To the page for Portugal
of the Trento Bike Pages
by Markus Sauer and Ute Dasburg
All material is © 1996 of M.Sauer.
What follows is a brief description of a bike tour which we undertook in Portugal in September '94. We started from Faro at the Algarve coast, proceeded via Sagres to Lisbon and terminated our journey in Coimbra in middle Portugal. If you're not familiar with Portugal's geography, take a look at the map . The overall distance was about 800 km. We took (including rests) three and a half week with 16 days of cycling. As a whole, the trip was one of the most magnificent and wonderful holidays we ever had ! If you plan to do something similar, do it as soon as you can!
Southern Portugal where most of the trip takes place, is not really flat. On the contrary, during the first part which leads to Lisbon the terrain is full of ups and downs . The inclinations do mostly not exceed some hundred meters, but one can easily end up with a thousand metres of altitude summed up per day.
The region from Lisbon to Coimbra is not as demanding as the southern part even if there the mountains are significantly higher.
Road conditions and material
The road conditions are unfortunately quite poor. The pavement
consists in many parts of the trip of an area-covering ensemble of
asphalt patches rather than of a an evenly distributed pavement. We
used a Mountain Bike (GT
Karakorum) and a Cross Bike (Wheeler 6000). We do not think that
lighter equipment would be adviseable.
The portuguese drivers were very gentle, allways leaving a sufficient
lateral distance when overtaking us. Truck drivers however which are
met mainly in the northern part of the trip do impress more by a good
eye for distances than by solicitousness.
We (one female, one male) are both intermediately trained, i.e. no
semi-professional sports men. Doing some two or three times sports
during the week we like sports as a medium which transports
impressions of nature and social contacts, not as a goal for
itself. This information might serve as a rough characterization of
our physical condition and might help to estimate the demands of the
We started the trip in the middle of September and finished in the
middle of October. During this time, temperatures are quite high (
more than 30 degrees Celsius). However, one gets along quite
reasonably with the heat. This might be due to the fresh wind which
blows almost continuously. One should try not to bike during the hours
between one o'clock and three o'clock or should at least try to avoid
long climbs during this time.
Compared to the rest of southern Europe, prizes are very low. We paid
about 2500 - 5000 Esc for a room with breakfast. We mostly chose
little pensions which exist in abundancy along the tour. In the
beginning we were quite startled by the common practice of the
Portuguese lessors to acquire guests on the street. Being adressed
like this for the first time might seem strange, but one can find very
nice and cheap rooms by this way.
For diner almost every
restaurant offers a touristic menu at about 1000 - 1500 Esc comprising
three courses and a beverage. Eating a la carte is a little bit more
expensive, you will spend around 2000 - 2500 Esc.
Absolutely great. They are very friendly, continously trying to help you in any concern you can think of. A little bit of portuguese which you can learn from small travel dictionaries might help you to communicate with the elder people. Most of the younger ones speak english.
Railroad prizes are quite low in Portugal, and it is no problem to put the bikes into the regional trains. One should keep in mind however that it is quite difficult to take the bikes into the long distance trains. For exampe, we didn't find any convenient possibility to travel from Coimbra back to Faro by train. Rather convenient but really expensive is renting a car. The best possibility is to leave from the airport next to the end of the trip.
The details about the distance (DIST) and altitude differences (ALT) climbed are only estimates. We tried to be as precise as we could, but don't take these data too serious. Of course, for the altitude differences we counted only the climbs, not the downhills.
Other resources on the net
Lots of information at the MIT
A long collection of links about portugal, very valuable
Hugo Carvalho's Lisboa Home Page
Trento Bike Pages.
