Eastern Frontier

TEN DAYS CYCLING – €1,460 – new route for 2020 

Take a guided bike tour through some of the wildest and most beautiful countryside on the border between Portugal and Spain, exploring ancient towns, frontier forts and rugged landscapes.

eet-01This is our toughest tour and not for inexperienced riders as it requires being able to cycle around 80km (50 miles) on consecutive days. Although there are no major mountains, some days also involve considerable amounts of climbing – up to 1,300m (4,200ft) of ascent. (See the itinerary below for more details.) Heat can also be a significant issue.

On the other hand, we don’t rush the ride as this bike trip will take you via some of the most beautiful scenery and quietest roads to be found anywhere in Portugal, taking in isolated villages, picturesque swimming holes, dramatic castles and sweeping panoramas.

“The best value for your dollar of any bike trip I have done.” Jill Hill, Canada.

Biking in a small group (maximum 10 riders), we will take you through the wild landscapes of the eastern Beiras, up to the Douro valley, across the Spanish province of Extremadura and back into Portugal.

After crossing the hills of the Serra de São Mamede we come down into the more rolling landscape of the Alentejo, ending our tour at the UNESCO-listed fortress town of Elvas.

Scroll down to read more. You can also see what previous riders thought of this and other tours on our Reviews page. 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

“If you are looking to do a cycling trip through Portugal and are either a strong cyclist or looking for a trip that will test your mettle then sign up now.

“And as for Carolyn and Huw, they are the best! You honestly could not ask for better tour guides.” Mel Hurwitz, South Africa

eastern-explorer-01

Dates

We are planning to next run this tour in May 2020 – dates will be added soon. Contact us at pedalportugal@gmail.com if interested.

Why this tour?


eastern-explorer-03This tour provides a chance to see from very different parts of Portugal that are well off the beaten track for more tourists (plus a taste of Spain).

The eastern half of Portugal’s Beiras region is one of the wildest parts of the country and sparsely populated but with some gorgeous scenery – plus several magical old frontier castles that look like they’re straight from the pages of a storybook.

The Alentejo is more rolling and its eastern expanses are also very quiet, with sleepy villages and hilltop towns set among a sun-baked panorama of open countryside and cork oak forests. The last part of the tour takes us out into the plains and wheat fields of the southern half of Portugal’s largest region.

None of the area explored by this tour is densely populated and the lack of people means most roads should be quiet – the only exceptions may be at harvest time or when forestry work is going on.

We will also go through or around several wildlife/natural parks and birdwatchers can expect to be able to spot a variety of species, from bee-eaters to eagles.

Spring and autumn are the best times to see these regions – the northern Beira region can be cold and wet in the winter and the whole of Portugal can be way too hot in the summer for cycle touring.

The landscape is much lusher in the spring, with wildflowers carpeting the countryside, but there’s a higher chance of rain. The autumn (fall) is generally a few degrees hotter.

Whichever month you pick, you should be able to expect lots of sunshine and plenty of warm (and hopefully dry) days. Average daytime temperatures in May/June are around 14-26°C (57-80°F) and in September are 16-27°C (61-81°F).

Note: Although the statistical average temperatures may sound pleasant, afternoon highs in late September/early October have reached 30-35ºC (86-95ºF) over the past three years so riders need to be prepared for this kind of heat.

Looking back towards the Serra de Estrela

Looking back towards the Serra de Estrela 

Where do we go?

The tour explores the eastern half of the huge Beiras region, skirting around Portugal’s highest mountain range, visiting some stunning castles along the way. One night is spent in Spain as we ride through an isolated area of Extremadura and cross the Tejo river.

Continuing south through the Alentejo, the landscape is less wild but almost as quiet.

We will ride across areas of near-wilderness and rolling plains, sleep in villages overlooked by spectacular castles, and visit ancient towns dating to Roman times or earlier.

Although not car-free, the great majority of the route is on quiet lanes and back roads where traffic is very light.

Note: Riders must be fit and able to cycle 80-plus kms on consecutive days.

