgrim battling the elements. This is the poster child of the medieval pilgrim, San Roque, the Patron Saint of Plagues, and a perhaps a saint for our times?
San Roque was born about 1295 in Montpellier, France, the son of the governor. Nothing is known of his childhood except that it was privileged and that he lost both parents by the age of twenty. Whereupon, he joined the Franciscan Order and distributed his fortune among the poor.
He then went on pilgrimage to Rome and there cared for the victims of the plague that was taking its toll on Italy. He devoted himself to the plague-stricken, curing them with the sign of the cross. He next visited Cesena and other neighboring cities before going on to Rome. Everywhere the terrible scourge disappeared before his miraculous power.
Eventually, he caught the plague himself, while ministering to the sick, and was expelled from the town. Ill and starving, he was saved when a hunting dog found him and brought him bread every day.
He recovered and decided to devote himself to caring for the sick. He, also, eventually became the patron saint of dogs, as well. San Roque was reputed to have performed many miracles of healing throughout his life... and after his death!
San Roque’s intercession was called upon when a plague struck Germany in the 15th century. “In 1414, during the Council of Constance, the plague having broken out in that city, the Fathers of the Council ordered public prayers and processions in honor of the saint, and immediately the plague ceased.
Time and time again he was invoked during various medieval plagues and eventually became “The Patron Saint Against Plagues”.
At a time when we are all feeling the direct or indirect impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, and few if any, pilgrims are walking or cycling the Camino de Santiago, perhaps it feels like a good time to remember the brave example he set 700 years ago?
Written by Margaret Jeffries
Founder of Cycling Centuries bike tours, world traveler and Iberian travel consultant.
A follow-up article to first person tour guide for cycling the Portuguese Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage route, by father and son team Rodrigo & Paulo.
Considering that this riding pilgrimage from Porto to Santiago de Compostela could be a top event in one’s lifetime, I and my father, Paulo Fernandez, would like to give a suggestion here on how to make it more exciting and pleasant, based on what we described in the previous post issued in the Cycling & Rentals' Blog.
We identified that the ideal thing to do would be to cross this route in 6 days by bike. Just to recall, in October 2018, as we shared in the first contribution to this Blog, we did this route in 4 days, and we concluded at Nattrip that in a period of less than 6 days it would be quite physically stressful to fulfill this journey’s goal in such a short period of time.
We concluded so mainly because of the conditions of terrain and topography along the route, specially in some specific tough portions of it.
For those who decide to make the route by bike, from Porto to Santiago de Compostela there are harsh and physically demanding stretches.
Thus, making the route in 6 days, in addition to the daily less physical effort, you will have more time in the places you pass, to enjoy and appreciate some of the attractions - which are many - along the entire official route.
So, below we try to present the tips of what to do, visit or know during the suggested planned 6 days of the bike pilgrimage from OPorto to Santiago de Compostela, via the Portuguese Central Way.
1st day: OPORTO - SÃO PEDRO DE RATES (~ 45km)
In the initial section during the 1st Day, leaving OPorto, as we said in the previous post, we will go through a very urbanized area with a lot of traffic on the roads, getting in our view uncomfortable riding the bikes. This context giving us no opportunity to pass there in a relaxed and enjoying way.
The uncomfort covering the feeling of joy by crossing one of the most used routes throughout the history of western civilization. In this initial section of the Portuguese Way it is worth mentioning some medieval bridges that we cross, the city of Arcos, and its church. But the main attractions are, indeed, right in the beautiful city of OPorto.
It is very easy to find on the internet a large list of places to visit, depending on your available time and interest, before starting the bike journey to Santiago de Compostela. While in OPorto, we recommend to visit the Cathedral of the city, where our itinerary begins, and, if possible, go for tasting the famous Porto wines in one of the cellars in the neighboring city, Vila Nova de Gaia, right at the opposite bank of on the Douro river.
Therefore, we recommend to have some time in OPorto before beginning the rout and to keep, in this first day, the same initial stretch that we did in the 4 days work of validation of the route in October 2018. That is, you should follow from OPorto till Vairão or São Pedro de Rates, which are small and cozy little towns, in an already markedly rural area of northern Portugal, after leaving behind the very urbanized beginning of this stretch.