Finally: The Trip
Day 1: Faro - Loule - Alte (DIST ca 60 km, ALT ca 600 m)
Arrival at faro by plane seems a miracle. Already this approach would
completely justify the invention of flying machines. At some distance
from the airport, below us the serras of Portugal open., shinig in a
warm orange morning light, first arid and eartcoloured, then wooded
and streaked by numberless ochre trails. Close to the airport, a
scenery appears, so strange and bizarre that we thought we couldn't
believe our eyes. A muddish green carpet of fine winding branches,
curves and bends, every bend resolving into smaller and smaller ones,
a firework of forms, impossible to compare it with anything we'd ever
seen before. This is the delta of Rio Formosa, a unique fluvial area,
shielded against the ocean by sandbanks, a nature reserve of 50 square
For getting from and to the airport- which is at 4km from the town
center- you have to take an exceedingly used four lane road which - as
a first impression - is not very encouraging. However, this is only
for a few kilometres. After leaving the four lane road at Vale da
Venda we met some 10 or 20 cars on all the way up to Alte. This is a
very peaceful part of the tour. Loule is half the way in the
mountains, and untill there the road continously rises. From Loule to
Alte we continued northwards towards Salir until Aldeia de Tor and
then took a small road westwards through a fertile valley with some
small white farm houses. The plants in this area have a dark green
colour and the ground is light-red or orange. Together with the smell
of the nearby forest and macchia, this was one of the most beautiful
impressions of this day.
The climb up to Alto Fica was a hard task. The afternoon sun breeds
on the south-western oriented slope of the hill and there are almost
no trees capable of giving shadow. (In Alto Fica there are two cafes
in town - both offer chilled beverages and ice cream).
From Alto Fica to Alte some minor ups and downs. In Alte
there seems to be only one hotel, which is Altotel (reservations might
be adviceable: Tel.: portugal/loule/68523/24 ) Very nice personnel,
very very nice rooms, very good and abundant breakfast and diner. This
is not for free, of course (10.000 Ptas for a two bed room with
breakfast), but it's absolutely worth the prize. I forgot to mention
the wonderful garden, the pool and the panaromic view over half of South Portugal which you will admire
from there. Don't miss it!
Day 2: Alte - Silves - Monchique DIST ca 60 km ALT ca 700 m
From Alte we took the road versus Sao Bartolomeu and then straight
ahead to Silves. The road leads through a fruitful
and very beautiful region.
was formerly an important place for merchandising and at that time
larger than Lisbon, which can only hardly been imagined today. The
town is quite touristic, but the old castle
merits a visit. It might be adviseable to take the noon rest here
before taking the climb to Monchique. Monchique is the town which gave
the Serra de Monchique its name and it is paradisically situated in
the center of the mountains at an altitude of about 600 m.
Since Silves is about on sea level, one has to climb all
of them. You might like to stop at Caldas de Monchique which is an old
Belle Epoque-style spa. Today, it has lost most of its importance but
not its charme. Don't miss to take the diner on the village square
were you will find a number of good restaurants. On Sundays during
daytime, it might be a little bit crowded however. In Caldas, there is
also a nice Hotel (three or four stars, but you will pay only a little
bit more than in a pension in Monchique (both about 5.000 for two beds
and breakfast). There is once again a wonderful pool (even better than
that in Alte). Not being a guest of the hotel, you spend about 700
each for a bath (highly adviceable). In Monchique there are a lot of
pensions and some restaurants, some of them simple, others not. Try
the Monchique specialty Medronho, a strawberry spirit. From
Monchique, you can take a walk to the nearby mountain La Foia (ca 770
m) from where you have a wonderful view on Monchique and the whole
Serra. The same applies for the view from Monte Picota (950 m approx.)
which you can access without difficulties with the bikes.
