Cycling the Portuguese coastline

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
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b1ke
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Cycling the Portuguese coastline

Postby b1ke » 19 Oct 2014, 6:29pm

I'm looking at riding the Camino de Santiago in a month or so from Santander to Santiago de Compostella and then taking the Portuguese Camino down to Porto and continuing south.

I'm struggling to find much info on cycling the Portuguese coastline. Has anyone out there done this? Any good? Is camping an option, wild or organised? I heard the drivers aren't the best? How's the terrain? Plus any other info gratefully received. Thanks in advance.
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borisface
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Re: Cycling the Portuguese coastline

Postby borisface » 20 Oct 2014, 11:28am

I've not actually cycled it but have driven it a few times. I live in central Portugal - originally from Brighton. I guess that you're going to Lisbon or beyond? South of Porto it is fairly built up and relatively flat and uninspiring. There are a few small resorts like Espinho and further south is Aveiro which is quite a nice town but a bit touristy. Around Aveiro is a large flat basin and further south lots of pine forests that go right down to the coast. Its not unlike south of Bordeaux. Figueira do Foz is an OK resort used mainly by Portuguese with nice sandy beaches and further south again is Nazare which has massive surf. The roads are fairly busy. South of Lisbon down the Alentejo coast is more interesting and remote and very beautiful. Can't comment on camp sites. If it were me, I'd duck off the camino route at somewhere south of Ponte de Lima, say Guimaraes, and keep well inland, that's the real Portugal. Most people tend to live in a rough corridor about 30 miles inland from the coast going north from Lisbon. The driving can be a bit erratic in busy areas but if you head inland you'll find very peaceful roads with hardly a car, friendly people and cheap but it is very mountainous. Just be aware it has been very wet this year.

JJF
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Re: Cycling the Portuguese coastline

Postby JJF » 20 Oct 2014, 9:20pm

I cycled a small part of the Portugese coast about 15 years ago.
I crossed the Tagus from Lisbon and headed south. I stayed in a B&B in Sesimbra then went to Setubal and took the ferry across the Rio Sado. From there I cycled down the coast to Villa Nova de Milfontes. As borisface says, it is an interesting and attractive area. The road surfaces were rather variable, generally ok.
I seem to recall that the traffic was light (in contrast to Lisbon which was intense).
For a few days I cycled with a Japanese man. He was camping wild and didn't seem to have any difficulty but I stayed in small hotels or B&Bs.
After Villa Nova I went away from the coast and made a loop eventually back to Lisbon.

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bigjim
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Re: Cycling the Portuguese coastline

Postby bigjim » 21 Oct 2014, 8:00pm

I cycled down the coast south from Porto two weeks ago. Don't do it! Story is on my blog.
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Geoff Dale
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Re: Cycling the Portuguese coastline

Postby Geoff Dale » 22 Oct 2014, 6:57am

I read your blog with some interest. I am bound for the Algarve mid January and intend to cycle to up the coast to Lisbon and back from Portamao.
I also hope t tour the Algarve before a ride to Gibralta and back.

iviehoff
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Re: Cycling the Portuguese coastline

Postby iviehoff » 22 Oct 2014, 9:35am

Porto and surroundings are pretty difficult cycling due to it being the densest populated area of Portugal. But instead of being (substantially) one concentrated city like Lisbon, it's an extended area of towns, not very far apart, and hence largely linked by busy roads. There are probably some quieter roads alternative to the main roads, but poor mapping and unhelpful signing makes it difficult to find. Coming from the north into Porto, I'd suggest you get a train in from somewhere like Braga (worth a visit). There is a quiet country road that leaves Porto to the SE from fairly close to the centre of Vila Nova de Gaia (the bit of Porto S of the river), but that takes you into the hills, rather than the coast. But then the hills are much the best cycling in Portugal. The cycling in the coastal strip gets more interesting on the final approach to Lisbon, from about Peniche southwards, and then south of Setubal, beyond Lisbon (take a train from L to S). But I still think the interior is much more interesting cycling, a comment which applies to pretty much the whole length of the country - there is lovely inland cycling in the N of the country, though from time to time it is difficult to avoid a narrow busy-ish main road for a while, and unfortunately Portuguese driving is aggressive. But there are plenty of very quiet roads in sparsely populated areas in the interior too, and interesting little towns and villagesto visit.

