Historic Heartland

13-DAY TRIP/10 DAYS OF CYCLING – from  €1,590

Highlights of this guided cycle tour (new for 2020) include a really diverse mix of landscapes and a chance to ride the country’s best ‘rail trail’, plus visits to Roman ruins, a stunning Knights Templar fortress and two major historic cities.

Heading into the wild country north of Guarda

This trip starts from Portugal’s highest city of Guarda and ends at sea level in an Atlantic beach resort.

Introduced for 2020, this route explores Portugal’s rugged central region during the late spring. Starting in the wild, hilly country of the Beira region, we visit castles and small villages as well as the cities of Viseu and Coimbra, before following the Mondego river towards the Atlantic.

Like all our tours, this trip will be led by my wife and I, following a route we’ve designed ourselves based on our personal knowledge of Portugal.

Scroll down to read more about the Historic Heartland tour. You can also see what previous riders thought of our other tours on our Reviews page. For further news and other information on biking in Portugal, please also check out the Pedal Portugal Facebook page and blog.

Dates

The next available dates for this tour are:

  • Spring 2021: Sunday 9th – Friday 21st May – €1,590 ***four places available***

    View from the castle walls at Trancoso

Why this tour?

Tiled shop front and trying the local craft ales

This new route is a chance to explore some of the highlights of central Portugal, from the hill country near the Spanish border to the pine trees and sandy beaches of the Atlantic coast.

Starting close to the northern end of Portugal’s highest mountain range, the Serra da Estrela, the route initially goes north through the wild and rugged countryside of the high Beira region, visiting small towns and villages with some picturesque castles.

Turning south-west, we head for the ancient city of Viseu, known as a centre for sacred art as well as for the region’s Dão wines. Occupied since pre-Roman times, Viseu has a wealth of history and architecture but was also recently voted Portugal’s best city to live in and has an increasingly bustling nightlife.

We continue south on the Ecopista do Dão – an old railway line that’s been converted into a wonderful off-road cycle path. This takes us into the valley of the Mondego, one of the biggest rivers flowing down out of the Serra da Estrela. We keep following the Mondego to Coimbra, which was Portugal’s capital for more than a century and is still home to one of the world’s oldest universities.

Turning south, there’s an opportunity to visit Portugal’s most significant Roman ruins at Conimbriga and to follow sections of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route (the wrong way!) towards Tomar, home to the magnificent, UNESCO-listed Convento de Cristo, a former abbey/fortress once belonging to the Knights Templars.

For the last two days of the tour, we turn roughly west, crossing the hills of a major natural park, visiting historic Batalha, before heading out to the coast and ending at the small beach resort of Foz do Arelho.

Distances & Difficulty

The daily rides range from around 45-70km (28-44 miles). There are no major mountain ranges involved but the ride is not flat and most days involve a reasonable amount of climbing.

Note: The main riding days should present no major challenges for anyone who is reasonably fit and used to cycling. However, riders must be able to cycle the relevant distances on consecutive days.

Weather

We will be riding in late spring when the typical weather is starting to get quite warm (hot). Most days you can expect temperatures well into the 20s Celsius (70-80°F), but afternoon highs can reach around 33°C (91°F). Some thundery downpours are likely put prolonged periods of rain are not normal.

Historic centre of Sernacelhe

Where do we go?

The tour zigzags across the width of Portugal, from close to the Spanish border to the Atlantic coast.

We will ride from the wild hill country of the Beira region and follow one of Portugal’s biggest river valleys, visiting ancient towns and cities, castles and abbeys, before reaching the coast at Foz do Arelho.

Village street in Mondego valley and bridge outside Coimbra

Although not car-free, as much of the route as possible is on quiet lanes and back roads where traffic is very light – including one day mostly spent on a converted railway line.

There will be two rest days during the tour (with options for an additional ride on Day 5).