In Vairão it is worth stopping by and visiting the beautiful Monastery that exists on the site, besides the hostel next to it, where a nice conversation with the volunteers who work there seems to be always possible. After passing Vairão you can go a little further and stay at the nice and cozy São Pedro de Rates hostel at the end of this first day. There, in São Pedro de Rates, visit the existing Romanesque church.
Photo 1: landscape approaching Vairão village
2nd day: SÃO PEDRO DE RATES – PONTE DE LIMA (~42km)
Then, on the 2nd day after leaving São Pedro de Rates, you will go ahead and pass in Barcelinhos, cross the Medieval Bridge (14th century) and enter Barcelos, the city of the famous Portuguese rooster. After Barcelos, you will continue till Ponte de Lima, crossing its imposing medieval Gothic bridge over the Lima River.
Ponte de Lima is where we recommend staying at the municipal hostel after making the stretch of this 2nd day. Mainly because the next stretch will be very harsh, crossing the top of Portela / Labruja mountain.
This portion of the 3rd stretch has very strong climbings for those who go by bike when approaching the top of Alto do Portela (Labruja), as we mentioned in the previous post.
In Ponte de Lima there is a large and quite pleasant leisure area on the banks of the Lima river, very close to the medieval bridge. This recreation area is frequented by a large number of people, especially on weekends and evenings, and it is worthwhile staying there for a while.
The nice and cozy public hostel in Ponte de Lima is also very close to the head of the city's medieval bridge, as soon as you cross it.
Photo 2: Leisure area in Ponte de Lima close to the medieval gothic bridge.
3rd day: PONTE DE LIMA – TUÍ (~35km)
On the 3rd day, you will pass in Rubiães, a small town high at the Portela mountain, where you can stay at the nice hostel there, to rest from the strong effort made, soon after overcoming the climb of the Alto do Portela / Labruja. But the ideal thing to do, in order to keep the planned schedule of 6 days, is to follow on this 3rd day beyond Rubiães, now going all the way down from the mountain to the plains and approaching the border with Galicia.
Then you will reach the city of Valença do Minho, on the banks of the river Minho. From Valencia, crossing the border by the bridge over the river Minho, you will enter Galicia, in the city of Tuí. Tuí is where we recommend staying at the end of this 3rd daily journey (the pilgrim hostel is behind the Tui Cathedral, very close to the bridge that crosses the river Minho). In Tuí we recommend visiting the Santa Maria Cathedral, next to the hostel, the Convent of Las Clarissas and the gothic church of Santo Domingo.
4th day: TUÍ – PONTEVEDRA (~55km)
On the 4th day the recommendation is that you ride from Tuí till Pontevedra, taking the rural variant in O Porriño, which we strongly recommended in the previous post on this Blog.
Arriving in Pontevedra, after crossing a beautiful forest right at the entrance of the city, we recommend staying in the cozy pilgrim hostel, which is just in the beginning of the urban area of this city (at the right, on top of a small hill, just after leaving behind the small forest).
This hostel we have mentioned about it in the previous post, and we think it is worthwhile staying there to enjoy it. In Pontevedra we recommend visiting the Sanctuary of the Virgin Pilgrim (built in a Santiago’s shell shape) as well as the crowded Plaza de Ferréria.
5th day: PONTEVEDRA – PADRÓN (~42km)
On the 5th day, the mission is to ride your bike from Pontevedra till Padrón, and stay at the end of this daily journey in the pilgrim hostel there. In Padrón we recommend visiting Santiago’s Church.
According to legend, it was in Padrón that docked the ferry transporting the remains of the Apostle Santiago, from Jaffa in the Middle East (where he was beheaded) to the Iberian Peninsula, in the year 44dc. The stone - or ‘padrón’ – to which the ferry was attached when docked is placed under the altar of the Church of Santiago de Padrón. Therefore, it is mandatory for all pilgrims who follow the Portuguese Way to Santiago de Compostela to visit this church in Padrón.
6th day: PADRÓN – SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA (~25km)
On the 6th and last day of cycling by the Portuguese Way since OPorto, you will go from Padrón to your final destination, Santiago de Compostela Cathedral.
Leaving Padrón early (no need to do it quite early, just start riding your bike around 8am), you will arrive at Santiago de Compostela Cathedral with plenty of time this day to enjoy the final destination of this bike pilgrimage.
Arriving at Plaza Del Obradoiro, in front of Santiago de Compostela’s Cathedral, we recommend going to the pilgrim's office (Oficina del Peregrino) to obtain your Compostelana and pilgrim certificate.
