Your next great ride

POR­TU­GAL

RiDE (UK) - - Contents -

THERE IS A land where the roads seem com­pletely empty. And they’re great roads — sin­u­ous and usu­ally fan­tas­tic tar­mac. The peo­ple are friendly, the food is good and it’s not par­tic­u­larly ex­pen­sive. The weather nor­mally ranges from the su­perb to the awe­some, with lots of long, hot, sunny days. In other words, it’s bik­ing heaven — es­pe­cially if you head into the moun­tains.

What is this bik­ing nir­vana, you ask? Why, Por­tu­gal, of course. It’s ac­tu­ally more of a land of two halves than the in­tro­duc­tion makes it sound. There are busy, built-up ar­eas around the big west-coast cities of Porto and Lis­bon, yet plenty of rough roads in parts that have yet to be re­freshed by money from the Euro­pean Union. The weather can be scorch­ingly hot in high sum­mer, but later in the year the wet air blown in from the At­lantic cre­ates some as­ton­ish­ingly heavy rain­storms.

So the canny trav­eller heads to the hil­lier parts of Por­tu­gal in spring, early sum­mer or early au­tumn. The only real is­sue is get­ting there: it makes the most sense to take a Brit­tany Fer­ries cross­ing to Bil­bao or San­tander, then en­joy a day-and-a-half’s ride through Spain’s Pi­cos de Europa moun­tains. Start plan­ning now and you could ride the sen­sa­tional N339 in the Serra da Estrela moun­tains this sum­mer. WHEN TO GO Not Au­gust — too hot (and July can be sav­age too). Try April to June or Septem­ber to mid-oc­to­ber. HOW LONG TO GO FOR We’d favour a ten-day trip, sail­ing Ply­mouth-san­tander on a Sun­day, re­turn­ing San­tander­portsmouth the fol­low­ing Mon­day. But it is pos­si­ble to do a Satur­day night re­turn for an eight-day trip. WHERE TO VISIT We’d avoid the cities (great for a city break, not for rid­ing) and go­ing too far south or west. The Douro Val­ley and Serra da Estrela moun­tains are our must-see ar­eas. WHERE TO RIDE There are com­plete Por­tuguese tours and plenty of daytrips at www.ride.co.uk/spain18

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