Starting from Guarda, Portugal’s highest city (elevation 1,056m/3,464ft), the planned itinerary* is as follows:

  • Day 1: Arrive in Guarda and meet your fellow riders. Explore the old town, get the bikes ready and enjoy your first group meal.
  • Day 2: We head north through rugged countryside and small villages to Trancoso, a picturesque small walled town with a ruined castle. 46km
  • Day 3: We do a loop through a remote rural area, visiting another castle and the shores of a lake before staying in a quiet rural hotel. 58km
  • Day 4: Turning south-west, we continue through an area of woods, fields and small villages to reach Viseu, the provincial capital and a major crossroads since ancient times. 58km
  • Day 5: Take a rest day to explore Viseu or enjoy a morning ride in the surrounding area.
  • Day 6: We leave town on the Ecopista do Dãocycle path and continue to a hotel on the banks of the Mondego river. 70km
  • Day 7: A mostly gentle day following the Mondego valley downstream to the former capital and university town of Coimbra36km
  • Day 8: We visit the Roman ruins of Conimbriga early in the day’s ride before heading south, following parts of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. 54km
  • Day 9: A half-day’s ride takes us further south through villages and countryside to the riverside town of Tomar. 43km
  • Day 10: We have a rest day in Tomar and a chance to explore the the wonderful Convento de Cristo.
  • Day 11: We continue on rural roads, cutting through the limestone hills of the Serras de Aire e Candeiros natural park to Batalha, a historic town known for its huge abbey. 63km
  • Day 12: The final day of riding takes past the famous monastery at Alcobaça and on through more small villages and countryside until we reach the Lagoa de Óbidos, which opens into the Atlantic ocean at the small beach resort of Foz do Arelho, where our tour ends. 62km
  • Day 13: transfers by bus to Lisbon or Porto

*Please note: the exact itinerary may change depending on accommodation availability and other similar factors.

How much?

The tour costs €1,685 per rider. This includes:
  • 12 nights bed and breakfast (based on two people sharing a twin or double room) in a good hotel or guest house
  • evening meal – typically two or three courses with house wine or beer and coffee*
  • picnic lunch on main riding days (not provided on optional rides/rest days)
  • support vehicle to carry luggage etc (and emergency transport)**
  • transfers from Lisbon or Porto on Day One and to Lisbon on Day Twelve***
  • experienced guide to ride with you****

Notes:

*Food: Vegetarian and other special diets are possible but need to be arranged in advance – and menu choices may be less varied. Please let us know about any dietary requirements and seek advice when booking.

**Support van: The support van will carry your luggage. It can also take passengers if a rider is unable to continue cycling following an accident, mechanical breakdown or other emergency. It is not suitable for using on a casual hop-on, hop-off basis and riders should be capable of riding the necessary distances on consecutive days.

***Transfers: We will book train or bus travel between Lisbon or Porto and Guarda on Day One and from Foz do Arelho to Lisbon on Day Twelve if required. We can also advise on bus and/or rail travel for any riders travelling on other days or from/to different destinations.

****Guides: My wife and I will alternate between riding with you and driving the support vehicle.

Cruising down the Mondego valley on a Sunday morning

What’s not included?

The price above does not include:

  • travel to Portugal and any internal transport other than that detailed above
  • insurance – you are responsible for ensuring you have all appropriate travel & medical insurance
  • snacks, coffees etc. – and lunch on days other than on main route
  • bike hire (see below)

Wherever possible, if anyone is unable to ride I will try to take them in the support vehicle. However, the support vehicle is not intended for taking passengers. If essential, I can make arrangements with a taxi or bus but any individual costs will be additional.

Optional extras?

Cycle hire – road or hybrid bike – can be arranged but will cost extra. We work with Cycling Rentals, a company based near Lisbon which can deliver anywhere in Portugal.

The 2020 hire prices for this tour are €230 for a road touring bike and €220 for a suspension touring bike, including delivery and collection (not including any accessories). Prices of any other bicycle models will be confirmed at the time of booking. For more details, see bike hire page.

Single rooms should also be possible but this will involve an additional supplement of around €240. 

For anyone wanting additional accommodation, either before or after the tour, I can either book this for you or suggest various options but this would be an extra cost.

The Convento de Cristo at Tomar

Supporting a worthy cause

We’re supporters of the disaster relief organisation ShelterBox and donate £15 to the charity for every rider who joins this or any of our other tours.

What now?

Read what previous riders thought about our previous tours on our reviews page. 

Places are limited – and I need a minimum of six riders to make the tour viable – so the sooner you sign up the better. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via pedalportugal@gmail.com

Otherwise, please read our full terms and conditions before completing the booking form. Or keep scrolling down if you want to see more pictures from previous tours.

For further tour news and other information on biking in Portugal don’t forget to also check out the Pedal Portugal Facebook page and blog.