Day 3 -rest
Day 4: Monchique - Lagos (DIST ca 40 km)
Near the southern village exit of Monchique there is a road pointing
westwards leading versus Marmelete and Aljezur (road 267). The road
leads through a very beautiful scenery once again providing a
panoramic view over the mountains and the coast. Behind Marmelete one
enters a large forest area. About 5 km after Marmelete on the top of a
little hill there is a road heading southwards (left) leading to
Romeiras and the artificial lake "Barragem de Bravura". This road is
not paved but covered only with a gravel surface. With race bikes it
will therefore be difficult to be used. The road leads through the
most solitary and arid region of Portugal we have visited in these
weeks. For a long time, there are no houses or any other signs of
human habitation. We thought we had missed the right way but finally
we reached some solitary houses which showed up to be
Romeiras. Surprisingly, in the middle of this desert there is a little bar where you can have
all the beverages you dreamed of during the last hours. If there are
two german drop-outs sitting in front of the bar and having a beer (or
maybe more than one) do not change your mind. They might look very
wild, but they are quite nice and might appreciate to have a chat with
Some kilometers after the bar one passes the Barragem de
Bravura. In September,
carried little water. So don't look forward to take a bath here.
After surrounding the lake one hits a paved road. Now there are signs
to the barragem de bravura which make it seem probable that at this
part of the lake one can take a bath. The road leads through a
wonderful valley cultivated with fruit and wheat, finally leading to
Odeáxere. From there, one can take the road (without pavement)
versus the golf ground (signs) and from there along the beach to
Lagos. In the town center, you will find plenty of opportunities for
cheap rooms. The town is quite crowded by tourists. However, an
enormous number of restaurants offers extremely good meals at very low
prizes. This is at least one advantage of mass tourism.
like nature, light and colour, do not leave Lagos without having
participated at the boat trips. Do it in the morning time when the sun
is still low. You will never forget the colour of the golden
reflections on the water surface. The trips are really expensive (2500
Ptas) but they mostly include a meal and you really should not miss
the spectacle of light and colour.
Day 5: Lagos-Sagres-Cabo de Sao Vicente (DIST ca 48 km, ALT ca 200m)
We did not find a way to evitate road 125 from Lagos to Sagres. The
little roads near the beach shown in the map turned out to be steep
and rough tracks which are not apted to be used when you want to
travel longer distances than a few kilometers. Maybe after Luz this
might change, but after having lost about half an hour looking for
roads which turned out to be unuseable, we didn't try. Road 125 is a
newly constructed broad road with little traffic and without
trees. Therefore, it is not shielded against the wind. The old road
which in some part of the way is next to the new one is a good
alternative. There is almost no traffic on it, it lies deeper than the
level of the new road and is not that much exposed to the wind. After
Villa do Bispo the road continously falls until Sagres.
Sagres is a long stretched village with two town
centers, one being the harbour region, the other one being centered
around a little square (Praca da Republica) situated more towards the
Fortaleza. In the road leading from the Praca towards the Fortaleza,
you can find plenty of nice and cheap (ca 3000 Ptas) private
rooms. Near to Sagres (6 km) there is the most southwestern point of
Europe, Cabo de Sao Vicente.
Enjoy the long and rocky coast line during
sunset. This is one of the most intensive impressions in Southern
Portugal. Sagres itself is a small and isolated village, exposed
against the Atlantic Ocean and the rough atlantic wind. Believe it or
not, properly because of this it has a really special atmosphere and
it is a wonderful and peaceful place. Or - in the sense of the Talking
Heads song: "Heaven is a place where nothing ever
Day 6 : rest
Day 7: Sagres - Villa do Bispo - Aljezur - Odeceixe (DIST 58 km,
ALT quite a few m)
This stage is one of those which are full
of minor ups and downs. The road is quite nice, not in the best state,
but almost without traffic. A very beautiful place to visit is the beach of Carrapateira with a wonderful sand
beach and very high waves. It is forbidden to take a bath however due
to dangerous streams near the beach.
Look forward to see Aljezur, a charming medium-sized town with a
friendly atmosphere. Taking a rest here will compensate you for the
efforts made until there. For the night we stopped at Odeceixe which
is a small and particularly nice village. Situated on the steep slope
of a broad valley it provides a wonderful view on the area. Thanks to
its distance from the centers of tourism, there is no mass tourism at
all, but quite a number of individual tourists. You can find cheap
rooms either in the Hostelaria close to the town entrance and private
rooms in town. At the beach, some two kilometres away from the town,
there are some hotels, too.
