Portugal is one of the best places in Europe for gravel bike touring, with something to offer cyclists of all levels. From the stunningly picturesque coastlines and rolling vineyards of the Algarve to the rugged, mountainous terrain of the Serra da Estrela, gravel biking through Portugal is an incredible experience. With its quiet roads, challenging climbs, and stunning views, this country is the perfect destination for an unforgettable cycling adventure.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at the best routes and places to explore on your gravel bike tour in Portugal. We’ll also provide insider tips on where to stay, what to eat, and how to make the most of your cycling experience. So, let’s get started and explore some of the best gravel bike touring routes and places in Portugal!
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What to Expect on a Gravel Bike Tour in Portugal
Portugal is well-known for its stunning landscapes and picturesque villages, but its growing reputation as an adventure travel destination is attracting an increasing number of adventure travelers every year.
And a growing number of adventure travelers are discovering the joys of gravel biking in Portugal. Although it’s not yet as widely known for its gravel roads as other cycling destinations in Europe, Portuguese gravel bike routes are growing in popularity and numbers.
Why gravel bike in Portugal? You can expect to experience: A varied landscape and terrain - Cyclists visiting Portugal can expect to ride through a variety of landscapes, ranging from the rugged, mountainous terrain of the Serra da Estrela in the north, to the rolling vineyards of the Alentejo, and the sunny beaches of the Algarve in the south.
And while you’ll find some superb paved roads to cycle, Portugal has an amazing network of unpaved gravel roads, perfect for adventure cyclists. Quiet and scenic roads - While there are some busy roads in Portugal, the majority of the roads you’ll travel on your gravel bike tour are quiet, unpaved roads through picturesque landscapes.
Where to Go: The Best Gravel Routes and Places to visit
If you’re looking for the best places and routes for gravel biking in Portugal, there are a number of options, but these stand out for me as the best places to start exploring Portugal your gravel bike adventure.
The Eurovelo 1 bike tour is an adventurous but also safe way to experience Gravel riding in Portugal. I recommend starting in Porto and ending in Lisbon, or Faro, depending on your time and logistics. Along the way, you can discover secluded beaches, shady pine forests, charming seaside villages and at the right time of year you might see the world's largest waves to ever be surfed!
The Algarve, the southernmost region of Portugal that runs east to west along the Atlantic Ocean, is an incredibly scenic part of the country, known for its beaches and landscapes. The quiet, paved and gravel roads of the Algarve are perfect for cyclists, and there’s a number of great routes that you can explore while you’re there.
The central Alentejo region is home to the city of Évora, a UNESCO world heritage site, and is a great place to spend a few days on your gravel bike tour. The central Alentejo has a number of excellent gravel roads, such as the road to the UNESCO site at Évora, which is long but not difficult.
This is one of my personal favourite gravel routes anywhere in the world! Starting from Lisbon or Setubal, you can cycle down the west coast of Portugal on small country lanes or gravel roads following the rugged coastline all the way down to Lagos. There are several route options to choose from and depending on your appetite for miles, you can make it a leisurely week long bike tour to stop and sample the excellent beaches - or do the whole 300 + km route over a long weekend.
Historic Villages of Serra da Estrela
The Serra da Estrela is a stunningly rugged, mountainous region in Portugal, in the north of the country, and is a great place to ride a gravel bike. The road connecting the towns of Manteigas and Seia is a popular gravel road, and is a great route for exploring the region.
Where to Stay: Accommodation Options
If you’re visiting for a cycling adventure, you’ll likely want to stay at a place that is both close to the best gravel roads in Portugal and close to the best sights, points of interest and restaurants. Fortunately, there are plenty of world-class accommodation options in Portugal that make perfect basecamps for gravel biking, at any price point. Here are a few of my favourite types of accommodation in Portugal:
Ocean front coastal hotels
If you’re visiting during the summer months, it’s hard to top the coastal hotels along the sparkling west coast or the Algarve. These coastal hotels offer stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, and many are just off some of the best gravel roads in southern Europe.
