One of the fabulous aspects of this Minho region to Porto biking holiday is the change of scenery you will experience along the route. You start high in the mountains where you will literally cycle down to the Atlantic Ocean stretching before you as far as you can see. This land is also blessed by the Minho, Lima and Douro rivers, each of which will accompany you at one stage or another of your ride. This is a proud land, proud of its maritime history over the centuries. You will for certain come across remains of the fortifications that helped keep the Spanish well within their borders. It is also the land of fine mountain cuisine and of course once along the coast, a wealth of fish and seafood dishes, best enjoyed with a glass of Vinho Verde wine.
Best of all, it is a biking journey that will put you in touch with some of the nicest Europeans. Do take every opportunity to meet the local inhabitants: fishermen and their wives, farmers, the kind lady at the local shop; listen to the stories of the owners of your accommodations. Cycle across the ancient Roman bridge at Ponte de Lima, famous for its beauty and its importance to medieval pilgrims as they made their way from Porto to Santiago de Compostela. Enjoy cycling through the North of Portugal as you head to the city of Porto.
Castro Laboreiro – Castrum Villae Hotel
Monção – Manor House Solar de Serrade
Caminha – Design & Wine Hotel
Ponte de Lima – Quinta da Agra Rural Guest House
Barcelos – Bagoeira Hotel
Vila do Conde – Hotel Brazão
Porto – Carris Porto Ribeira Hotel
It is a requirement of booking this tour with Hooked on Cycling that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the chosen activity and for emergency evacuation and hospital care.
Arrive at Porto airport and join the shared transfer leaving the airport at 3pm to Castro Laboreiro which is located between the Gerês National Park. As you are driven across the hills and mountains of the countryside, past extensive vineyards, you will observe small villages dotted here and there, like pieces of mosaic, on the distant hills. This is the land for recapturing your peace of soul, for leaving behind the hustle and bustle and stress of modern life. Without a doubt, cycling here will be sheer bliss. As we reach the Serra de Laboreiro mountains where you will spend the night before beginning your cycling holiday, a hush descends overall as we slowly climb up to your overnight village. This is a tiny hamlet with beautiful wind and watermills and just one old shop in the centre, the hub of village life, where we buy a few goods.
Your first day of cycling is exceptionally beautiful, a pleasant downhill journey past the Spanish border, past a landscape of stark granite outcrops with few trees and across the northern regions of the Gerês National Park which is part of the Serra de Peneda mountain range. The 72,000 acres of the Gerês National Park provide one of the last natural refuges for wolves and golden eagles. Don’t be too surprised if you come face-to-face with a deer or a wild boar! You continue cycling through totally silent villages where you will always find a kind person to help you find the road if needed. The community ovens where villagers gathered to bake their bread, some of them still in use, are fascinating to see. Particularly striking are the traditional espigueiros, the granite maize stores on stilts. By the time you arrive in Monção, a fortified town on the River Minho, you will understand why the Portuguese are so proud of the fact that the Spanish were never able to conquer them!
Today, you cycle in an easterly direction, along the River Minho to the Atlantic Ocean. Your journey will take you through the demarcated Vinho Verde winemaking region which produces the dry white wine for which it is famous. Enjoy the elegant Brejoeira Palace which is still inhabited by the family, a leading producer of top quality Vinho Verde, and maybe pick up a bottle of this wine for dinner. Along the route, you will cycle past landmarks of the battles between Portugal and Spain, especially the impressive 17th-century stronghold at Valença and the Vila Nova de Cerveira fort. That evening, you will stay in Caminha, an elegant town strategically located at the estuary of the River Minho and whose history dates to pre-Roman times.
Cycling with the Atlantic Ocean at your shoulders is a wonderful experience. You ride past fishing villages that appear unchanged for centuries. As you arrive in Viana do Castelo the peace and quiet is replaced by the buzz of this lively city at the estuary of the River Lima. Dating back to Roman times when it was the principal port for the north of Iberia, Viana’s impressive history includes that of its merchants who supplied the naval provisions for the ships that took part in the Portuguese discoveries during the 16th century. Later ships were built here that sailed to Newfoundland. With their wealth, they built the numerous stately homes whose architectural beauty is a hallmark of the city. A must-see is the 19th century byzantine Santa Luzia Church on the hilltop overlooking the city.
After your visit you will cycle inland again, following the River Lima until you arrive in Ponte de Lima. This is the oldest village in Portugal, it is famous for its beautiful 24-arch Roman bridge and its importance to medieval pilgrims as they made their way from Porto to Santiago de Compostela.
Whether you are religious or not, following the medieval Portuguese route to Santiago de Compostela is a special experience. Possibly because one is so aware that this has been a pilgrims’ way for centuries and that so many have trod these paths with such fervour and dedication. It is a route that those who walk it still today, do so knowing they will meet challenges, experience great joy and forever learn the lesson of life. This is a pleasant but not difficult ride through cornfields and vineyards to the city of Barcelos on the River Cavado. This is the centre of the local pottery industry, it has also some religious importance. You must visit the 13th century Mother Church. Every hour on the hour, you will hear the ringing of the church bells of the many parishes for which the city is famous.
Today you cycle back to the Atlantic coast today. Your destination is Vila do Conde, which is well known for its shipbuilding past, as we can see by the replica of a ship used during the Discoveries, which was built here. The city centre is dominated by gracious manors and small palaces. The importance of its fishing harbour is not just evident in the port.
The last cycle tour will take you along quiet cycle paths beside the coast, through a sea bird nature reserve, passing sand dunes and through many fishing villages. It is remarkable how hard these fishermen (and their wives!) work. You will soon arrive in Porto where you see the city via the estuary of the River Douro. This city, famous for Port Wine past and present, is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. A Unesco World Heritage City, its historic centre boasts more than 1500 listed monuments.
Included transfer to Porto airport.
Fly into Porto airport where an included shared transfer at 3pm is included.