Day 8: Odeceixe - Sao Teutonico - Odemira - Cercal (DIST 50 km, ALT once again quite a few m)
Be careful with the meal in Odeceixe, we were served something strange
which left us very reduced on the next day. Once again a continuous
sequence of ups and downs. In order to circumvent this, it might be
adviceable to take road 393 before Odemira to Vila Nova de Milfontes
and then to Cercal instead of choosing the direct way via Odemira and
Sao Luis. In Cercal there are cheap rooms in the hotel at the central
square where one can have also good meals.
Day 9: Cercal - Sines - Santo André - Setúbal (DIST 112 km, ALT: 0 m)
Great stage without any climbs. Nearly no traffic. The four lane roads
around Sines have a broad shoulder which can be used by bikers. It
might not be allowed, though, but there is no other possibility to
leave Sines. Between Santo
and Setúbal the road leads through forests which shield it against
the wind. At that part of the route it might be difficult to get rooms
since there is no larger village on the way. Colonia Penal, by the
way, is what it is called: a prison. The last part of this stage leads
once again through a very fertile region where tomatos, melons and other fruits are
cultivated. It is impossible not to admire the colour and the
vegetation of this area. The ferry boats from Troja to Setúbal
leave approximately every half an hour and apparently until late in
the night. We took the boat at about 7.15. p.m.
Setúbal is an industrial city offering little if any touristic sensations. Therefore there is only little variety in accomodation.
Day 10: Setúbal - Pinhal Novo - Montijo - Lisbon (DIST 43 km, ALT: 300 m ca)
This is the most rapid junction between Setúbal and Lisbon. There
is quite a lot traffic in the region. Cycling isn't any more what it
used to be in the south.
We were compensated for this, however by the
Beauty of Lisbon:
Of course, there is a lot to be said about Lisboa, which, however is not the aim of this report. So, some rough statements: Listen, it is the most beautiful capital town in Europe bearing a very strange and interesting atmosphere. That might be due to the fact that it is a capital, situated at the edge of Europe, not in the middle. And though being the capital of a modern country, it sometimes makes you feel like living in the beginning of our century. Sometimes Lisboa is compared with Paris, owing to the Belle epoque architecture of the Chiado, one of its most beautiful quarters. This is of course a very superficial comparison; cities are more than mere architectur and Lisbon is more than some touristic sites. Lisbon is the people who live there. Relaxed and very kind they go their way and make you feel part of their city. This is what Lisboa makes worth a visit. Go there and enjoy. You won't regret it. For some web appetizers, visit Hugo Carvalho's Lisboa Home Page , a wonderful page which reflects the beauty of Lisboa in many of its facets.
Day 11 - 12 rest.
Day 13: (Lisbon -) Cascais - Cabo da Roca - Cascais( -Lisbon) (DIST 54 km, ALT ca 300)
It is no problem to take the bikes into the regional trains which supply the suburban region of Lisbon. We rode by train to Cascais and cycled from there to Cabo da Roca, the most western point of continental Europe. This trip is really worthwhile because of the wonderful view on the atlantic coast. At half the way you will find a hot surf spot. Lots of wind, lots of surfers... Thereafter, long and quite steep inclines begin which lead first through forests and then towards the Cabo. In this region, some of the richer Portuguese are supposed to live as judged by the appearance of their houses. Little before Cabo da Roca there is Azoia, a few restaurants and bars. Be prepared to the efforts the strong winds blowing around the cape region will cause.
Day 15(Lisbon -) Torres Vedras - Obidos
(DIST ca 40 , ALT ca 0 m)
Since we wanted to evitate the traffic of the capital, we took the
train in the northern direction. As simple as it is to use the
suburban trains with the bikes, as complicated it is to take the long
distance trains. It is really a mess, not only for the passengers but
also for the personnel who have to fill out hundred and something
forms with the weight of the freight, what it is worth and so on. If
you can evitate this, do it. It might be a good compromise to take the
suburbian connection to Sintra, the beautiful former summer residence
of the Portuguese kings. Being far already from the traffic strams of
the capital, it is situated at about 400 m altitude on the top the
mountains and therefore an optimal starting point.