Historic town boutique hotels
If you’re visiting the central Alentejo or the Serra da Estrela, town hotels are a great option. These hotels are often located in historic buildings or former palaces, and are a great way to experience the culture of the region, with a touch of luxury.
Rural hotels or B&Bs
From north to south, inland or on the coast, you will find wonderful, family-run rural hotels and bed and breakfast accommodations, where you can get a privileged insight into the local way of life, often in unique locations such as tastefully decorated farms, old mills or renovated village homes.
If you are happy to forgo the comforts of a roof over your head, you are in luck too! Portugal is home to some outstanding campsites, and I do recommend using them if you want to use a tent - as wild camping is prohibited by law in Portugal. Even the most basic campsites offer good amenities onsite or very nearby.
What to Eat: Portuguese Cuisine
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when ordering Portuguese cuisine. First, a lot of Portuguese dishes are served in portions that are more than enough for one person, so you might have some leftovers.
Also, many Portuguese dishes are served with rice or potatoes as a side, so you'll never run short on carbs! Aside from the heartier sit down meals, you can alwasys find soup and toasted sandwiches on most cafe menus.
There are a couple of things that are commonly eaten in Portugal, regardless of the region. For example, you will find seafood on most menus, as the country is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. Seafood dishes might include fresh grilled fish, squid, octopus, clams, and of course, cod.
You will also likely find traditional Portuguese meat dishes on most menus. Some of these include roast pork, steak sandwishes (which make a great cycling snack!), roast lamb and feijoada (a bean and meat stew).
Eating vegetarian in Portugal isn’t difficult, either. Many restaurants offer excellent vegetable-based options, and rich Portuguese soup is a perfect staple meat eaters or vegetarians alike!
Essential Tips for Gravel Biking in Portugal
Ensure you have the right bike for the terrain and that you can lift your bike over obstacles. Stay on marked trails as best you can to avoid trespassing and be aware of potentially dangerous natural features.
Bring water, repair kits, and snacks. Be prepared for all-weather conditions. Visit in March or October for the best weather; avoid the peak of summer and fall during harvest season if want to avoid crowds.
Bring a helmet - Although helmet use is mandatory for motorcyclists in Portugal, it is not required for cyclists, but it is still highly recommended. Especially when riding off main roads and if you choose particularly technical terrain.
Although tap water is safe to drink in Portugal, make sure you can carry enough of it across longer sections between settlements, and do not drink from unaproved fountains.
Pack and dress appropriately - The weather in Portugal can be varied, so make sure to dress appropriately for both warm and cold temperatures, and naturally the season you choose to travel.
Follow these tips and you are sure to make the most of your gravel biking experience in Portugal!
Gravel Biking in Portugal: It's Not About the Bike
Gravel bike touring in Portugal is an incredible experience, with a variety of beautiful landscapes, quiet roads, and delicious food. But whether you are a fan of riding a drop bar or flat bar bicycle, please understand that garvel biking in Portugal - or anywhere else - is not really about the bike. It's all about the experience!
You certainly need the right bike to enjoy unpaved gravel roads, but it does not need to be what the marketing team tells you to ride - it's all about finding a comfortable bike that will allow you to enjoy days in the saddle, rolling over unpaved roads and trails, away from the cars and savouring the sounds and sight of nature once more.
Whether you’re looking to explore the around the rugged mountains of the Serra da Estrela, the coastal towns along the Costa da Prata, the interior or coastal Algarve, or the historic towns of coastal and central Alentejo, there are plenty of great routes to explore. The trouble might be trying to pick a single route!
And with a variety of accommodations available in different regions, there’s no better place to book your next adventure than Portugal. So, what are you waiting for? Head to Portugal and explore the best places and routes for gravel biking in this stunningly beautiful country!