The commuter rail services around Porto and Lisbon are very cycle friendly, and you can even put your bike on the Porto metro. The longer distance trains are pretty cycle unfriendly in Portugal these days - on regional services you can put your bike on if it has a traditional luggage car, though these are becoming much less common. I understand that the absolute ban on putting bikes on inter-cidade trains has now been lifted provided you can package the bicycle to their requirements. The train company website is fairly helpful, but it's impossible (or was when I last tried) to find out which regional trains have luggage cars on the web.

psmiffy
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Re: Cycling the Portuguese coastline

Postby psmiffy » 22 Oct 2014, 11:14am

I would be a bit ambivalent about recommending the Portuguese coastline as a touring destination above many of the other places in Europe that you could go to – however, if you are already there and if you have not been and seen then its not that bad

I cycled from Santander to Malaga along the coast one May – I was following the coast – because I Iike coasts and being near the sea – because that’s where I was most likely to find campsites and because I hadn’t been that way before.

Generally I found the cycling pleasant if generally unspectacular outside of the big towns and the traffic was generally OK– I cannot remember beinf particularly threatened by it, but im not traffic sensitive - navigating some of the larger places is not that easy, but not impossible - a comment I could make about many other large European cities – lots of places I had only seen on the map – avoiding them would make a mockery of my mantra to go naively where I not gone before – and good places to restock with gas – once I had actually got to the centres of Porto, Lisbon et.al they were sufficiently interesting to have made the effort worthwhile, a comment that applies to many other European cities I have visited.

Generally north of the Algarve there are lots of pretty coastlines and interesting places – the Algarve was an abomination – miles of apartments, villas, golf courses marinas – (apart from the occasional blue no cycling signs on the main roads between them) – in the context of that it was part of the longer tour it was something I found quite interesting – however, I will not be returning.

Camping - generally I did quite well with camping considering it was early doors – better than I did in Spain – variable in quality – however, im not that campsite sensitive – somewhere to put the tent and a shower is my requirement.

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bigjim
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Re: Cycling the Portuguese coastline

Postby bigjim » 22 Oct 2014, 1:55pm

I'm not particularly traffic sensitive. I live close to the centre of Manchester and also less than two miles from one of the feeder routes into the major motorway network. I'm in that every day so I consider myself a good confident cyclist in heavy traffic. The conditions on the coast road from Porto and aggressive driving from truckers are probably the worst I have ever experienced. Both of us were of the same mind and remarked how there was no way those trucks had limiters fitted.
Oh, by the way, I'm also a truck driver when the occasion demands, so I do have some experience on both sides.
Last edited by bigjim on 22 Oct 2014, 6:35pm, edited 1 time in total.
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pq
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Re: Cycling the Portuguese coastline

Postby pq » 22 Oct 2014, 6:14pm

In general, riding along a coast means traffic and urban areas. My only tour in Portugal (Lisbon to Bilbao) was only enjoyable when I abandoned the coast and rode inland.
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ConRAD
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Re: Cycling the Portuguese coastline

Postby ConRAD » 23 Oct 2014, 7:25am

As you can see below I deliberately avoided as much as possible the coastline, IMO portuguese mainland is by far much better.
The use of velomap digital maps was essential in reaching Porto through minor roads, entering Lisbon following the Rio Tejo coming from Sintra-Estoril was fantastic. If you want to have a look to the entire trip please have a look here below, it's in Italian sorry ... if you need I should still have all the gpx tracks ...

CYCLING PORTUGAL - OCT 2013

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b1ke
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Re: Cycling the Portuguese coastline

Postby b1ke » 25 Oct 2014, 10:40pm

Thanks for your info.. Based on what I've read, the coastline looks like a bit of a no no. I'll reassess and perhaps look at going further inland in Portugal or else look at Spanish routes south instead. Thanks again.
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gordonyoung
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Re: Cycling the Portuguese coastline

Postby gordonyoung » 3 Nov 2014, 10:41pm

Hi

We cycled the Algrave from the Spanish border to the most SW point in Europe in September of this year. We flew into Faro and picked up bikes from Lisa Bikes and the caught the train to the Spanish border and started the cycle. Lisa Bikes had arranged the route as they advise not always riding the official route as it travels alongside a busy road in parts. Parts of the ride were very good but didn't really enjoy the golf course bit. Very little traffic on the whole journey, very good bird watching and very nice last 3 days out towards and beyond Sagres. Signage is not that great and the paths are not up to the standard of Germany or the Loire a velo. Still very enjoyable with good food and wine and good accommodation. Not many people seem to cycle the route.