From Torres Vedras to Obidos ledas a good and quite broad road which
is unfortunately busy with large trucks.
cycling sometimes becomes a hazard. Without this drawback, it was a
pleasure to ride on the road which leads mostly through forests. In
Obidos, plenty of cheap and nice rooms can be found. Obidos is a perfectly preserved medieval portuguese city
and therefore a national patrimony. There are some crowds,
though, but the town is really worth a visit. And in the afternoon,
most of the tourists leave for their hotels on the coast. Then Obidos
turns into a quiet and peaceful city with the only sounds being the
barking of the dogs.
DAY 16: Obidos-Nazare(DIST: ca 45 km, ALT: ca 0)
Nazare is the next item on the list of touristic relevant sites to
visit. A smaller road without longer climbs leads there. Only near to
the coast one might have some problems with the wind. Nazare is an old
fisher town which has changed into one of Portugals most vivid tourist
outside the Algarve region. Don't
mind, however, there are no huge ten story high hotels, but a lot of
cheap smaller hotels. There are hardly any discos, instead you'll find
a number of good restaurants where Very good sea food is served. In
September, the town is a gentle and charming sea bath with only few
people roaming around on the long beaches and
promenades. Directly in the north of the town a high mountain
barrier rises which can be visited with the help of an elevator. At
the other side of this barrier a beautiful and very solitary beach
area begins. One finds only few houses and no urbanizations. The
houses are surrounded by a forest belt of small trees, and away from
the beach, towards the interior, the hills rise. Take the opportunity
of a stay in Nazare to visit this region, it might be the most
DAY 17: rest
DAY 18: Nazare-Batalha-Leiria
DIST 50 km, ALT:200)
Being the major connection of the coast area the road heading north from Nazare is quite busy. Since it is also quite broad, that causes only little trouble. In particular, there are no problems with the truck drivers. For 2 km or so before Batalha, one has to face National Road No. 1. This is road is extremely busy and should, if possible, be avoided! After the visit of the Cathedral in Batalha, we therefore took road 356 westwards into the hills ( a longer climb) and the next possible road northwards. From above there, we enjoyed one of the most beautiful and magnificent panoramic views of the whole trip. Here, Portugals wine-growing area begins, and we enjoyed an incomparable view on wineyards, small rural towns and forests.
The long downhill to Leiria is a welcome present. In the town center, there is something like a youth hostel and a number of pensions. A nice little city with a special provincial charme.
DAY 19:Leiria - Pombal (- Coimbra) DIST 30, ALT:400)
We first planned to take Road No. 1 towards Pombal and Coimbra. This
turned out to be impossible. We were definitely scared by the enormous
amount of heavy traffic passing us by and decided immediately to take
minor roads through the mountains. This is really very much safer and
also turned out to be more beautiful. Since sign posts are few this
takes some time and some more time has to be accounted for the climbs
of the numerous hills.
Nevertheless, these difficulties are compensated for by the passage
through a lovely country side on roads with nearly no
traffic. Unfortunately, this day's clouds poored down all the rain we
had come around for the previous three weeks. We didn't make it
further than Pombal, taking happily the train to Coimbra, where our journey
Just one tip for accomodation in Coimbra: Residencial
Alentejana, Rua Dr. Henrique Seco, 1(near Praca da Republica), 3000
Coimbra, Tel: 039/25924 and 25903, fax: 405124. Prizes around 5-6000
Esc for a double room with breakfast, rooms are very nice (ask for the
Coimbra is an old University city and is about the same to Portugal what Pisa is for Italy or Heidelberg for Germany. There are a lot of wonderful sites to discover, and the presence of the many students gives the city a warm and vivid atmosphere. By the way, for having some beers in the evening, Praca da Republica is a good address.