There will be two rest days during the tour (with options for additional morning rides). Starting from Guarda the planned itinerary is as follows:

Eastern Explorer 02

  • Day One: arrive in Guarda by train or bus and meet your fellow riders
  • Day Two: head around the northern end of Portugal’s highest mountains – the Serra de Estrella – and on to Trancoso, a walled town given its charter by the first king of Portugal. 56km / 840m ascent
  • Day Three: continue north via the lovely village of Penedono with its unusual triangular castle and on to a rural hotel near Vila Nova de Foz Côa, in a remote area known for its prehistoric rock carvings. 74km / 840m
  • Day Four: After reaching the banks of the Douro river, we turn south through more wild and remote countryside, ending the day at the fortress town of Almeida – scene of an important seige in 1810. 80km / 1,250m
  • Day Five: take a rest day and explore the fortifications at Almeida or have a morning ride across the border into Spain.
  • Day Six: we take some tiny little roads and visit a couple of historic villages – including the Duke of Wellington’s winter HQ from the Peninsular War – before following the Côa river south to the riverside town of Sabugal (with another castle). 81km / 893m
  • Day Seven: We visit the small but picture-perfect castle at Sortelha before continuing south past Penamacor and up to stunning Monsanto, where the village is literally built into the granite boulders beneath a ruined fortress with stunning views. 75km / 932m
  • Day Eight: spend the day cycling out to explore the countryside around Monsanto and visiting the ancient, near-abandoned former Roman city of Idanha-a-Velha – or take a rest day
  • Day Nine: ride across a wide-open landscape of forested hills and rolling pastures, passing isolated villages before crossing the border into Spain and continuing to Alcántara with its crumbling old town of mansions topped by storks’ nests. 75km / 896m
  • Day 10: we turn south-east and spend most of the day riding across the plains of Extremadura, crossing a couple of small ridges of hills before crossing back into Portugal and arriving at the one-time frontier border post of Marvão, where a 13th century castle perches atop a rocky ridge that offers amazing panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. 80km / 1,320m
  • Day 11: entering the rolling landscape of the Alentejo, we ride to Elvas – where we end the ride at a converted military hospital/convent in this city that is UNESCO-listed for its wonderfully preserved 18th century fortifications. 85km / 785m
  • Day 12: say your farewells and transfer back to Lisbon

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

“The tour was a great trip made all the more enjoyable by our wonderful tour leaders.” Chris Cummuskey, Australia.

Eastern Explorer 04

How much?

The tour costs €1,460 per rider* – which works out at around £1,300 or $1,700 US (October 2018 rates).
 
This includes:
  • 11 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 to Guarda on Day One and to Lisbon on Day 12 if required****
  • experienced guide to ride with you*****

Notes:

*Price: The price given is based on 2018 costs and may change. A final price will be given at the time of booking before any payment is taken.

**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.

****Transport & transfers: We will book train or bus tickets between Lisbon or Porto and Guarda on Day One and from Elvas back to Lisbon on Day 12 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.

“The tour was just perfect! The cycling itself, the locations, accommodation, food & wine and Huw & Carolyn’s organization & logistics were wonderful.

“We could clearly feel the care & thoughtfulness which had gone into the planning & throughout the trip once we were on it.” Gayble Tsang, Hong Kong.

Heading from Monsanto towards Spain

Heading from Monsanto towards Spain

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 insurance
  • lunch on Days 1, 4, 8 & 12*, snacks, coffees etc.
  • bike hire (see below)

*A picnic lunch will be provided on all main riding days. 

Wherever possible, if anyone is unable to ride we will try to take them in the support vehicle. However, the support vehicle is not intended for taking passengers. If essential, we 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.

Hiring a road touring or suspension touring bike for this tour will cost €190 (2018 price), 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.

Supporting a worthy cause

We’ve both been long-term supporters of the disaster relief organisation ShelterBox and we donate £15 to the charity for every rider who joins this or any of our other tours.

What now?

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.