You can go to the Oficina by bike, since there is place to leave the bikes there, so that you can queue with the other pilgrims who come there walking.
In Santiago de Compostela, if you would like to stay overnight in a pilgrim hostel, you have the options of going to the ‘Albergue Seminário Menor’ - Minor Seminar Hostel (Av. Quiroga Palacios, 2), for the ‘Residência de Peregrinos San Lazaro’ - San Lazaro Pilgrim Residence (Rúa da Vesada, 2) , or to the ‘Fin Del Camino’ Hostel – End of the Way hostel (Rúa de Moscova).
The options of what to do in Santiago de Compostela on the 7th day are many, and you can make a personalized program of what you should visit, through internet consultations.
However, we recommend that you do not miss the Pilgrim’s Mass, which takes place daily twice at Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, at noon and in the early evening (19 hours).
Photo 3: Plaza Del Obradoiro in Santiago de Compostela
The tips we want to give here, which are permanently valid throughout the whole route, are to try and taste the cuisine and gastronomy typical of northern Portugal and Galicia.
In the north of Portugal from Porto to Valença do Minho (on the border with Galicia) we have from the codfish dishes, dishes with other fishes from the region, as well as soups and broths.
All of those always with the company of a good Portuguese wine, of the Douro or Minho regions. And of course, it is always worth finishing the meals with the famous Portuguese sweets.
After northern Portugal left behind, passing now through Galicia, we can experience as well the famous Galician food. From Tuí, crossing the Portugal-Spain border over the Minho river, until reaching the final destination in Santiago de Compostela.
There we will have the opportunity every day to taste the seafood of the so-called 'Rias Baixas' (kind of estuaries where the sea encounters the fresh water from the rivers of the region). Such seafood is considered one of the best in the world, by the conditions of the existing ecosystem in the Rias Baixas.
In addition, we have, to accompany these seafood dishes, the Galician wines produced in the regions of the Rias Baixas (mainly white wines are our favorites). We cannot forget also another dish of Galicia known worldwide, which is the "Galician broth".
In the region of Padrón and Iría Flavia, we have the also famous ‘pimientos de Padrón ’, that cannot miss the table (mainly in being there at Padrón). These peppers are consumed alone or as an accompaniment to other dishes (they are cooked only in olive oil and salt, in a pan or skillet).
Either way you eat them, they are delicious. And it should be mentioned that you could feel your mouth burning a little, especially when you taste the most twisted Padrón pepers.
Still regarding the cuisine and gastronomy of the region where you will be crossing by bike, we also have to say that, traditionally, the dishes of northern Portugal and Galician cuisine, in general, are high in calories. This is due to the long history of 'subsistence economics' of that region (historically and until recently - until a few decades ago- these regions were very poor, especially in rural areas).
The cuisine also has this high calorie content due to the need for those who used to live there to have to eat caloric foods, in order to help combating the cold, which is very intense in winter time. But for you who will be spending energy cycling throughout the Portuguese Way to Santiago de Compostela, caloric meals are not at all a problem.
And so we finish the proposed program to cross the route of the Portuguese Way to Santiago de Compostela, by bike in 6 days. For those who propose themselves to do so, we hope that the information provided here may be of help. And we also hope that those ones could achieve their planned goals, taking advantage of the incredible and magical all through this route. Buen Camino!
By Rodrigo Fernandez
Founder of Nattrip Brazil Ecotourism and Adventures.
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A Short Guide to Catalan Food
A cheat sheet for first timers in the Spanish food capital
When eating out in Catalonia for the first time, it can be rather overwhelming. Expectations are high as this part of Spain is home to a multitude of Michelin starred restaurants and boasts some of the finest chefs in the World. Add to that the deep rooted traditions of the Catalan kitchen and its unique style and you have a rich and complex assortment of dishes and tastes awaiting you - But what do I order?
We have put together a concise list of the best traditional dishes from the Catalan region to look out for on menus:
Discover the rich cuisine of Catalonia and some of the best cycling in Spain on our Catalonia Girona Bike Tour.
Vanya is a part-time cycling guide and full time eater.
Our Catalonia self guided bike tour starts in Girona, which is as famous for its food as it is for the fine cycling in the surrounding area. If you haven't yet experienced what all the fuss is about with Catalan cuisine, here are a few places to start!
By Vanya Maplestone
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.